Now that the regular season has come to an end, it’s time to look back on the season and contemplate on how things went for the Boston Bruins. One popular way of doing this is to grade the team in certain criteria, like a school report card. It’s a formula that seems to work, so why venture far from it? So here we go.
It’s hard not to give the Bruins an “A” here. After all, the B’s were tied for second in the league in scoring, averaging 3.17 goals a game, behind only the potent Pittsburgh Penguins. But the inconsistencies in the offense kept the grade down a little bit. It seemed as though the Bruins were either blowing teams out of the arena or struggling to score a goal. By the end of the season, the Bruins had scored one goal or less in 18 games (7 shutouts), and scored six or more goals 13 times.
As far as individual players go, it is hard not to be impressed by the balance of scoring between all the lines. Six players had over 20 goals, while four more players had over 10 goals. Injured forward Nathan Horton (concussion) had 17 goals in 46 games. Tyler Seguin led the team with 29 goals and 67 points. No Bruin finished in the top 25 in the league in goals, assists, or points, yet they were still second in the league in scoring.
So much relies on the Bruins playing great defense under coach Claude Julien‘s system. These Bruins didn’t disappoint. Captain Zdeno Chara led NHL defensemen with a +33 ranking and should be a Norris Trophy nominee. What does it say when Adam McQuaid, the Bruins sixth defenseman and worst offensive talent, is a +16? The only liability on defense was the play of Joe Corvo, who fumbled his way through 75 games for the Bruins, making bad decisions with the puck and consistently turning the puck over. By the end of the season, Corvo was a healthy scratch for several games to make room for newly acquired Greg Zanon.
Yes, we all know that Tim Thomas struggled this year compared to last year’s Vezina Trophy winning performance, but at the same time, we all had to expect it from the 37 year old goaltender. But he did manage to play well through the first part of the year before coming into troubles in the middle part. He finished the year with a 2.36 GAA and a .920 save %, both good for 12th among goalies who played 20 or more games. Tuukka Rask played in 23 games and finishes with a 2.05 GAA and .929 save % before getting injured in a March 3rd game against the New York Islanders, prompting the Bruins to sign veteran goalie Marty Turco, who struggled mightily in just a few appearances. Tuukka may be back for the second round of the playoffs. In the meantime, Anton Khudobin will back up Thomas.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Once again, the Bruins power play was the achilles heel of the offense. The problem with the aforementioned balanced scoring is that there is no real “go to” guy on the power play. There is no sniper, no setup man, and no quarterback. I’ve seen Patrice Bergeron, Rich Peverley and Brian Rolston all work the points on the PP trying to generate something. All for a success rate of 17.2%, 15th in the league. The 15.2 PP% at home ranked 25th in the league.
As for the penalty kill, the 83.5% rate ranked 11th in the league. Both the PK and PP were better on the road than at home, something to keep in mind since the B’s have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs (and hopefully more).
The Bruins have a reputation of being tough. Some might even call them bullies. Whatever you want to call them, you can’t deny that the B’s have an ample amount of players willing to hit, be hit, and fight. The Bruins ranked second in the league in fighting majors with 61, behind only the New York Rangers with 65. Winger Shawn Thornton led the Bruins and tied for the league lead with 20 fights and 13 other Bruins dropped the gloves as well. According to Hockeyfights.com, where fans vote on the winners, the Bruins record in those 61 fights was 37-16-8. Forward Milan Lucic and defenseman Adam McQuaid both went 6-0-0 by pretty decided margins.
One of the reasons the penalty kill percentage was relatively low was the fact that the Bruins were short two men on a 3 on 5 PK too much. The B’s gave up the most goals in the NHL while short two men (8). But when the Bruins play that tough style of play that helps them win, it also leads to extra penalties. The Bruins were too willing to throw that extra punch in the scrum, and slash that extra shin behind the play, often leading to time in the penalty box. With the playoffs around the corner, the B’s will need to remedy that.
What are the intangibles? Well, I’ll just throw some stats out there to show you.
- The Bruins were the best face-off team in the league, winning 54.5% of the draws. Bergeron was the star, winning almost 60% of his draws.
- The top five players in the league in +/- were all Bruins, once again led by Bergeron at +36
- The Bruins were the only team in the NHL with a perfect record when leading after two periods, going 32-0-0. Plus the B’s were also the best when leading after the first period, going 23-2-0 for a .920 win %
- The B’s were the third best team when trailing after two periods, going 7-22-2. Only Pittsburgh and the Nashville Predators did better.
- The Bruins were the best team when scoring the first goal of the game, going 31-5-0 for a .861 win %.
- The Bruins had the most goals in the third period, netting 108. They only gave up 66 in that time for a +42 ratio.
- Once again, the B’s were great 5 on 5, with a GF/GA ratio of 1.32, good for 3rd best in the league.
This grade shouldn’t be anything less. The Bruins finished ranked second overall in the Eastern Conference with a 49-29-4 record and a Northeast Division title. They also ranked 7th overall in the league in terms of points. However, I gave them a “B+” instead of an “A-” based on a mediocre middle of the season, when the Bruins went 8-13-1 from the beginning of February to the middle of March. While the season did have it’s ups and downs, the Bruins play overall was decent and entertaining. It’s a long season and every team goes through problems at some point. The Bruins seemed to have worked out those problems, going 9-2-1 in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, including a 2-1 road win against the Conference leading Rangers.
Last year’s Bruins team finished with one more point, but three less wins and they have the experience to make a good playoff run. Most of the team from last year’s Stanley Cup Champions have returned, and they seem motivated to repeat.