The Boston Bruins stole $5000 out of my pockets.
During my time in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, BOS beat TOR in consecutive seven-game playoff series (2018 & 2019) to prevent my colleagues and I from collecting a round’s worth of playoff bonuses.
The way they beat us then is broadly similar to the way that they win now: by being measured with the puck and by being tough to break down without the puck.
It has less to do with their structure than their mindset and execution.
BOS’ structure is very much NHL-standard, but the Bruins are unusually good at imposing their will regardless of the score.
In the most frequently-occurring score states (tied, up one and down one), the veteran-laden (some would say slow) Bruins profile as an average offensive team that gives up very few high-danger shots near the slot.
The visualization above paints the picture of a patient, low-event team that’s able to create chances and put opponents into a sleeper hold.
Key aspects to BOS’ strategy:
With their top players on the ice (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak up front, Grzelcyk, McAvoy on D), BOS plays freely and doesn’t shy away from taking smart risks
With their bottom-six and third D pair, BOS plays a meat-and-potato game designed to force a draw until the stars get back on
BOS’ F1 is persuasive when steering the play wide on the forecheck, but F2 and F3 sit back until a clear opportunity arises
When leading, BOS backs off even further, from a 1-2-2 NZ FC to something closer to a 1-4 - this completely clogs up the blue line and forces opponents to either surrender possession via a dump-in, or surrender possession via a turnover
Here is a video breakdown of a recent Bruins win against the Montreal Canadiens.
BOS trails 2-1 at the start of the third period, but sticks to their way of playing and methodically works its way back into the game, eventually prevailing 5-2.