In this two-part series, we will hand out end of season report cards for the Bruins forwards, defensemen and goaltending. Today we will start with the Bruins’ forwards. Please notes both the regular season and playoffs factor into these grades.
Milan Lucic (Tim)- After struggling throughout the 2013 Lockout shortened season, Milan Lucic bounced back during the playoffs and was one of the main contributors to the Bruins’ run to another Eastern Conference title. His play in last seasons’ playoffs carried over for most of the 2013-14 regular season where he notched 24 goals and 35 assists in 80 games.
Despite a solid regular season and a strong performance in the first round against the Red Wings, Lucic, along with fellow linemate David Krejci, was a no-show for the Canadiens series. He only scored once in their second round exit, and that was an empty netter in Game 2.
Instead of talking about the big hits and other aspects of Lucic’s game that The Hub of Hockey is accustomed to, the focus shifted on his less than subtle handshake towards Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin after the Habs eliminated the Black and Gold in Game 7. It was surely a sore spot in what was a pretty solid seventh season for the power forward.
David Krejci (Anthony)– Centering arguably the regular seasons’ best line, David Krejci led the Bruins in scoring with 69 points as the Bruins captured their first Presidents’ Trophy since the 1989-90 season. Krejci gelled perfectly with line mates Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla.
After a successful regular season, everyone expected Krejci and company to pick up where they left off, unfortunately they didn’t, and because of that the Bruins were bumped in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Krejci finished the playoffs with no goals and four assists. Two of those assists came on empty net goals. Krejci simply didn’t do anything for the B’s in the playoffs. His poor playoff performance hurt what would have been a much better grade.
Jarome Iginla (Tim)– It took a little while for Jarome Iginla to light the lamp, but once he got going there was no looking back. At age 36, the ex-Flames captain notched another 30-goal season and his presence alone upped the play of his fellow linemates, David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
Iginla was one of the more consistent Bruins in the postseason and gave it everything he had each and every night. Unfortunately for B’s fans, the rest of the team couldn’t follow Iggy’s lead in round two, otherwise he could very well be another step closer to capturing Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in his career.
Given the year he had, re-signing Iginla should be the top priority for Peter Chiarelli and company before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. But if Iggy wants a multi-year deal, then the Bruins may part ways.
Brad Marchand (Tim)– It’s safe to say that Brad Marchand’s reputation got the best of him in the 2013-14 season.
Sure, there were some highlights from “The Little Ball of Hate” that included another 20-plus goal season. His shorthanded goal against the Los Angeles Kings back in January where he drew four LA defenders towards him will undoubtedly be in many top 10 packages at the end of the season.
Then there’s the other side of Marchand, which wasn’t as good. His missed opportunities against the Red Wings in Game 4 of their first round series luckily didn’t come back to haunt him. But the gesture of kissing his ring finger and the Stanley Cup in Vancouver and his other antics grew negatively among the hockey world. That culminated in Game 7 where, despite getting tripped into Carey Price, Marchand was called for interference in the first period – one of two reputation calls on the night.
He hasn’t scored a goal in the postseason for quite awhile. Because of that, he is the subject of trade rumors. Either way, Marchand will need to improve his reputation in 2014-15.
Patrice Bergeron (Chris)– Patrice Bergeron had a remarkable season from start to finish. Where have we heard that before?
Bergeron finished the regular season with 30 goals and 32 assists. It was his first 30 goal season since the 2005-06 campaign. He finished only behind David Krejci for the team lead in points. His nine points in the playoffs only trailed Torey Krug who compiled 10 points.
Bergeron was relentless in all three zones as he is every year, but this year his hard work turned into results on route to another Selke Award nomination. His plus-38 rating ranked second in the NHL only behind Krejci. Bergeron’s 12-game point streak was a personal best where he had 10 goals and six assists, he also scored eight goals in seven games in the process.
No. 37 leads by example and if there is one player in the National Hockey League that you want to model your game after, it is Bergeron.
Reilly Smith (Chris)– There really weren’t many expectations for Reilly Smith when he was traded from Dallas to Boston in the Tyler Seguin mega deal, but he made an instant impact for the Black and Gold.
Smith played in all 82 games for the Bruins scoring 20 goals and assisting on 31 others. He did have a red-hot start, but did hit a speed bump during the middle of the season. Smith regained his confidence and picked his play back up in the playoffs scoring four goals in 12 games.
His chemistry throughout the year with Bergeron and Brad Marchand was evident. At times, his line carried the Black and Gold, but there were sometimes he had trouble finishing and hitting the open man on the stick with a pass, but it’s a learning process. And it doesn’t hurt to learn from Bergeron on a daily basis.
Smith exceeded expectations winning the Seventh Player Award voted on by the fans of Boston and he deserved it.
Carl Soderberg (Dan)– Heading into this season, many analysts and pundits found themselves intrigued at the upside of Soderberg’s skill-set translating into something special at the National Hockey League level. At 6’3, 216 lbs, it’s not common ground for players to exhibit the type of speed Soderberg possesses. Making Soderberg even more valuable is his ability to flank the wing position, even though he’s a natural centerman.
This season, Soderberg started out as a healthy scratch while the Bruins “showcased” Jordan Caron during the first five games of the season. On October 19, Soderberg hit the ground running in his regular season debut in Tampa Bay, notching an assist in a little over 14-minutes of ice time. Preceding his debut, Soderberg notched two assists against the Red Wings in Detroit, while seeing only 12:32 of ice time.
Injuries ravaged the Bruins throughout this season, making the multifaceted Soderberg a key cog to the Bruins offense, especially filling in at center on the third line during Chris Kelly’s absence. Following the Olympic break, Soderberg was one of Boston’s best forwards, tallying 18 points – seven on the powerplay – in just 18 games played. Even though his efforts didn’t always show up in box scores, Soderberg was one of Boston’s more consistent forwards during the postseason, tallying six points in 12 games played.
Loui Eriksson (Dan)– Following the trade of Tyler Seguin this offseason, expectations seemingly grew by the second for Eriksson to fill the offensive gap left behind by Seguin’s exile. For statistic hungry fans, many expected to see the former Dallas winger who tallied over 70-points in a season more than three times in his career. For those people who understand the concept of team defense, especially Claude Julien’s defense-first system, a 70-point season was never a realistic expectation.
Saying that, there’s no dancing around the fact that Eriksson’s first season in Boston was utterly a disappointment. It’s never easy transitioning to a new team and it’s even more difficult finding your stride in a new offense when you battle with the consequences of two concussions, an injury that Eriksson never experienced prior to the 2013-14 season.
Nevertheless, Eriksson still showed glimpses of making strides in the Bruins lineup, tallying 37-points in 61 games played while playing the majority of the season on the third line. Over the final two months of the regular season, Eriksson elevated his game to the tune of 17-points in 23 games played, but disappeared(5-points) during 12 postseason games played.
Heading into next season, there’s no doubt that the spotlight will glistens on Eriksson once again.
“Loui came in and it was a difficult transition for him and then he got hurt,” Bruins President Cam Neely stated. “We think he can be a better player.”
Chris Kelly (Anthony)– Since scoring 20 goals and being a key member of the 2011 squad that won the Stanley Cup, Chris Kelly’s road in Boston has been a bumpy one. Inconsistentcy and injures have held Kelly to just 12 goals in 91 goals since the 2010-11 season.
After injuring his back against the Minnesota Wild back on April 8, Kelly missed the Bruins’ remaining three regular season games and all of the Bruins’ playoff games. Kelly had successful surgery last week to repair a herniated disc in his back and is expected to be ready for training camp
Jordan Caron (Anthony)- With one goal in the regular season and one goal in the playoffs, this is an easy one. I think it’s safe to say we’ve seen the last of Jordan Caron in a Bruins uniform.
Daniel Paille (Chris)– Daniel Paille had a Daniel Paille type of year. He played in 72 games scoring nine goals and assisting on nine goals (18 points). His speed on the fourth line is what makes him lethal in some situations for the Black and Gold. His great penalty killing is another attribute that cannot go unnoticed.
During the playoffs, his line hit a little bit of a rough patch, not producing up to the standards he did during the regular season. In seven games for Paille, he tallied one goal (one point) while sporting a minus-one rating.
It seems as if Shawn Thornton is on his way out of Boston which means Paille and the fourth line also known as the “Merlot Line” may have a make over if you will. It will be interesting to see if Paille moves up to the third line or if he will get more speed to accompany him on the fourth line along with Gregory Campbell.
Gregory Campbell (Tim)– His 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs ended with a broken leg, but not before a courageous effort – one that will live in Bruins lore for quite sometime. When Gregory Campbell returned a few months later he was seen blocking shots, playing good defense, dropping the gloves and the other little things that he does so well.
He’s not the flashiest of players, but for a fourth line center he does alright. That said, he, along with Paille and Thornton, did not have the best year in the four years with the Merlot Line. Their potential swan song may best be remembered for being outplayed by the Habs fourth line of Dale Weise, Daniel Briere and Michael Bournival throughout the seven-game series.
Shawn Thornton (Dan)– With NHL General Managers moving away from employing “pure” enforcers, 2013-14 most likely marked the final season for Shawn Thornton in a Boston Bruins uniform. This season, Thornton found himself as the lead story on national publications for all the wrong reasons, making the decision to resign him that much more easier for Peter Chiarelli. Whether it was landing a blindside punch after a slew foot, which landed Thornton a 15-game suspension or spraying a water bottle in the face of PK Subban during a playoff game, Thornton’s no longer an asset for the Bruins.
Overall, the two-time Stanley Cup winner appeared in 64 games, tallying eight points while racking up 74 penalty minutes during the regular season and one assist in 12 postseason games played.
Heading into this offseason, Chiarelli and Co. should rely on the plethora of cheap, young talent hiding in Providence, rather than sign Thornton to an extension. Whether it’s Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Bobby Robins, Alexander Khokhlachev, Ryan Spooner or Seth Griffith, it doesn’t really matter, each player will come at a cheaper price tag than Thornton, while gaining NHL experience.
Matt Fraser (Chris)- Fraser played in 14 regular season games for the Black and Gold scoring two goals. Most people did not think we would see him again in 2014, but Fraser was recalled for Game 4 versus the Montreal Canadiens. It was a day and night he will never forget as he scored the lone goal of the game-a game-winner in overtime to even the series at two games apiece.
Fraser showed the Black and Gold something. He has a rocket of a shot, a quick release, but most importantly, he looked like he belonged.
Not only did he make an impact for the B’s in four playoff games by scoring one goal and adding another assist with a plus-two rating, he played those four games with a broken foot he suffered in the Opening round of the AHL playoffs down in Providence.
Fraser has a future with the B’s next season somewhere. We will just see how things shake out and how Chiarelli and Julien want to “tweak” their roster.
Ryan Spooner (Tim)– For the 23 games he donned the Black and Gold, Ryan Spooner gave the big club a boost up front with his speed and agility. Even with his flashes of brilliance, he somehow did not find the back of the net.
With the Bruins getting hit with the injury bug from late November to the middle of January, Spooner spent most of his time as a third line center alongside Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg. With very little experience at wing, Spooner was sent back down to Providence when Chris Kelly returned to the lineup.
The 22-year old tallied 11 assists when he donned the Spoked B. Whether its next year or in future seasons, expect Spooner to be a mainstay in the B’s lineup – assuming Peter Chiarelli decides to keep him.