Boston Bruins Mid Season Report Cards: Forwards

The forwards on the Boston Bruins are what you expected it to be before the season began. Just okay.

 

There were some pleasant surprises like the growth of David Pastrnak right before our eyes, the ability that Dominic Moore brings to the team and among others. However with the team ranked only 21st in the NHL in goals at the halfway point, is concerning. The Bruins are going to need more firepower from their offense in the 2nd half especially if the defense starts to fall apart at the end of the season just like last years team did.

 

Some players I’m going to be a little tougher on than others just purely based on what the player expectations were before the season. Here are my mid season report cards for the forwards of the Boston Bruins.

 

 

Left Wing Grades:

 

Brad Marchand: A-

Goals: 12        Assists: 22      Points: 34       +/-: +3

 

Marchand was by far the most consistent performer in the first half. He leads the team in points while still being one of the best agitators in the game today. Despite not having a multi point game since the home opener of the season till last night’s game against the Panthers, he always manages to find a way to make a difference in the game. Marchand will need a hell of a 2nd half to catch up to his goal total of last year but with ability of his linemates of Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, I could definitely see Brad reaching the 37 goal mark again.

 

Ryan Spooner: C

Goals: 7           Assists: 12      Points: 19       +/-: -1

 

This was one of the toughest grades to give just because how up and down Spooner has been. Spooner’s primary position is center but with the given depth Boston has at center they moved Spooner to left wing and has stuck there for most of the year. Spooner has always been the pass first type of player but given his new role playing with David Krejci and David Backes, he’s now forced more to shoot now than ever which hasn’t exactly worked. Spooner’s on pace for 14 goals, which barley beats last seasons total but he needs to start finding consistent chemistry with his new linemates.

 

Tim Schaller: B-

Goals: 5           Assists: 6        Points: 11       +/-: 6

 

Here’s one of those pleasant surprises I was talking about. Absolutely no one knew whom this guy was coming into camp. As soon as Schaller made the team, he took off in his new 4th line role with the club. Schaller is a hard working type of player and plays a physical game with 4th line responsibilities. Claude Julien loves those types of players. Injuries then plagued Matt Beleskey and David Backes that meant Schaller was then forced into the team’s top 6 but didn’t have much success. Perfect 4th line role player, just not suited for a bigger role than that.

 

Matt Beleskey: D+

Goals: 2           Assists: 3        Points: 5         +/-: -6

 

One of my favorites on the team is having a down year thus far for the black and gold. Beleskey like Schaller, plays a hard-nosed type of game, works hard and plays a great 3rd line role. What’s the problem? Well there are two; one being that Beleskey needs to find more consistency crashing the net looking for more dirty goals. The other problem is he’s getting paid 3 million dollars more than a guy like Schaller who effectively could play the same style of game. Beleskey went out with a knee injury in the beginning of December and still has yet to return.

 

Anton Blidh: C

Goals: 1           Assists: 1        Points: 2         +/-: Even

 

Sweden born Anton Blidh came up from the Providence Bruins looking to shake things up for the Bruins bottom 6 and he sure has done that. Anton is quietly one of the feistiest players on the ice for the Bruins night after night. Blidh constantly looks to agitate and frustrate the opposition. Surprised no one has caught him having 0 PIM. Wish we can see more of Blidh than the 6-9 minutes we’re given a night. I think he deserves more of a look.

 

Center Grades:

 

Patrice Bergeron: B

Goals: 8           Assists: 6        Points: 14       +/-: -2

 

Bergeron while going unnoticed is not having the best of seasons. His two-way role is still up there among the best in the game with other top centers like Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Ryan Kesler. In the offensive department however he hasn’t had the same impact as the players I just mentioned. This is arguably the best line he’s have ever been on his career (obviously aside from 2011’s line of Marchand and future hall of famer Mark Recchi) with budding superstar David Pastrnak and his best friend Brad Marchand. Many people believe he’s being hampered with an injury from the World Cup of Hockey tournament he played at in September, which could be entirely possible. The Bruins should and will get more from Bergeron as the season goes on.

 

David Krejci: B-

Goals: 9           Assists: 17      Points: 26       +/-: -7

 

Krejci had a tough start to the year going his first 11 games without a goal and only 4 assists in that span. Since then Krejci has been much better with 9 goals and 13 assists in 31 games. The playmaking center has been adjusting to new linemates what seems like all season long. As a matter of fact, 8 different players played on his line, which makes it tough for any player to find chemistry. Krejci’s bread and butter has always been his work on the power play and he’s doing well again this year with 8 power play points (2nd on the team) halfway through the campaign. David will need another hot end to the year to eclipse the 60-point plateau however.

 

Austin Czarnik: C+

Goals: 5           Assists: 7        Points: 12       +/-: -3

 

Originally Czarnik started the year at left wing and was rather ineffective at his role on the 3rd line. Since then the Bruins moved Austin to his natural position at center in hopes to spark the young 24 year old. Sure enough, he looks rejuvenated and happy to be at center. Czarnik is the spark plug the Bruins need in their bottom 6 on a nightly basis. Seems like every night for the past month he’s been getting great opportunities. He’s the little engine that could, and I expect him to be even better in the 2nd half.

 

Dominic Moore: B+

Goals: 8           Assists: 4        Points: 12       +/-: +5

 

How great of a late offseason acquisition has this guy been? Surely his production won’t stay this way in the 2nd half but man, Dominic Moore has been one of the best and most consistent centers on this team this year. Moore has embraced Claude Juliens 4th line role with ease and his penalty killing has been a big reason why the team ranks 2nd in penalty killing. He’s also 2nd on the team in faceoff percentage at 53.8%. If somehow, Dominic Moore keeps these offensive numbers up, he might even get a better grade from me at the end of the season.

 

Right Wing Grades:

 

David Pastrnak: A

Goals: 19        Assists: 9        Points: 28       +/-: +12

 

So this is the hype train everyone kept talking about. It took me awhile but I’m finally aboard this hype train and so should you. Right from the drop of the puck, Pastrnak has been among the leagues best players. Pastrnak is one of the single reasons why the Bruins are where they are today. Pastrnak is in the NHL’s top 5 in goals scored and dangerous weapon on the power play with a heavy slap shot. He gets my vote to be in the NHL All Star Game. However recently he’s in the longest goal drought of his career at 9 games. Though you shouldn’t worry given Pastrnak’s natural goal scoring ability and playing with superstars Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

 

David Backes: B

Goals: 10        Assists: 10      Points: 20       +/-: -1

 

The Bruins biggest signing of the offseason hasn’t disappointed in his first year with the team. Backes is one of the leagues toughest players and plays with an edge, which Bruins fans absolutely fall in love with. Backes is flourishing as of late with 11 points in 16 games as he’s starting to find chemistry with veteran center David Krejci. Backes is one of the most versatile players on the team given he can play both the wing and center positions which is good to have on any team. The power forward is showing the world why the Bruins made him priority #1 last season with his consistent rock solid game.

 

Riley Nash: D

Goals: 2           Assists: 5        Points: 7        +/-: -3

 

We go from good offseason acquisitions to poor ones. Nash was picked up to fill a 4th line role with the team and hasn’t been able to get anything going as it seems. Even though these are the numbers you kind of expect from a career 4th line player, you’d like to see a little more from Nash who played a few games with Bergeron and Marhand while Pastrnak was out. I’ll also never understand why he’s the player the Bruins choose if someone in the top 6 gets injured to fill that role. He plays the penalty kill pretty well and he’s a versatile player that can play both wing and center but that’s about it. It’ll take a big push for Nash to replicate his numbers last year when he played for the Carolina Hurricanes.

 

Noel Acciari: C-

Goals: 0           Assists: 2        Points: 2         +/-: Even

 

I hate to go all Pierre McGuire on you guys, but I need to explain Noel Acciari’s game. Acciari is a defensive forward that played college for the Providence Friars for 3 years and captured a national championship in his senior year. He also received an award as Hockey East’s best defensive forward. In his small sample size with the Bruins this year he has not done well producing offensive opportunities and nor will he. Noel’s job is purely based on preventing the other team to score, laying out huge hits and his work on the penalty kill. Acciari’s done a solid job in those facets of the game.

 

Jimmy Hayes: F

Goals: 2           Assists: 1        Points: 3        +/-: -3

 

Saving the best one for last! Where do I even begin? Lets start with how Jimmy Hayes didn’t record a point for 35 games – 16 last season and 19 this season. That’s hard to do especially with a player of Jimmy Hayes size who should be in front of the net at all times. At a point we even had this player on one of our power play unit. That’s how desperate you are when the team power play is ranked 25th in the NHL. For a guy that was traded for Reilly Smith you would’ve hoped for at least equal production from a player of that caliber. Nope! Instead we have this big oaf out there that’s consistently floating around waiting for his next opportunity. Just for instance in his last 5 games he has a grand total of 2 shots on goal with 2 PIM in almost 50 minutes of ice time. Why this guy keeps getting ice time is a mystery to me.

 

Incomplete Grades: Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen and Frank Vatrano

 

 

 

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preview: Bruins VS Blue Jackets

The Christmas break has come and gone, the NHL is back in business and all is right in the world again with 10 total games on Tuesday’s NHL slate. One of those is a physical matchup that features the Boston Bruins who head back out on the road to Nationwide Arena to take on the red hot Columbus Blue Jackets. Watch the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams as the puck drops at 7 PM EST on NESN.

The Rundown:

Well who would’ve thought the Columbus Blue Jackets would be in first place in the NHL at the holiday break? With a record of 23-5-4, Columbus is a danger team and have been on fire all season long. These sizzling Jackets have yet to lose in December and are currently riding a 12 game winning streak heading into their matchup with the Bruins. The current winning streak also holds as the franchise record. Jackets will go for lucky number 13 in a row tonight at home in a suddenly packed house at Nationwide Arena. Columbus only has 5 regulation losses in 32 games but two of those losses have come against the Bruins.

Boston however, is trending the other way with 7 losses in their last 10 games and are looking to right the ship against the NHL’s best. Lack of goal scoring and the backup goaltending situation has made this team a roller coaster to watch on a nightly basis. The Black and Gold also need more from their special teams starting with their power play as they’re ranked 28th overall only converting 13.9 %. That’s not going to get it done. Tweaks will be needed if the power play continues to struggle. On the other side of special teams, the B’s have a stout penalty kill unit as they’re ranked 3rd in the NHL killing off 87.3 % of penalties. Their PK has a tough test Tuesday night as they go up against the Blue Jackets who currently own the #1 power play in hockey at 26.9 %.

Player Spotlight:

Nineteen-year-old Zach Werenski is having one hell of a season for Columbus thus far and he has a lot to do with the Blue Jackets success on the power play. His stat line is pretty interesting, 6 goals, 15 assists and 21 points but 11 of those points have come on the power play. These numbers are proving to be Calder Memorial trophy worthy, but with a crowded rookie class this year of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Jimmy Vesey, Patrick Laine and Matt Murray, it’ll be awfully tough for the 1st year defenseman to take home the Calder.

Patrice Bergeron is a top star in the NHL and has graced Bruins fans for years with his well-rounded game, clutch game winning goals, and extreme amount of toughness. All that being said, he has not gotten off to the best start this season. As a matter of fact, this is his worst offensive start to a season he has had in his career. Bergeron still plays a fantastic two way game but has not found the score sheet much at all this year. With only 5 goals, 5 assists and 10 points in 33 games played it’s not like this is a small sample size. Those are atrocious numbers for a player of Bergeron’s caliber. The Bruins are going to need to get him going as soon as possible if their going to want any chance to get back into the playoffs, something they haven’t done since 2014.

Projected Lines:

Boston:

Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner/Tim Schaller—David Krejci—David Backes

Frank Vatrano—Austin Czarnik—Riley Nash

Anton Blidh—Dominic Moore—Jimmy Hayes/Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara—Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller—Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

Columbus:

Brandon Saad—Alexander Wennberg—Nick Foligno

Boone Jenner—Brandon Dubinsky—Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert—William Karlsson—Josh Anderson

Scott Hartnell—Lukas Sedlak—Sam Gagner

Zach Werenski— Seth Jones

Jack Johnson—David Savard

Ryan Murray—Markus Nutivaara

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Storylines:

At morning skate, Bruins defenseman John Michael Liles skated with the team for the first time since the concussion he suffered on November 27th. Coach Claude Julien confirmed that he’s been skating for a few times on his own but still not cleared for contact. With Liles on his way back from injury, it’ll be interesting to see what the B’s do with their defense, as they will have 8 defenseman on the roster upon his return.

Game-day Prediction:

4-3 Boston

Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports