By Dan Cellucci | Follow Me @Cellucci_Dan14
With ten regular-season games remaining, now is the time that every player needs to be fine tuning their game and maximizing their line chemistry. Over the last week, a few players have stood out and taken their game to the next level, while others have significantly seen their stock drop. In a perfect world, every player would have their stock rise and play to perfection. We all know that is an impossible dream, but we can at least hope that those whose stock has dropped can bounce back in time for the playoffs. That being said, I am not so sure about this group. Here are my two Stock Rising and two Stock Falling players of the week.
Linus Ullmark has been stellar of late, and it does not take a hockey expert or analytics nerd to see that. He has made the crucial saves when needed and improved his technical play immensely. Before yesterday’s loss to the Washington Capitals, Ullmark had posted a 6-0-0 record with a .938 save percentage over his previous six starts. Ullmark ranks first in the NHL in the last two weeks with a .940 save percentage (min. five games played). His angles and rebound control have significantly improved of late, and while he still has the occasional giveaway of the puck behind the net, Ullmark has shown he can make up for it with a big save. Bruins fans have been digging into Jeremy Swayman’s struggles of late but still expect to see a mix of both goaltenders come playoff time. For now, we can call Linus Ullmark the unquestioned starter and one of the league’s hottest goalies.
Since the trade deadline, Erik Haula has been playing like the league’s top second-line center. Since March 21st, Haula ranks 27th in the NHL with 12 points in his last ten games. Of those 26 players ahead of him, Haula has the lowest time-on-ice per game and lowest powerplay time-on-ice (the next closest player average of 0:42 more on the PP). Now, who knows if Haula would be able to produce at the same level if he were getting the time on ice that first liners do, but one would think he would be at the top of the league in recent performance if he did. It is safe to say that Haula has put to bed the cries of Bruins fans who wanted General Manager Don Sweeney to acquire a 2nd line Center at the trade deadline. This guy is red hot, and let’s hope it continues into the postseason.
Last week, I was complaining about defenseman Mike Reilly getting too much ice time as his struggles built up. This week, Derek Forbort has shown that he cannot handle any more duties than those of a bottom pairing defenseman. In the last three games, Forbort has been on the ice for seven of the eight goals that the team has given up. A dreadful defensive performance against the Detroit Red Wings, followed by another -3 disaster against the Capitals on Sunday, has many Bruins fans shaking their heads. The first three times that Forbort touched the puck yesterday, he turned it over and gave the Capitals the puck in Boston’s offensive zone. While he is a big body and can eat minutes on the penalty kill, Forbort has not exactly been the physical player the Bruins had needed. Since the calendar flipped on January 1st, Forbort ranks 211th in the NHL with a -3 rating (to put that in perspective, Matt Grzelcyk ranks 5th with a +23). With ten games remaining in the regular season, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has experimented with his defensive pairings. At this rate, Forbort may not even be in the lineup when in reality, the Bruins need him for a deep playoff run.
Trent Frederic has been a regular on the 11-12-13 line with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith since Bruce Cassidy made the lineup changes a few months back. Frederic is not known for his offensive abilities, more so for his physicality and aggressive forechecking. His stock has not dropped because he is not putting up goals or points; instead, his overall puck handling has been atrocious. He is lackadaisical at times, leaving his own zone and turning the puck over, which has led to numerous offensive chances and even goals for the opposition. Compared to players like Anton Blidh and Oskar Steen, Frederic could be one more turnover away from succeeding playing time to either of them. Frederic has done a decent job of staying out of the penalty box, but we all know that his inexperience and hotter temper could lead to a loss of cool at any second. I am not entirely worried and expect an improvement with ten games remaining before the playoffs.