Playoffs Dayoffs: Preview and discussion thread, 6/3
“Wait, we get called on <em>half</em> of our head shots now?”
After Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and the St. Louis Blues’ 2-7 embarrassment at the hands of the Boston Bruins, Blues head coach Craig Berube called out the travesty of justice that was the Bruins power play dominance throughout the game. The bench boss noted that his Blues were the “least penalized team in the league in the first three rounds,” and has now taken 14 penalties through three games in the Final.
That’s an interesting claim, and it makes one wonder how he measures “least penalized.” If we assume unit consistency with his follow up statement, and that he’s looking at straight number of penalty calls, then he’s objectively incorrect. St. Louis’ 55 penalties through 19 games is third behind the San Jose Sharks’ 89 and the Carolina Hurricanes’ 58. That would be a silly metric, though: all 16 teams have played different amounts of games, he must have meant penalties per game. But in that case the Blues’ 2.89 penalties per game is actually the second least; the Toronto Maple Leafs are the least penalized team per game, with 17 penalties in seven games for a rate of 2.42.
Is he referring to penalty minutes? The Blues’ 120 penalty minutes is, again, third in the league, but with some teams bowing out after just four games, that doesn’t seem fair. He must have meant penalty minutes per game? Now we’re onto something, as the Blues 6.31 penalty minutes per game actually is the least in the league through three rounds. Phew, solved it.
Wait a minute. Sure, the Blues have played more games than other teams, but with playoff overtimes, that doesn’t guarantee that the differential in ice time is commensurate with the differential in games played. Through three rounds, St. Louis played the second most games at 19, just behind San Jose’s 20 and Boston’s 17. We need to find out if the Blues’ penalty rate stats stand up under the scrutiny of ice time, not games played. Since penalty minutes contain more information taking into account the severity of the infraction than straight penalties taken, we should measure this by penalty minutes per 60 minutes of ice time, right?
The Blues have served 5.29 penalty minutes per 60 minutes of game time, which is actually second last in the league through three rounds. Who was actually last place in that apparently important metric? Ladies and gentlemen, your Boston Bruins.
Your move, Coach.
What were we talking about again?
What’s on tap
Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues Game 4 (BOS leads 2-1)
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
Related to the Blues’ penalty problems seems to be their complete and utter inability to kill off a single one. The Bruins had four power plays in Game 3 (the Blues had five, further undercutting Berube’s attempt at narrative construction), on which they recorded four shots and four goals, for both a power play conversion rate and shooting percentage of 100. What’s more, arguably the most influential (read: bad) penalty the Blues took was taken by the coach himself. After former Sharks prospect Sean Kuraly scored with ten seconds left in the first to put the Bruins up 3-0, Berube challenged that the play was offside.
Full disclosure: I thought it was offside until it was illustrated by the television crew, but once it was, it seems pretty clear, and sure, I didn’t think of Joel Edmundson touching the puck last before it crossed the blue line, but an NHL coach sure should. St. Louis was assessed a two-minute minor for delay of game for the failed challenge, the Bruins scored on the power play and had a 4-0 lead less than a minute into the second and the game was all but over. It was one of many avoidable and obvious mistakes the Blues made to give the best power play in the league more time to clean up.
I would say that the Blues need to clean up their game and stay out of the box to make this a series, but as someone who watched them play six games against our Sharks, does that seem like something they’re capable of? It feels a lot more likely that the officials just stop calling them to preserve the illusion of fairness and at this point, I think that’s the best Berube can realistically hope for.
Torey Krug: Krug’s vision and passing ability may be the most important ingredient in this Boston power play that is just full of delicious ingredients. With four points in Game 3, Krug became the first Bruins player ever to tally a four-point game in a Cup final, which seems esoteric, but when you play for a team that’s been around for 95 years, any franchise record is pretty meaningful.
Vince Dunn: In this series, the Blues’ famously mobile and dangerous blue line has been notoriously neither, as weak gap control and sloppy physical play has hurt them more than helped them. Enter Dunn, who hasn’t played since taking a puck to the mouth during Game 3 of the San Jose series. Owner of 35 points in the regular season and seven through 16 playoff games, Dunn is a catalyst for offense from the Blues’ back end and, with Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask playing like he’s in a deep meditative trance every night, they’ll need all the help they can get.
David Perron. There were some rumors swirling that he might not play due to his ill-advised three minor penalties in Game 3, but if benching players for taking dumb liberties and risking penalties was something Craig Berube did, you and I would both be on the active roster by now. If the Bruins can keep getting under his skin and forcing him to rush his zone exits (he clearly already used up his puck-over-glass mulligan), Perron could be the key to another championship parade in Boston.
To Sharks fans, this possibility is positively delicious.