By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
After struggling to score in their first three contests, the Bruins have scored four and six goals in their last two games respectively. The powerplay did not miss a beat despite some personnel changes and was responsible for three goals. The game tonight was Bruins hockey – suffocate the other team, be opportunistic, and kill with special teams. 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.
Games with a profile like this heavily favor the Bruins, especially against a team like the Flyers. Boston seeks to limit chances against and create mistakes. In the numbers, this shows up with a low number of events, more scoring chances, and better expected goals numbers. The Bruins patiently wait for counter-attack opportunities and force turnovers on the forecheck, items that led directly to goals this evening. The Flyers on the other hand like to get pucks deep, get heavy on the forecheck, and get a high volume of pucks to the net. As the numbers show, the Bruins effectively thwarted Philadelphia’s game plan while executing their own.
The Bruins did a great job of getting to the top of the crease and finishing those opportunities. Their one goal not from the net-front came on a great cross-seam pass and a patient and lethal release. Philadelphia had very few shots from the home plate area illustrating Boston’s strong defensive structure this evening.
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.
Patrice Bergeron (A) – The captain was excellent on this three-point night. His individual effort to maintain possession off the faceoff allowed the powerplay to set up and gave himself a chance to battle and score the first goal of the night. His effort and smarts set up Brad Marchand for the Bruins’ fourth goal of the night and his awareness allowed him to pot the final goal. He was also good off the puck getting back and covering for a reckless pinch by a defenseman early on when the game was tight.
Brad Marchand (A) – This was the most Marchand-like game of the season. He had a cute and effective escape off the sideboard to break the puck out in the first. He had jump through the neutral zone and possessed and protected the puck in the offensive zone the best he has all year. Marchand had a great one-touch finish on his first goal and was patient before firing a perfectly placed shot on his second.
Jake DeBrusk (A) – DeBrusk does not drive play or finish the way David Pastrnak can but he has found his role riding alongside Bergeron and Marchand. He gets speed through the neutral zone to stretch the ice, forechecks hard, and wins battles to keep the puck alive. He accomplished all three tonight leading to his first point of the season. He also generated a couple of his own opportunities tonight, though this is an area that he still needs to improve on.
Charlie Coyle (A) – Coyle’s highlight moment tonight will be his beautiful one-handed tip goal. However, the play that better exemplifies Coyle’s value to the team was the Bruins’ second marker. On that goal, he created the sequence with a great zone entry, recovered the puck in the corner with a great effort, and made a savvy play to put it back in front where Craig Smith was able to jam it in. He can also do this, which is always fun to watch.
Craig Smith (A) – Smith is going to be a fan favorite. Even on night’s he doesn’t score he makes contributions to the team. Tonight, he scored and had an assist. His goal was not the prettiest but showed his hockey smarts. On the Coyle goal, he made a subtle yet essential play to bump the puck and allow for Fredric to recoup the puck inside the blue line with possession.
Jaroslav Halak (A) – The Bruins only conceded 1.05 expected goals on this night meaning, according to the numbers, Halak performed to expectation. But I think he is deserving of an A because a couple of his hardest saves came at crucial times late in the second and early in the third where letting one in may have allowed the Flyers to regain momentum. Instead, he shut the door and allowed the Bruins to comfortably cruise to victory.
Jakub Zboril (A) – Zboril picked up his first NHL point. This was an excellent game for him. He made lots of simple plays often supporting his defense partner Miller in finding outlets and escaping pressure. His decision-making on offense was better tonight and he has looked increasingly comfortable on the powerplay. His pace has improved since the first game but did get noticeably beat wide on a Scott Laughton rush in the first.
Bruce Cassidy (A) – I’m going to give the coach a grade this evening. His encouragement to his time to get to the net-front has really paid off the last four periods. His team is also executed his game plan to a T tonight. With injuries, Cassidy had to make adjustments to his line combinations and hit all the right notes.
Brandon Carlo (A) – I thought this was Carlo’s best night of the year. He was solid as always 1v1 and in the defensive zone. I thought his puck movement was more decisive and crisp than usual and he was a little more active on offense. He also showed great discipline after being mauled by Jakub Voracek.
David Krejci (B) – Krejci’s line got hammered on the possession numbers tonight but I think this had more to do with some missed opportunities than poor play. While the results should be factored in, we should also look at the process. Krejci had several nice looks to his linemates and was his usual supportive self in the defensive zone. He was also good at working the top of the powerplay in Grzelcyk’s absence.
Nick Ritchie (B) – Ritchie was just okay tonight at even strength having a couple of good looks but whiffing on others and creating less than in previous games. However, he was excellent on the powerplay occupying the front of the net and making several great passes including a deft one that led to a Marchand tally.
Trent Fredric (B) – Trent Fredric pocketed his first NHL point. After promotion to Coyle’s line, Fredric fit in well enough with his veteran linemates. He was more a complimentary player on this night and was not as involved in the puck transportation or cycle game as he has in other games. The big question mark with the rookie is how high in the lineup is he capable of playing. Tonight was a good step in showing he can be more than a checking line player though he still has more to prove.
Charlie McAvoy (B) – McAvoy has been hard for me to grade this year. His results have been a little mixed and his decision-making at time suspect. Having said that, he regularly tangles with top competition, makes lots of little plays other players cannot, and typically plays heavy minutes. Tonight was a microcosm of the season for me. He forced a couple of ill-advised passes and got caught up the ice on not great pinches. He also looked good on the powerplay and made a few great plays to relieve pressure and start the offense.
Jeremy Lauzon (B) – Lauzon did a lot of good things tonight. He won quite a few important battles and started the breakout better than usual. He also made great head man passes in the neutral zone that led to the Bruins’ second and fourth goals. He also had a reckless offensive zone pinch and defensive zone giveaway in the final minute of the first period that could have changed the complexion of the game. Overall though, this was a solid night from the Quebecois defender.
Kevan Miller (C) – Miller was fine tonight but the more I watch the more I believe it his defensive partner Zboril who is driving the pair. Not capable or hesitant to really advance the puck, Miller has been very deferential to his young teammate, moving the puck to him laterally, and forcing Zboril to make the decisive play. The strategy has largely been working but I’d like to see Miller be more assertive and clean with the puck.
Jack Studnicka (C) – Studnicka played fine tonight. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes and put in a solid effort. He won a number of battles that helped with transition or sustain plays and just missed on a few pass attempts. He didn’t create much for himself tonight which is an area that still needs growth. He was also a little jumpy on PP2 trying to do a little too much.
Connor Clifton (C) – Cliffy hockey made it’s debut. He was fine which should be applauded given he had no preseason to get tuned up. He did show his rust rushing a couple plays up the board in the first period and misplaying a puck in the neutral zone (granted it was a tough play and bounce) leading to a James Van Riemsdyk partial breakaway in the third. His reads at times are a concern which was evident on a 2v2 where he picked up neither player and just backed into the net.
Sean Kuraly/Chris Wagner/Anders Bjork (C) – I’m grouping the fourth line together and giving them a C tonight. Neither is necessarily a bad thing. There really was not much happening when they were on the ice. The line played a little under ten minutes as a unit and there were only seven shot attempts for both teams combined while they were on the ice. That’s just fine from your bottom line but unfortunately doesn’t afford them a better grade as they did not have much impact on tonight’s outcome.
Moment(s) of the night
I love this sequence. It shows the team working together from the five-person rapid transition from defense to offense, to a good hard pass to get things started, to a great bump pass to a supporting player, to a little bit of effort to make sure the play happens, to an amazing finish showcasing skill. Things go well when everyone is on the same page, working hard, and flashing some talent.
You probably had a good night when the opposing goaltender does this at the end.
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