The 2015-16 Boston Bruins were not your typical Claude Julien coached team.
The defense struggled, Tuukka Rask was not quite himself in net, and the team remained competitive thanks almost entirely to an offense that was one of the best in the NHL. The grind-it-out, shut teams down style of play that had been a staple of Bruins hockey for so many years seemed to be gone.
Fast forward to this season and things have pretty much done a complete 180, at least as it relates to the two defensive areas. Rask is playing like an elite goalie, and while the defense still looks thin on paper compared to what we’re used to seeing in Boston they are doing a great job of suppressing shots and keeping teams off the scoreboard.
But the offense that was so good last season has pretty much disappeared for most of this season. Following their 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday, already the 20th time in 29 games this season they have failed to score more than two goals in a game (two more than any other team in the NHL), the Bruins now sit 26th in the NHL in goals per game, scoring only 2.31 per contest. If they maintain that pace over the entire season it would nearly 50 goals off of their total from a year ago.
Frustration seemed to be setting in after Saturday’s game.
Julien said that because they aren’t scoring goals at the moment they are criticizing everything else about their game, but that the rest of their game isn’t bad.
He is not wrong about that.
What has to be especially frustrating for the Bruins at this point is they really aren’t playing poorly. They are outshooting teams by an average of five shots per game, their 33.1 shots on goal per game is second best in the NHL behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins, and with a 54.9 corsi percentage are currently the best possession team in the NHL. They are doing a lot of things right. Those are things that winning teams do. And not just winning teams, championship contending teams.
The thing that is hurting them right now is a 7 percent shooting percentage that is currently the second worst in the NHL. Their current standing there is due almost entirely to the past 14 games where that percentage has dropped down to just 6 percent. This is the important thing to keep in mind here if you’re a Bruins fan. It’s a long season, and over 82 games offense will run hot and cold for extended periods of time. Through the first half of this season, the Bruins were scoring at a pretty normal rate. Over the 14 games that followed, it has completely collapsed. That is not going to last. Keep in mind that over the past five years only four teams have finished a season converting on 7 percent (or lower) or of their shots over a full season, and all of those were teams that were among the worst in the league during a given season.
The Bruins simply have too much talent on their roster to keep shooting that low over an extended period of time. As long as they are able to keep putting more than 33 shots on goal per game that shooting luck is going to eventually change back in their favor. Some of those bounces around the crease are going to start finding the back of the net. Once that starts to happen this could be a pretty dangerous team in the East given the way they are actually playing.