When Bruce Cassidy was asked to describe his coaching style, one of the first adjectives he used was “goaltender-friendly.”
There are a lot of different ways for hockey systems to assist the goalie and Cassidy’s does a lot of them. Things like making the game predictable, not allowing cross-ice passes, limiting the number of odd-man rushes, and keeping the puck away from the center of the ice.
There’s one specific metric that illustrates the way Cassidy’s teams play which helps any goalie sitting behind them. It’s a distance stat and it’s one Golden Knights fans are actually used to being on the other end of.
WaveIntel’s Jason Paul compiled stats on shot and goal distance for a three-year span between 2017 and 2020. The NHL average distance of any goal scoring during those seasons was about 22.4 feet away from the net. For Tukka Rask, Cassidy’s primary goalie, that number was just short of 25 at 24.93, much further than the average. It was the second furthest average distance of goal allowed behind only Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray. As for all shots, the average was 36.7 feet while Rask was seeing shots coming from an average of 38.1 feet away.
In comparison, Marc-Andre Fleury was in the bottom third of the league in both categories, allowing goals from an average of 20.3 feet and all shots at 36.4 feet away.
Average Goal Distance
Fleury – 20.3
Lehner – 20.7
Average – 22.4
Fast – 29.4
Average Shot Distance
Lehner – 36.3
Fleury – 36.4
Average – 36.7
Fast – 38.1
Cassidy’s system allows many more shots from the outside while limiting shots in close. In 2021-22, the Bruins led the league by allowing the fewest high-danger chances against, allowing 44 fewer than the next closest team and a whopping 224 fewer than the Golden Knights.
The Bruins ranked in the Top 10 in high-danger chances each of the past four seasons with Cassidy behind the bench. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights have been heading in the wrong direction.
High Danger Chances Against per 60 (at 5-on-5)
BOS – 8.66 (1st)
VGK – 11.58 (19th)
BOS – 8.68 (5th)
VGK – 10.29 (20th)
BOS – 8.97 (6th)
VGK – 9.99 (9th)
BOS – 9.4 (2nd)
VGK – 9.8 (5th)
The numbers back up Cassidy’s claim of a goalie-friendly system. Now it’s up to him to prove the numbers are about his system and not the personnel playing inside of it.