By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
Boston concluded their eight-game season series with New Jersey with an overtime loss. On the season, the Bruins managed a 3-3-2 record against a pesky, speedy, and opportunistic Jersey squad. The game highlighted a number of Boston’s strengths of late dominating possession and making plays off the rush. It also showcased some of their deficiencies such as still being susceptible to a speedy counterattack and taking too many penalties. With the point, Boston moves into third in a still-undecided East division. Let’s break down 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.
Boston was dominant 5v5 in the first two periods. Unfortunately, some penalty trouble in the first and a lack of killer instinct in the third allowed New Jersey to stay in the game. New Jersey didn’t have many chances but they made the ones they did count. Mackenzie Blackwood also deserves credit for a number of key saves to keep the game close, especially in the first period.
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) – Grzelcyk defended really well in this game and quickly rekindled chemistry on the breakout with Carlo though he also played a lot of minutes with McAvoy. Either way, the diminutive defender came out on the positive end of the ledger. He did a great job of getting up in the play and getting the puck to the net leading to two primary assists.
Patrice Bergeron (A) – Bergeron was impactful in this game scoring from his powerplay home on the bumper. He also had seven shots and the same number of scoring chances getting to open space and firing a number of dangerous pucks at the net. His line, unfortunately, gave up two goals but the breakdowns didn’t come from Bergeron or his linemates.
David Pastrnak (A) – Pastrnak continues to get on the scoresheet though for assists rather than goals. His pass to Kuraly for a tip-in goal was beautiful and his accidentally-on-purpose play to Bergeron also worked out quite nicely. Pastrnak only managed one shot on the net though he did attempt five and registered three scoring chances. He has seemed a little more dangerous the last few games even though the goal output is still concerning.
Taylor Hall (A) – I thought Hall had a couple of sub-par games of late by his standards but his value and skill were on full display in this one. He consistently generated chances off the rush and off of cycle play. He also seemed more willing to fire the puck on the net. While his goal was scored at the net-front he keyed the whole thing with a great read on the breakout and the speed to back off the Jersey defenders. He again hunted down a dangerous rush with a seemingly effortless backcheck in the first period.
Sean Kuraly (A) – Kuraly is on a goal-scoring streak! Kuraly led the team with nine shot attempts, four shot attempts, and of course a goal. He has been thriving of late on a more offensively inclined line.
David Krejci (B+) – Krejci picked another assist tonight and has looked ageless of late. He had fewer stand-out plays or sheer moments of creativity in this game but continues to make little plays to key the transition or extend zone time and put his teammates in favorable positions, for example, his breakout play on the Hall goal. His defending was also stout and his line dominated possession a night after struggling in that department.
Connor Clifton (B+) – Clifton has been playing his best hockey of late and it will be interesting to see what kind of case he has made to the coaching staff come crunch time. In seventeen minutes on the third pair, Clifton made few mistakes, advanced the puck, and put three shots on the net.
Craig Smith (B) – Smith was the proverbial passenger on the second line tonight. He had three shots on five attempts but while good choices none were particularly dangerous. While he gave his usual effort tonight and contributed to his lines play, he failed to get inside position most of the night and was less dangerous than of late.
Brad Marchand (B) – Marchand posted pedestrian numbers in this one and while he had a couple of moments where he was dangerous with the puck, particularly as a playmaker, they were less frequent and didn’t amount to much. Bruins fans definitely took a sigh of relief when the east coaster got up after this one.
Charlie Coyle (B) – Coyle, unfortunately, had to exit the game courtesy of a blocked shot late in the second and his status moving forward is unknown. While on the ice, the Bruins dominated possession and he tossed three shots on the net. However, he wasn’t controlling the play with his puck protection or getting to inside ice as much as he did in the previous two contests.
Charlie McAvoy (B) – I didn’t have a lot of notes for McAvoy in this one which is odd because a lot happened while he was on the ice including two goals against, one for, and a healthy number of shots in both directions. While he had a couple of attempts from the slot area he seemed a little less up in the play than usual. He defended well and wasn’t culpable for either of the two goals against. The Bruins’ top defender was much more effective in his minutes with Grzelcyk than Lauzon.
Brandon Carlo (B) – It was great to see Carlo back in the lineup and he earns his more or less automatic ‘B’ in his return. The towering defender plays best with a puck mover and was largely paired with Grzelcyk or Reilly. In both instances, Carlo defended well, made little plays to his partner, and the Bruins exited their zone. Carlo did also managed to put three pucks on the net.
Curtis Lazar (B-) – Lazar played his game moving the puck north and playing good defense. Despite being credited with two scoring chances his offensive contributions continue to be limited.
Nick Ritchie (B-) – Ritchie had a couple good powerplay chances early on but was relatively quiet the rest of the night.
Mike Reilly (B-) – Reilly generally speaking had a strong game transitioning the puck and giving up little in his own end. He, however, misjudged his step badly leading to the Devil’s third goal, and due to the crucial nature of the play on the game gets docked a grade.
Jeremy Lauzon (C+) – Lauzon misjudged the shot on the Devils’ second goals trying to ‘front’ the puck. Instead, the point shot squirted through and left the Devils with a 2v1 at the crease. If he blocks it we applaud him, but he didn’t – that’s hockey for you. Lauzon was physical in the defensive zone but had little contribution in the offensive zone nor did he contribute a ton towards transition. He struggled in his top-line minutes with McAvoy and was much more effective when moved to the bottom pairing with Clifton. How the coaching staff approaches the defensive pairs going into the playoffs will be a fascinating storyline and potentially quite impactful.
Trent Frederic (C) – Freddy had some opportunities in the offensive zone to make some plays particularly from the corner and off the sideboard. He failed to be assertive with the puck and the chances were muted or didn’t come to fruition. His play was fine but much of the confidence he had pre-illness has yet to come back.
Jake DeBrusk (C) – DeBrusk’s play continues to baffle. He just cannot get anything going. Is it his linemates? Playing on his off-hand? Is it his effort? Is it bad luck? We detailed these questions in an earlier post but now it almost just feels like he is off and it’s one of those seasons. His recent benching has done little to rectify the issue. Perhaps the playoffs, a new season, will be the catalyst for improved play.
Jaroslav Halak (C-) – Halak’s numbers were poor in this one and he is anger was palpable after the tying and final goals. It’s hard to fault the veteran netminder for any of the goals but you’d hope he would come up with a big save on at least one of those. Frankly, he didn’t look comfortable in the net from the outset, struggling on his transition movements and in squaring up to pucks down the wings. I would love to see Halak get at least one more chance before the playoffs start but the coaching staff might already be prepared to go with Swayman.
Moment of the night
And here comes the putter throw…I do wonder if Halak’s reaction has something to do with the possibility of his NHL career coming to a close (not to make up rumors). Either way, the tirade has had a mix of reactions from Bs fans. Make sure you watch until the end of the clip for the always priceless stool kick.
I do also always an enjoy a good Rugby match at the goal mouth.