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Behind The Numbers

Bruins depth key to reaching Stanley Cup Final

Big contributions have come from Coyle, Johansson, Backes, Grzelcyk, Clifton

by Scott Cullen / NHL.com Correspondent

The Boston Bruins will play in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the past nine seasons, and as much as they lean on their stars and have received great goaltending from Tuukka Rask, they wouldn't have gotten this far if not for strong performances from their supporting cast.

The popular view of the Bruins for much of the season was that they were a one-line team of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, and not much else. The Bruins' postseason success, however, has been a full team affair.

What's remarkable is that some of the most crucial members of the Bruins supporting cast in these Stanley Cup Playoffs were not necessarily major contributors during the regular season.

The Bruins acquired Massachusetts native forward Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild in a trade for Ryan Donato and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on Feb. 20. They didn't get an immediate payoff as Coyle had six points (two goals, four assists) and had a relative shot-attempt percentage of minus-1.25 in 21 regular-season games.

Video: Coyle and Johansson fuel Bruins run to Cup Final

In the playoffs, however, Coyle has been a difference-maker. Scoring on 21.4 percent of his shots has helped, but the puck has been moving the right way with Coyle on the ice, with the Bruins getting 53.02 percent of 5-on-5 shot attempts (2.43 relative SAT percentage), and his 2.75 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 ranks fifth on the Bruins in the postseason.

Boston's other big acquisition before the NHL Trade Deadline, forward Marcus Johansson, added more skill and depth. Johansson was injured in his fourth game after being acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 25 and had three points (one goals, two assists) in 10 regular-season games. Though the Bruins did control 51.87 percent of 5-on-5 shot attempts with Johansson on the ice in those 10 games, Boston dramatically was worse in that respect with him on the ice as he had a minus-5.32 relative SAT percentage.

In the postseason, though, the Bruins have controlled 51.14 percent of shot attempts with Johansson on the ice at 5-on-5 in the playoffs, and Johansson has picked up his point production, generating 2.70 points per 60 minutes.

By way of comparison, there were 61 forwards in the League this season that averaged at least 2.70 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play while playing at least 10 games. That's fewer than two per team, and the Bruins have five players scoring at that rate through the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Coyle and Johansson are two of four Bruins -- forwards Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen are the others -- to have recorded an average shot length closer than 29 feet in the playoffs, and that can serve as a proxy for the shot quality they have been able to generate during the postseason.

Perhaps the biggest surprise among the Bruins playoff contributors is forward David Backes, who has had to battle to keep a spot in the lineup. Backes is averaging 9:46 of ice time per game, the lowest on the Bruins, but has been productive in his limited role. Backes' five points (two goals, three assists) in 11 postseason games translates to 2.79 points per 60 minutes, fourth on the Bruins.

Video: Lindsay on the Bruins remaining focused during break

Not only that, Backes has played a hard and physical role while remaining disciplined, with his 2.23 penalty differential per 60 minutes the best among players to play in at least six postseason games (2.79 minor penalties drawn per 60 minutes, 0.56 minor penalties taken per 60).

The Bruins depth among their corps of defensemen have contributed strong performances also. Boston's leaders in SAT percentage among defensemen include Torey Krug (53.51), Matt Grzelcyk (53.22) and rookie Connor Clifton (52.19), each of whom has been on the ice for more than 52 percent of the 5-on-5 shots in the playoffs.

This is standard fare for Krug, a veteran puck-mover who has established his credentials as a play driver and point producer, but Grzelcyk doesn't have that track record. He played a personal NHL-best 66 games this season but had a relative shot-attempt percentage of minus-1.31, indicating that the Bruins fared better in terms of shot-attempt differential with Grzelcyk on the bench. That hasn't been the case in the playoffs, where Grzelcyk has a relative shot-attempt percentage of 2.84.

Clifton, who played in 19 regular-season games, has emerged as a steady sixth defenseman for the Bruins in the playoffs, with a shot-attempt percentage of 52.19 in 12 postseason games.

It is easy to take it for granted that the Bruins are getting great goaltending from Rask, who likely is the Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner heading into the Final, and that the results are being driven by the star players.

Nevertheless, before sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final the Bruins needed seven games to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and went six games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round. The Bruins trailed in both series yet rallied to win, and that in part was because of contributions from depth players like Coyle, Johansson, Backes, Grzelcyk, and Clifton.

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