Over the next two days, the Bruins Daily staff will reveal their midseason grades for the 2014-15 Boston Bruins. Today in Part 1, we examine the Bruins forwards through the first 48 games of the season. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow where we’ll grade the B’s defensemen and goaltending.
Despite a tough setback in their last contest before the All Star break – a 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche – the Boston Bruins are stringing together some solid performances in the month of January. It’s been a roller coaster ride for the Black and Gold in 2014-15, however, as the team went through their share of injuries and inconsistencies.
So how did the B’s roster fare through their first 48 games of the season? The Bruins Daily staff answers the first half of that today as we grade the Bruins forwards in Part 1 of our midseason report cards.
Milan Lucic (Anthony Travalgia: AT) – It hasn’t been the best year for Milan Lucic. Battling with inconsistency all season, many have looked at Lucic’s struggles as to why this season hasn’t been a good one for a Bruins team that is looking to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
Between injuries to center David Krejci and a revolving door on the top-line right wing, it seems as if the chemistry that Lucic usually has with his linemates has been missing. Maybe that will change in the second half with David Pastrnak sliding in on the top line.
David Krejci (Tim Rosenthal: TR) – Fresh off a solid regular season in 2013-14, David Krejci, despite having a disappointing performance in the Bruins’ second round exit to the Canadiens last spring, earned a well-deserved six-year contract extension. Things didn’t go so well after that as the Czech center nursed a hip injury through the first three months of the 2014-15 campaign.
Krejci returned to the ice on a full-time basis in mid-December. It took him awhile to get his feet wet, but with David Pastrnak now in the mix on the first line, the eighth-year Bruin is starting to find his groove again. Since his return against the Minnesota Wild, the Bruins assistant captain has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 17 games and notched his 400th career point in the B’s 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in their last game before the All Star break.
He’s one of the reasons why the Bruins are turning things around over the last few weeks. But Krejci, Pastrnak and Milan Lucic will need to stay consistent if the Black and Gold want to climb up the standings in the second half of the season.
David Pastrnak (Dan St. Pierre: DSP) – At 18-years young, the gifted Czech rocketed onto the scene in Boston in late November and immediately left his mark. At the time, the Bruins were struggling to create scoring opportunities and the exuberant Pastrnak immediately paid dividends for Chiarelli and company.
Over the course of his first five career games, box scores weren’t exactly a great tool to use in measuring Pastrnak’s impact, as he only netted one assist. Upon returning from World Juniors, however, the baby-faced Pastrnak took the NHL by storm, racking up back-to-back two-goal games, including two game-winning goals.
On Boston.com: Decision to keep Pastrnak in Boston a no brainer
It’s not a perfect right wing solution for the 2014-15 season, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining player to watch on the Bruins right now.
Patrice Bergeron (Chris Chirichiello: CC) – Bergeron got off to a very slow start scoring only two goals and assisting on six in his first 14 games. He was on the ice for a lot of goals as well which was very uncharacteristic.
Well, after 47 games, Bergeron leads his team in points (32). He has four game-winning goals while being tied for second on the team (Loui Eriksson) in goals only trailing Brad Marchand (13). Also, his plus/minus continues to expand as he sports a plus-7.
Most importantly, the 29-year-old will be in the conversation yet again for the Selke Award due to his relentless play in all three zones. There is nothing to worry about here as Bergeron has been one of the most consistent players in a Bruins sweater this season.
Reilly Smith (Bob Snow: BS) – While Loui Eriksson was the centerpiece of the Tyler Seguin trade two years ago, Reilly Smith has proved that he might eventually assume that profile. Last year, Smith played all 82 games and all 12 playoff games with a total production of 56 points. After protracted contract negotiations, Smith took a big hometown discount – and picked up right where he left off, playing all 48 games so far with a 9-14-23 tally and a plus-5.
Smith’s focus for the second half? Keep on truckin’. He is a clear candidate for the 7th Player Award in April, and if he stays healthy and produces at this pace, he will be a major reason why the Bruins will be playing beyond the regular season. At just 23, the Bruins will lock him up this summer for a long stay on Causeway Street.
Brad Marchand (DSP) – Gone are the days of the “Little Ball of Hate” wreaking havoc on opposing foes with a disruptive (okay, annoying) style of play that often led to the Bruins going on power play opportunities. Is it all Marchand’s fault? Not at all. Until the Bruins rectify their issue of not having a legitimate scoring threat on the right wing, Marchand and center Patrice Bergeron’s scoring production will suffer.
Chris Kelly (AT) – His scoring totals won’t equal what he is paid, but Kelly has been a very important part of the Bruins this season. From a handful of big goals to dropping the gloves to stand up for a teammate, Kelly’s leadership has really shown this season.
One consistent this season has been the line of Kelly, Soderberg and Eriksson. Kelly’s veteran presence has been key on that trio.
Carl Soderberg (TR) – The third line of Soderberg, Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly has been one of the most consistent trios in an inconsistent season for the Black and Gold.
Following a very solid second half of last season, Soderberg’s game has picked up nicely. He goes to the front of the net. He makes plays. His big body provides a mismatch to bottom pair defenseman. All of that is a big reason why Soderberg – who has 31 points in 48 games – is on pace to top last year’s total of 48 points.
Soderberg’s chemistry with Eriksson and Kelly is unmatched. This line can do some damage, but they’ll also need the first and second lines to be a little more consistent over the next few months, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing for the trio.
Loui Eriksson (DSP) – After battling back from multiple concussion injuries last season, the former Dallas Stars winger finally looks comfortable in Claude Julien’s system. As inconsistent as Boston’s offense has been, Eriksson and his third line compadres of Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg have been the most reliable and consistent scoring line this season.
Over 42 career losses in a black-and-gold sweater, Eriksson has 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists), while registering a minus-11. In 71 career regular season victories with Boston, Eriksson boasts 14 goals, 34 assists and 48 points and a plus-34. Quite an important skater, indeed.
Daniel Paille (BS) – Now into his sixth year with the Black and Gold, one fact tends to get lost in Daniel Paille discussions. He is a former first-round pick by Buffalo before coming to Boston. Not likely he got that distinction for defensive play. But, that was his role when he arrived in 2009 – and he filled it all the way to engraving his name on the Stanley Cup. That was then. Paille is now expected to produce some offense as Claude Julien moves him up – and around various line combinations to generate some red lights. The result? Paille has but one goal and seven assists for eight total points, playing in all 48 of Boston’s games so far. Worse, that stat is complemented with a plus-minus of minus-8.
Clearly, Paille’s focus for the second half is more offense. Most players making the transition to the role of a (better) two-way player have the need to add more defense to their offense. For Paille, there is a need to regain his defensive prowess, while adding more offense.
Gregory Campbell (CC) – It hasn’t been the best first half for Campbell. His line hasn’t brought much to the table. The thought of a newly looked fourth line without Shawn Thornton in the mix hasn’t made any difference.
The fourth-line center has five goals and two assists in 43 games played and two of those goals have come within the last month. There hasn’t been much production from the 31-year-old.
Sure, we know Campbell is a grinder and great penalty killer, but there are some nights the Black and Gold need some extra production out of him leading that fourth line.
Craig Cunningham (AT) – Cunningham has molded into a perfect fourth line forward for the Black and Gold. Cunningham won’t light up the scoresheet, but his hard work and hockey sense is a perfect fit on the fourth line.
Cunningham has earned the coaching staff’s trust and has become a popular penalty killer for Claude Julien. With Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille on the last year of the contract, it’s safe to assume right now that Cunningham should be the one holding the fort on the fourth line in the near future.
Seth Griffith (TR) – As Claude Julien was searching for his first line right winger to start the 2014-15 season, Seth Griffith’s name was one that very few people outside of the organization knew about. Griffith earned his spot on that top line after the first few weeks of the year and he provided the Black and Gold with some spark thanks to his highlight reel goals against the Wild and the Devils.
As the season progressed, however, Griffith couldn’t keep the spark going. Being on the list of Top 10 goals of the season is one thing. Staying consistent, however, is another, and Griffith’s inconsistencies have put him back in Providence for the time being.
Griffith is certainly a step up from Jordan Caron, but playing fourth line minutes for Boston isn’t an ideal situation for the young forward. He’ll look to tinker his game down in Providence for the time being.
Jordan Caron (CC) – How many chances does Jordan Caron get?
He has been with the Black and Gold since 2009 where he was selected in the first round of the NHL draft (yes first round). There have been many opportunities for him to win a job over somebody, but he just hasn’t done it.
In six games this season, Caron has zero points, a minus-1 rating, seven penalty minutes and just two shots on net. Dating back to last season in 35 games played, the 24-year-old had one goal and two assists to go along with a minus-8 rating.
There isn’t much talent here. Quite frankly, I am still perplexed on why Matt Fraser was put on waivers to make room for Caron.
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