As of Sunday night, the Bruins have played 29 games of their 82 game NHL schedule, or roughly 35% of the season.
By this stage of the year, most teams have a pretty strong grasp of who they are, and the Bruins are no different.
Despite having a similar record to last season, these Bruins are a substantial step-down from the juggernaut that stormed through the NHL. For starters, Boston currently ranks 15th in the league at 5v5 Expected Goals % with 50.3%, compared to 6th / 53.8% last season. In other words, this year’s team is noticeably worse at controlling play at even strength. Despite the drop off, the Bruins are currently on pace for 121 points, compared to a projected total of 99.9. There are two major reasons for the sizeable disparity in expectations: Swayman and Ullmark.
Goaltending has been the Bruins saving grace.
Just as Pastrnak and Coyle have taken on a larger burden to keep the Bruins chugging up front, Swayman and Ullmark have done the same in net. The Bruins favorite bromance are facing 32.3 Shots Against per Game, up from 29.8 a year ago. While team defense as a whole is down statistically, they’ve been more than up for the task, per @JFreshHockey both goalies are Top 10 in Goals Saved Above Expected.
Ullmark’s numbers have fallen from his Vezina winning form, posting a .915 Save % and 2.79 GAA, which are a steep drop off but more in line with his career as a whole. On the other hand, Swayman has elevated his game to pick up the slack, logging a 9-1-4 record with a .933% and 2.06 GAA. Combined, Boston has the best team save % in the league and are 3rd in Goals Against Below Expected.
All of this coming with the Bruins being outshot in eleven of their last thirteen games. Boston hasn’t outshot their opposition since December 3rd, but still own a 6-4-3 record during that stretch.
Boston is going to have to continue to lean on their goaltending to carry them to the playoffs. When they get there maybe, just maybe, they can redeem their past mistakes.
Photo: Tanner Pearson / Boston Globe