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Behind The Numbers

Blue Jackets' reliance on discipline among second-round factors to watch

Hurricanes must keep shooting; Stars getting better scoring chances

by Scott Cullen / Correspondent

If anything was learned from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is that anything can happen.

Each of the four division winners was eliminated, and the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning were swept.

So what will happen in the second round? The analytics after the first two weeks of the playoffs could provide some clues.


Power source

The Columbus Blue Jackets quietly have been one of the most disciplined teams in the NHL this season, taking 2.57 minor penalties per 60 minutes, which ranked second in the League, before averaging 2.00 minor penalties per 60 minutes in their win against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference First Round.

It's imperative the Blue Jackets remain disciplined against the Boston Bruins because the Bruins power play has been lethal. Boston had a 25.9 percent efficiency rating during the regular season, which ranked third in the NHL, and was even better in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs (43.8 percent). The only team with a more efficient power play in the first round was the Blue Jackets (50.0 percent), a departure from the regular season, when Columbus scored on 15.4 percent of its power-play chances, ranking 28th.  


Shot attempts

In the first round, the Carolina Hurricanes dominated the 5-on-5 shot attempts against the Washington Capitals, controlling 59.79 percent. That was consistent with how the Hurricanes played during the regular season, when they were second in the NHL with 54.81 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts.

On the other hand, the New York Islanders were 26th in 5-on-5 shot attempts (47.85 percent) in the regular season, but 15th among playoff teams in the first round with 44.53 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Video: Lehner's stellar play leads Islanders to Round 2

Of course, the difference-maker for the Islanders has been goalie Robin Lehner, who had a .930 save percentage during the regular season and is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. He was even more dominant against Pittsburgh with a.956 save percentage. But the bigger the difference in 5-on-5 shot attempts becomes, the more the pressure will build on Lehner.


Shooting stars

In their first-round win against the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars were getting to the net. Their average shot came from 29.7 feet from goal, which was the closest in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The team with the second-closest average shot distance in the first round was the Penguins (34.7 feet). It helps the top forwards for the Stars are prolific shooters; Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov averaged 5.2 and 5.0 shots on goal per game, respectively, in the first round.

During the regular season, the St. Louis Blues ranked fifth (34.8 feet) and the Stars (35.5 feet) 11th.

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm5: Radulov converts Seguin's perfect pass

If the Stars can maintain their newfound ability to generate shots from in close, it will turn up the heat on Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington; he had a .927 save percentage during a strong second-half run in the regular season, but was more vulnerable against the Winnipeg Jets in the first round (.908).

Stars goalie Ben Bishop was outstanding in the regular season (.940) and better against Nashville in the first round (.945), so St. Louis will face a daunting challenge trying to score, even if it is successful getting closer to the net.


Opposite directions

Colorado Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer was dominant in the first round against the Calgary Flames, with a playoff-leading .966 save percentage during 5-on-5 play and .939 in all situations. It's a major step forward for Grubauer, who started the first two playoff games for the Capitals last season before being replaced by Braden Holtby on their run to the Stanley Cup. This is the first season Grubauer has appeared in more than two postseason games.

Sharks goalie Martin Jones struggled during the regular season, finishing with a .896 save percentage, and had some troubles in the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights, getting pulled in Games 2 and 4. But he was sensational in Game 6 and held it together long enough for San Jose to take Game 7 in overtime. Jones entered the series against Vegas with a strong playoff track record, a .926 save percentage in 42 games.

Colorado carried the play against Calgary in the first round, with 55.45 percent of 5-on-5 shot attempts, which contrasts with San Jose (47.66). If those trends continue, Jones will have to rise to the occasion.


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