By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
The Bruins’ hot streak continues with an overtime win in their first game of the season against the New York Rangers. A tight-checking low-event affair in the first period turned into an exciting game in the next two frames. Boston received goals from two bottom-six forwards before one of their stars won it in the bonus frame. Let’s break the game down and assign some 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 Rangers managed to outplay the Bruins in the first period, something that hasn’t happened much this year, ending the first period up 1-0. Boston came out flying in the second and dominated every metric at 5v5. In spite of the numbers, Rask had to make some big saves and the Bruins’ equalizing goal actually came shorthanded. Boston started the third strong but tailed off significantly after their second goal conceding a number of strong scoring chances and a goal to the Rangers sending this one to overtime. 36 seconds and a breakaway from Brad Marchand was all that was needed to secure the two points from the Bruins in the extra frame.
The heatmap seems to be missing a Bruins goal but all three came from the dark blue spot right at the top of the crease. The Rangers also managed to get to the front of the net for a number of chances and two goals of their own. Important to note is many of the Rangers’ chances came on dangerous rushes.
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.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Tuukka Rask (A) – The fans have spoken and Rask is tonight’s player of the game. He was stellar and is off to an excellent start this season as detailed by colleague Andrew Taverna earlier today. His movement post to post was explosive and he arrived on time to thwart several rushes and cross-seam passes. He again had a clutch save stretching out on a 2v1 late in the third to send the game to overtime. The Finnish netminder also had Mika Zibanejad’s number throughout the contest.
Charlie McAvoy (A) – McAvoy received votes for the player of the game. He was great on the rush. After trying to force plays in the early stages of the season he has really found his rhythm. This game was a prime example as he picked his spots well, entered the zone with possession, and kicked the puck out to his streaking forwards leading to good chances. He had a great sequence in the third defensively where he stepped up on a Ranger forward just inside the defensive blueline and in one motion separated him from the puck, gained possession, and started the counter-attack. His 2v1 breakup and heads up stretch pass to Marchand in the overtime period further showcase his versatility and impact on the game.
Anders Bjork (A) – I was leaning towards giving Bjork a B. He was playing well getting in on the forecheck and making a couple of plays in transition but I felt Coyle and DeBrusk were much more responsible for the results of the line. Then Bjork made a huge impact on the game putting away the Bruins’ second goal on a great give-and-go sequence which he started with a strong play on the sideboards. He deserves lots of credit for sticking with it and making a big play late in the game.
Jake DeBrusk (A) – This is the game Bruins fans dream of from the fourth-year winger. He was noticeable all over the ice. DeBrusk carried the puck more than usual, was engaged in battles and shot the puck. He had 14 shot attempts, seven shots on goal, and 11 scoring chances. His disallowed goal was a dart. His give on Bjork’s go led to the Bs second goal.
Charlie Coyle (A) – This was a bounce-back effort for the maligned Massachusets native after struggling for several games in a row. One has to wonder if the extra days off were needed as he seemed to have a lot of jump in this contest frequently transporting the puck up ice in transition with his feet or through a quick stretch pass. His best period was the second where he had a great chance on an individual move against Jacob Trouba and an outstanding shift keeping the puck moving down low with his linemates for two great scoring chances.
Brad Marchand (B) – Marchand’s first two periods were not good. He had several giveaways in bad areas of the ice including a botched breakout pass that led to a dangerous chance in front and a lazy play at the offensive blue line that quickly went the other way for a 2v1 against. In the third period, he came to life. Where he struggled on entries earlier he was much more successful. He displayed his inner super-pest for only the second or third time this season tussling with superstar Artemi Panarin. His 36-seconds of overtime and subsequent game-winner are worth repeated viewings.
David Krejci (B) – Krejci was Mr. reliable this evening. Aside from his unfortunate tripping penalty in the third, his line played safe hockey. They were responsible in the defensive and neutral zone largely due to their pivot’s play. Krejci had a few nice feeds on entries and a dangerous pass to the net-front after stealing the puck behind the net early in the third. The second-oldest Bruin did have one maddening play where he tried to thread a short pass to Smith rather than shooting from the bottom of the circle on a rush. He continues to look good running the top powerplay unit.
Craig Smith (B) – Smith often plays eventful hockey with lots happening while he is on the ice. Tonight was more low key with only four shot attempts and two shots on goal of his own and 11-8 on-ice shot attempts during his 5v5 minutes. While he was not particularly impactful in this game he displayed his ability to be reliable and positionally sound.
Sean Kuraly (B) – Kuraly’s line struggled in this game. At even strength, they didn’t generate much and played a lot of defense. What chances they did get largely came from the centreman. He also had a good chance shorthanded.
Chris Wagner (B) – This was not Wagner’s best game and he was invisible for long stretches. He started off the season really strong generating off the rush and being a menace on the forecheck but unfortunately, the last few games have been less impactful in those regards. He deserves a lot of credit though for his steal and shorthanded breakaway goal at a crucial juncture in the game. He also didn’t back down when forced into a fight that should have drawn an instigator penalty on Anthony Bitetto.
Jeremy Lauzon (B) – Lauzon has drawn several penalties this year and it is no coincidence. When he wins a race he does a great job of gaining possession and immediately inserting his wide frame between the opposing player and the puck. An attacker’s overzealous pursuit quickly leads to a penalty much as it did for Chris Kreider in the first period. Lauzon was not as impactful on the breakout or offense as he has been of late but he also did not make any mistakes despite heavy minutes against Zibanejad.
Brandon Carlo (B) – Carlo played less than 14 minutes tonight but that was probably more a function of easing his partner back in and limited shorthanded situations. Other than a rough turnover on a weird bounce that led to him taking a penalty, he was steady.
Matt Grzelcyk (B) – The coaching staff is definitely easing Grzelcyk back into the lineup only playing him 11:40 in the game. He looked like he had a little rust right off the bat with a tough giveaway behind the net on one of his first touches of the night. By the third period, he looked more comfortable including starting the rush from behind his own net with some quick feet and a smart headman pass. As usual, the Bruins posted strong metrics with the diminutive defender on the ice.
Jakub Zboril (B) – Zboril showed he could hang while playing more than 21 minutes and seeing several talented forwards throughout the night. While he didn’t get the better of the play, a game like this is an important step in his development. Zboril was really strong in transition tonight especially on controlled breakouts and neutral zone regroups. He still can be susceptible when attacked with speed and needs to win a few more battles. Both were evident on a late rush chance where he lost his check and was beat to the net.
Kevan Miller (B) – Miller’s possession numbers were not great tonight and he was probably being asked to do more than he should be at this juncture of his career. But like Zboril, his ability to weather the storm allowed the coaching staff to ease Grzelcyk back into the lineup. He wasn’t as effective moving the puck in this game as his past few but it also wasn’t a grenade on his stick like it was early in the season.
Patrice Bergeron (C) – Bergeron and his linemates saw a lot of the Zibanejad line and it did not go so well. They were dominated from a possession standpoint and that is not something you want to say about a perennial Selke candidate. The captain had 2 shots on goal and was okay on the powerplay but didn’t have anything to show for it. His misfire in-front off of a nifty Marchand rush feed in the third epitomized his night.
David Pastrnak (C) – Pastrnak had a couple of great plays on the powerplay working the middle seam with Marchand and playing catch with Krejci. Otherwise, this was a forgettable game from the NHL’s reigning first-star. He did put three shots on goal but was otherwise invisible at even strength.
Nick Ritchie (C) – Ritchie had a quiet game. Like his linemates, he was responsible and positionally sound. However, where the other two had some opportunities and seemed more physically engaged, he was a passenger.
Trent Fredric (D) – Fredric was not noticeable in this game. With many players, while not good, that’s not the end of the world. However, it is problematic for a player who is in the lineup to engage in battles and get in on the forecheck. Fredric had just two shot attempts and finished last on the team with on-ice expected goals of 22.81%.
Moment of the night
Rask was dialed in tonight, so much so he didn’t know what the score was.
Thankfully his teammates were there to bail him out much as he did for them throughout the game.