By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
A low scoring game should probably be expected from two teams who thrive on defensive structure. Each team tried to take advantage of counter-attacks which did lead to stretches of exciting back and forth action. Otherwise, the Bruins and Islanders were generally stout in their defensive zones and kept the play to the outside. Despite a decent effort from Boston, the Islanders managed to score the lone goal on a great JG Pageau bunt past Tuukka Rask. Lets analyze the loss and assign some grades.
Checkout the full game recap from Blackngoldhockey.com HERE
While the numbers aren’t the whole story they can give us a glimpse into the flow of the game and a starting point for a discussion on what went well, or not so much, in a given game.
The Bruins did control the run of play in this game. While the Islanders did have some extended time in the Bruins zone on many occasions it was fairly harmless. The Islanders did generate some great chances though off the counterattack and off of a couple of forced turnovers from their tenacious forecheck. Both teams also had a number of opportunities on the man-advantage though neither managed to score. The Bruins, per their coach’s orders, made a point to take more shots and get to the front of the net for second-chance opportunities but to the Islanders, and Semyon Varlamov’s credit, they were able to shut the door.
In this section, we give each player a grade for their play in this particular game. The grades are more art than science. The game scores below are one part of the equation giving us an objective measure to start with, though it doesn’t always tell you the true picture of an individual game. Hockey is a game of process and moments. Over the long haul, the process should win out but at a game-by-game level, moments matter. Both will be considered before assigning a grade to each player. Our expectations for each player will also be a factor.
Please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments or on Twitter but keep the name-calling to a minimum.
Matt Grzelcyk (A) – Grzelcyk was fantastic tonight. Matched up against the speedy Islander forwards, his feet, positioning, and hockey sense consistently won the battle. While he didn’t generate much offense himself he was driving play throughout the game keying the breakout and the rush while also sustaining offensive zone time. His one guffaw of the game, unfortunately, led to a puck battle where injury followed insult, receiving both a penalty and having to exit the game. Hopefully, it was just minor as he has proven a key element of the Bs success.
Nick Ritchie (A) – Don’t look, but Ritchie currently leads all Bruins’ forwards in average game score. Is Ritchie good? Or at least not as bad as Bs fans thought over the offseason? Time will tell, but this was a good game for the winger. He forechecked well, was patient with the puck showing off a little playmaking, and made his presence known in front of the net. He also worked the low triangle on the powerplay with Bergeron for the team’s best man-advantage looks. Ritchie led the team in shots and individual expected goals. If he continues to play like this it will start showing up more frequently on the score sheet.
Tuukka Rask (A) – Rask wasn’t called upon that often only facing 17 shots on the night. However, he was rock solid on a number of dangerous chances. He kept the game tied with a partial breakaway save on Pageau at the end of the second, was the Bruins’ best penalty killer, and stoned Beauvillier in the third frame. An unfortunate bounce and great tip late in the game were able to beat him and negate his other efforts.
David Krejci (A) – Krejci allowed his linemates to do their thing. He provided great support in the defensive zone to assist with the breakout and did his thing as F3 to support his wingers attacking on the forecheck. He also found himself in some soft spots for some individual chances. He was not as good on the powerplay tonight, forcing a couple of passes that were too cute for their own good.
Jake Debrusk (B) – Debrusk bounced back after an invisible game on Saturday. He just seemed more engaged in this one frequently getting in on the forecheck and initiating, and winning, battles all over the rink. He also made a number of nice plays to key the rush. He still, however, only managed one shot on goal, not enough for a player of his nature.
Jack Studnicka (B) – The third player on the team’s best line tonight showed he is an NHL player after a rough outing on opening night. This line was a better fit for him. It allowed him to play more at his pace which mimics Krejci’s more than Marchand and Bergeron. He was good on the forecheck and engaged in battles, a couple of which led to great chances for his linemates. He did better in transition, an area he really struggled in his first game, gaining the zone and making smart little drop passes. He does still need to get stronger which should help him in front of the net. As a winger, he still has some tough moments on the breakout.
Trent Fredric/Chris Wagner/Sean Kuraly (B) – The fourth line had a good night. They came out on the positive end of things despite often lining up against tough competition. They occasionally flashed what looked like was going to be a great offensive opportunity but often ended up fairly harmless. Having said that, this was the type of night Bruce Cassidy was looking for out of his fourth line against a tenacious Islanders team. Wagner and Kuraly were also good on what has thus far been a perfect penalty kill.
Charlie McAvoy (B) – McAvoy did a lot of things well tonight. He was typically great in the neutral zone, breaking up plays and keying the rush. Likewise, his transition from defense to offense allowed the Bruins lots of clean zone exits. However, he was not as active offensively on this evening. He also had a really bad mixup in the neutral zone trying to jump a route in the waning seconds of the second period which led to a dangerous chance by Pageau. He also took a minor penalty, albeit a soft one, for the third straight game.
Jeremy Lauzon (B) – Lauzon is playing to his ability. He was better on puck retrievals tonight. His first pass still needs work but it was better and he did an excellent job of serving as an outlet for his teammates on the breakout. He struggles with speed 1v1 and got burned by Beauvillier late in the third. On the game-winning goal, he was unable to prevent the zone entry and required the support of Bergeron when he was nearly beat down the boards.
Brandon Carlo (B) – Carlo is a B student. His impact on the game is fairly one-dimensional. However he played that dimension well tonight. A quiet game is a good game. He also has proven a tremendous complement to Grzelcyk and continues to anchor a strong PK unit. His best play of the night was a great block in the slot in the second period when the PK broke down.
Jakub Zboril (B) – Zboril continues to look ready for NHL duty. He was consistent this evening in his 1v1s and advanced the puck up ice well. He was rewarded with extra shifts with Grzelcyk out. There are moments he lost a couple of battles in his own end and his shot was blocked too frequently with none of his four attempts tonight finding the goal.
Patrice Bergeron (C) – Bergeron was alright in this game getting some good chances on the powerplay working in his bumper role. At 5v5 he wasn’t as noticeable. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing with Bergeron, who often makes subtle under-the-radar plays that drive his line. There weren’t as many for him in this game and while his line ended the night with strong possession numbers, I think his linemates deserve the credit. While it was an unfortunate bounce, Bergeron’s attempt to front the shot and make a play backfired and ended up in the back of the net for the lone goal of the game.
Brad Marchand (C) – Like Bergeron, Marchand was alright in this game but just wasn’t as explosive as usual. He started the game out hot with a great cut to the middle and backhand release followed the next shift by a cute drive to the net from behind the goal line. His play tapered after that with the exception of some great puck protection in the second to draw a penalty. His penalty in the third was unnecessary. A couple of bobbles late in the game, including on a surefire breakaway exemplify that he was just a little off this evening.
Craig Smith (C) – Smith put in his usual effort in this game. He was not as effective though. True to his nature he shot the puck a lot. But a number of the shots were ineffective with a long shot from the blue line on the powerplay negating a chance to get set up. A couple of bad angle shots, including one off the goalie’s head, were sneaky but didn’t accomplish much. It is showing why Smith, who has a good shot, only posts average shooting percentages.
Anders Bjork (C) – Bjork played his third game of the season and was on his fourth line. There was nothing wrong with his game tonight and he has improved at making zone entries worthwhile and seeing the width of the ice. However, this was another night when the on-ice results with him out there were quite poor, a disturbing pattern for a player trying to find his place on the team.
Kevan Miller (C) – Miller was fine tonight. He was engaged and tried to throw his weight around. He continues to get buried in the possession battle. I question if Miller is built to play defense in the modern game as his stick skills and decisions with the puck are not the greatest. He bobbled the puck a number of times this game. He did make some decent plays with the rubber disc but they were always of the simple and safe variety, not what you look for in a contemporary defender.
Charlie Coyle (D) – This was a rough night for a Coyle. He did have a couple positive moments drawing an interference call in the first with a good forecheck and made a good defensive play on a net front scramble in the second. Otherwise he was not very noticeable and he and his linemates were dominated by the Islanders.
Moment of the night
Hard to go wrong with a good referee fail!
And on a more serious note.