By Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter: @BostonDiGiorgio
Are we starting to see what the Bruins could be the rest of the year? The Bruins dominated the New York Islanders in back-to-back nights at the TD Garden. Before Thursday night, the Bruins were 0-2-3 against the Islanders this season and have now rattled off two straight victories in regulation. Last night, the Bruins got an unexpected perfect effort from their goaltender, Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins’ best player, through a full 60 minutes.
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.
Another true telling chart for the Bruins. They dominated the Islanders, especially in the first and second periods. The Islanders relied on the “never give up” story of 2021 but were unsuccessful this go-round.
The heat map is one that I don’t see often. The Bruins’ best, and frankly only, high-danger chances were directly in front of Ilya Sorokin, and that is where they capitalized. The Islanders had a few similar opportunities but were stifled by a perfect Swayman.
This shot chart is vastly different from the night before. The Islanders took a majority of their shots down low, whereas the Bruins shot from everywhere. The Islanders were less reliant on their defense to create opportunities and relied on odd-man rushes and low presence.
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.
Mike Reilly (A+): That’s two games in a row that Mike Reilly has scored the best score on the team. He was also second on the team in time on ice, for a third straight game, finishing with 22:56. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy clearly trusts the left-handed defensemen to stay in the game during crunch time and earn hard minutes. Reilly also made an impeccable pass to David Pastrnak for the game’s first goal. This is a type of pass that coaches worldwide will want to show their young defensemen how to make. Reilly’s poise and confidence have oozed out of him in just three games with Boston. The 27-year old should be a Bruin for years to come.
Jeremy Swayman (A+): The former 111th overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft has really put on a show these past couple of starts, and last night is no different. The Alaskan native improves to 4-1 this season with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage. Sure, it’s only five games, but he’s shown the Bruins they made a great draft pick (thus far) in the fourth round. He was a Hobey Baker finalist, which awards the best NCAA hockey player in the nation just a year ago. He made save after save and kept the Bruins’ lead secure throughout the game. He made a calm save in the first four minutes of the game on a mini break-away from Michael Dal Colle. His most impressive save, in my opinion, was defending the puck from not one but two high-danger chances. Swayman stretches his leg to stop a wraparound chance from Bruin-killer Kyle Palmeri, then readjusted and stopped Anthony Beauvillier on the opposite side of the goal.
Steven Kampfer (A+): Kampfer certainly improved from his last score of a B last game and scored his highest grade of the season. He provided the secondary assist on Taylor Hall’s fourth of the season. He was quite effective in only 11 minutes on ice, which was the lowest on the team tied with Curtis Lazar. Kampfer also added three hits and two blocks in the game. He won’t be a mainstay once Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk return from injury but has shown he can be relied on when needed.
Taylor Hall (A+): Well, well, well, has Taylor Hall finally found the team that helps him succeed? In these first three games, he is settling in nicely with David Krejci and company. His goal last night gives him four on the year. Hall has two goals in 35:19 minutes with Boston and had the same amount of goals with Buffalo but in 691:04 minutes. Let’s hope this is a sign of great things to come from Hall and that Krejci has finally found his left-winger.
David Krejci (A+): Krejci also improved his score from last night’s “B.” Krejci provided the primary assist to Taylor Hall’s goal last night, showing off what he does best. He made a great, hard pass under the Islanders’ defender’s stick for Hall to tip the puck past Sorokin. Krejci has always had the eyes to make great passes; he just needed someone to finish. Hall may be that finisher, and what fun these two may have come playoff time.
David Pastrnak (A): Did David read my report card from the night before and see that I asked for more goals? Highly unlikely, but it was great to see nonetheless. Pastrnak opened the scoring for the Bruins last night from a great Mike Reilly pass. He fired two shots on goal, one of which went in and played 15 minutes. David’s 17th goal of the year puts him on pace for 27 goals in a 56-game season. He won’t win the Rocket Richard trophy for a second-straight year with 27 goals (awarded to the player with the most goals in the year), but if he can start scoring consistently, the Bruins will prosper.
Patrice Bergeron (A-): Bergeron provided the secondary assist to David Pastrnak’s 17th of the season, giving Bergeron 21 assists. Bergeron is scoring at almost a point-per-game, with 37 in 42 games. He is on pace for 49 points in a 56-game season. Bergeron was 52.4% at the face-off dot and played 19:37 minutes. The Bruins have the best penalty kill in the NHL this year at 86.5%. This percentage means they kill off 86.5% of their penalties from the opposition. Bergeron is a major reason for this year in and year out.
Curtis Lazar (A-): Curtis Lazar fired three shots on goal, one of them resulting in a goal. It was an empty-netter, but he records his first goal as a Bruin. He wasn’t as effective at the face-off dot, only winning two of seven, but those will come. Last night marks the second-straight game that all three trade deadline pickups recorded a point. Lazar has provided an energy boost to the fourth line, and he looks like a sneaky good pickup from General Manager Don Sweeney.
Connor Clifton (B+): Clifton is stringing together a few great games lately. Clifton entered the game with a team-leading 89 hits, which is impressive for his 5’11 frame. He didn’t record a hit last night but had two blocks and 19 minutes of ice time. He was imperative on the penalty kill, dumping the puck out of harm’s way when no one else could. Clifton is another player who could find himself watching from the ninth floor when Carlo and Grzelcyk return, but he is a great seventh man to have.
Craig Smith (B): Well, Smith’s hot streak ended last night, and maybe I’m partially to blame for mentioning it in yesterday’s article. He only recorded one shot on goal but was helpful when he was needed in the offensive zone. I don’t foresee him coming off the second line with Hall and Krejci, and nor should he.
Jeremy Lauzon (B-): Lauzon logged the third-most minutes in last night’s game (22:13). He was on the ice for the first two of Boston’s goals while also contributing three hits and one block. He did, however, feel the wrath of Bruce Cassidy after one shift that did not go as planned. This will happen as he figures out his place on the team.
Brad Marchand (C+): Before last night’s game, Marchand had three goals and two assists, and 16 shots in six games against the Islanders. Last night, he provided neither a goal nor an assist but, thankfully, didn’t need to. He threw three hits and also sat in the penalty box for two minutes after a slashing call. He fired two shots on goal in 19 minutes and was effective on the penalty kill, though he didn’t provide much else.
Charlie McAvoy (C): This score is a bit surprising because I didn’t notice McAvoy much last night. Generally, if you don’t notice a defenseman, that means his game was solid. McAvoy wasn’t relied on heavily in this game and didn’t need to be, which is why Hockey Stat Cards probably gave him a low score. The grade is not reflective of McAvoy’s play or the stretch he’s having, just an average game from the number one defenseman.
Jakub Zboril (C): Another growing-pain type of game for Jakub. He played a great game in transition and was able to break the puck out well. Other than that, he had an average, uneventful game. He played 13 minutes and delivered two hits. He recorded a .51 xGF (expected goals for) and a .36 XGA (expected goals against) when he was on the ice, leading to his lower grade.
Chris Wagner (C): Wagner seemed to revert to the couple of games he was having before the trade deadline. He wasn’t as effective as his linemate, Lazar, and played only 12 minutes. He has five points on the year, which is something you wish was a bit more, and might be if Lazar can keep the flame going on the fourth line.
Sean Kuraly (C-): Kuraly had a game he’ll want to forget. He spent six minutes in the box on a slashing call, boarding call, and delay of game. The Islanders didn’t score on any of these power-play chances because of Jeremy Swayman. As a fourth-line forward, spending time in the box is frowned upon. The fourth line is put out to generate energy and make the offensive zone a tough time for the opposition. Instead, the Islanders were handed three golden opportunities. Surprisingly, Cassidy allowed Kuraly to finish out the game when the Islanders pulled their goalie.
Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, Nick Ritchie (D+): The third-line will want to forget last night’s game. Ritchie spent two minutes in the penalty box for high-sticking. In 40 total minutes, the third-line generated two shots on goal. They need to get in a rhythm fast because an effective third-line can be the difference between an early playoff exit or a long playoff run. Coyle extends his goalless streak to 22 games, Ritchie to 10, and DeBrusk to four.
Moment Of The Night
The moment of the night is most certainly awarded to Jeremy Swayman. He recorded his first career shutout and is the first Bruin rookie to record a shutout since Nicklas Svedberg in 2015. He also enters his name in the nine rookie goaltenders to shutout an opponent this year. Swayman is a name that Bruins fans could be cheering for, for years to come.