The Bruins have hit the official midpoint in their season, and they are exactly where they should be: first in the division, second in the conference and a mere three points behind the Penguins with a game in hand, and still not very close to a peak performance they’ll hit a few months down the road.
They’ve had some breakout performances from players, and disappointing efforts from others. There have been injuries, illness and a 15-game suspension by the NHL that prompted Tuukka Rask to sport a “Free Thornton” T-shirt around the B’s dressing room this week. With all of that in mind, here is a midseason report card for the Bruins:
David Krejci (B+) – The B’s newest alternate captain is right on schedule for a 20-goal, 70-point season, he’s winning 51 percent of his face-offs, is a plus-16 and is pacing for the most power play points of his career. Krejci is also the only Bruins forward that averages more than 19 minutes of ice time per game while playing in every situation. He gets a half-grade subtraction for a lull in November, but other than that he’s been great.
Reilly Smith (A+) – Smith already has career-highs in every offensive category and has surprised just about everybody in the Bruins organization while becoming the second-leading scorer on the team. He’s got the 7th Player Award written all over him.
Milan Lucic (A) – The Bruins power forward is on pace for 24 goals and 60 points, and has been among the B’s most consistent performers this season. It’s been a nice bounce-back from last year’s disappointing lockout campaign when Lucic was never in true playing shape until the playoffs.
Jarome Iginla (B+) – Iginla had a bit of a slow start, but seems to have been energized by his visit back home to Calgary with five goals and seven points in the seven games since that memorable game. He’s on pace for 26 goals and 50 points. Little known fact: Iginla leads all Bruins with a plus-18 rating.
Patrice Bergeron (B) – He’s been exactly what you’d expect him to be: on pace for 20 goals and 50 points, winning 61 percent of his face-offs and tied with David Krejci for second on the B’s with a plus-16 rating.
Brad Marchand (C+) – This was a much lower grade until the last few weeks when Marchand hit a hot streak after being sent to the principal’s office for his Vancouver antics. It would seem Marchand has finally found his game, and is now on pace for 20 goals this season.
Carl Soderberg (C+) – The Big Swede has been difficult to read. There are times when his offensive skill and big, strong frame have dominated shifts and created offensive plays, but he’s also disappeared at points this season while joining Gregory Campbell as one of the only two B’s players with a minus rating after more than 30 games played. He may become a bigger factor come playoff time given his willingness to go to the dirty areas.
Torey Krug (A-) – Krug has hit a dry spell recently, but he’s been the single biggest factor in the improved power play for the Bruins this season. He’s been an offense-starter from the point position, and his abilities allowed the B’s coaching staff to put Zdeno Chara down low.
Zdeno Chara (B+) – Chara is on a pace for 18 goals thanks to his duties down low on the power play, and has shrugged off a very sluggish start to the season coming off last year’s long postseason. He averages more than three minutes of ice time more than anybody else on the Boston roster.
Loui Eriksson (B-) – One gets the sense this could quickly become a lost year for Eriksson, who never fully found his stride in between a pair of hellacious concussion. It’s too bad because he really showed what kind of an asset he could be while playing in November.
Johnny Boychuk (B+) – Pop Quiz: which defenseman leads the Bruins with a plus-16 rating? Clearly, it’s Boychuk given that this is his midseason grade blurb, but that’s a tribute to his consistency with so much swirling on around him.
Dennis Seidenberg (A) – A straight ‘A’ for a great team presence on and off the ice that will be missed come playoff time. There’s no way of replacing him as Zdeno Chara’s playoff defensemen partner.
Dougie Hamilton (B) – Dougie isn’t producing offensively at a big clip, but he’s become much more comfortable defending in his own end of the ice. That was the big mission for this year, and he’s had some good moments. Hamilton is still the best local candidate to step up in Seidenberg’s absence.
Matt Bartkowski (C+) – Tough to grade because he’s been in and out of the lineup without a really well-defined role, but Bart continues to show the talent to be a top-four defenseman. He’s been perfectly good when called upon.
Daniel Paille (C) – Paille has killed penalties, is on pace to score 10 goals and has been his speedy, gritty self in his fourth line role. But he just hasn’t been the same kind of impact player he was on the fourth line last season.
Chris Kelly (C) – Kelly had a nice first month to the season, but went ice cold over the last couple months before Pascal Dupuis broke his ankle with a slash on Dec. 7. He’s now being pushed for that third line center spot.
Gregory Campbell (C-) – This is a tough grade as Campbell is one of the real good guys in the Bruins dressing room, and inadvertently became the image of playoff hockey after he kept playing with a broken leg last spring.
Adam McQuaid (B) – The McQuaid grade is based on a few more fights like the one he jumped into with Eric Nystrom prior to Christmas, and the snarl McQuaid needs to bring to the ice with him every night.
Shawn Thornton (C) – The B’s enforcer was having a solid, not great, season in Boston until the Brooks Orpik incident happened at the beginning of December. Thornton will need to shake that one off a bit.
Jordan Caron (F) – How Caron has managed to post a team-worst minus-5 rating with limited ice time and few offensive chances is completely beyond me. He’s nothing but a first round bust at this point.
Tuukka Rask (A) – Rask has bobbled a couple of pucks and perhaps been caught watching once or twice on wraparound attempts, but there’s good reason behind him one of the leading Vezina Trophy candidates this season.
Chad Johnson (D) – The numbers are okay for Johnson, but he’s got the benefit of playing behind a stellar defense. The wraparounds and the sloppy technique have lead to soft goals for the Bruins.