By: Andrew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter @justyouknowhyyy
Everyone likes reruns! The Boston Bruins have done it again, coming back from a deficit to pull out a win in the end. The good guys engaged in what could be best be described in a war of attrition where every foot of ice had to be fought for and earned. Both teams played a tight-checking, if not exactly disciplined game, more on that later. The Bruins were able to break through when the ice opened up just enough in the third starting with a greasy goal by Brad Marchand and ending with a frozen rope by Sean Kuraly.
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.
Something that has become a trend in the last four games, more than just saying “they’re falling behind” and calling it a night, is that Boston has been playing a very safe, almost “hold the line” style, rather than being more attack-oriented to open games. This approach has been grinding teams down, allowing Boston to go on the attack in the third when their opponents are exhausted. It could be described as rope-a-dope, and it is a style that works against older and slower teams like Washington and Philadelphia.
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.
Charlie McAvoy (A): Charlie had himself another fantastic game. Other than one very loud and glaring botch on a heeled wrister in the slot with no one around in the third, McAvoy was his normal excellent self. He was very quiet in the first two periods, which in a defensive battle such as this is exactly what you want. McAvoy turned it up in the third, acting as a catalyst with the puck and assisting on the tying Marchand goal. He played 24 minutes and was effective for every second of that time.
Brad Marchand (A): Marchand was a buzzsaw all night, skating with purpose and trying to create his own chances. He finally cashed in on an ugly mess of a goal that is indicative of a game like this. Nothing pretty, just mucking into the dirty areas and getting rewarded for it.
Anders Bjork (A): On the season preview episode of the Dump’n’Change podcast last month, I floated that Anders Bjork’s best bet to stick with Boston at this point of his career was to become this team’s new Daniel Paille, a swiss army knife winger with speed to burn. Well, this was the game I was imagining for Mr. Bjork when I made that declaration. Bjork had what was probably his best game this season, killing plays where they stood with speed and sound positioning. He was rewarded for his efforts with a secondary assist off the rush on Kuraly’s winner.
David Krejci (A-): Krejci had a very Krejci game tonight, playing point guard and creating space despite the game not having very much of it in the first two periods. Krejci was proactive in attempted rushes all night putting Philly on their heels, culminating with a primary apple on Kuraly’s GWG.
David Pastrnak (A-): Pastrnak only had one measly assist. Trade him. Kidding of course. Though he “only” had 4 shot attempts on the evening, Pastrnak still looks like he’s playing on a mission. He has been engaged physically and has been a menace with the puck on his stick. Pasta is still playing with ideas where his brain and his hands still aren’t necessarily in concert with each other. The very idea that he isn’t fully back should terrify the rest of the NHL.
Tuukka Rask (A-): Rask made a huge stop on a Joel Farabee penalty shot with the game still deadlocked at zero late in the second. Rask made a quick move to close the five-hole and that was it. It was pretty indicative of his evening, quick but with a certain economy of movement. Other than a perfect tip by James Van Riemsdyk, Rask was rock solid all night long
Connor Clifton (B+): I have been well known to voice my reticence about Clifton’s viability as a top-six defenseman in the NHL due to his questionable reads and golden-retriever style of play. For at least one game he shut me up. In 16 minutes of ice time, Clifton made himself known with many close calls on offense, physical play (he had a great scrap with Flyers grinder Nicholas Aube-Kubel) and just being a general thorn in the Flyers side. This is the kind of game that people think of when they think of Cliffy Hockey.
Jeremy Lauzon (B+): Lauzon continues to show that he is paired with McAvoy because he can keep up, not because he needs to be protected. Lauzon has staked his claim as a penalty killer (4:15 SHTOI) and displayed an ability to wipe out plays with both physicality and positioning. McAvoy being his partner has helped in solidifying his role “in the house” but, make no mistake, Lauzon is doing a lot with the space he patrols.
Sean Kuraly (B+): A GWG is definitely going to up your grade. Kuraly spent the game thriving in the kind of game where his style fits right in. He was getting pucks deep but too many possessions were ending up dead on the vine off his stick, that is…. Until he uncorked a frozen rope from the point, beating Brian Elliot glove side to win the game.
Patrice Bergeron (B): Bergeron had a very ordinary game by his standards which means he was “good” by every other hockey player’s metric. Bergeron was playing a step behind his perfection linemates for most of the game, which was by design. It is a style that benefits the Bruins when caught in a tight-checking affair allowing him to get back quickly to the defensive zone.
Jakub Zboril (B): Zboril rebounded somewhat from a couple of rough games this past week. The rookie defender is learning how to use his stick and angles to break up plays instead of making the more risky plays. There were a few times in the third period where Zboril ended up hemmed in his zone but he mostly held his own throughout the contest. He took a “good” penalty on Joel Farabee leading to the penalty shot and subsequent Rask stop.
Craig Smith (B-): The perpetually loaded gun had another Craig Smith game, uncorking seven shot attempts, two high danger chances, and some key defensive plays in the third to keep the Bruins ahead. Smith may be a volume shooter first and foremost, but a game like this shows he has more value in his game than just that attribute.
Charlie Coyle (C+): Coyle made a couple of really nice plays off the rush, but it seems like in this game (and the last few) he’s either fighting injury or the puck. In a game like this, it’s a little less noticeable, but Coyle did have a brutal giveaway in the second period that nearly led to a goal. After that, his play improved, but one can’t help but think his play is just a bit off right now.
Nick Ritchie (C+): Ritchie seemed to have had another quiet game, but the metrics say that he’s been a positive influence when he’s on the ice. He has yet to take any egregious penalties and was tied for the team lead in hits with four. Being a quiet net-positive is certainty welcome for Bruins fans still getting over Ritchboi’s play in the bubble.
Trent Frederic (C): The bloom is ever-so-slightly falling off the rose for Trent Frederic. He clearly has good ideas with the puck but it seems his hands just aren’t there to execute them and his physical game is starting to peter out. “Freddy” didn’t do anything bad, but didn’t make any single play that made one go “woah”. With Bruins players starting to get healthy Frederic’s days as an everyday player may be numbered soon if he cannot increase his impact on the game.
Kevan Miller (C): Miller had one of those nights where you almost have to grade on a curve. On the one hand, he tied with Ritchie for hits in the game and was very involved both physically and on the penalty kill. On the other hand, he was treating the puck with all the deftness and care that one treats a grenade with the pin pulled out. He was one of many fighting the puck this game, but with Miller, it was even more noticeable.
Anton Blidh (C): Blidh was the very definition of “low-event”. Fans (myself included) have started clamoring for higher-skilled forwards in the Bs system to take his place. Blidh does have a bit of sandpaper to his game and showed it in flashes this evening, nearly tipping a puck in after a hard net-drive, but too often he fades into the background. Tonight was no exception.
Brandon Carlo (C-): Carlo had a particularly rough game. James Van Riemsdyk’s power-play tip-in was a direct result of Carlo’s poor positioning. While the defense had a pretty solid night as a unit, Carlo seemed to be fighting the puck and his struggling with his positioning all night. Definitely not Brandon’s best night considering his strong start to the season.
Chris Wagner (D): Wagner had an awful night. Not only were the Flyers skating by him like he was standing still, but Wagner took a couple of atrocious penalties. This was a burn-the-tape game for the winger.
Moment(S) of the night
You were supposed to bring snacks to the party, come on!