By Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter: @BostonDiGiorgio
Nine goals were scored yesterday at the TD Garden. After the second period, the game was tied at one. The flood gates opened for both teams in the third as seven goals were scored. The Bruins looked to be in control after David Pastrnak’s twentieth goal of the year just 21 seconds into the third. Unfortunately, the Bruins seemed to take the Rangers for granted and sit back on their heels a little too early.
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 top half of the chart belongs to Boston, while the bottom to New York. The Bruins were most dominant in the first and second periods. Their Corsi for and Fenwick for percentages absolutely obliterated the Rangers in the first and second. New York goaltender Keith Kinkaid was playing stellar before injuring himself in the third. The Rangers played their best hockey in the third, and the numbers support that.
If you were to look solely at the heat map, you’d think the Bruins won this game 5-1. However, this heat map is a bit deceiving. The Rangers capitalized on some sick passing and porous Bruins defensive plays. The Bruins were able to cash in all their goals below the face-off dots but unable to stifle the Rangers in their own zone.
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+): This grade might ruffle the feathers of those who think Grzelcyk should be off to Seattle next year. Alas, Grzelyck EARNED this grade and played a phenomenal game. Grzelcyk finished the game with one assist, three shots on goal, two hits, and one block, all in 19 minutes. For those who care about the plus/minus stat, he also finished as a plus-three. He served the game’s first penalty, though thankfully, the Bruins’ first place penalty kill unit silenced the Rangers. Grzelcyk has been playing most of his minutes with Charlie McAvoy, and they’re Bruce Cassidy’s best pairing. We will see these two paired together for a large portion of the playoffs, depending on matchups.
Charlie McAvoy (A+): McAvoy and Grzelcyk are the only two Bruins players with A+ grades. As the tweet above shows, they were the Bruins’ most effective defensive players. McAvoy continued his Norris Trophy caliber season. Charlie was also a plus-three while adding two assists, one shot on goal, and one hit, all in a team-leading 23:51 minutes. Below is a tweet that Conor Ryan originally pointed out how difficult it is to play against the Bruins’ top-line. Fellow Black n Gold writer Mike Cratty then points out how effective Grzelcyk and McAvoy are together. Before the eventual goal, McAvoy and Grzelcyk show off precise passing and keep the puck in the zone.
Brad Marchand (A): Marchand scored and provided an assist in 19:40 minutes. He had four shots on goal, which was the highest tied with three other Bruins players. His goal came on the powerplay, which was the Bruins’ only man-advantage goal of the afternoon. Marchand should have received an assist on his own goal (if it were possible) after some impressive hand-eye-coordination batting down the puck in mid-air at the Rangers’ blue line (video below). One moment in the game where I ding Marchand a bit was on one of the Rangers’ third-period goals; Marchand failed to get back to help in the defensive zone and watched the play unfold. Marchand is a tremendous two-way player, though I wish he had worked a bit harder on that play and maybe prevented a goal.
Patrice Bergeron (A): The captain played a solid game yesterday, scoring the Bruins’ fourth goal. The goal was Bergeron’s 23rd of the year, which is impressive in a shortened season. He was quite effective in all facets of the game, including face-off wins. Bergeron won 16 of a total of 21 face-offs last night. Bergeron’s season face-off percentage is currently 61.9%, which is 0.2% behind his career-high of 62.1%. The Bruins have three games left, and Bergeron may surpass this career-high.
David Pastrnak (A-): Pastrnak had a milestone afternoon. He scored his 20th goal yesterday, which was his 200th career NHL goal, and he became the third active player to score 200 regular-season goals and 20 playoff goals before the age of 25. The other two active players on that list are Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. In any conversation with the aforementioned two is an impressive feat, and Pastrnak is living up to what we’ve seen over the past few years. He needs to work on his defensive ability a bit more, being on the ice, most notably for one of the Rangers’ third periods goals, but he skates with two of the best defensive forwards in the game, so that part of his game will come.
David Krejci (B+): Krejci had a great game yesterday, despite the third period. He and his linemates put on a clinic in some cases, keeping the puck cycling in the offensive zone. Krejci received the only assist to Marchand’s powerplay goal. His one assist yesterday became his 512th, which puts him seventh all-time in Bruins history. Krejci fired three shots on goal and recorded 19:06 minutes of ice time. Surprisingly, Krejci was ineffective at the face-off dot, losing 10 of 15. He looks revitalized since joining forces with Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. Hopefully, this can continue in the playoffs.
Jake DeBrusk (B+): Now, this is the grade I want to see DeBrusk receiving. DeBrusk has looked great since his personal comments the other night, detailing how difficult it’s been with COVID and his gameplay. He has scored a goal and an assist in two games. This feat may not seem like much, and in a vacuum, it’s not. However, DeBrusk has had a really trying season, and he’s looking like himself recently. DeBrusk is an important cog in the Bruins’ wheel, and if he can continue to score, the Bruins will be a tough team to beat. He fired four shots on goal in 16 minutes. The time on ice is an important factor because it shows the trust Cassidy is regaining in him.
Taylor Hall (B+): Out of 15 games this year with Boston, Hall has yet to reach the score sheet in four games. If you can’t see that he is a new player with Boston, you may want to call your eye doctor. Hall has been one of Don Sweeney’s best trade acquisitions since he began as General Manager. While Hall didn’t score last night, it’s clear that he is making a positive impact every time he is on the ice. In the video below, he narrowly doesn’t score but picks up the loose puck out of harm’s way and carries it the length of the ice with his quick feet. If we can continue to see this Taylor Hall, the Bruins might go far in the playoffs.
Nick Ritchie (B): On a night where Nick Ritchie won a Bruins’ team award (see Moment of the Afternoon), Ritchie played a solid game. He only played 13 minutes, which is surprising, and finished the game with a minus-one rating. He scored Boston’s first goal of the game, which was also his 15th of the year, and sets a new career-high. Ritchie has been the Bruins workhorse on the powerplay. He has taken Milan Lucic’s role and parks his body to create a screen in front of the opposing goaltender. Not surprisingly, he’s used this technique during even strength and scored his only goal last night right out front.
Sean Kuraly (B-): Another player whose name I like to see this far up the grade chart is Sean Kuraly. Kuraly has had a rough season, like DeBrusk. He is in a contract year and may receive the Noel Acciari treatment. Kuraly has sat a few games this year to clear his mind, and recently, it’s looking like it’s benefiting him. While he didn’t have a stellar game, he was certainly playing to his strengths in the first and second period, being a constant terror to the Rangers in the offensive zone. With Charlie Coyle’s mysterious absence, Kuraly centered a line with DeBrusk and Ritchie. The trio is all left-handed shots, which is unusual for a single line. Games like these are what Kuraly should try to replicate going forward.
Brandon Carlo (B-): Some of these scores provided by Hockey Stat Cards are a bit skewed due to Boston’s terrible third period. Carlo, for example, had the second-highest expected goals-for and one of the lowest expected goals-against when on the ice. Carlo is not known for offensive skill but more for his defense. He started the game with Mike Reilly, proving to be a very effective and heavy defensive pairing in the future. Reilly has gone through a bit of a lull since his acquisition from Buffalo (see grade towards the bottom). But Reilly’s game could be a great compliment to Carlo’s. Carlo sits back (most of the time) and plays brick wall defense. Reilly plays similar to Grzelcyk and steps up into the play when necessary. Hopefully, more playing time for Carlo can create chemistry with Reilly before the playoffs.
Karson Kuhlman (C+): Kuhlman has been playing most of his year in Providence. With injuries and some players’ poor gameplay, he’s seen some time on the Bruins’ fourth line. He and Trent Frederic played the least amount of time last night, with only 9 minutes of ice time. Kuhlman delivered one hit and finished with a minus-one. He can be an effective fourth-line winger when he’s utilized properly. He has a wicked shot and has some impressive speed. Problem is, he was not effective last night and wasn’t used all that often.
Cutis Lazar and Trent Frederic (C): Both Frederic and Lazar finished with almost identical stats. Both finished with 0.2 expected goals and 0.2 expected goals-against stats. Both also finished as a minus-two and recorded a shot on goal each. Lazar, Frederic, and Kuhlman will likely not be a line in the playoffs, especially if Coyle can play soon. However, if Coyle is out for an extended period of time, Cassidy will need to do some line shuffling to see what works best for his bottom six. Though it seems to be a sin to speak his name into the lineup to some fans, a player who comes to mind is Ondrej Kase.
Tuukka Rask (C): Hockey Stat Cards gives Rask a lower score than I am, mainly due to letting in five. However, I’d argue four of the five were nearly impossible to save. Bruce Cassidy did call out his goaltender in saying he didn’t bail out the Bruins, but most of the goals were either screened shots or perfect passing plays. Rask was hung out to dry by his defense in the third. It’s likely the Bruins will play Rask one more time before the playoffs to shake this game off.
Jeremy Lauzon (C-): Lauzon receives extreme criticism, and most of it is unwarranted. There seems to be this comparison game being played on Twitter between Lauzon and Jakub Zboril. These two should not be compared as their game styles are extremely different. It is also telling that Zboril doesn’t play as often when there’s a healthy blue line. The “playoff six,” as some have called it, includes Lauzon, and he plays a pretty similar style to Carlo. All that said, Lauzon’s game yesterday wasn’t stellar. He was a minus-two and played 15 minutes. His defensive partner wasn’t much better, and we’ll get to that soon. Depending on how the lines shake out, Lauzon could be the Bruins’ third-defensive pairing with Kevan Miller.
Mike Reilly and Kevan Miller (D+): A game to forget for these two defensemen. They were the only two Bruins players who finished as a minus-three. Reilly played 20 minutes, while Miller 15. Both recorded just one shot on goal, and Miller led the team with two blocks. Two blocks is a bit unnerving as it means the Bruins were ineffective in stopping the Rangers’ chances. These two are locks for two of the spots on the blue line in the playoffs and this is a game they’ll want to forget.
Moment Of The Afternoon
As I said above, the Moment of the Afternoon belongs to Nick Ritchie, who received the most votes for the Bruins’ 7th Player Award. This award is voted on by the fans to the player who is the team’s unsung hero. Ritchie certainly turned his Boston career around after a horrible showing in last year’s playoffs. This year, he has set a new career-high in goals (15) and looks to be a breath of fresh air to the bottom six.