By Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter: @BostonDiGiorgio
The New Jersey Devils are unlikely to make the playoffs this year, and for the Bruins, that is great news. The Bruins have a 1-2-1 record against New Jersey this year, and their only win came in a shootout. The Devils’ Kyle Palmeri scored the game’s only goal came at 15:23 in the third period. Not a great showing from the Bruins after steamrolling the Capitals just two nights prior.
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.
In 5v5 situations, the Bruins’ numbers weren’t satisfactory. Their best offensive numbers came on the powerplay, though they had no goal to show for it. The Bruins’ heat map looks much different than their last’s. An interesting note with this game’s heat map is something the Bruins have been working on since the start of training camp: getting the defense involved in the offense. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has made it a point to practice his defensemen jumping up into the action. The heat map below shows just how involved they were last night offensively, which is good news in the future.
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-): McAvoy and his defensive partner were the only two A’s last night. McAvoy continued his bid to be considered for the Norris Trophy (handed to the best defensemen of the year). He played the most minutes of any Bruin skater, by far, logging 25:23. The next highest skater was Connor Clifton at 20:27 minutes. Charlie also led the team in blocks (four). He was on the ice for the Devils’ lone goal, though he wasn’t entirely to blame. All five Bruins players were in front of Rask, and none decided to pick up Kyle Palmeri or Pavel Zacha for the eventual goal. A play that won’t show up on the score sheet that McAvoy makes on a nightly basis broke up a juicy scoring opportunity from Sami Vatanen’s stick.
Matt Grzelcyk (A-): Grzelcyk is earning his grades these past few games. He and McAvoy played together for most of the night, and it’s a preview of the Bruins’ future top pair if they stick together. Grzelcyk was also on the ice for the Bruins’ only goal against. He made up for his defensive blunder through his offensive prowess. Grzelcyk is one of the best defensemen with the puck and creating and continuing offensive zone chances. Below, the puck is about to be cleared out of the zone by the Devils. Grzelcyk has the patience and hand-eye coordination to not only keep the puck in but pass it down to his forwards. It happens so fast, and the cameraman barely follows along. This type of play is what the Bruins need in the offensive zone.
Tuukka Rask (B+): Tuukka Rask stopped 24 of 25 shots in this game. The ones who want to see Rask struggle will tell you this game was his fault. Let me be clear; it wasn’t. Devils’ goalie Scott Wedgewood stifled the Bruins’ offense, who played a perfect game stopping 40 out of 40. Tuukka Rask cannot score goals, and the lone goal he allowed was at the expense of every player in black and gold. In his last two starts, Rask has allowed two goals. The Bruins have scored one goal in those two starts. Rask is still waiting on his 300th win, and he may be waiting longer than expected. Rask was injured during the third period last night. Let’s hope this is not a long-term injury.
David Pastrnak (B): The stat that jumps out in this game is Pastrnak’s 10 shots on goal. The Bruins unloaded 40 on Scott Wedgewood, which means Pastrnak accounted for 25% of his teams’ shots. Only one of the ten was on the powerplay. Therefore, his remaining nine came in even-strength time. The Bruins certainly were receiving opportunities; they didn’t capitalize. Bruins fan would hope that one of his ten would find the back of the net, but nothing to worry about going forward.
Craig Smith (B): The Bruins signed Craig Smith to be a consistent and solid top-nine forward. He delivered last night, even though he didn’t score. Smith is hustling every second he is on the ice and creating opportunities. The thing that Smith is most prolific at rarely shows up on the scoresheet. He is always at the right place and the right time to create an opportunity for his teammates. Not to sound like a broken record here, his teammates didn’t take advantage when Smith presented them an opportunity.
Nick Ritchie (B-): Nick Ritchie almost saved the Bruins from a regulation defeat. Ritchie was parked out front when the Bruins pulled their goalie for the extra attacker. He missed a shot pass from the sideboards, where he has excelled this year. Again, not an alarming game for Ritchie; we wish he’d bury that one.
Trent Frederic (C+): Last night was Frederic’s third-highest time on ice this year, with 14:24. Trent is earning’s Bruce’s trust as the season progresses, which is beneficial for both sides. He won the two face-offs he battled in and recorded two shots on goal, though he couldn’t muster much else.
Patrice Bergeron (C+): The Captain accounted for five of the 40 shots on goal last night. He had a great couple of chances at the end of the game, one being in his signature spot below the face-off dots that made New Jersey defenseman, PK Subban, do a 180. Unfortunately, Wedgewood barely got his pads down to block the five-hole opportunity. Bergeron has also noticed what we have in regards to the Bruins’ powerplay opportunities.
Jakub Zboril (C): Zboril made mistakes in this one but he is learning from them. He seems to be getting better after each game and the mistakes that have burned him in the past are becoming fewer and fewer.
Anders Bjork (C): Bjork was another young forward who didn’t play a whole lot last night. He had one shining moment. After earning himself a promotion to the second line, he drew a penalty to give his team an opportunity. The points will come for Bjork, though the clock is ticking.
Brad Marchand (C): Based on the table above, Marchand should be receiving higher marks. However, due to his bonehead play that (thankfully) didn’t result in a penalty, I am assigning him a lower grade. Marchand is at his best when he’s a pest on the ice. He plays off his own energy of running around and getting under players’ skins and excels. His cross-check to Ty Smith’s head was unnecessary, and he’s lucky he wasn’t penalized for it. These types of plays are not highlights of his A-game.
Charlie Coyle (C): Coyle did not record a shot on goal in 17 minutes on ice. To be a successful team, the Bruins need Coyle to show up on the scoresheet consistently. Having all four lines fire on all cylinders will propel good teams to great teams, especially in the playoffs. Coyle was honest about the loss, which shows he understands the magnitude of losing games like this.
David Krejci (C): Krejci was given his opportunities to score, especially replacing Nick Ritchie on the first powerplay unit. Cassidy’s rationale here was to put his most skilled forwards on one unit to spark the offense. It, unfortunately, did not come to fruition, and Krejci is still looking for his first goal of the year. He is another player who needs to consistently show up on the scoresheet for the Bruins to be successful.
Jack Studnicka (C-): Last night’s game was a perfect example of the ups and downs young forwards go through. Studnicka was coming off a great Capitals game and looking to continue the high. Unfortunately, Studnicka won 15% of his face-offs (1 for 7) and only recorded a shot on goal in 9 minutes of play. His time on ice was the team’s second-lowest of the night.
Jarred Tinordi (C-): Tinordi played below his average 17 minutes time on ice, though he recorded two shots on goal. The big framed defenseman recorded three hits and one block. Uneventful game from Tinordi.
Urho Vaakanainen (C-): With Carlo’s (unfortunate) absence, we will see a lot more of Vaak. He played a modest 14 minutes and recorded a shot on goal. He did, however, serve a two-minute minor for high-sticking. The Devils did not score on their powerplay opportunity, but he will want to limit his time in the box.
Connor Clifton (C-): Clifton actually recorded 20:27 time on the ice. Clifton may be looking at longer minutes due to Carlo’s absence. Cassidy trusts Clifton, and he could find himself as a utility man on the blue-line. We’ll likely see Clifton used on all three pairings as long as Carlo is out.
Jake DeBrusk (D): It is time to sit with Jake for a couple of games. In my last report, I suggested it, but this time I am highly recommending it. He just hasn’t been himself dating back to last year. There’s speculation that his concussion has influenced his current state, and that could be true. A few games to clear his mind and see the game from a different angle are beneficial and shouldn’t be considered a punishment. Every player needs to be motivated in different ways, and this method may help DeBrusk.
Chris Wagner (D): Another player who may benefit from a ninth floor seat. Wagner played the least out of any player last night and sat in the penalty box for two minutes. He and DeBrusk should be given a couple games off.