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Boston Bruins Midseason Report Card: Plenty of Straight A’s

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Boston Bruins

With the NHL regular season upon us, that also means it’s time for the midseason report cards for the Boston Bruins.

It’s going to be difficult to knock around a team that lost their first home game in regulation in mid-January and leads the NHL with a 32-5-4 record on the season, so we won’t even attempt to do it in most case. Is there a player or two that could step up their game in the second half? There most definitely is, but by and large the Bruins have been the story of the NHL in the season’s first half while running away from the other 31 teams.

“It’s been so fun, I think everybody in this group is having a great time,” said Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo. “It’s pretty impressive what we have been able to do, but we’re keeping our focus on certain things, like we talk about with our process, and we talk about focusing on the day to day and our process and that’s what got us to this point so hopefully it will continue to carry us.”

The NHL schedule has begun to slow the Boston Bruins down a little bit in the last six weeks, including a shutout loss to the Kraken earlier this week, but that’s the only thing that’s slowed Boston down. With the Boston Bruins focused on the process, here’s the midseason report card for the Black and Gold:

David Pastrnak – He’s second in the NHL with his 32 goals behind only Connor McDavid and is on pace for over 60 goals and 110 points this season. Sure, he has a turnover every once in a while, but Pastrnak is a dangerous, creative offensive force every time he’s on the ice and the one-timer has been on point pretty much all year. As Teddy KGB would say, pay the man his money. Grade: A+

Brad Marchand – The left winger hasn’t quite always been himself in the season’s first half while coming back from double-hip surgery last summer, but he’s still a point-per-game player and on pace for 26 goals and over 70 points after missing the first month of the season. No double he’ll be even better in the second half, but we can give him a solid grade thus far. Grade: A-.

Patrice Bergeron – In his 19th NHL season he’s on pace for 30 goals and 60 points and playing at a Selke Trophy level once again while simply not slowing down at all. Best of all it seems like the groin issues he was battling a few years ago have become a non-issue. Grade: A.

David Krejci – After skipping the NHL last year while playing home in the Czech Republic, Krejci has 11 goals and 31 points and is on pace for over 20 goals and 60 points while teaming with David Pastrnak and rotating left wingers. The Czech center has been an underrated, steady part of Boston’s surge to the top this year. Grade: B+.

Jake DeBrusk – Second on the team with 16 goals, played the Winter Classic hero with two third period goals to power them to a comeback win and has consistently played harder and with more effort with or without the puck. It feels like maturity has finally come for a player that’s always had the talent to play this way. Grade: A.

Taylor Hall – There are nights when Hall clearly doesn’t have it going, but he’s played in every game and is on pace for 26 goals and 58 points. He’s played hard and fast and has kept his effort level up even when he’s slotted on the third line with Charlie Coyle. He’s not the Hart Trophy-level player he was in Jersey, but his presence makes the Boston Bruins an extremely deep team. Grade: B.

Hampus Lindholm – The point production has slowed down a bit after a dominant stretch to open the season when Charlie McAvoy was missing, but Lindholm is still on pace for 10 goals and 56 points and is playing almost 24 minutes per game. He’s also tied for the NHL lead in plus/minus, which speaks to his dominant all-around play. Grade: A.

Pavel Zacha – The 24-year-old Czech forward doesn’t have dominant offensive numbers and is on pace for just 10 goals on the season. But he’s very effective and wins a ton of one-on-one battles while playing very smart, winning hockey. He’s been a great add and is in pace for 50 points, but ideally he pops in a few goals in the second half. Grade: B.

Charlie McAvoy – The Boston Bruins defenseman has been very good while coming back from shoulder surgery and is another player, like Marchand, that should be even better in the second half as he resumes his usual form. The one thing, as always, with McAvoy is shooting the puck more and producing a few more goals/offensive chances, but he and Hampus Lindholm have teamed to be a dominant force at the top of the back end. Grade: B+.

Charlie Coyle – Coyle is on pace for 20 goals and 46 points on the season and would be a plus-32 if he keeps playing at his current clip over the second half. That’s fantastic stuff from a third line center that’s healthy and playing with solid wingers. Great under-the-radar year from Coyle so far. Grade: A.

Nick Foligno – So many people were writing off the 35-year-old Foligno after scoring two goals last season, but he’s on pace for double-digit goals and close to 40 points while being a smart, energy fixture on Boston’s bottom-6 group of forwards. He’s also been invaluable from a leadership perspective and a key piece of Boston’s deep attack. Grade: A.

Trent Frederic – Another player that’s taken a big leap forward this season, Frederic is going to set career highs when this season is over and is on pace to get close to 20 goals on the season. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is still figuring out some of the nuances to playing his heavy, physical style, but he’s doing it while making fewer and fewer mistakes for a coach that isn’t going to bury him. That’s made all the difference. Grade: B+.

Matt Grzelcyk – The puck-moving defenseman is on pace for over 20 points, is a plus-20 and has been able to stay healthy after coming back from offseason surgery. There are always going to be times where his lack of size gets exploited, but Grzelcyk has bounced back well after persevering through injuries last year. Grade: B-.

Connor Clifton – One of the greatest beneficiaries of the coaching change, Clifton has been solid from beginning to end and is on pace for six goals and 24 points after really curbing his offensive risk game last season. And he’s upped the volume on his physical game as well. Clifton is playing himself into a solid contract this offseason in the last year of his deal with the Bruins. Grade: A.

Brandon Carlo – Carlo struggled for long stretches earlier this season but has recently found his game while logging his 18:44 of ice time and building up a plus-20 mark to this point. The question with Carlo is whether he can continue to stay healthy and play the gritty, physical game needed from him as a big-bodied shutdown guy. Grade: B-.

AJ Greer – The fourth liner had a strong, energetic start to the season, but he’s been in and out of the lineup as of late while sometimes not being able to stay on the right side of the physical/energy line for the Black and Gold. He’s still fast and physical with unrealized potential, but he’s been pretty inconsistent in his role. Grade: C.

Derek Forbort – All you need to know about Forbort’s value is how much the Boston Bruins penalty kill unit struggled while he was out of the lineup with a finger injury in November. He’s not a big points/offense guy, but he’s the kind of nasty defenseman that teams need to do the dirty work if they are going to win hockey games. Grade: A.

Tomas Nosek – The fourth line center is strong on faceoffs and kills penalties, and he memorably snapped his goal-scoring drought in the first half. But there are a lot of options at fourth line center for the Boston Bruins as they come down the stretch. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for Nosek, who brings consistent smarts, energy and toughness. Grade: C+.

Craig Smith – Two goals in 27 games and the only minus player among Boston Bruins players that have played a significant portion of the schedule. Smith has had some decent games, but he’s really having a hard time maintaining it when he gets in on a regular basis. This would be a place where the Bruins can upgrade their roster in the second half of the year. Grade: D.

Jakub Zboril – Zboril essentially lost the coach’s confidence when he turned a puck over in a game-turning goal in a loss to Florida right before Thanksgiving and hasn’t been seen much since then. He’ll need an injury to even get a chance to get back into the lineup, but the bet here is he’ll be further down the depth chart after the B’s bring in a D-man at the NHL trade deadline. He’s got talent and he’s improved his work ethic, but a change of scenery may end up being good for him. Grade: F.

Linus Ullmark – He leads the NHL in wins, goals against average and save percentage and has seized the No. 1 goaltending gig with the Boston Bruins in a situation where the B’s wanted it to be a true tandem. One of the biggest factors in how dominant they’ve become this season, Ullmark was richly rewarded with a deserved All-Star game bid. Grade: A+.

Jeremy Swayman – It’s been a season of growth and some growing pains for Swayman, who ultimately has rebounded to form a solid bond once again with Ullmark. The adversity this season will make him a better goalie in the long run and it’s impossible to quibble with a 9-3-3 record. He may not lead the league in any categories, but his NHL goalie hugs are elite. Grade: B.

Jim Montgomery – There was tons of uproar when the Boston Bruins fired Bruce Cassidy this summer, but Montgomery has been exactly what this group needed. He’s been hands off in a lot of situations while making some very key tweaks offensively that have unleashed the best from many of his players. Montgomery has to be the favorite for the Jack Adams right now. Grade: A+.

Don Sweeney – Sweeney will always have some critics. It comes with the gig. But let’s face it, the Linus Ullmark signing and the Hampus Lindholm trade have been major parts of this dominant Boston Bruins group this season. He’s hit with the big moves over the last few seasons while getting Bergeron and Krejci to agree to bargain contracts for one last run. He’s put the team in a good spot, but a lot will ride on how he closes on the Pastrnak negotiations. The one big demerit that keeps Sweeney from getting a perfect mark is the Mitch Miller situation, but the Bruins have even rebounded from that really unnecessary, self-inflicted drama. Grade: A-.

 

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