By: Andrew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter @justyouknowhyyy
The luck had to run out at some point. The Boston Bruins played their final game of the season against the Philadelphia Flyers and suffered their first regulation loss after a tough 3-2 defeat. Boston played a solid game all things considered. But as usual in a tight game, just a couple of mistakes was enough to turn the tide against a team in the Flyers who are fighting for their playoff lives.
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.
An even game by many metrics, both teams traded runs of play where one would tilt the ice only to have it shift moments later. Overall, the Bruins finished the game with more opportunities but unfortunately capitalized one less time than the Flyers. There were a lot of factors in the momentum swings, not the least of which was the exit of defenseman Matt Grzelcyk due to an upper-body injury, though per Bruce Cassidy is does not appear to be long term. There was a definite shift of momentum that had a cascading effect on the rest of the game, perhaps on the power play most of all.
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.
Craig Smith (A+): In an earlier report card this year, I called Craig Smith hockey’s version of Will Rogers: He never met a shot he didn’t like. It seems like being on the top line has made him settle down a little more, turning into a hard-driving forward that shoots with purpose. He has also displayed a newfound playmaking streak. Smith had another two assists, including a gorgeous pass to Jake Debrusk off of a Coyle touch pass. Smith is showing his value by being able to play anywhere in the lineup. 12 points in the last 11 games is a welcome heater for someone who was starting to hear “free agent bust” whispers just three weeks ago.
Patrice Bergeron (A): The Captain is playing like he’s on a mission, scoring another goal. It was his sixth tally in the last five games. Bergeron is showing why he is still an elite player and human being. . Watching his chemistry with Craig Smith take off and his typical Selke self at even strength is always a treat. It would have been nice though if he would have been able to take advantage of his 6:17 power-play time on ice.
Jake Debrusk (A-): JDB looks like he might be turning a corner. Before his COVID sabbatical, Debrusk was being primed as an all-situations swiss army knife by Coach Cassidy on both the PP and the PK. A game like today shows how that is paying dividends. The maligned winger scored on a gorgeous tic-tac-toe pass from Craig Smith, took three shots on goal, and was generally engaged all night. For someone whose entire game is predicated on his confidence, putting trust in Debrusk may just be working. Let’s hope that it’s consistent now.
Steven Kampfer (B+): Kampfer did not get on the score sheet but he didn’t need to. Stepping up when the Bruins had to go to five D for the rest of the game, Kampfer played 20:32 at even strength, leading defenseman by over two minutes, blocking three shots, and generally being the best D man on the ice for Boston. Kampfer showed why he is the perfect veteran depth defenseman in answering the bell when called upon with solid and quality play.
Charlie Coyle (B): A tough season for the Mayor of Weymouth may be finally turning for the better. Coyle has four assists in his last five games. He also seems to be more comfortable using his tremendous puck possession abilities and realizing that he can shoot. It was his shot from the slot that started the sequence leading to Debrusk’s goal. Charlie needs to continue these trends but this has been a much improved stretch for the mayor.
Brad Marchand (B): Bradley made a steal in Gretzky’s office that led directly to Bergeron’s opening tally. On top of that Selke-like play, Marchand was everywhere. He finished second on the team in shots with four and was his usual waterbug self. Being unable to take advantage of nearly seven minutes on the man-advantage docks this grade some.
David Pastrnak (B): Pastrnak had a very confusing game, especially for someone of Pasta’s caliber. On the one hand, he drew three penalties by himself using his skating. On the other, just a casual look at his play shows a player that is clearly fighting himself when the puck is on his stick. The drawing of penalties shows that he knows he’s in a swoon and is trying to contribute in other ways. Here’s hoping he stops fighting the puck soon as it’s different to watch than what we are used to.
Chris Wagner (B-): The other mayor on the squad has played the last three games as if he knows his very livelihood on this team is about to come to an end. Wagner is making every second of his ice time count. At just under ten minutes, Wagner had three scoring chances and five shots on goal, playing with his hair on fire. Seeing Wagner play like a rolling boulder was nice to see.
David Krejci (B-): Krejci had a very quiet 22:44 on the ice. His possession numbers were positive which keeps him on the right side of the ledger. You’d like to see a little more production from your 2C, especially when getting almost seven minutes on the power play.
Jeremy Swayman (C+): My heart goes out to Jeremy after his coach Red Gendron suddenly passed away on April Ninth. I almost don’t want to give him a grade, as he showed a lot of heart and courage to even play in the game today so I’m going to grade a little on a curve here. Swayman did make a couple of rookie mistakes especially on the third goal where his angle was way too sharp, but these mistakes will happen. At least this game may calm the calls for Swayman to take over the goal full time.
Nick Ritchie (C+): Ritchboi’s scoring has dried up in recent games, but Cassidy has shown trust in him in last-minute 6-on-5 situations as a net-front presence. Ritchie has probably helped his cause by using his size more to deliver crushing hits, leading the team with six. You would probably want to see a little more scoring, but the increased physicality is a welcome development.
Sean Kuraly (C): Kuraly has been noticeable with his speed and forechecking while working with Chris Wagner since his return, but his stick is where chances have been going to die. He’s been very visible especially on the wall, but the team needs more offensively from that fourth line, especially with Kuraly driving it.
Jakub Zboril (C): Zboril has had a bit of a rough go of it the last few games, but you can definitely see the talent in his first pass, skating out of the zone, and in his transitional defense. But JZ has a tendency to overthink set plays. Not a lot of those reared their heads today, playing 20 minutes of generally low-event hockey, a welcome sight for the youngster, especially with Grzelcyk out after the first.
Kevan Miller (C): Miller’s presence is a stabilizing one. While his knee makes for tense moments whenever he’s on the ice, playing over 20 minutes with three blocks sounds like a pretty all-right game. He gets docked by giving up the space that led to Sean Couturier’s game-winner.
Jeremy Lauzon (C-): Lauzon’s struggles after a return from injury continue. Lauzon is a physical defenseman with a decent first pass, but very average skating, and a tendency to fumble basic pucks. He can occasionally have a bit of a short fuse and a subsequent problem with taking penalties at very inopportune times. that reared its head in this one with Lauzon taking an extra roughing penalty by popping Travis Konecny with a Liston-esque jab. It led directly to a goal.
Anton Blidh (D+): This was a nothing game from my favorite player in the world. He did have a blocked shot in the second period where he laid out and somehow ended up at center ice, a clip I can’t find but was personally laughing at when it happened.
Karson Kuhlman (D+): The thing about Kuhlman that can be so infuriating is that he can utterly fly down the ice is a but he too often stands still out there negating his best attribute. coach Cassidy noticed him doing this early on and pulled him from the rotation for a large part of the second period. He finished the game with 8:43 TOI.
Matt Grzelcyk (inc): Grzelcyk left early after taking an inadvertent elbow to the head in kind of a nothing play. Coach Cassidy has him listed as day-to-day with hope that he is able to play tomorrow against Washington. This is the fourth injury from Grzelcyk in this abbreviated season, just another rough break for the burgeoning top-pair defenseman.
Moment of the night
What a perfect pass by Smith. Wow!