By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
All good things must come to an end, according to the saying, and it is now a fact for the Bruins’ most recent winning streak. The Buffalo Sabres had the livelier legs and played pressure-free hockey, consistently using their speed to back off the Boston defenders. The Bruins pushed back late but were in too deep a hole to make up the necessary ground. Let’s break down the game and assign player grades for a team that had moments but lacked jump throughout the contest.
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.
At even strength, the Bruins outshot and out-chanced Buffalo. However, more context is needed. Many of the chances Boston did concede were of the high danger variety. Buffalo’s mediocre powerplay also came alive against a usually stingy Bruin’s penalty kill and accounted for two goals. The Sabres were also the more consistent team throughout the game while Boston only managed offense in limited spurts as the graphic below attests too.
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.
Steven Kampfer (A) – Kampfer had one of the best nights of his 229 game career. He is regularly dependable and stable on the back end. Tonight he was also engaged on the offensive side registering a goal and two assists. They weren’t accidents either. Perhaps his most heads-up play was a quick pass in transition to Miller which caught Buffalo by surprise.
David Krejci/Craig Smith/Taylor Hall (A) – On a night where the Sabres’ young legs pushed the pace, the Bruins’ most senior line had the most push back. The trio dominated play. Krejci regularly recovered pucks and kickstarted the breakout while supporting in the defensive end. Hall’s ability to attack with speed through the neutral zone and ability to make plays with pace was on full display and culminated in another assist. While Smith was the least impactful of the line, he had his usual shots and regularly sustained plays with great forechecking and compete level. If this line can maintain the chemistry and execution they will pose matchup hell for potential playoff opponents.
Kevan Miller (A) – My fellow Catamount scored one of the prettier goals of the night. What he was doing up ice to receive the Kampfer pass I’m not sure but he certainly made the most of it. A theme of the season for Miller is it’s just great to see him on the ice after dealing with some scary issues. He also moved the puck well in this game alongside new partner Reilly, something that is much improved from the start of the season. A Miller/Reilly third pair when everyone is healthy would be very nice to see come playoff time.
Nick Ritchie (A-) – After a dry spell Ritchboi now has a two-game scoring streak. He finished tonight in signature fashion, planting himself in front and jamming one home. Ritchie led the team in most offensive categories in this game. Ritchie does get a minus because there are still occasional stretches where he vanishes which was true in this game as well.
Sean Kuraly (B+) – Kuraly had one of his better games following a prompt promotion to third-line center. He had four shots including three from the house. At some point, Kuraly will need to start finishing though his track record in that area is not sterling. The veteran forward was strong on the defensive side of the puck and helped drive possession.
Mike Reilly (B) – With Reilly, you’ll have to live with some defensive miscues. Specifically, he lost his coverage several times in the first period and wasn’t as strong 1v1 in this game. Having said that, in nearly 20 minutes of 5v5 ice time Reilly’s ability to head man the puck and make smart plays at the offensive blue line meant the Bruins played most of their time up ice.
Charlie McAvoy (B) – The stud defender continues to give Bs fans heart attacks every time he blocks a shot. McAvoy’s 24 minutes were less eventful than usual. He mostly defended well but he didn’t close off plays quite as effectively and didn’t get up ice into the offense much either.
Jake DeBrusk (B) – The maligned winger’s motor was running in this game which is a key to his success. He registered three hits to tie for the team lead. He is shooting the puck more which is good though the quality of the chances and his shot still leaves a little room for improvement. He has shown some nice ability to make plays lately highlighted by his zone entry and delay before threading a pass to a trailing Steven Kampfer on the Ritchie goal.
Matt Grzelcyk (B) – Since returning from his most recent ailment, Grzelcyk has been a welcome sight on the Bs blue line. He defended well enough and keyed the breakout on several occasions. He has seemed less dynamic in transition though and didn’t generate even a single shot attempt in this game.
Jeremy Lauzon (B-) – Lauzon formed a nice tandem with Kampfer and the two played more offense than defense. The Quebecois defender continues to have the occasional challenge with the puck on his stick this time rolling one into the slot on what should have been an uncontested breakout. Otherwise, he has been moving the puck well enough. With Carlo out of the lineup, it does feel like it’s Lauzon’s penalty kill unit and unfortunately, they were victimized for two goals against tonight.
Brad Marchand (B-) – Marchand did his best to get things going but never quite hit his stride in this game in spite of being one of Boston’s better offensive players per usual. His gaffe in the neutral zone led to the Sabres’ second goal, one of two he was on the ice for.
David Pastrnak (C+) – Something continues to be off for Pasta. Despite eight shot attempts, the Czech winger was never really that dangerous. He fanned on a one-timer in the slot on one such opportunity and whipped another quite wide from his usually very dangerous spot on the powerplay. On a couple of other occasions, pucks just rolled off his stick. That he continues to be engaged is a good thing but a player with his talent level shouldn’t be this discombobulated for such an extended stretch.
Curtis Lazar/Chris Wagner/Anton Blidh (C) – In just under eleven minutes of ice time not much happened when this line was out there. The line couldn’t sustain the forecheck or generate much zone time as the fourth-line has been able to in recent games but they also didn’t make any mistakes and did a good job of grinding it out on defense.
Tuukka Rask (C-) – It’s hard to fault Rask on any of the four goals against which came on the powerplay, broken plays, off the rush, and sometimes a combination. We’ve seen Rask make some of those saves though and on a night when the team really needed a little lift Rask was unfortunately unable to elevate the squad and was subsequently pulled by his head coach.
Charlie Coyle (D) – Coyle ended up with the team’s worst game score. With Bergeron out of the lineup, he was given the gift of playing with two of the best goal scorers and possession players in the league. While his linemates weren’t great either, this was an opportunity for Coyle to get something going and he didn’t even come close, registering only one chance the whole game. That he posted negative possession numbers with such talented players while his usual linemates posted positive numbers centered by Kuraly is deeply concerning.
Moment of the night
Ahh yes, raising young Bruins’ fans right.