By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
The Bruins scored at even strength. The Bruins received secondary scoring. The Bruins won another shootout. Many of the early anxieties of the fan base were appeased at least for this one evening. It could be an aberration or a pivotal moment for the team, only time will tell. Even with their strong even-strength play, the Bruins required an extra frame and a skills competition to secure the two points. Let’s break it down and assign player grades.
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 were the dominant team at 5v5 in this contest, outplaying Philadelphia in both volume and quality. If not for a number of penalties, which the Flyers took advantage of, this game may not have been so close. Interesting to note is how much higher event the third period was from the first two. Boston typically plays a conservative game but didn’t have that luxury chasing the game and cranked up the pace.
The home team did a good job of getting bodies and opportunities in the low and high slot in this game scoring three of their four goals right on top of Carter Hart’s crease.
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.
Craig Smith (A) – This was Smith’s best game of his Bs tenure. He was around the net all night with numerous quality chances. The play that exemplifies what Smith brings to the table though came on the team’s second goal. After getting in on the forecheck, Smith rotated high in the zone to be the safety valve. When the defender pinched, Smith filled in and made a great play to keep the puck in the zone and quickly move it to Coyle in front. Plays like this are what makes Smith so highly regarded in hockey circles.
Jake DeBrusk (A) – This game showcased what DeBrusk can be despite his goalless streak continuing. He skated well and engaged in battles. What he did better in this game than usual is he drove play. He was good in transition often keying the rush, entering the zone with possession, and making smart decisions once in the offensive end. DeBrusk also did a great job of keeping plays alive, notably on the fourth goal where he won a puck battle after his own missed opportunity. He did not receive an assist on the play but the sequence never happens without that pivotal effort. His shootout winner was pretty!
David Krejci (A) – Krejci was good throughout this game supporting the puck in all three zones. He did have a couple of standout plays. On offense, his great pass to Studnicka streaking through the slot kicked off the Bs offensive outburst. Moments later, Krejci had a great backcheck, covering for a Bruins’ defenseman caught up ice, and disrupted a scoring chance right in front of Rask.
Kevan Miller (A) – This was by far Miller’s best game as he finally displayed a level of comfort with the puck on his stick. He made several excellent plays on offense most notably on a pretty sequence in overtime where he circled the zone and nearly found Marchand for a tap-in. His possession numbers were monstrous tonight. I did have some concerns about Miller looking for the hit at the risk of his defensive responsibilities but it worked out fine for him on this night.
Jack Studnicka (A) – This was a great game from the Bruins rookie forward. He kept plays alive on numerous occasions in the offensive zone helping his line dominate possession. As the game wore on, Studnicka’s confidence grew. This was evident in his increased protection and patience with the puck. He drove the slot and the net several times including on his first career NHL goal. He still had a rough moment or two on the rush but even that part of his game was better tonight. He got one for the trophy case tonight, hopefully, the first of many wearing the spoked B.
Nick Ritchie (A) – Ritchie had a goal and an assist this evening. He contributed to the Bruins’ first goal with a solid zone entry and pass to Krejci. He made a number of subtle but important plays like that throughout the game, especially on breakouts and break-ins. He was the beneficiary of a great play by Bergeron on his goal but to his credit, he was in the right spot and buried it top shelf over a sprawling Hart.
Patrice Bergeron (A) – I thought this was the Captain’s most complete game of the season. He seemed to be in the right places and making the subtle plays that make him so special. He was excellent on the powerplay with a number of individual chances but his most important play was the second effort to move the puck to Ritchie on the back door.
Chris Wagner (A) – Wagner generated most of the offense for his line this evening with three shots on goal in four attempts. In addition to getting the puck to the net, he did a good job of having a net-front presence throughout the game. Wagner also made a key defensive play late in the third sliding down to the low slot to break up a dangerous opportunity.
Charlie Coyle (B) – Coyle came to life in the third period after being quiet for much of the game. His chemistry with Craig Smith is building and he scored a very timely goal. His line was utterly dominant on the possession numbers giving up almost no Flyers offense at all while on the ice.
Jeremy Lauzon (B) – Lauzon gets a B tonight because he played to the best of his ability against tough competition. Other than being burned wide by a Travis Konecny rush in the second period he fared well in his 1v1s. He was decent on the breakout and made some smart plays in the offensive zone.
Brandon Carlo (B) – Normally when Carlo scores I feel like I should be giving him an A. But aside from his snipe from the point I didn’t think this was his best game. He got caught up ice several times on the Flyers’ rushes necessitating help from his forwards and I didn’t think he advanced the puck up ice as well as usual.
Matt Grzelcyk (B) – Given the concerns about his availability for this evening after exiting last game early, Grzelcyk was quite good this game. He didn’t have any explosive plays but he made lots of little plays that relieved pressure at key times.
Jakub Zboril (B) – Along with Miller, Boston owned the puck with Zboril on the ice. Zboril’s ability to make quick and smart decisions on his first pass was a large part of that. Zboril did struggle on a couple of retrievals. His shoot first and ask questions later approach at the offensive blue line is also something that needs work as it is not always his best option.
Tuukka Rask (B) – I was set to give Rask a C this evening. The goals against were not his fault but this was not the Finns finest performance. He committed early on two of the goals and subsequently lost his edge while he was trying to recover. A weird tip founds its way underneath him and while the Giroux powerplay marker was a great shot, Rask had lost his net and angle prior to the delivery. But then overtime and the shootout happened. Rask was tremendous in both and deserves credit for his clutch saves down the stretch.
Brad Marchand (C) – I didn’t feel this was a strong game from Marchand. He started off well in the first with some great work on the penalty kill and an awesome stretch pass to DeBrusk. He faded though for much of the rest of the game and I believe his linemates deserve more of the credit for the lines’ on-ice success this evening.
Charlie McAvoy (C) – McAvoy was not very involved in the offensive zone in this game though he did do a good job following the rush on a couple of occasions. Against tough competition tonight he was frequently buried in his own end. His retrievals and breakouts were not as smooth as usual contributing to the defensive zone time. He was excellent defensively in the neutral zone as well as keying the regroup. McAvoy was by no means bad, I just expect more.
Anders Bjork (C) – Bjork deserves credit for being part of a dominant line in this game. He also did a good job to rush the defender leading to the Bruins’ second goal. Otherwise, Bjork didn’t do a whole lot this game. He skated and put in the effort but he generated no offense for himself and didn’t contribute much to his linemates output. Bjork was one of only two Bruins with no individual expected goals and was replaced by a rotating cast late in the third.
Trent Fredric (C) – Fredric was less noticeable in this game. He did not have the puck on his stick much and wasn’t as dangerous in transition. He also was less engaged in the cycle game, something necessary for his success. He is the other Bruin player to post zero individual expected goals and didn’t even have a shot attempt. He did do this though which will no doubt continue to endear him to Bruins’ fans.
Sean Kuraly (C) – Kuraly was the only Bruins forward to post negative expected goals for percentages on this night. Those numbers can be wonky but it is an interesting stat to note. He did some of the things you like to see from him but this was not his best game. His two minor penalties were unfortunate even if the Flyer players had a role in drawing them. He nearly took another with an undisciplined cross-check on Ivan Provorov late in the third. He also nearly gave the game away with a giveaway in overtime.