While visiting NHL.com to fill out my playoff bracket, I stumbled across this brilliant piece of analysis created by the all knowing and by no means snake oil selling analytics partner of the NHL, SAP.
It really got me thinking, “Wow. What an incredibly close match-up.”
Then I started thinking a little bit more, and I can’t help but think it undersells what matters most in playoff hockey, and that’s GRIT. Not just GRIT, but size, experience, leadership, and the intangibles that take your team from a mere Presidents Trophy winner to a Stanley Cup contender.
Clearly the NHL and SAP had the right idea by including faceoffs, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Where are the penalties? the fights? the blocked shots? the hits? These things should not be discounted. What about age and the wisdom and experience that go along with that? What about size? One of these teams is going to be pushed around more than others, and we the fans have the right to know who. That’s why I’ve created a true tale of the tape for the Bruins and the Leafs for you to analyze below…
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Your first thought is probably, “Wow Jon. You put a lot of time into this. Thank you.”
I’ll respond with “you’re welcome.”
The next thing you’re thinking is that again this looks pretty darn close. And I’ll agree. These two teams even have the same average height. “WOW!” How many teams can say that?
The fact that Bruins have the advantage here has to be a little disheartening to Leafs fans, but that’s why I think it’s worth diving into a few of these areas in more detail.
It’s important to note that goaltenders haven’t been included in this data, because goalies aren’t really part of the team.

Penalty Minutes

The Leafs numbers were so low that I had to double check that I didn’t include uniform numbers by mistake (this was particularly a problem because Polak had 46 penalty minutes.) Only Matt Martin hit the 50 minute barrier this season making the Leafs certified not tough. The Bruins had McQuaid, Miller, Chara, Backes, Marchand, and McAvoy all over 50 penalty minutes a piece. That’s a lot of toughness. Hopefully Matt Martin has been spending his time off in the dojo.
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Fighting Majors

With six of the Leafs fighting majors belonging to Matt Martin it’s pretty clear the Bruins are once again the dominate team. Adam McQuaid also had six fighting majors, but the Bruins have Kevan Miller with 4, and four more players sitting with 2. Nazem Kadri was the only other Leaf besides Martin with multiple fights.

Hits

The Bruins may have seven players with over 100 hits in their lineup, but none of them come close to Leo Komarov’s 219 hits. Hyman, Martin, Polak, and Zaitsev also have over 100 hits, and Kadri and Hainsey were pretty close, but it looks like the Bruins are out to break the Leafs.

Blocked Shots

Finally a win for the Leafs. Did you know Jake Gardiner had more than 100 blocked shots? Neither did I. Both Hainsey and Zaitsev have more blocked shots than Zdeno Chara, who led the Bruins. And he’s probably going to the Hall of Fame!
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Faceoff Win%

A guess the legend of Patrice Bergeron had to end at some point. His 57.2% is no match for the 57.9% that Tomas Plekanec put up as a Leaf. The fact that pretty much every Leaf forward had a percentage over 50 means the Leafs will be controlling every game.

Height

Since this was a tie, it’s important to break it down further. First, both Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo are very tall. That’s really thrown off the curve for the Bruins. In fact, the Bruins only have 4 more players over 6’3. The Leafs only have 4 players in total over 6’3, so the advantage still seems like it belongs to the Bruins, except they’ve got 5 teency tiny dudes 5’10 or smaller. The Leafs only have two guys right at 5’10. Now that’s an advantage.
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Weight

It’s funny, but the Leafs might not have had a clear height advantage, but they certainly know how to pack on the muscle. Mitch Marner is probably the only guy on the team who needs to work out more. The Bruins have Brandon Carlo who is 6’5, but is only 208 pounds. Geez, Shawn Bradley much?

Age

This is a funny one because there is a lot of middle ground here. You need to look at the true veterans over the age of 30 and you need to look at the players who are really just in the playoffs to get experience, the guys 21 and under.
The Bruins have eight guys over the age of 30. The Leafs only have seven. Thank God they added Plekanec.
When it comes to the youngins, there are six players on the Bruins getting their playoff internship, and five on the Leafs. This really is too close to call.
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Overall

There is one main factor that none of these numbers have covered off and that is one simple fact. And that fact is that it is…

BUDS ALL DAY

So that’s why we can safely predict the Leafs will take it in four.