By: Andrew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter @justyouknowhyyy
They don’t make it easy on us, do they? The Boston Bruins won another one-goal game but had to go through a winding road to get there. The Bruins have played their fourth overtime game of the season, after a two-goal lead that felt stifling, the Pens forced overtime, and after a comedy of errors, Craig Smith potted one past Tristan Jarry on a 2-on-0 to bring a W for the good guys.
A win is a win, but not everything was grand. Pittsburgh seemed to control the play for long stretches in the middle period, hemming Boston on their end for long stretches, allowing the Penguins to creep back in and eventually tie the game on a Kasperi Kapanen tally. 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.
An interesting trend has developed this season which again occurred in this matchup with the Penguins. The Bruins have posted very strong first periods in almost all their games in the young season. However, their second periods have left something to be desired. With the lead, the Bruins sat back a little bit in the third and the Penguins were opportunistic forcing overtime.
The Bruins did not defend home plate as well as usual tonight illustrated by the blue blotches on top of the crease. On offense, they did manage to get to the net-front much to Coach Cassidy’s satisfaction.
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): Smith earns top marks not just for the game-winning goal, though that does not hurt. Smith is showing that he is a perfect fit on this squad, always looking like a truffle hound but for pucks, defensively sound, and an at-will shooter (led the team with seven shots). You always notice him especially in hunting mode on the ice. The winning goal was a just reward for an all-around magnificent showing.
Brad Marchand (A): Marchand was an absolute animal on the ice tonight. Marchand opened the scoring by turning Letang into several different shapes before shooting a pill past Jarry. Marchand was pretty much everywhere all night, using his stick to force turnovers and his speed. He never slowed down. Marchand is on a heater right now.
Tuukka Rask (A): Rask was sensational tonight. Though it seemed he had gotten hurt on the Zucker tally it appears to have been a charlie horse, as he was right back on the ice and even was able to nullify a 3-0 with a stick check. Rask made some very key saves throughout the evening and was his general solid self.
Charlie McAvoy (A): The best player on the ice tonight by a forever amount, McAvoy had a breakout game, contributing to all three Bruins goals and just generally being a thorn in the Penguins side for all of the nearly 28 minutes he was on the ice. This was an absolute thoroughbred’s game from the Bruins’ top defender.
Patrice Bergeron (B): The Captain had a bit of a mixed bag tonight. One of the many who took bad penalties throughout the evening, it seemed as if Bergeron was trailing the play on his end throughout the night, but was able to spring a few odd-man rushes and peppered Tristan Jarry with 5 shots on goal. The Captain did not show up on the score sheet but was able to be a scoring chance facilitator, as evidenced by winning 17 of 23 faceoffs on the night.
Nick Ritchie (B): To be an absolute killjoy, Ritchie is starting to show signs of coming back down to earth, taking a very bad tripping penalty that led to the run of play that scored Pittsburgh’s first goal, and just generally being behind the play all night was not helping. Ritchie playing top-6 minutes and holding his own has been a surprise. But I don’t foresee it continuing much longer. Even with playing as a one-man PP clean up crew.
David Krejci (B): Krejci played over 21 minutes tonight and picked up another assist on Craig Smith’s overtime goal. DK46 was his typical self tonight, moving the puck fluidly and effectively. One would like to see him take at least one shot on goal, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Trent Frederic (B): Frederic is continuing to make his case to stick in Boston for the foreseeable future. Trent was only on the ice for 10:13 but was using his speed all night to create space as was able to draw yet another penalty. His third in two games.
Anders Bjork (B): Bjork is a really hard player to grade. There seems to be a positive impact when he’s on the ice, but the eye test makes it look like he’s not doing much of anything while he’s out there. So why the higher grade? As inoffensive as he was at 5-on-5, he was great on the penalty kill, shutting down many key plays himself. You can see he is trying to make it work on this still unfamiliar role, Definitely something to be lauded.
Sean Kuraly (B): Kuraly had a very Kuraly game, a yeoman effort with speed and mucking, he did get caught out of position a couple of times with the Pens’ transition but used his quickness to recover. Kuraly was another key penalty killer and was 88% on face-offs to boot.
Chris Wagner (B): Wagner hit everything. Wagner was the true physical tone-setter on his line all evening, he was part of the group that was caught in no man’s land leading to Zucker’s goal, but you could almost forgive that. Wagner was noticeable all night with his physicality and even drew a key penalty that stopped Pittsburgh from tilting the ice even more late in the second.
Jeremy Lauzon (B): Lauzon played nearly 24 minutes this evening and other than being beaten wide a few times, I could not tell you much else about his night. Lauzon still tends to get beat, as it seems his lateral agility is not as high as one would like, but he has been able to play a rugged straight man for the most part in conjunction with McAvoy’s electric style.
Jakub Zboril (B): Zboril’s numbers did not show anything egregiously bad. He did take a bad tripping call in the second period (then again, who didn’t do that) and was very engaged physically. Only a little over 13 minutes on the ice and very little third period time shows Cassidy saw something in the game that he didn’t like, but all in all, it seemed little Z had an okay night.
Kevan Miller (B): The typical “You did not notice him, that’s good” adage is a key phrase for what you want to see from the defensive defenseman Miller. He mostly stayed in the shadows this evening, save for one play shorthanded, where, with a burst of speed I did not even know he had, he drove to the net and rang the bar on a snapshot. Miller is continuing to show that he is more than capable of handling his sheltered starts and is even getting a little more confident from game to game. You love to see it.
Jack Studnicka (C): This was a very bland game by Studnicka. Jack did not do much to separate himself from the pack this evening. Studnicka did have a little bit of shorthanded time in the evening but in terms of his top-six role is still struggling to create his offense. He was sound defensively but has yet to show the offensive chops to stick in a higher role.
Brandon Carlo (C): Carlo was on the ice for over seven minutes of PK time and was part of the PK group that was caught in the vulnerable minute that led to Pittsburgh’s first goal. Carlo has appeared to have a rough go of it in the early going this season and has been a general black hole with the puck. Tonight was no different as a lot of his handles died on the vine throughout the game.
Connor Clifton (C): It was a forgettable night for the second pair as Clifton suffered from the same anomalies as Carlo. Clifton was very aggressive moving the puck often getting it on the net, but his reads are still leaving much to be desired. His aggressiveness is getting him in a lot of trouble, for example, the ill-advised cross-checking penalty. He also does not appear to be comfortable playing his off-side.
Charlie Coyle (C): I was tempted to give Coyle a B on the strength of his penalty killing alone, which was phenomenal all night. Unfortunately with how good he was on the PK, Coyle had an off-night to put it generously at even strength. He was on the ice for both goals against, left McAvoy on an island on the game-tying goal, and was just 40% on faceoffs. A bad night at even strength clouded the amazing night he had on special teams.
Jake Debrusk (Inc): Debrusk exited early in the first period after a lower-body injury after only 3:30. Jake was showing out with his straight-ahead speed in clearing space for Bergeron and Marchand. Hopefully, Debrusk isn’t out for too long.
Moment of the night
I was going to put the Craig Smith goal up here. Ultimately, I have to go with the three-on-zero that that was DOA. Tough break for Pittsburgh, but too bad!