By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
The Boston Bruins struggled through much of the second quarter and the individual player grades followed suit. On average, players drop a third of a grade in the second segment of the season versus the first. Below is an aggregate of the grades for each player in each quarter in addition to their mark for the overall season. In the report cards, we give letter grades and those have been converted here to numbers much like grade point average in school. A four equals an A and zero is an F. It would be impossible for a player to score a four cumulatively as it is just not possible to bring your A-game every night in the NHL. Players are human, play banged up, face elite competition, and sometimes just get unlucky. In addition to our player grades, I’ve also included player’s game scores from HockeyStatCards and the mid-season grades assigned by Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic to provide some additional insights and discussion.
For a little more context on our grading system: An A means a player had a significant positive impact on the game and no real mistakes; a B signifies a good game but a little more limited results or with some minor mistakes; a C is a game where a player wasn’t as noticeable but made a couple of plays and had some mistakes but no major guffaws; a D signifies a player had a negative impact on the team throughout their minutes; and while we have yet to give out an F, though we did issue one F+, we could probably describe it as Nick Ritchie’s bubble game against Tampa Bay.
|Player||Q1||Q2||Change||Overall||The Athletic||Game Score|
The fourth line
Bruce Cassidy likes to rely on his fourth line for tough minutes. He often starts them in the defensive zone and will match them up against opposing teams’ top players. After last season’s diminishing returns on that strategy, this year started off pretty good with decent performances from the trio of Chris Wagner, Anders Bjork, and of course Sean Kuraly. Not so much in the second quarter though where all three had demonstrably drop-offs in play. Bjork and Wagner in particular played so poorly they were relegated to the press box on several occasions in favor of call-ups from Providence. From a tactical perspective, Cassidy has now resorted to matching the Bergeron line against top-competition, potentially compromising their ability to play offense and adding some tough miles in a condensed season.
Massachusetts native Charlie Coyle has not had a good season by any metric including all of the evaluative tools in the table above. To see one of your highest paid forward so low on the list is quite concerning. While he showed the occasional flash early in the season, his second quarter was a real struggle. It has also had an impact on players like Craig Smith, limiting the winger’s ability to generate offense. In response, the coaching staff shifted the newly signed forward to David Krejci’s flank where he has seen some early dividends away from Coyle. Coyle has been good on the penalty kill but the Bruins made a big bet on him as a member of their present and future core and he is currently not meeting that expectation.
The narrative around Jake DeBrusk has been well-documented at this point and his healthy scratch was dissected across all of the Bruns-verse. We recently broke down Debrusk’s struggles concluding that a host of factors have impacted his performance. His recent placement on the COVID-19 protocol list is, unfortunately (and hopefully) just another speed bump in a rocky season. It is worth noting the discrepancy in our grades versus that of Shinzawa and the winger’s game score. Our grades look at singular games and the process in addition to results. DeBrusk has had a number of games where he has played well even if the results haven’t been there. Shinzawa on the other hand assigned his grade against the backdrop of disappointment on a macro scale. DeBrusk’s game score lies somewhere in the middle. Make of all that what you will and it’s further evidence that the same story can be interpreted multiple ways.
Tuukka Rask had a couple of clutch games early on but his numbers and overall play have not been equivalent to last year’s Vezina runner-up performance. He also continues to deal with injuries. This could be a sign of Rask aging or coming back down to earth from an outlier season. The Finnish netminder could also still get healthy and go on a run. Jaroslav Halak has been one of the more consistent Bruins this year. His initial run as the starter came during Boston’s worse stretch of the season affecting his overall grade but the Bruins have been lucky to have the Slovak to hold down the fort.
The defense core
Along with secondary scoring, the biggest concern entering the season was the performance of the defensemen. As a team, Boston has been at the top of the league for several years in most defensive categories but questions abounded after losing two key components of the back end, Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, in the off-season. Our report cards show that the kids are alright though they still have a little ways to go. Matt Grzelcyk, though not a kid anymore, has shown that he is capable of top-pair minutes when healthy and Charlie McAvoy continues to do his thing while adding additional offense. The rest of the unit has shown flashes of what they are capable of with Jeremy Lauzon improving in Q2 and Jakub Zboril having some standout games on the positive end of the ledger at times. Conor Clifton has also improved his scores of late. But inconsistency and injury, a player like Brandon Carlo is a prime example of both, has been a major issue and hindered the Bruins at both ends of the rink.
The Bruins have had two very different quarters and it shows in the player grades. The squad does seem to be turning a corner as Q2 shifts to Q3 and we will continue to be here assessing the team’s and player’s performance. Thanks to all our readers for checking out our report card series and being part of our hockey community. Let us know what you think as we enter the second half of the season.