By: Andrew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter @justyouknowhyyy
And another one! The Bruins overcame a rather ordinary first 40 minutes to down the Buffalo Sabres 5-1. The secondary scoring picked it up in this contest, buoying yet another excellent night by the top line. Boston is now five-for-five against Buffalo, and perhaps more importantly six-for-six since the beginning of the Immortal Taylor Hall era. Say what you will about the quality of the opponent, but the Sabres are still an NHL team with NHL players, and a team effort like this while getting hot at the right time bodes well as we head into the home stretch.
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 tell a story of a game that was even through the first 40 minutes where Boston perhaps played a little bit down to competition. However, the third period was very high event evidenced by a 62-second two-goal outburst before letting off of the gas after the game was out of reach. Fortunately, the defense, and notably Jeremy Swayman, were up to the task.
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+): Nickname check: Brad Hartchand? How about Little Ball of Hart? Leave your comments below. Either way, Brad Marchand is making a case for the Hart Trophy with his play this season. Combining immense skill with Selke-level defense on the wing, Marchand has absolutely hit another level. He showed that again today, being in the right position for the opening tap-in tally. Marchand more likely than not won’t win the Hart due to the existence of Connor McDavid, but he is in the conversation without any doubts.
David Pastrnak (A): Quick vibe check: With the discourse surrounding Pasta for the last few games, one would think that he has a 0-0-0 -5 stat line for those games? The chatter has suggested he has been slow, a step behind, or the dreaded F-word (floating). However, he has two goals and seven assists in his last five games. Hard to believe but true. He may have another assist yet to be added to the ledger if Andy Brickley gets his way. Either way, Pasta scored a gorgeous very Pasta-like goal that may very well get the goal-scoring started. We are truly spoiled by Pasta’s skill.
Patrice Bergeron (A-): Mr. Perfect had his minutes truncated due to an errant shot block off the instep, and again when the game was out of reach, finishing the game with the second-fewest TOI at even strength at under 10 minutes. But Bergy still had a very Bergeron game, breaking up plays on the PK, putting himself in a prime position in front of the net on Marchand’s opening tally, leading the team with five shots, and just being his normal, perfect self. His grade is docked slightly for only playing 9:33 at even strength. It’s about making the most of your minutes though and Bergeron is an expert in that capacity.
Jeremy Swayman (A-): It’s becoming harder with each passing game to deny that Sway is the second-best goaltender on the Bruins. His confidence, his reads, and his economy of movement are so beyond his “rookie” standing. He showed a lot of that tonight when the Sabres broke through with several quality chances in the third. He batted away two breakaways where he barely broke a sweat. The one goal given up was the result of a total breakdown in coverage that he had no shot at. Other than that, Swayman was outstanding and is making his case to stay (sway?) with the Bruins once everyone in the crease is back at full strength.
David Krejci (B+): Who would have thought that putting a revitalized Taylor Hall and a Craig Smith on a career heater would jump-start Krejci’s scoring touch? Krejci potted another goal tonight. The play started with a Hall drop-pass to the point, followed by a Lauzon point shot off the post that Tokarski couldn’t see because of traffic in front caused by Smith (and Hall), leading to a lay-up goal for BOS46. DK is playing with a renewed vigor and confidence that we haven’t seen for 8 years. It’s a treat to watch.
Matt Grzelcyk (B+): The discourse surrounding Grizz has been the most polarizing this side of Kevan Miller this season. But no one can possibly deny in good faith that the puck moves where it’s supposed to when BOS48 is on the ice. Potting a secondary assist on Pastrnak’s goal and getting one himself (one that Tokarski badly wanted back), Gryz had a very typical game adeptly moving the puck and playing great positional defense. Grzelcyk always seems to be at the front of positive puck movement from the back end, an aspect that takes a huge hit when he’s not out there.
Taylor Hall (B+): Was Taylor Hall the skeleton key all along? The Bruins have earned12 out of a possible 12 points since he came aboard and he has settled in quite nicely as the second line LW that has eluded the Bruins all year picking up another assist in this one. Hall’s presence has a domino effect on the lineup. A player like Nick Ritchie slots into the roles they are more suited for and his presence allows Krejci and Smith to play with more confidence.
Jeremy Lauzon (B): This is the kind of game where a guy like Lauzon thrives, lots of penalty killing and protecting leads. Lauzon has been taking on the Brandon Carlo role of top PKer, with over 6 minutes on the ice shorthanded and leading the leagues best man down unit to a five-for-five day.
Nick Ritchie (B): Seventh Player Award watch is back on! Scoring his first goal in 13 games, Ritchie scored a very un-Ritchie goal. Instead of capitalizing on his usual net-front presence, he was the trailer on a rush between Coyle and Debrusk, sniping a wrister glove side. Ritchie now has eleven on the season and if he can string together a few more points, he’ll all but wrap up the Seventh Player award.
Jake Debrusk/Charlie Coyle (B): Inexorably linked as part of the much-maligned third-line, 13 and 74 have been called to the carpet for under-performing, despite running into a little bit of awful puck luck. They have generated a solid amount of scoring chances during this recent winning streak, but they were finally able to connect on the Ritchie goal and both had a generally solid game. Cassidy saw something out of Coyle he liked through the game and he ended up leading all Bruins forwards in time on ice.
Charlie McAvoy (B): McAvoy scared the red out of all of us in the first period, blocking a shot and twisting awkwardly to the ground with his knee under his falling weight (with Jack Edwards practically planning his funeral in real-time) but the Bruins’ stallion was right back at it after only missing a few shifts. McAvoy picked up an assist on the Grzelcyk softball, but other than that faded into the background with a solid if uneventful game. After the near-miss where Bruins fans all had their hearts in their throat, the dull sort of game was very welcome.
Craig Smith (B-): Smith not getting a point may have us asking what the heck is wrong with the guy! Scoring at a point per game clip for nearly a month, expectations have shifted ever-so-slightly for the winger. Smith had a quiet game by his standards but was able to help generate a few scoring chances. He’s definitely found a home on the second line.
Mike Reilly (B-): Reilly has been an extremely welcome addition to the lineup. His ability to move the puck and get the puck on net has been a great change of pace from what the back-end was doing in the early part of the season. There are times, however where Reilly’s defense is a little slapdash. He overcommitted to his partner’s side on the tying goal. Still, the good Reilly provides with the puck on his stick outweighs the occasional gaffe on defense.
Steven Kampfer (C+): Sometimes being able to say nothing about a Defenseman is the best thing you can say. Kampfer had a very Kampfer game. Simple, efficient, quick decisions with the puck. Nothing spectacular, but stabilizing. Something that has been needed from Kampfer at times this season, and something he almost always delivers
Sean Kuraly/Curtis Lazar/Chris Wagner (C): The Fourth line had a bit of a rough go of it. Wagner and Kuraly’s seasons are so deeply intertwined that it’s hard to separate them, and Lazar didn’t do very much to separate himself from his linemates outside of a near-miss on a shorthanded break. They were on the ice for Buffalo’s only goal. But they were hardly to blame. That would go to:
Connor Clifton (C-): The Cliffy Hockey experiment probably needs to be over at this point. Clifton’s play over the last two weeks would probably bench him in any other circumstance. Clifton’s occasional inability to make basic decisions with the puck costs the team more than his other solid attributes help them. Clifton’s errant panic pass led directly to Buffalo’s only goal. In a vacuum, it’s not that worst thing in the world, but contextually it’s a far different story. Get well soon Carlo.
Moment of the night
Good defense by the fourth line…