By: Andrew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter @justyouknowhyyy
That was needed. After the previous two games where the Bruins’ toughness and team defense were called into question, the team responded with an emphatic 4-1 victory this afternoon at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. For the first time this year, the team found themselves at the mercy of some adversity and needed a response. It’s safe to say that they got exactly what they needed.
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.
Boston didn’t get out to a hot start analytically but did manage to exit the first period with the all-important lead on the scoreboard. From there, the Bruins followed their preferred blueprint. They kept the game low-event and had the decided advantage when those events did happen. Facing a late push back by the Rangers, Boston was able to prevent too many dangerous chances and hang on easily for the victory. The coaching staff will clearly be happy with how this one played out.
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+): Mac had another game for the Chuck Norris nomination reel. After two rough games, McAvoy led the charge for a Bruins team looking to stop the bleeding and make a statement. McAvoy was physical in a game that called for it, breaking up plays defensively and being aggressive on the offensive side of the puck. He was generally a menace at 5v5. The Bs top defenseman showed how his continuing ascent into the upper echelon of defenseman is predicated on his newfound offensive prowess assisting on the opening tally and scoring off of a point blast that ultimately put the game out of reach.
Urho Vaakanainen (A): After what could charitably be considered a bumpy couple of games, V9 played like he knew his newfound job is on the line. Paired with veteran Steven Kampfer, Vaakanainen seemed to have a puck magnet attached to him, getting in shooting lanes aplenty throughout the day, ending up with six blocked shots. The smooth-skating youngster had his best “unassuming” game of his young career, the kind of game you love to have if you are a defenseman.
Charlie Coyle (A): Among the many parts of the team that needed to step up today, the middle-six stood atop the list to the point of being called out by name by Bruce Cassidy. Coyle seemed to take his coach’s plea to heart. Active and engaged all day, Coyle bookended the night with goals. He broke the ice early in the first with a tally that finished a rush through a defender’s legs and ended it with a 160-foot shorthanded empty netter. In between, he was physical and was at the center of a couple of after-whistle scrums. When Cassidy called out the second and third lines, today’s game for Coyle was exactly what Cassidy envisioned.
David Pastrnak (A-): Pasta has a unique ability to be almost invisible for a game but then you look at the score sheet and he has two primary assists. When did that happen? Pasta makes things look so darn simple that even pedestrian seeming games are productive. Pasta was only on the ice for 15:12 to boot. A picture of efficiency.
Trent Frederic (A-): As someone who has been very outspoken over Frederic’s game through the season, Trent did a hell of a job assuaging my fears for at least one game. Frederic made a very subtle change to his game that proved to be extremely effective. Instead of trying to manufacture toughness by trying to fight whole lines himself, he was a net-front menace, creating the toughness through his play, a change that will serve the big-bodied winger going forward. Since he was rewarded for it with a tip-in off of a Connor Clifton point blast, one will hope that he continues this version of Freddy. If so, I will have nothing to complain about. Extra credit for this as well, what a beaut.
Jack Studnicka (B+): Studnicka is making a serious case to stick with the big club when the team is fully healthy. Jack showed why he is the team’s top prospect with a bullet at the center position. With Trent Frederic and Jake Debrusk as his linemates, Studnicka showed flashes of driving a line offensively in setting up Connor Clifton’s point shot that was tipped in by Trent Frederic. He was also a disruptive force defensively. You can really see the Bruins-style permeating this guy as he grows more confident.
Connor Clifton (B+): Cliffy is another one of my personal piñatas. Clifton has been asked to be more controlled in his play while still keeping some of his dynamism. It appears that message has been received, picking up an assist in over 20 minutes of ice time. He effectively used his speed to neutralize a very fast Rangers squad. Playing with a steady hand like Brandon Carlo helps, but credit where it’s due for his improved play over-time even while playing on his off-side.
Jake Debrusk (B): Debrusk had an alright game, but it appears his game score was inflated by being a passenger on the Frederic-Studnicka line, an occurrence that is becoming more frequent as the season progresses. Debrusk had a few nice plays and had a really good hit on Ryan Lindgren to kill a rush, something that is not his game. But once again Jake had an issue creating or maintaining offense with the puck on his stick, not the kind of game you want for someone who is counted on for secondary scoring. Debrusk all-in-all was fine, but coattail riding is a quick way to get yourself into the ninth floor in the NHL.
Patrice Bergeron (B): There are good B’s and there are not-so-good B’s. BOS37’s day could probably be considered the “good B” category. A seemingly common theme among the top-line, Bergeron had a quietly excellent game that was very low-event. High game scores be damned, Bergeron had his head down breaking up plays and making his home in passing lanes but didn’t do anything spectacular. But in dedicating himself to a more defensive role today, Bergeron excelled.
Brad Marchand (B): After oscillating between a B+ and a B, I settled on the lower grade for Bradley. Despite his high game score, this seems like the same “issue” that Pastrnak has in that even the very good can be made to look pedestrian by certain standards. He picked up a secondary assist on the McAvoy goal and water bugged around the ice as is typical of Marchand. But he did nothing in this one to wow the masses.
Jakub Zboril (B): In the constant shifting of D-pairs, Zboril drew the long straw today and was paired on top with Charlie McAvoy, likely a reward for being the best defenseman on the team in the last two games (what that means is entirely up to you). Jakub played with a confidence that the team saw out of him when he was drafted #13 in 2015, looking poised with the puck while knowing his partner would be there to back him up. Zboril’s play this season has gone from showing flashes to rounding into a consistent form that should thrill Bruins fans.
Steven Kampfer (B): Making his season debut, number ten on the depth chart was tasked with being Vaakanainen’s shepherd on the third pair. As has been Kampfer’s calling card through his time in Boston, he excelled when being called upon, providing a perfect steady veteran complement to a kid playing in only his 11th NHL game.
Tuukka Rask (B): After giving up a six-pack against these very same Rangers, Rask needed a bounceback game, or at least an easy game. He got both, as he stopped 19 out of 20 shots, none of which seemed to be of any high-danger variety. He did lose the shutout on a Colin Blackwell snipe where the seas parted, but by then the game was out of reach. A bounceback game indeed.
Craig Smith (B-): Smith is like hockey Will Rogers, he never met a shot that he didn’t like. And today was no exception, it seems that someone turned up the dial on Smith’s shot volume as he was shooting from anywhere and everywhere. Tying for third on the team in shots on goal (but having many more miss the net) Craig had a very Craig game, getting pucks off the stick as quickly as it was on it. Playing on the top-6 seems to suit him, though you may want to see just a little more selectiveness from him. Even still, not a quiet game for the winger.
Brandon Carlo (B-): After calling out the entire team himself for two “unacceptable” efforts. Carlo led by example with his low-frills, low-event, quiet style. Tasked with being Connor Clifton’s ballast, Brandon was steady and hardly noticeable out there. And for him, that’s the type of game you need to have.
Sean Kuraly (B-): Seeing two of his other linemates jettisoned to the press box, put out of position on the Left Wing, and having his new linemates have a combined season experience of two games (both belonging to the same players) Kuraly did the best he could have with all the changes around him. Maybe feeling the frustration had a physical effect, as Kuraly led the team with six hits, and was able to dig the puck out of the corner to assist on Charlie Coyle’s empty netter.
Greg McKegg: (C+): The McKegg is free! After many Bruins fans wondered just where on earth this mystery free agent signing was, we finally got to see him! Centering the fourth line, he may have had a bit of a moment on the Rangers’ goal, taking an unnecessary penalty leading to the negative game score. But he did have three shots on net and three hits in a little over 11 minutes showing physicality and a plug-and-play ability on that fourth line.
Nick Ritchie (C+): A small positive impact when he’s on the ice combined with some weird stuff colored Ritchie’s game. Nick was somewhat quiet throughout except for two instances: Falling on top of goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (a byproduct from being a pain in the crease) and getting in the rare after the horn fight with Brendan Lemieux. Other than that, a pretty low-event night from the hulking winger.
Karson Kuhlman: (C): Playing only his third game of the season, Kuhlman looked like it. He was getting in on the forecheck which is his main calling card and bringing a new element of speed on the fourth line’s right-wing which was a welcome sight. But there were times where he looked lost in coverage, including being part of the group that parted the ocean that led to the Rangers’ only goal of the day.
Moment of the night
The bell already rang guys, its over, why are you fighting NOW?