By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
By the time you read this, the Boston Bruins will have already completed their first playoff game against the Washington Capitals. The playoffs are indeed a new campaign where regular-season individual performances are often rendered moot. Stars sometimes go missing and bit players can step up to be the hero. Nonetheless, we’ve made it to this point of a condensed and abnormal season and it’s worth taking a look at how each player’s performances contributed to the regular season. As we’ve done all season, let’s break it down.
Below is an aggregate of the grades for each player in each quarter in addition to their mark for the overall season. In the report cards, we give letter grades and those have been converted here to numbers much like grade point average in school. A four equals an A and zero is an F. It would be impossible for a player to score a four cumulatively as it is just not possible to bring your A-game every night in the NHL. Players are human, play banged up, face elite competition, and sometimes just get unlucky. For a little more context on our grading system: An A means a player had a significant positive impact on the game and no real mistakes; a B signifies a good game but a little more limited results or with some minor mistakes; a C is a game where a player wasn’t as noticeable but made a couple of plays and had some mistakes but no major guffaws; a D signifies a player had a negative impact on the team throughout their minutes; and while we have yet to give out an F, though we did issue one F+, we could probably describe it as Nick Ritchie’s bubble game against Tampa Bay.
Jeremy Swayman and Taylor Hall tie for the lead albeit both in a limited sample size. There is no question that both played integral roles in the Bruins’ late-season push. After that, we see lots of the usual suspects with Boston’s first line, their top defender, and the of late seemingly ageless David Krejci. Another key name is Matt Grzelcyk. One of the bigger question marks going into the season was how Boston’s defense would respond with the loss of key pieces. The Massachusetts native proved his worth to the team when he was healthy enough to be in the lineup and his play on the top pair alongside McAvoy will be one of the key storylines of the first, and hopefully, subsequent rounds of the playoffs.
Players who struggled
Jake DeBrusk’s struggles are well documented this season whether it be from fans, the media, or his coach. His cumulative grades support that. Charlie Coyle flew under the radar a lot of the year but had a really disappointing campaign. He was paid to be the league’s premier third-line center and instead finished the season on the wing with the worst points/60 of his entire career. A player that I’d also like to highlight in this section is Brandon Carlo. The towering defensive-defenseman needed to take a step this year. His season was mediocre at best. Much can be attributed to his injury woes and less than ideal partners when healthy but Carlo is a player Boston needs to take a step in the coming playoffs and future seasons.
First versus second half
The Bruins season had some extreme highs and lows. For some players, the ups and downs of the NHL grind were felt more than others. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest movers was Patrice Bergeron. The captain was merely above average in the first half of the season before returning to his elite form in the latter stages. Other notable movements mostly come from younger players with one exception we will get to in the next section. Connor Clifton deserves a lot of credit for settling down and providing dependable depth after an erratic start to the season. As Clifton gained confidence, fellow young defender Jakub Zboril slid dramatically in the other direction. The capable puck-mover seemed to lose confidence in the second half of the season as he dealt with scratches due to injuries and the coach’s decisions. Finally, Trent Frederic is a fascinating case study. The spunky forward endeared himself to Bs fans in the early going with his abrasive style and effort. Illness and additions cost him his spot in the lineup and he never got back on track providing little when he found himself in the lineup.
Rask’s numbers require some context, not something that is always present in discussions of the polarizing netminder. His second half was extremely limited leading to a small sample size after dealing with injuries for virtually the entire middle section of the season. Nonetheless, his cumulative grade shows a player far-off from the Vezina conversation this year. Boston was lucky to have a dependable Jaroslav Halak mid-season and an upstart and rock-solid Swayman in the second half. How Rask responds to the challenge of the playoffs after lots of adversity the last 12-months will be one of the biggest storylines in the Bruins’ playoff run.
We are so grateful to our readers for taking the time to read each game’s report cards and to engage with us online. A big shoutout to my fellow writers Michael DiGiorgio, Max Mainville, and Andrew Johnson whose tireless work and enthusiasm made these possible. Our hope is to further utilize these over the summer for a more comprehensive analysis of each player’s season. For now, we will see you in the playoffs!