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Analytics bolster Selke candidacy of Bruins' Bergeron

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com

With the first half of the 2014-15 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of its biggest storylines and award contenders.

The Boston Bruins spent part of the first half of this season without defenseman Zdeno Chara and forward David Krejci, and without goaltender Tuukka Rask stopping shots at his previously elite level.

Boston did still have center Patrice Bergeron, and one of the team's top four players performing at an elite level helped keep the Bruins from freefalling out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs chase. Chara and Krejci are back, Rask is playing well again and the Bruins are churning toward safety and an eighth consecutive postseason appearance.

Bergeron is also tracking toward a third Selke Trophy in four seasons as the NHL's top defensive forward. Even without Chara, who Bergeron typically spends a lot of time on the ice with, the two-way center's numbers have been outstanding.

Among forwards who have played at least 500 minutes at even strength this season, Bergeron is second in Corsi-for percentage at 59.0 percent, according to war-on-ice.com. Bergeron handles all of the important defensive zone starts for coach Claude Julien, and faces the toughest competition of any forward on his team and is among the leaders in the NHL.

WAR on Ice has created a new way to categorize and count scoring chances (quick primer: rebounds, rush shots, unblocked shots from the "home plate" area near the slot, any attempt near the crease). It shouldn't be a surprise, but these new metrics are another way to illustrate Bergeron's brilliance.

Bergeron is second among forwards with at least 500 minutes at even strength in scoring chance percentage (61.2 percent) and the raw plus-minus of chances (plus-112). Among the 145 forwards who meet the time-on-ice requirement, Bergeron is 15th in scoring chances per 60 minutes created, but he truly excels at preventing them.

He is second in scoring chances against per 60 minutes at 20.5. All of these statistics on their own would make Bergeron a pretty obvious Selke candidate. Put them together with the context of the tough minutes he plays and that he did not have an elite defenseman like Chara to help him out for part of the season, and it makes Bergeron an easy choice for the Selke at the midpoint of the 2014-15 season.

FINALISTS

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings -- Most of his teammates in Los Angeles were not at their typical standard with puck possession and goal prevention earlier this season, but Kopitar has remained a force despite missing a few games with an upper-body injury. Kopitar is fourth among those 145 forwards in Corsi-for percentage at 57.8 percent despite facing the toughest competition on the Kings. He's also been on the ice for 30.9 scoring chances per 60 minutes and 24.8 per 60 minutes against despite the competition.

Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Palat is not the center on Tampa Bay's incredibly successful "Triplets Line" but he's been the best defensive player on it and has quickly earned a reputation as one of the top two-way wings in the League despite his relatively brief career. Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov have all been on the ice for an average of more than 36 scoring chances per 60 minutes, which puts them one, two and three in the NHL in that category among this group of 145 forwards.

He's been on the ice for the fewest scoring chances against among those three, and he's been Tampa Bay's best penalty-killing forward. Like Marian Hossa and Zach Parise before him, it won't be easy for Palat to ever win this award, but he deserves to be in the conversation.

Also in the mix: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks; Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild; Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

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