By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
The Bruins continue their unbeaten streak, hanging on to win 1-0 against a Rangers team missing Artemi Panarin. After a relatively uneventful first period, the middle frame was fiery and the third followed suit. Boston’s lone goal, quality goaltending, and some grit proved enough to overcome several defensive miscues and a number of penalties. 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 numbers tonight were a little misleading. Quite a bit of the game was played on special teams where the Bruins had the decided advantage, as usual. While they didn’t manage to score any goals with the man advantage they killed off all six penalties. While Boston outshot their counterparts tonight they finished with just 45.9% of the expected goals at 5v5. The Rangers had a number of dangerous chances on the rush and on broken plays for the second game in a row, a concern if you are the Bs coaching staff.
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: Jaroslav Halak (A) – Whatever Tuukka came to tell him at the bench two nights ago paid off as Jaro was rock solid. He was tested shorthanded making several nice saves on one-timers. The Bruins gave up too many rush chances in this contest but Halak was there to stop every last one.
David Krejci (A) – The Bs second-line pivot made a difference at both ends of the ice. On offense, he had several nice passing sequences with Nick Ritchie. He won a battle behind the opposing net that led to a great chance in front. Krejci has also been doing a nice job of transporting the puck through the middle of the neutral zone and then kicking it wide for his wingers to enter the zone with a little room, for example on Ritchie’s goal. Concerns over the five-forward powerplay were partially allayed when the natural forward demonstrated his 1v1 defensive abilities in the third period. Possession wise, his line dominated the Strome line.
Nick Ritchie (A) – After a couple of down nights, Ritchie showed again why the Bruins acquired him. He was good on the powerplay but better at 5v5 where he led the team in individual expected goals and scored the lone actual one. His tally was a nice individual effort changing speeds on the defender to create a little separation before he followed up on his original shot and stuffed it home. His playmaking continues to impress as well, playing off Krejci and Smith several times throughout the game.
Jeremy Lauzon (A) – Lauzon continues to look more confident whether that be defending, puck retrievals, or punching other people. His joy post-fight with Buchnevich makes you never want to go somewhere with him in the dark! His game is growing, and in turn, the coaching staff is giving him tougher assignments with almost all his 5v5 minutes tonight against the Zibanejad line. He also continues to be a key part of the penalty kill. Lauzon won a crucial battle that allowed Krejci to start the play up ice on the game’s lone goal.
Brad Marchand (A) – For the second night in a row Marchand did very Marchand like things. He created offense off the rush and found his linemates, particularly Bergeron, with a couple of nice feeds in the slot. He also utilized the low to high play several times leading to shots from the point. He had no major giveaways, something that’s plagued him in the last few games. While he won the stick fight late in the second he did, unfortunately, lose his standoff with Zibanejad pre-game which you can watch in our “moment of the night”.
Kevan Miller (A-) – Miller led the team in shorthanded ice time and deservingly so. He also received some extra shifts with Lauzon out serving his misconduct and was up to the task. The puck wasn’t as comfortable on his stick as it has been in recent games but he managed it well enough and Boston played significantly more offense than defense with him on the ice.
Patrice Bergeron (B) – For the second game in a row, Mika Zibanejad got the better of the Bruins’ top line though it was close and the Rangers center failed to register a goal. The perennial Selke candidate needs to be better in matchups like these for Boston to succeed long-term. Bergeron did have some chances on the powerplay and penalty kill from the slot. He also had a couple of good plays on the forecheck sealing the wall or being above the puck.
Craig Smith (B) – Smith was good tonight working off the rush a couple of times with Ritchie. He also played few shifts with Charlie Coyle which were the latter’s best shifts. He generally had a positive effect on the game particularly when the play moved north-south or got into the cycle. He was not his usual pop-gun self though with only two shot attempts on the night and was not driving play the way his linemates were.
Charlie Coyle (B) – Coyle started out the game looking really good with a couple of speedy rushes through the neutral zone that led to offensive chances. Unfortunately, he and his linemates played a lot of defense other than their handful of forays up the ice. They were dominated possession-wise especially in their few minutes up against the Strome line. Coyle was good on the penalty kill and had a couple of nice cycle sequences when paired up with Smith.
Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Trent Fredric (B) – The fourth line did its job tonight. It played good defense, forechecked hard, and had a couple of opportunities. It was not a particularly eventful night for the trio but that’s not a bad thing. Fredric fits in much better with these running mates than higher in the lineup. While the rookie didn’t fare well in his tilt with Brendan Lemieux, you have to appreciate his willingness to literally fight his way into the lineup.
Charlie McAvoy (B) – The Bruins’ top defender did a lot of good things tonight especially on the breakout where he had made a number of plays to advance the puck including a backhand pass from behind the net after being knocked down. While he did well in his matchup with the Zibanejad line, he was taken advantage of by the Strome unit. He also had two more minor penalties, both of which were avoidable and becoming a concerning trend. His impressive point streak, unfortunately, came to end as well.
Connor Clifton (B) – I have few notes on Clifton tonight, which is a good thing. He got off to a really rough start with his first puck touch leading to a delay of game penalty. Otherwise, he was fine. He let the game come to him and didn’t try to force plays or chase hits other than flying into the pile during a second-period scrum. Reviewing his numbers, it’s evident Clifton is better suited to match up against the opponent’s bottom-six but he is proving serviceable as the team’s seventh defenseman.
Brandon Carlo (C+) – I had debated a B and then I went back and looked over the numbers and my notes. Carlo did some good things like standing up his check on an early 2v2 and breaking up a Kaapo Kakko 2v1 at a crucial juncture in the third. He was also beat badly in a foot race and lost his coverage on a stretch pass both of which led to dangerous chances against. He was also not particularly engaged in the offense even compared to usual.
Jakub Zboril (C+) – With Zboril on the ice, the Bruins conceded the most expected goals against out of any player. Overall, he did not play poorly but he had a few glaring moments like a missed pinch that led to a rush and misjudging his angle on a foot race that led to another. If he can sort these types of situations out, Zboril will be a major asset as he continues to make great passes in transition and is increasingly getting his shot through traffic.
David Pastrnak (C) – After returning with all kinds of spunk, Pasta has looked a little fatigued, perhaps the result of grinding games after an extended layoff. He attempted six shots but failed to register one on goal. Teams have been taking him away on the powerplay since his return and he needs to find other ways to get involved. Pastrnak had a couple of rushes where he flashed magic but failed to pull off a move or ended up bobbling the puck.
Jake DeBrusk (C) – A game like this does little to allay the fan base’s angst with the 24-year-old’s consistency. He had one sneaky chance from the goal line on his line’s best shift of the game in the second period. The winger also made a nice play winning a puck battle behind the net in the first and making a nice pass for a slot chance. Otherwise, he was invisible tonight and never found a rhythm. Perhaps the extended time on special teams and the disjointed nature of his 12:28 of ice time was a contributing factor.
Anders Bjork (C) – Bjork had some nice plays but as is often the case was not a sum of his parts. He had a couple of nice rushes including one in the second where he dodged two Rangers in his own zone before attacking the offensive end of the rink. He is also improving as a penalty killer where he had a nice takeaway. Having said that, Bjork only contributed one individual chance, wasn’t particularly strong on the forecheck, and was hemmed in his own zone for long stretches.
Moment of the night
If you’ve been enjoying these report cards consider checking out our quarter-ish check-in where we looked at some numbers and aggregated our grades to date. Let’s Go Bs!