January 10th, 2014 by

Bruins Daily mid-season report cards: defensemen/goalies

Bruins Daily mid-season report cards: defensemen/goalies

Throughout the next three days at Bruins Daily, the staff will grade the Bruins roster through the midway point of the season. Today we’ll focus on the Bruins forwards. Check back tomorrow on Boston.com with a photo gallery featuring our assessments.

There’s no denying that the Bruins are really missing Dennis Seidenberg on the back end. Some of the grades you’ll see were effected by Seidenberg’s season-ending ACL/MCL injury. Peter Chiarelli has his work cut out for him at the trade deadline, but in the meantime, here’s our mid-season grades for the rest of the B’s blue-line and goaltending.

Zdeno Chara (Chris Chirichiello)

If there is another player the Bruins can ill-afford to lose, it is this man. We saw what happened when he missed a game due to an undisclosed injury in Ottawa a few weeks ago. The defense lost their identity and the number of shots Tuukka Rask faced was very unBruinlike.

With the defense badly depleted, Chara has been the one constant. Now that Dennis Seidenberg is out for the year with an ACL/MCL injury, Chara has to take on more minutes and play an even bigger role (if that is even possible).

He is the heartbeat and leader of the defense and team for that matter. He matches up with the best forwards in the world and shuts them down (just ask Sidney Crosby). His strength and his reach make him so hard to play against. Bruins forwards have to be happy that No.33 is on their side.

Chara has nine goals on the season, including six power play goals and three-game winners. His six power play tallies are just one of many factors in the much improved B’s man advantage.

His stats don’t even matter, though. The way he plays the game is the right way. His presence on the ice alone put fear in the opposition. If the Bruins ever lost No.33 for an extended period of time, they would be in trouble.

Grade: A

Johnny Boychuk (Tim Rosenthal)

At times, Johnny Boychuk can make some wonderful plays – big hits, his trademark Johnny Rocket, stout D, and more. But in other instances, like his turnover Thursday night in Los Angeles that led to the Kings’ first goal, Boychuk can be very sloppy.

With two goals in 41 games, Boychuk has already surpassed his goal total from last year. His plus-15 rating is good for a tie for second with Patrice Bergeron.

Whether he’s paired with Matt Bartkowski or Zdeno Chara, Boychuk is a solid presence on the Bruins’ back end. But with Dennis Seidenberg’s season ending injury, Boychuk, who is now the second longest tenured defenseman on the Black and Gold, is going to have to step his game up. Moreover, he’s going to need to bounce back after an off night, like he had in LA.

Regardless of whoever Chiarelli acquires at the trade deadline, Claude Julien is going to need a lot from the soon to be 30-year old. Good thing is, Boychuk is more than capable of handling his own weight. He just needs to keep his game simple going forward.

Grade: B

Dennis Seidenberg (Dan St. Pierre)

How do you replace a defenseman that consistently logs over 20 minutes a game? How do you replace a defenseman that logs over 25 minutes a game in the playoffs matching up against the NHL’s best forwards?

Injuries have plagued Boston throughout the 2013-14 regular season campaign, but losing Seidenberg for the season is nearly a death blow for one of the NHL’s best shorthanded units. So far in six games played without Seidenberg in the lineup, the Bruins shorthanded unit is 15-for-23 (65.2%), including a stretch of four games which Boston allowed seven goals in just 15 opportunities (53.3%). To comprehend how dreadful the Bruins are performing with a man down right now, just remember the New York Islanders rank dead last in the NHL in Penalty-Kill Percentage at 73.7.

It’s time for GM Peter Chiarelli to act now, rather than after the Olympic break, in using Providence personnel depth to acquire a veteran defenseman, preferably one of the shutdown nature.

“Peter Chiarelli on line 1 for Mark Stuart…”

Grade: B

Matt Bartkowski (Anthony Travalgia)

With the season ending injury to Dennis Seidenberg, Bartkowski now has himself a permanent spot on the Bruins blue line. When everyone was healthy, Bartkowski was usually the odd man out, something Bartkowski never seemed to let bother him. Every Time his name has been called, Bartkowski has done the job asked, and as a fan, you can’t really ask for more.

Bartkowski doesn’t bring the offensive punch that Krug does, but in his own zone Bartkowski is very solid. He’s had a very quiet year, and any defensemen will tell you that’s not a bad thing. Bartkowski is a big body, and he knows how to use it.

The Pittsburgh native will be a solid blueliner for years to come.

Grade: B-

Torey Krug (Anthony Travalgia)

It’s been a strange season for the first year defensemen. From an offensive standpoint, Krug has been lights out as Krug has been scoring left and right, but defensively, well yeah, Krug has been bad.

Krug’s 10 goals tie him with Shea Weber, Dustin Byfuglien and Erik Karlsson for the league lead in goals by a defenseman. Pretty good company, eh? Krug has also been a big reason as to why the Bruins have been able to turn their power play around and become one of the league’s best with the man advantage.

From a defensive standpoint Krug has struggled this season. Between turnovers and poor positioning its been a rough go in his own zone. With that being said, you can’t take away from what he has done offensively. It’s certainly been fun to watch.

Grade: B

Dougie Hamilton (Tim Rosenthal)

Dougie’s rookie season had its peaks and valleys during the 2013 lockout shortened season. At times, he showed glimpses of brilliance, while at other times he looked like a young defenseman going through some growing pains.

Those growing pains continued when he was a healthy scratch at the start of the 2013-14 season. But he responded nicely to that early season adversity and showed more signs of brilliance – and only spurts of disappointing play – pairing with both Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.

Little did anyone know that Hamilton would face more adversity when he missed several games with a lower body injury. In his first few games after his return, he struggled to return to form, but the former first round pick is finding his stride again. And the Bruins are going to need that, especially with the injury to Seidenberg.

Hamilton still has some learning to do, but his growth from season one to season two is well noticed.

Grade: B-

Adam McQuaid (Tim Rosenthal)

Another year, and another season with Adam McQuaid battling injuries. Through it all, though, he’s battled adversity and has fit in nicely with the Black and Gold.

During Shawn Thornton’s suspension, McQuaid stepped up as the primary enforcer. There’s no denying that the Bruins get energized when they drop the gloves and get physical, and McQuaid has helped that cause on more than one occasion this season.

Offensively, McQuaid isn’t asked to do much, which is why he fits nicely with Torey Krug on the depth chart. He’s doing what is asked of him, and that’s all you can ask for.

Grade: B-

Kevan Miller (Chris Chirichiello)

Thank God for the depth of defense in the Bruins system. Kevan Miller stepped in flawlessly when the injuries began to pile up. He has played in 10 games and has recorded a goal and an assist, but his play on the back end has put total confidence in Claude Julien to play him back there in key situations.

Many people think he is the answer moving forward as the B’s may look to trade Adam McQuaid. Miller has played very consistently in front of Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson and Niklas Svedberg. He doesn’t try to make the big play. He makes the safe play. That is all Julien wants his defenseman to do.

Miller may hang around for the long haul with Seidenberg out for the year. Bruins fans can back Julien’s decision because it looked like Miller has been up with the Big Club all season long.

Grade: B+

Tuukka Rask (Tim Rosenthal)

There’s no denying that Tuukka Rask has struggled in the last few games, due largely to the void left by Dennis Seidenberg on the Bruins’ blueline. But his work prior to that far outweighs his current struggles.

Rask is in the top five or ten in every goaltending category and is one of the favorites to take home the Vezina Trophy. Despite his injury history, he is handling his heavy workload nicely so far, but that will be put to the test after he represents Team Finland in Sochi.

Tuukka has responded to his detractors the last two years. And he has helped the Bruins, once again, become a prime contender for Lord’s Stanley Cup.

Grade: A

Chad Johnson (Chris Chirichiello)

Chad Johnson started out the year great. Over his last couple of starts, he has looked bad. Very bad. It is tough seeing him go post-to-post and challenging opposing forwards on their wraparound bids. It usually spells disaster for the Black and Gold.

It is necessary to play Chad Johnson though. Claude Julien cannot ride Tuukka Rask for 60 games per year. The loss of Anton Khudobin looks tougher by the minute as he is flourishing for the Carolina Hurricanes. Khudobin is 5-0 with a 1.99 goals against average. Johnson is 6-3 with a 2.34 goals against average.

We cannot harp on Johnson. He has done his job for the most part. Most teams would kill for a back up goalie he is 6-3 at this point in the season. He keeps the Bruins in games and he is a very solid backup option. He must find his beginning of the season form before Niklas Svedberg becomes the one who spells Tuukka Rask. All in all, Johnson has been above average thus far.

Grade: B-

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