Midseason report cards: Bruins defense and goaltending
Over the next two days, the Bruins Daily staff will reveal their midseason grades for the 2015-16 Boston Bruins. In Part 1, we examined the Bruins forwards through the first 49 games of the season. Today in Part 2, we assess the Bruins defense and goaltending.
Zdeno Chara-Tim Rosenthal (TR)
To paraphrase the infamous Ted Wells’ DeflateGate report, “it’s more probable than not” that Zdeno Chara’s time as an elite defenseman in the NHL is behind him. At the age of 38, however, he’s still logging good minutes and keeping the defense afloat.
Surely, Chara has had his share of struggles this season that includes sloppy turnovers in his own end and communication breakdowns that lead to goals going the other way. That problem is common among a Bruins blue-line that is still in transition. Still, his presence is still steady and he is still respected among opposing players and teams.
As the B’s leading scorer among defenseman entering the break — 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists) — Chara is still a good two-way defender. Pairing him with a bonafide top-four defenseman is the biggest priority for Sweeney at the trade deadline.
Zach Trotman-Anthony Travalgia (AT)
Trotman’s 2015-16 campaign got off to a slow start, but as of late, he has shown much improvement. Does that have to do with playing more alongside Chara? Maybe. Trotman has played in all of the Bruins games since January 8 and it appears he has finally secured himself a spot in the lineup each night.
As we saw with his turnover against Anaheim earlier this week, Trotman has some more work to do. But as the Bruins continue to battle for their playoff lives, they will need Trotman and the rest of the Bruins defense to stay the course.
Torey Krug-Chris Chirichiello (CC)
With Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg aging and the rest of the defensemen rather inexperienced, Krug finds himself having a bigger role than usual. The 5-foot-9 defenseman is notching over 20 minutes of ice time per night as well as key power-play minutes where he is an absolute weapon.
The Michigan native has three goals this season to go along with 19 assists. His three goals may be down from what we are used to seeing, but it is evident he is concentrating on being a top-four defenseman first because that is what Julien and the B’s desperately need.
While Krug tallied 18 goals in his first 84 games as a pro, he’s only netted 17 in his next 150, but there should be no panic. Krug is a keeper and we have seen the flashes of his ability to score in bunches. We should see that soon.
Dennis Seidenberg-Bob Snow (BS)
After two consecutive seasons of serious surgeries and the intensive rehab that comes with such, the Bruins best hope when Seids returned in November was for him to use his intellect and experience to help compensate for his aging and battle-weary body. Add that Zdeno Chara and the young defense were a big part of Seidenberg’s challenge and it all added up to a lot of crossed fingers.
Well, 33 games into Seidenberg’s return, Chara has exceeded expectations and that young D-corps is still in flux. All while Seidenberg plays an admirable 20:00 a game average – 27 minutes in the December 26 Buffalo game – at age 34. His stats are 0-7-7 with a minus-3 as most of those fingers become uncrossed. Seidenberg’s career in Boston is winding down, while he continues to bring veteran leadership off the ice – and a stable presence on it.
Colin Miller-James Murphy (JM)
Let’s just come right out and say what everyone is thinking here: The Bruins keep playing the wrong Miller!
There is no doubting that Colin Miller has more skill than Kevan Miller. There is no doubt that with the team making an organizational shift towards a more up tempo system and a defense corps that’s encouraged to jump into the play more, Colin Miller fits into the team’s long term plans more.
But with that up tempo system, the Bruins need a seamless transition out of their own zone and despite his 12 assists and 15 points in 36 games, Miller has been a nightmare starting the play up ice and through the neutral zone. That is why he has played in fewer games than Kevan. The future is bright for Colin Miller, but it’s not quite here yet.
More often than not, Kevan Miller has been a liability in his own end. His Winter Classic performance where he was caught out of position on seemingly every Canadiens’ goal was a small sample of his season to date. How he remains in the lineup is still a question in the minds of many Bruins fans.
Heading into the season, Bruins management was hoping Morrow would be able to come in and secure a consistent role on the Bruins’ blue line. Unfortunately for Morrow and the Bruins, the 23-year old was unable to do that.
Battling inconsistency all season long, Morrow has only appeared in 18 games with the Bruins and has only played in five games since the new year. There’s still plenty of time for Morrow to develop into the type of defenseman they had hoped for, but until then his grade remains low.
After receiving a head scratching contract extension in the off-season, McQuaid has helped the B’s more than hurt them while he is on the ice especially when one looks at the contributions from Kevan Miller this season.
The 29 year-old has been injured since January 5th after he took a brutal hit into the boards face first. His physicality and presence is missed. While he was out there for the Black and Gold he was logging heavy minutes along with Chara, Seidenberg and Krug.
McQuaid is not going to give the team offense (1G, 5A), but he will play fundamental hockey by limiting mistakes and sticking to Julien’s system. When the six-foot-four defenseman is back for the B’s, it will be a big boost because it’s possible Chara’s minutes can diminish just a little bit.
Former Bruins’ goaltender Gilles Gilbert pitched Dodge products in the 70’s. His signature line: “When you are on, you are really on.”
The Bruins’ most important player since Tim Thomas has been good most of the time and very good on occasion, but not consistently really good since opening night. While a young defense and new family responsibilities might be the reason for falling off his Vezina-winning pace from two years ago, he still remains one of the top five goaltenders in the NHL.
Rask enters the All-Star break at 17-15-4 with a 2.49 GAA in 36 games. Last year, Rask played in 72 games. His workload was reduced this year to keep him sharp for the late-season push to the playoffs and beyond. If Tuukka doesn’t show more consistency the next 12 weeks, TD Garden will be empty once again after April 9.
First off, it was a great relief to hear that Gustavsson will be OK after leaving the game January 26 and being hospitalized with an elevated heart rate. Gustavsson has a irregular heartbeat and has had three heart procedures done to prolong his career. So good to hear he is healthy and even better because Gustavsson has been a pleasant surprise for the Bruins this season.
The back-up has exceeded expectations and done a good job of coming in and stopping the bleeding when Tuukka Rask was struggling or when the team needs it. At 9-3-1 with a 2.38 GAA and .915 save percentage, Gustavsson is exactly what the Bruins need at the back-up position.