May 29th, 2014 by

Bruins’ year end report cards: Defense/Goalies

Bruins’ year end report cards: Defense/Goalies

In the second part of the Bruins’ year end report cards, the Bruins Daily staff give their grades for the B’s defense and goaltending (examining both the regular season and the playoffs). Be sure to check out Part 1 and stay tuned for our complete photo gallery to be posted soon on Boston.com.

Zdeno Chara (Chris)- Zdeno Chara finished the year on a tough note looking un Chara-like against the Montreal Canadiens. It may have been fatigue from him logging close to 25 minutes a night, but he also suffered a compound fracture to one of his fingers while taking a slash in Game 3 against the Habs which was further damaged when he was slashed on the same hand during Game 7.

That shouldn’t be the lasting image we see or the image of Chara-deflecting an own goal past Tuukka Rask to seal the deal for the Habs in Game 7. Big Z had a great 2014. He finished the year with 17 goals (10 PP, 3GWG), 23 assists and a plus-25 rating.

His work on the power-play and penalty kill are a big reason why the Bruins were near the top of the league in both categories.

Chara was a Norris Trophy Finalist and he still is one of-if not the best- defensemen in the NHL even at the age of 37. His strength, work ethic, frame, reach and hockey IQ make him tough to score on. For all of the “fans” thinking Chara needs to go, I’d think about retracting your statement.

Grade: B+

Dougie Hamilton (Tim) – After going through some growing pains in his rookie season, Dougie Hamilton took a big step forward in his sophomore campaign. The Toronto-born defenseman notched 25 points (7 goals, 18 assists) in 64 games and saw his role increase as the season progressed, skating along with Zdeno Chara.

In 12 playoff games, Hamilton notched seven points (two goals, five assists) and had a coming out party in Game 3 against the Red Wings with his end to end goal. His other postseason tally came in Game 2 against the Canadiens where his third period goal got the ball rolling in the Bruins’ third period comeback.

Hamilton took a big step forward in 2013-14. With Dennis Seidenberg returning from his torn ACL for next season, and with captain Zdeno Chara getting a year older, Hamilton will look to take a bigger step in his third season with the Black and Gold in 2014-15.

Grade: B+

Johnny Boychuk (Chris) – In a season where the Bruins defense was decimated by injuries, Boychuk remained a constant playing in 75 games while mentoring the young defensemen in their first real shot in the spot light.

Boychuk finished the year with five goals and 18 assists (a career high in assists, points and tied for goals), but brought an edge to the blue line. Along with Chara, Boychuk was the next “veteran” in line with Dennis Seidenberg out for the year with an injury.

“Johnny Rocket” was not afraid to let one rip or throw his body around in any situation. He may not be the flashiest of defenseman, but he is durable – something the Bruins backline lacked in 2014.

Every other game it seemed Boychuk was diving to block a shot, taking one of the leg hobbling off or even being taken out on a stretcher like we saw in Montreal earlier in the year, but Boychuk was either back for his next shift or back for the next game. It was tough to keep this player off the ice.

The 30 year-old was ninth in the NHL with a plus-31 which ranked his second among defensemen. He was never a liability on the back end or exposed like we saw some of the Bruins’ young defensemen late in the playoffs.

Grade: B

Torey Krug (Dan)- Krug – a restricted free agent – will look to cash in this offseason after turning in a fine rookie season for Boston this season. After thrusted onto the scene during last season’s playoffs, Krug brought a steady offensive presence on a nightly basis and a different dynamic to the Bruins power play during the regular season.

In 79 games, Krug ranked first overall amongst Bruins defensemen -along with Chara- with 40(14 goals – 26 assists) points. On the powerplay is where the 23-year-old displayed his creative offensive skillset, racking up 19 powerplay points and tying David Krejci for the overall team lead, even while ranking seventh overall amongst Bruins defensemen in time-on-ice.

Even though his play dipped a bit in the final two months of the season, the Michigan-bred Krug elevated his game during the playoffs, leading all Bruins skaters with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists).

At the top of the Chiarelli’s offseason to-do list should be getting Krug to reside in Boston for the foreseeable future with a contract extension in the range of 3-4 years. With Dougie Hamilton making strides this season, the Bruins have the potential to lock up two of the best upcoming young defensemen in the game.

Grade: B+
Kevan Miller (Chris) – Many individuals did not know the name Kevan Miller before the start of the 2013-14 season. Well, by the end of it, he was a fan favorite except for his costly turnover in Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Miller made a name for himself the minute he was called up for the Black and Gold after an injury to Adam McQuaid earning him an immediate contract with the team.

Miller is everything Neeley, Chiarelli and Julien love on the back end. He is physical, he will throw his body around and he will make the necessary pass. He is not the puck moving defenseman Dougie Hamilton is, but Miller brings an edge to the blue line for the B’s.

In 47 games, Miller scored one goal and had five assists. His plus-20 was ranked 11th on the team.

At age 26, Miller logged close to 17 minutes a night sometimes seeing north of 20 minutes to spell Chara. He was trusted by Julien and even with a healthy McQuaid next year, we may see Miller take McQuaid’s spot in the future.

Grade: B-

Matt Bartkowski (Dan) – For a bottom pairing defenseman, Bartkowski isn’t a terrible option, but like Krug, he’s a restricted free agent this offseason and will be due for a bump in pay. This season, Bartkowski appeared in 64 games, tallying 18 points while ranking fourth overall amongst Bruins defensemen in time-on-ice averaging 19:32 during the regular season. Like past seasons, the Ohio State alum failed to find the back of the net, extending his career goalless drought to 84 games.

Scouting reports, like you commonly heard from NHL pundits, indicated that Bartkowski is a smooth, puck-moving defenseman who can aide in the transitional side of the game. I guess that’s why I’m not a scout because I don’t see that type of skillset in Bartkowski. To me, Bartkowski is a fringe sixth defenseman who needs to improve on his decision making in the defensive zone before becoming an NHL regular.

Nonetheless, in the playoffs Bartkowski received an increase in playing time, ranking third overall, while only registering an assist in eight games played. During the Eastern Conference seminfinals series against Montreal, Bartkowski racked up 10 penalty minutes over the course of three games and often looked overmatched retrieving the puck in his own corner against the relentless Canadiens forecheck.

With a healthy Seidenberg and McQuaid returning to the lineup, the Bruins possess an overabundance of defensemen, which Chiarelli should clear up before training camp by trading a defenseman.

Grade: C-

Adam McQuaid (Tim)- For a sixth defenseman, Adam McQuaid played the role to a T when he arrived on the scene during the Bruins’ Cup run in 2010-11. McQuaid presence gave GM Peter Chiarelli an initiative to deal defenseman Mark Stuart to the Winnipeg Jets – formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers – as “Darth Quaider” was inserted in the lineup for good.

Three years and several injuries later, McQuaid finds himself in a similar situation with Stuart. After suffering a season ending injury back in January in Chicago, McQuaid’s spot was taken by Kevan Miller, who, like McQuaid, is a big body who can drop the gloves and throw his weight around.

It will be interesting to see what Chiarelli does with McQuaid. He could buy him out, put him on the trade block or keep him at least to start next season. I highly doubt the latter will happen, but we’ll see.

Grade: D

Andrej Meszaros (Tim) – With a very thin market on the blueline at the trade deadline, Peter Chiarelli opted to add depth to his defensive core. Instead of paying a hefty price for a guy like Alex Edler, the Bruins GM opted to acquire Andrej Meszaros from Philadelphia for a draft pick.

Going from one system to another proved too much for Meszaros. Sure, he had some good moments, like scoring against his former team late in the season, but he was in way over his head against the Canadiens in the second round. The ex-Flyer was replaced with an equally struggling Matt Bartkowski during the series, that’s all you really need to know.

Grade: D-

Dennis Seidenberg (Chris)- It was a shame we only got to see Seidenberg for 34 games this season before he tore his ACL in a game just before the calendar turned to January.

If the Bruins were missing one thing during their playoff run, it was No. 44 on the back end bringing his toughness and experience.

The 32 year-old defenseman scored one goal and had nine assists while sporting a plus-11 in his 34 games played, but was just a presence on the ice for the Black and Gold much like we say with Zdeno Chara.

If the Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, reports were Seidenberg would’ve been active. It is crazy to think after tearing his ACL Seidenberg would be back on the ice five months later. That speaks volumes to his physical condition and his work ethic.

Seidenberg will be ready for training camp and will deepen the B’s back line. He will anchor the top with Chara while helping the young defensemen in the process.

Seidenberg was sorely missed against the Canadiens. Although he played for less than half a season, Bruins fans’ know the impact he can make on the blue line.

Grade: B

Tuukka Rask (Dan) - Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli signed Rask to a 8-year, $56-million contract extension and that contract is already starting to look like a bargain. The Bruins may have fell short of a Stanley Cup the past two seasons with Rask in goal, but the Finnish netminder earned every penny of his contract this season, which should result in a Vezina Trophy at the NHL Awards on June 24 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rask turned in arguably the best regular season (36-15-6, 2.04 GAA, .930 SV%, 7 Shutouts) of his career – leading to the best overall record in the NHL – even with a depleted defensive corps (Boston dressed 12 different defensemen) playing in front of him. After returning from the Olympics in Sochi, Rask picked up points in nine-out-of-ten games, including a span which he picked up seven straight victories during March. Boston led the Eastern Conference in fewest total goals allowed, second in the NHL overall, while also ranking first in the Eastern Conference and third in the NHL, in win percentage(22-6-2) when getting out shot in a game.

In the playoffs, the 27-year-old was Boston’s most consistent player, bolstering a 1.99 GAA and .928 SV% with two shutouts in 12 games.

Grade: A

Chad Johnson (Chris) – Very few people knew what to expect from Johnson heading into the 2013-14 season after the organization let Anton Khudobin walk. Well, Johnson made Peter Chiarelli, Claude Julien and company look like geniuses.

Johnson was magnificent for the Black and Gold this season recording a 17-4-3 record spelling Tuukka Rask including two shutouts.  His save percentage of .925 and his goals against average of 2.10 both ranked him sixth in the National Hockey League. The 27 year-old allowed two goals or less in 17 of his games played while posting an 11-0-3 record from January 16th until April 10th of this season.

While Johnson knew he was the backup coming in, he did everything he could to gain more playing time down the stretch. His teammates had confidence in him every time he was back between the pipes.

Sure, he had a few rough games where it seemed like he couldn’t stop any shot or fans questioned why he was getting the starts over Rask, but that happens. He certainly made up for that.

It will be interesting to see if the Bruins will re-sign Johnson to another contract with Niklas Svedberg and Malcolm Subban waiting in the wings down in Providence.

Grade: A-

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