By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
In his press conference yesterday, Don Sweeney excoriated his team’s offensive output and was particularly disparaging of their 5v5 play and secondary scoring. The Bruins’ General Manager went so far as to threaten changes if needed. The team on the ice responded with four goals including two from players directly challenged by their boss. Let’s break it 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 in this one are a little misleading as the Bruins sealed this one less than five minutes into the second period and coasted the rest of the way. However, they were only in that position because of the play of their goaltender who made several key saves against a speedy Rangers team pressing hard early on. Score effects took over in the third period. The other item not on the table above is the two special-teams goals. The Bruins are quite reliant on the strength of their special teams and tonight both units showed up.
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.
Brad Marchand (A) – Marchand had three assists in the game, two of which were elite plays. Marchands ability to dangle with speed and still have the awareness to hit a teammate cross-crease in stride is what makes him such a special player. His third assist displayed Marchand’s utility to keep plays moving as a member of the powerplay unit. It was a strong game from the Bruins’ highly skilled water bug. The second half of the game was quiet as Cassidy limited his top lines shifts amidst a commanding lead.
Jaroslav Halak (A) – Halak was lights out in the first period thwarting a number of Rangers’ chances amidst a quick-paced period from the opposition. He allowed his team the opportunity to settle into the game. In the second he made a breakaway save on Blackwell exiting the box eliminating any chance of the Rangers crawling back into the game. He made a couple of excellent saves on a streaking Buchnevich in the third to preserve the shutout. Halak has been hot since his drubbing against the Islanders sporting an impressive .977 save percentage over the stretch.
David Pastrnak (A) – Pastrnak was dangerous in the first and put a seeing-eye puck just inside the post on Georgiev from the blue line. It was one of several good chances for Pasta early on. Despite easing off and not playing much in the latter half of the game, the winger still led the team in shot attempts, shots, and scoring chances.
Patrice Bergeron (A) – Bergeron was fighting the puck a little early and his lack of handle on the first goal actually worked in his favor as he picked up an assist when the rubber disc deflected of his stick to a swooping Marchand. Bergeron did the little things to help his line be successful though and picked up a gorgeous shorthanded goal before fading into the night along with his linemates.
Jake DeBrusk (A) – DeBrusk had an inspired first period one game after watching from the press box. He had two great chances early on with a shot from the slot and another shortly after on the rush. His shorthanded pass to Studnicka was a great effort and should have ended up in the back of the net. Most importantly, he was getting in on the forecheck and working to get to the dirty areas. He was rewarded in the second with his first 5v5 goal of the year with a play he started with a solid forecheck. The second half of the game was non-eventful and could have been better but DeBrusk deserves an ‘A’ for his positive response to the benching and playing the way that makes him successful.
David Krejci (A-) – Krech finally got the zero off the board burying a one-timer on the powerplay a day after being called out by his GM. He also made a vintage pass to DeBrusk aiding his maligned linemate in creeping out of the dog house. The veteran center defended well but spent too much time doing so in this game, something that needs to improve.
Charlie McAvoy/Matt Grzelcyk (A-) – I love this pair. I’m grading them together because I think they really bring out the best in each other. Each player is calmer, smoother, and even more decisive alongside the other. The puck transitions from defense to offense instantaneously with this pair. When they defend in the zone together there is no panic or chasing whatsoever. It’s a treat to watch. They do receive a minus for getting a little too lackadaisical with the lead late in the third conceding two dangerous Pavel Buchnevich rushes.
Sean Kuraly (A-) – Kuraly had arguably his best game of the season. Despite playing the wing, he was the general on his line playing besides two rookies. The wing suits him allowing him more freedom to use his speed and it showed in transition leading to several odd-man rushes with Senyshyn. He was also good on the penalty kill. Kuraly gets the minus for not finishing on any of his glorious chances.
Zach Senyshyn (B+) – This was an excellent season debut for the 2015 draft pick. On the broadcast, Andy Brickley commented the rookie hasn’t looked out of place to which the king of hyperbole Jack Edwards retorted he has been all over the place. Edwards was perhaps a little to complimentary but Senyshyn certainly had a positive impact on the game beating out an icing in the first, playing sound positional defense, and making some excellent plays on the rush with Sean Kuraly.
Urho Vaakanainen (B+) – Vaak had a pretty quiet game. He made a couple of nice breakout passes and defended relatively well. He conceded the least expected goals amongst defenders and did so in over 15 minutes of 5v5 ice time. He did get burned by Blackwell on a 1v1 in the second highlighting his need to improve his straightaway speed. On offense, he had a low-key four attempted shots, two shots on goal, and two scoring chances.
Trent Frederic (B) – The rookie forward showed his ability to protect the puck down low on several occasions tonight. When his line had zone time it was largely due to his efforts in recovering the puck and maintaining possession while fending off defenders with his backside. That Frederic is displaying this ability at the NHL level is a boon for the Bruins. He needs to take the next step in turning more of these moments into scoring chances either for himself or his linemates on a nightly basis but that should come in time.
Jack Studnicka (B) – Studnicka has yet to find an open net in the NHL that he can actually hit, again missing the yawning cage on a shorthanded rush alongside DeBrusk. Otherwise, Studnicka did not have many standout plays aside from a nice shift in the third where he won a puck battle before making a clever slot pass. But this game speaks to the young center’s ability to affect games even under the radar as he continuously made plays to relieve pressure in the defensive zone and advance the puck to his wingers. For his efforts, he led the team in expected goals percentage.
Craig Smith (C+) – Smith forced a couple turnovers early in the game and had a couple good scoring chances in the second. His motor was running high in the first period but faded throughout the game. He didn’t have many noticeable moments outside of those mentioned.
Connor Clifton (C+) – Clifton’s game was fine tonight and he has really done a good job of picking his spots better as the season has progressed. While you’d prefer he not be part of your top-four he also hasn’t been a giant liability. He does continue to struggle at times handling the rush, getting attacked through his triangle by Zibanejad, and getting crossed up on assignments with Tinordi on a 3v3 rush.
Nick Ritchie (C) – Ritchie had a couple of nice passes including on an entry where he pulled up and found McAvoy coming late. Other than that he didn’t generate much only getting one shot attempt off. He took to unfortunate minor penalties. His penalties are never egregious but almost always happen when his feet aren’t moving enough.
Jakub Zboril (C) – Zboril was not particularly impactful in this game but neither did he stand out negatively. We have become accustomed to a little more offense and puck-moving out of little Z and that wasn’t evident in this game.
Jarred Tinordi (C) – Tinordi continues to be a ‘guy’ for the Bruins. Brought in for his physical presence his biggest hit tonight was on Halak in the first bowling him back into the net after a Ryan Strome rush. Tinordi played sound defensively and made simple outs with the puck. His puck skills are limited though highlighted by a second-period play where after circling the offensive zone he awkwardly turned the puck over at the blue line allowing the Rangers a dangerous counterattack.
Charlie Coyle (C-) – Coyle was the weakest player on a line that got buried in the possession metrics tonight. While the line did have some offensive zone time, it was largely his wingers controlling the puck or generating the opportunities. The Massachusetts native has had a few too many games where he disappears this season.
Moment of the night
My shoes, pants, and sweatshirt covered in mud after taking a digger while walking the dog this morning are all the evidence I need. Mud season means playoff hockey…I mean the trade deadline, I guess.