Over the next two days, the Bruins Daily staff will reveal their midseason grades for the 2014-15 Boston Bruins. Today in second and final part of the mini-series, we examine the Bruins defense and goaltending through the first 48 games of the season. Click here for Part 1 featuring the B’s forwards.
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 second and final part of that today as we grade the Bruins defense and goaltending in Part 2 of our midseason report cards.
Zdeno Chara (Bob Snow: BS) – At 37 years old, it is likely that “The Hub of Hockey” needs to get used to the reality that Captain “Z” is not what he used to be. But he is still a major piece of any Lord Stanley puzzle. Chara is on pace to play his lowest game total in a Bruins’ uniform. Missing 19 games and having a long layoff for the All-Star break might be a blessing in disguise, giving the big guy a lot of rest for the second-half push to the playoffs. He has no points in his last five games and is 3-8-1 overall with a plus-3.
That second-half push needs a healthy Chara – and a role suited to realities. If he stays healthy – no Bruin is more dedicated to conditioning – and avoids a steady dose of 2-on-1’s in his corners, his thorough awareness of the game coupled with his leadership will get the Bruins to the playoffs – and maybe well beyond.
Dougie Hamilton (Tim Rosenthal: TR) – In a season full of injuries, Dougie Hamilton’s progression has been a breath of fresh air.
In just his third season, Hamilton has set career highs in goals (8) and points (26) through the first 48 games. The 2011 first round pick is a steady presence on the Bruins’ blue line and is certainly ready to be a partner in crime with Zdeno Chara as the team’s top defensive duo. Say what you want about Tyler Seguin being dealt, but the other main piece of that Phil Kessel trade is fitting in nicely under Claude Julien’s watch.
For the first time in his career, Hamilton is averaging over 20 minutes a night. That’s only a good thing since the B’s will be relying on him to play heavy minutes the rest of the way. After all, he is also playing for a new contract for next year and beyond.
Dennis Seidenberg (Anthony Travalgia: AT) – Seidenberg hasn’t been perfect since coming back from last year’s injury, but he also hasn’t been terrible either. Much like most of his teammates, it has been an up and down season for the German defenseman. With the injury to Chara, Seidenberg’s playing time increased, making things a bit difficult for the veteran defenseman.
Adam McQuaid (TR) – Adam McQuaid’s injury history haunted him again when he suffered a broken thumb in the Bruins’ 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues in November – causing him to miss 6-8 weeks. His return to the lineup in early January gave the B’s another healthy body at a time when they needed it.
McQuaid’s stay at home style suits him well as a bottom defensive pairing. Currently, he is skating along with Dennis Seidenberg as the team’s second defensive duo, which is a step up on the depth chart for the fifth year blue-liner. Still, I can’t see McQuaid keeping his spot for too long, especially if Peter Chiarelli tries to add to his defensive core during the trade deadline.
When healthy, McQuaid provides the Bruins with some added muscle and he certainly isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, either. The question is, can McQuaid remain injury free for the rest of the season?
Torey Krug (Chris Chirichiello: CC) – Krug has come into his own as a young NHL defenseman. His ability to move the puck up ice with tremendous speed is an advantage the Bruins haven’t had in previous years.
The 23 year-old is well on his way to breaking his career highs in goals (14), assists (26) and points (40) while he has nine goals and 15 assists in 44 games played this season. With 38 games yet to play, Krug shouldn’t have a problem at the rate he is going.
The 5-foot-9 defenseman is sixth on the team with 24 points only trailing Dougie Hamilton for the team lead in points among defensemen.
Kevan Miller (Dan St. Pierre: DSP) – A poor man’s Adam McQuaid or is Adam McQuaid a poor man’s Kevan Miller?
Either way, both blue-liners are nothing more than depth defensemen, who should only see the ice in the event of an injury. Basically, the type of defensemen that remind you of the glory days of the old “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy.
Matt Bartkowski (BS) – He has been in the Bruins’ organization for five years, but just passed his 100th career NHL game a few weeks back. When the team let Johnny Boychuk escape the day before the season started, some eyes turned to Bartkowski to help fill that huge void. With but 20 games under his belt this season, that role is an ongoing struggle for No. 43. He plays some 20 minutes a game but feels the pressure to produce at both ends. His four assists and a minus-1 are indicative of what’s lacking in his offensive game. He has never scored a goal in his NHL career.
Last season, Bartkowski had 18 assists in 64 regular-season games, sporting a nifty plus-22. Maybe Claude Julien plays Bartkowski 20 minutes every game possible – and stresses/expects only a defensive contribution while he regains his confidence. And refines his overall game by continuing to learn first-hand from Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
Joe Morrow (TR) – I’m still a little surprised that Joe Morrow was the odd man out when the Bruins defensive core got healthy. But maybe he’ll benefit with some more time down in Providence.
Morrow’s last game came against the Arizona Coyotes where he was a plus-2 in 12:35 of ice time. In 15 games, the 2011 first round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins tallied just one goal and a plus-3 rating, but he held his own at a time where the blue line depth was tested.
He’s not flashy, but he held his own in his defensive end. Will he be back this season? Only time will tell.
Zach Trotman (DSP) – Honestly, during Trotman’s 17 games played in 2014-15 wasn’t substantial enough to merit a cemented letter grade, but overall, I thought he performed well. How Trotman, Miller and McQuaid have all logged more games played than Joe Morrow (15 GP) is mind boggling.
Tuukka Rask (CC) – Rask is another player that got off to a slow start, but as of late, the netminder has returned to his Vezina form.
For all of the fans who were calling for Rask to be traded during the Bruins losing streak, take a look at his statistics now. He ranks 10th in the league in wins (20), his save percentage is creeping upwards of .920 (.919) and his goals against average is down to 2.35. Over his last 13 starts, Rask has lost once in regulation. He owns an 8-1-4 record over that span while allowing two goals or less in eight of those contests.
There is no coincidence why the Bruins are on a hot streak. It’s because of their goaltender.
Niklas Svedberg (BS) – Svedberg is yet another in a long line of adequate back-up back-stoppers on Bruin rosters. As a matter of fact, he has been more than adequate in his first full season as a Bruin with a 5-5 record and a 2.22 GAA – lower than starter Tuukka Rask’s goals against average. Boston’s anemic offense has kept Svedberg without more wins while his play has kept the team with fewer losses.
Not much changes in the philosophy of expectation from any backup goaltender. Be ready without notice – and keep your team in the game when between the pipes. Svedberg has been all of that. No reason to expect less the next 10 weeks.
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