By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
The Boston Bruins sit in unfamiliar territory at the moment. They are fighting to stay above the playoff cut line in the group of death East division. With the Flyers’ victory in overtime, the margin is now just three points with two more contests between the two adversaries in less than a week. With 21 games remaining this could be a pivotal stretch for the Bruins who went into last night’s game with the third and fourth goalies on their depth chart. Let’s get into the game 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.
Both teams knew what was at stake in this game and played disciplined and tight games. It was a fairly even affair fitting of overtime hockey. The Bruins continue an interesting trend of winning the Corsi (shot attempts) battle but losing the expected goals battle (though very marginally in this one). The coaching staff has been harping on the team to shoot more and it seems sometimes that has led to greater quantity though not necessarily quality. The heatmap below helps illustrate that story.
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.
Matt Grzelcyk (A) – While some of the offensive play was expected, I continue to be impressed with how well Grzelcyk has defended against superior competition. He also picked up a helper on the powerplay keeping the play moving with a quick one-touch pass to Pastrnak.
Charlie McAvoy (A) – McAvoy’s decision making the last few games has improved. On one hand, you notice him less but on the other hand, the run of play favors the Bruins even more than before. He did have one bad stumble at the offensive blue line on a tough pass but Vladar bailed him out. McAvoy was a goal post away from adding to his goal total on a rocket after jumping up in the rush.
Patrice Bergeron (A-) – The captain had one of the best games of his season until he didn’t. An awkward and untimely tumble in overtime allowed the Flyers they break they needed to snag the extra point. For that, Bergeron gets the minus in an otherwise great game. He was dominant in possession and created offense at an amazing clip with 11 shot attempts and eight scoring chances. That is hockey for you.
Craig Smith (A-) – Smith continues to impress on the top line. What’s been most noticeable are the tweaks he has made to his game chucking pucks less and looking to distribute the puck more. This is most noticeable on entries where he has changed his default from shoot to look for the cutter or trailer. Dominant throughout his career on the possession front, he has helped the Bs top unit get back to their typically impressive form.
Dan Vladar (B+) – Vladar had a couple of nifty saves when his team’s defense broke down. He uses every inch of his long limbs to make saves and moved very well laterally in this game, if not a little too much. While you have to be concerned about the health of your top two goaltenders as a Bruin fan, Vladar has been an excellent pinch hitter.
Karson Kuhlman (B+) – Kuhlman’s snipe is further evidence that even fringe NHLers are so much better at hockey than us beer leaguers. With time and space, the speedy winger made no mistake in placing the puck where mama keeps the cookie jar. Kuhlman didn’t do much else with his 11:24 of ice time but for a team in need of depth scoring, it was a welcome moment.
Brad Marchand (B) – Marchand did some Marchand things. The Bruins had strong numbers with him on the ice but he didn’t have his usual magic with the puck in this evening despite a flash here and there. His results were limited as well with just one shot on the net. He continues to bring the emotion though that was a little lacking from him early in the season. Not a bad game from 63 but not his best.
David Pastrnak (B) – Pasta continues to show he is more than just a shooter this time with a deft shot-pass for Bergeron’s PP marker. The winger had a few moments in this game in addition to his assist but he and his linemates weren’t able to muster as much as they did the last couple of games.
Nick Ritchie (B) – It seemed like a quieter game for Ritchie but he did have some opportunities, four scoring chances in total. His net-front presence on the powerplay goal is noticeable. He, like his linemates, had a little trouble escaping the defensive zone at 5v5. Ritchie has also been more physical these last few games much to the delight of Bs fans.
Charlie Coyle (B) – Coyle was generally fine during this contest. His read to intercept the puck at the offensive blue line on Kuhlman’s goal was an integral moment in the game. This is a good step in the right direction for the Mass native and hopefully they will start coming with more frequency.
Jakub Zboril (B) – Zboril had two plays in the first period that exemplify both his potential and shortcomings. On the Flyers’ first goal, Zboril followed his man up the boards but when the puck was turned over at the blue line he failed to recognize that same player cutting behind him to the back door until it was too late. Just two shifts later he made a big hit to shut down a 1v1, recovered the puck on the ensuing battle, and made a great stretch pass. Little Z continues to play well, with the odd brain cramp, despite being more relied upon than he should be at the moment.
Steven Kampfer (B) – Kampfer continues to fill in admirably and for the ninth or tenth defenseman at the start of the season has been consistent the last couple games on the second pair. His possession metrics haven’t been great but he makes no glaring mistakes and is a better puck mover than some ahead of him in the organization.
David Krejci (C+) – Krejci wasn’t bad in this game but he spent way too much time defending. His line had trouble at times breaking out as evident on the Flyers’ first goal. After a couple of weeks of really strong performances, this one was a little meh.
Trent Frederic (C+) – Frederic flashed a couple of moments early on in the game where he showed what could be in his offensive game. It would be great to see more of that. Otherwise, he and his linemates played uneventful minutes.
Sean Kuraly/Zach Senyshyn (C) – Both players showed off their speed on a couple of occasions but it didn’t amount to much. They defended well enough and little happened in their fourth line minutes.
Connor Clifton/Jeremy Lauzon (C) – The third pair was fine tonight and had relatively uneventful games. Both players fight the puck on the breakout at times and that leads to extended zone time for opposing teams. That happened on a couple of occasions in this game but the duo was able to relieve pressure more often than not. This is the right place for Lauzon to be as he works his back into the lineup.
Jake DeBrusk (C) – It was great to see DeBrusk back in the lineup after his latest setback. He tried to use his speed to get in on the forecheck and he made a couple of nice slot passes but otherwise, his team was largely hemmed in the defensive zone during his minutes. He gets the benefit of the doubt due to the layoff but needs to get something going ASAP to salvage an otherwise nightmare of a season.
Moment of the night
You live your best life Vlady!