Identifying the Boston Bruins’ Achilles Heel

With 2020 now upon us, the Boston Bruins begin the New Year as the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. While the Bruins have been one of hockey’s best teams, they did not end 2019 on a high note. Through 41 games this season, the Bruins are 24-7-10 and most recently lost to New Jersey in a shootout. The loss not only ended their three-game winning streak but a provided a reminder of the Bruins’ biggest weakness halfway through the season.

After Tuesday night’s disappointing loss, the Bruins are now 0-6 this season in shootouts and 2-10 in overtime. Despite having some of the game’s most talented offensive players, overtime has been their Achilles heel. Over the past month, it has also reflected their inability to extend leads or protect them late in games after finishing December with only six wins in 15 games.

Despite the Bruins offensive talent, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci all have a career shootout percentage below 30 percent. Marchand has struggled the most out of the three as he has the lowest percentage of any active player with at least 40 attempts. David Pastrnak, who currently leads the league in goals, has not faired any better as his percentage is below 20 percent.

While the majority of the Bruins forwards have struggled in the shootout, some have found success. Charlie Coyle has been the Bruins’ best shooter in this situation with a percentage of around 40. Charlie McAvoy has also found limited success in his career as he is two-for-five.

Furthermore, these numbers represent what makes shootouts so difficult. In a shootout, there is not as much pressure on the skater as they are not thinking in the spur of the moment. The game slows down and a lot of thought goes into each move. It is also easier for goalies to study shooters due to technology, allowing them to anticipate their opponent’s move.

Although every goalie is different, the Bruins’ only solution is to improve and do their best to avoid overtime situations. That should become easier once key pieces such as Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug are healthier as they affect the game at both ends of the ice. The Bruins, however, will need their skill players to step up if they are to reverse this trend.

The numbers, however, speak for themselves as the defending Eastern Conference champions are about to enter a crucial part of the season looking for a solution to their most glaring issue.

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