In the biggest sporting event of the year tomorrow, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will square off in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Patriots are five-time Super Bowl winners, including two of the past three, while the Eagles are looking for their first ever title in the Super Bowl era. The teams and their histories could not be more different. The same cannot be said for their NHL counterparts, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, who have been rivals from as far back as when they were called the Boston Patriots in the AFL. So, while everyone else debates the ins and outs of the big game tomorrow, let’s take a look at the likely winner through the lens of the Pats’ and Eagles’ hockey-playing neighbors:
Scoring Offense – Advantage: Boston
When it comes to scoring, the Bruins are as dangerous as the Patriots. Boston has 160 goals for on the year, 8th in the league, but in only 49 games, giving them the 5th-best 3.27 goals per game rate. Led by Brad Marchand, who’s scoring .55 goals per game on his own this season, and his line mates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, who make up the league’s most dangerous line, the Bruins have great offensive potential. The Flyers meanwhile are just 18th in the league in scoring, with 147 goals, and putting up only 2.88 goals per game. However, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux are the two highest scoring players in the match-up, so don’t underestimate Philadelphia’s offensive potential.
Scoring Defense – Advantage: Boston
There’s no better team in the league at preventing goals than the Bruins, who are number one in goals against (120) and goals against per game (2.45). With Tuukka Rask playing Vezina-level hockey and Marchand, Bergeron, and 40-year-old Zdeno Chara (channeling his inner Tom Brady) among the top ten in the league in plus/minus, the Bruins are a force to reckon with on defense. The Flyers have struggled on defense in 2017-18, allowing 150 goals, tied for 19th in goals against. While the defense has been leaky at times, much of the fault lies with the underwhelming goalie duo of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth.
Passing Offense – Advantage: Boston
Passing will be a vital factor in the big game, and the Bruins hold a slight edge. The Bruins have 271 assists on the year compared to the Flyers’ 264. While Voracek is undoubtedly the best passer in the contest, with 50 assists already on the year, Boston’s overall puck movement game is superior, due in no small part to sleek passers on the blue line in Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug, and several of the best possession players in the league, including the top Corsi player so far in 2017-18, rookie rearguard Matt Grzelcyk.
Turnovers – Advantage: Boston
Turnovers can make or break a game and while both teams are in the red in turnover margin, the totals are not even close. The Bruins have recorded 442 takeaways so far this season, among the best in the league. However, they do give up the puck a fair amount with 465 recorded giveaways, producing a turnover margin of -23. Fortunately for Boston, the Flyers have given up the puck 462 times themselves, but have had no luck at all in taking it back, with only 302 recorded takeaways. That produces an ugly turnover margin of -160 and another big advantage for Boston.
Special Teams – Advantage: Boston
The Bruins’ 7th-ranked power play (21.71%) and 5th-ranked penalty kill (83.33%) make them one of, if not the best special teams squad in the NHL. They capitalize on the opposition’s penalties, but don’t let their own penalties cost them. That will be especially helpful against Philadelphia, who takes fewer penalties per game than Boston and is just behind the B’s in power play efficiency; their 21.39% success rate is good enough for 8th. However, Philly has struggled greatly short-handed, with the league’s third-worst penalty kill (73.89%).
Super Bowl Prediction: New England in a landslide
It’s been a few years since the Bruins were playing at a level anywhere near the dynastic Patriots, but in 2017-18 they are right there. Compared to the Flyers in all the important (and possible to compare) football statistics, it’s not even close. If the Patriots channel the Bruins, they should roll over the Eagles like they’ve rolled over the NFL for close to 20 years. One final note: the Pats have struggled to score early and have had to come from behind in each of their last two Super Bowl wins and even their AFC Championship win two weeks ago – the Bruins have the second-best points percentage in the NHL this season when allowing the first goal. It all lines up.