By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
The Bruins let another one get out of hand in New York losing badly to the Rangers following their lopsided loss less than an hour away on the island the night before. They have now lost four of the last five and their commanding hold on first place in the division has evaporated. Unlike last night, where the Bruins showed signs of life in the first two periods before imploding, the black and gold were out of sync from the outset of the back-to-back in NYC. While the string of early season comebacks was obviously not sustainable, the lack of pushback in this game is concerning. Let’s do our best to make some sense of the game and give out 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 hopped out in front of the Bruins right off the opening whistle and never looked back. Boston had a stretch in the second where they controlled play before penalty trouble derailed what little momentum they could muster. Normally score effects allow the team down by a number of goals to catch up a little analytically but Boston lacked pushback in this one. Look no further than the chart below for how dominant the Rangers were on this night. According to Moneypuck.com’s “Win-o-meter”, New York wings this game 79.7% of the time, a landslide by hockey standards.
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.
Jack Studnicka (A) – After last night’s game, I asked if Studnicka had the skill to be a 2C instead of a 3C. If he can play consistently like he did tonight he certainly can be. He was clever and tough during board battles and drew a penalty with a nifty move through Miller’s triangle. He followed that up with a great rush move and backhand off the bar in the second. The rookie kept plays alive and controlled the puck in the offensive zone. The natural center was also good on the power-play showing patience and hockey sense. He also deserves a lot of credit for being one of the few Bruins who showed some pushback and played hard for the entirety of the game.
David Pastrnak (B+) – Pastrnak had some dynamic moments. He had a great inside-out move in the first and was just barely knocked off the puck on a great move on a power-play rush a few shifts later. He did a great job getting the puck to the net for Bergeron while selling shot on his team’s first goal. The Czech winger had another good attempt on a jam play in the second and picked up a second primary assist on the Bs second goal. Despite a number of strong plays, he was not completely in sync taking a couple of big hits and not sustaining pressure per usual.
Charlie McAvoy (B+) – McAvoy started the game off with a good close and stick-on-stick play to deny a dangerous chance from the slot after a broken play. He had some good movement in the offensive zone and deserves credit for initiating the play that led to the Bruins’ first goal with a heads-up play on a loose puck in the neutral zone. He did have a couple of lapses though such as a much too casual swipe at a puck in the neutral zone which almost led to a breakaway against and he was beaten to the net on the Rangers’ sixth goal.
Patrice Bergeron (B) – Bergeron was in right place at the right time, and made no mistake, on the Bruins’ first goal. He was better in this game than last night in regards to driving play. He didn’t have a great first, was better in the second, and the third was the third.
Trent Fredric (B) – The numbers suggest Fredric had a bad game and Cassidy limited his ice time in the second period looking to get back in the game. I thought he worked well with Studnicka and was one of the few Bruins putting in an honest effort through the whole game. For that, he earns a higher grade.
Urho Vaakanainen (B) – The rookie defenseman killed a play at the blue line on the rush with McAvoy caught up ice early in the game preventing a dangerous opportunity. The Finnish defender was not as crisp on breakouts as he was against the Islanders but still advanced the puck well. He had an ill-advised turnover at the red line to give up a Lafreniere rush. He was outmuscled behind the net by Chris Kreider on the fourth goal and failed to sort his neutral zone coverage on the sixth goal. Overall he played a decent game despite his minus three scoreline.
Brad Marchand (B) – The feisty winger tried to be exactly that right off the first shift getting in the grill of Adam Fox, who wisely declined Marchand’s invitation. He tried to get going in the first churning up ice but it didn’t amount to much. The diminutive winger’s great pass to Pastrnak was a pivotal play and earned a secondary assist on Bergeron’s tap-in. On the Bruins’ second goal, he deftly entered the zone and made a cross-ice pass before going hard to the net for the rebound. While you can perhaps forgive his penalty for defending Bergeron, his second minor was careless and both disrupted Boston’s lone stretch of good play.
Charlie Coyle (C+) – Coyle had a good first-period displaying his impressive hand-eye coordination to almost spring himself for a breakaway. He had a couple of other moments where he got going with the puck in the offensive zone but that all but disappeared in the second and third with his line buried in the possession battle. The local boy was good on special teams with a good stick on the penalty kill and ringing a post from the top of the crease on a second-period power-play.
Sean Kuraly (C+) – Kuraly didn’t do a whole lot tonight good or bad but he was decent on the penalty kill and had a couple of shot attempts down the wing. The fourth-line center has a habit of taking fairly harmless shots from distance and failing to create zone time.
Craig Smith (C) – Smith had his legs churning in the first and had several quality zone exits. Despite his best effort, which you always get from Smith, he generated very little tonight.
Jake DeBrusk (C) – Poor Jake DeBrusk is trying so hard. He is moving his legs and trying to get in on the forecheck. He had a good touch pass on the power-play leading to the Coyle chance and a couple of opportunities with speed down the rush that led to mediocre shots. DeBrusk is expected to provide secondary scoring and while luck sometimes plays a factor, the winger is not getting enough opportunities at the moment to use randomness as an excuse.
Anders Bjork (C) – Bjork continues to be out there. He had one scoring chance tonight and no shots on the night. Other than the penalty kills where he is showing some aptitude, he was again a passenger, a way too common pattern the last several games.
Tuukka Rask (C) – It’s hard to blame Rask for the horrendous effort in front of him in this game. Having said that, it was not his sharpest night. After a couple of early goals, it looked like the Finnish netminder was set to keep his team in the game through the second period with some nice stops, especially on the powerplay. Two late second-period goals on weird bounces changed that in a hurry. A concerning trend for Rask is his failure this season to track pucks through traffic and he allowed three more of that variety in this contest.
Jakub Zboril (C) – Zboril showed off some of his good offensive instincts on several occasions. He was less clean than usual getting out of his own zone though he defended fairly well. He was out-positioned and outmuscled by Adam Fox on the fifth goal.
John Moore (C) – Moore was generally fine and had a fairly uneventful night. He had a couple of shifts where he looked to get involved in the offensive zone but not much came of it. He did flub a few passes leading to an icing early and extended zone time on a sequence leading to the Rangers’ fifth goal.
Conor Clifton (C-) – Clifton was fine on the third pair tonight but to remain in the lineup he needs to work on his ability to retrieve the puck and not force passes or rush rims. Unfortunately, a couple of these plays led to extended zone time for the opposition and is evident in the New Jersey native’s possession numbers. He didn’t do anything egregious and was one of the few Bruins not on the ice for an even-strength goal against, an accomplishment on this night.
Nick Ritchie (D) – Ritchie has been really good this year. Unfortunately, the off nights have been really bad. Ritchie was invisible tonight other than a nice thought but poorly executed pass on the power-play, and an unfortunate but significant tripping penalty. The hulking winger posted an abysmal 4% expected goals percentage.
Chris Wagner (D) – Wagner earns a D for the second straight night as he has looked replaceable on the fourth line. This is purely speculative, but I wonder if he is banged up as his skating looks belabored and missing his usual acceleration. He loses marks for again losing his check through the neutral zone, this time puck watching on the second goal and failing to pick up the late player who easily fired the puck past Rask.
Brandon Carlo (D) – This was an off night for Carlo from the outset. He was caught flatfooted on a full ice break-in, had a couple errant passes, and struggled to shut down entries – and that was all in the first period. The night did not improve and Carlo rightfully finished last in game score amongst skaters.
Moment of the night
There were fans at the game tonight, a reason for optimism in matters of greater importance than a hockey game. Plus, you get nice moments like this.