By: Andrew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter @justyouknowhyyy
Life has a funny way of giving and taking. The Boston Bruins had a galvanizing 4-0 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday, brought about by an organizational-wide call out starting from the top. But the boys from Beantown undid a lot of that good will by turning in what can be charitably called a poor effort, losing by that same 4-0 score to those same Rangers, managing to turn the heat back on the players themselves.
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.
This was an instance where the numbers match what the eye test gives you almost beat for beat. Except for a couple of pushes in garbage time, making the period seem more even in the numbers, Boston seemed to be fighting themselves all night more than the Rangers. A one-word sentiment that was echoed throughout the locker room and Bruce Cassidy’s presser after the game, “unacceptable”.
As an aside, no team playing in the NHL today is going to win when they have zero high danger scoring opportunities.
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.
Jaroslav Halak (B-): The game score won’t show it, but Halak’s efforts keeping this within striking distance for the Bruins as long as he did should not be overlooked. Halak made two 10-bell saves, one on Artemi Panarin and another on Kevin Rooney in the first period that kept the Bruins in the game. Halak did everything that was asked of him and more during the the first 40. But continued defensive breakdowns appeared to break Jaro giving up on the 4-0 goal that put the game officially on ice. That takes his grade down a little bit, but considering some of the grades we have yet to get to, it doesn’t hurt to stay a little bit positive.
Sean Kuraly (C+): If you were to ask me anything in particular that Kuraly did today, something positive that stood out, I couldn’t tell you. By the same token, I couldn’t tell you anything negative he did either, which is definitely a point in his favor on a night like tonight where we could point out something bad for everyone. As he was the only Bruins player who ended up with a positive game score, his grade ends up on the positive side of the ledger.
Craig Smith (C): Smith led the team in shots on goal with three, and that’s a dire sign no matter what. However, he looked passive most of the night like most of his teammates but falls square into the center of his grade for the mere fact that there wasn’t anything bad he did per se. He was one of only three skaters to finish with an even plus-minus on the night. Positives wherever you can find them.
Matt Grzelcyk (C-): Grzelcyk seemed to be hitting the deck more than the net tonight. That combined with the lack of five-on-five ice time (second least on the team) leads me to believe that he might still be struggling with the soft tissue injury he’s been struggling with all year. Grzelcyk did play on the powerplay a lot, but was consistently skittish with the puck on his stick, hesitating on shots and trying to make passes that weren’t there all day.
Nick Ritchie (C-): Ritchie has had a solid year to date even when taking the less-than-zero expectations into account, but one can’t help but notice that some of the old habits that “endeared” Ritchboi to the Bruins last year are starting to creep back into his game. Namely, the plays when the feet aren’t moving and he ends up a step behind. Such a gaffe led directly to the third goal of the game. Between that and teams figuring out his net-front tactics, the shine is coming off the apple for Big Nick.
Chris Wagner (C-): Did Chris Wagner have his best game in over a week? Yes, did he have a good game? No. In keeping with most of the skaters that got higher grades not doing anything atrocious, Wagner followed suit, damning but faint praise. Wagner did try to engage physically a few times but was unable to make much of a difference.
Urho Vaakanainen (C-): V9 was excellent on the penalty kill tonight for the black and gold, and you see some very promising flashes in some of his decisions. His confidence unfortunately is just that: flashes. His strengths are negated by a lot of his physical weaknesses. His smooth stride and his burgeoning offensive skills are definitely good signs, but Vaakanainen needs the weight room to round it out. He’s still being outmuscled way too easily, especially at the front of the net.
David Krejci (C-): This was a quiet game save for one glowing opportunity at a yawning cage that was denied by a diving Adam Fox. Krejci followed up a roaring multi-point effort with another silent game in his almost 15 minutes on the ice, an all too familiar occurrence for #46 lately.
Connor Clifton (C-): Cliffy Hockey ended up with up “first-pairing” minutes, logging over 21 minutes of time on ice. For somebody whose calling card is speed and physicality, we saw shockingly little of both of those attributes, in what proved to be a little bit of a barometer for the day. Clifton was very much a bit player in tonight’s contest.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak (D+): My goodness, this stings to do to the class valedictorians, but the best line in hockey was anything but tonight. Since their success is so inexorably linked, I have to include them together here, for better or for worse. Marchand is hurt with a mysterious ailment and played every bit like it, seeming to be a step behind every play, even when drawing penalties. Pastrnak’s effort needs to be called out as he was skating at half speed all night. Even Bergeron looked very much off tonight, taking a really bad interference penalty that was the catalyst for the death of any momentum that Boston may have been building to start the third period.
Anders Bjork (D+): For such a talented player, I found myself cursing Bjork for four separate failures to move his feet or make the smart play. He committed an egregious high-sticking penalty to set the tone of his day. It never got any better from there.
Charlie McAvoy (D+): Not one for the Chuck Norris reel, McAvoy was one of the Bruins to struggle the most with New York’s relentless forecheck. Even in instances where Mac was able to pick up some steam on puck carrying exhibitions, they would quickly be thwarted. While on the defensive side of the puck, the usually stout McAvoy was outmuscled regularly. This was a game to forget for the Bs undisputed number-one defenseman.
Charlie Coyle (D+): The mayor of Weymouth had the kind of game that would result in a recall. Coyle has been silent too often for long stretches of the season. Tonight was no different as Coyle ended the day with zero shots on goal, the second consecutive game with that stat line for Coyle. Something has to give for #13 pretty soon one would think.
Trent Frederic (D): Frederic Fight Club was closed today, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Frederic deserves a little bit of a call out tonight for seeming to stop skating and playing after the Rangers’ second goal. He instead opted to try and pick fights with every New York player in reach, with Brendan Lemieux accounted for. In a game like this, one would like to see Trent let the fight come to him instead of flailing to start the fight himself.
Jarred Tinordi (D): First the good: The big defender was very good on the penalty kill all night, being able to stop set plays and seemed to be at the center of every clear. Making your hay shorthanded is a good way to do it in the NHL. However, you have to do it five-on-five as well and Tinordi was getting beat wide all night by much quicker skaters. #84 is not the fastest skater on any ice surface, but you have to use your body to compensate and Tinordi was just unable to do so.
Jack Studnicka (D): Studnicka has had games where he’s been the best skater amongst the bottom-six. Today was not one of those games. On the ice for 2 goals against, tentative with the puck, and hardly playing the third period, Stud had a very rough game and looked every bit a rookie for every minute of his 9:42 out there.
Jakub Zboril (F+): A message has to be sent to the class. And while I’m reticent to out and out fail anybody, I’m not above putting someone on the brink. Zboril ends up the “victim” here in a game that saw the young defenseman fighting the puck like it was Marvin Hagler (RIP). Even the simplest 5-foot pass ended up 2 feet wide, at the recipient’s feet, or just plain on a New York stick. His defensive coverage was at times more than a little lax. The rookie defender was on the ice for 3 New York goals with blown coverage being the story for all three. ‘Little Z’ was noticeable for exactly all the wrong reasons tonight.
Moment of the night
The white board did not survive…