Bruins Midseason Report Card: Forwards Earn High Marks, Head Into Break As NHL’s Highest-Scoring Offense

Bruins Midseason Report Card: Forwards Earn High Marks, Head Into Break As NHL's Highest-Scoring OffenseThe Bruins officially reached the mid-point of their season a half dozen games ago when they lost Game 41 of the year 4-2 in Carolina.

But the All-Star break is traditionally seen as the midway mark of the campaign, especially for a team like Boston that has designs on playing a lot more than just 82 games this season.

So while the Bruins, with the exception of Ottawa-bound Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin, get to enjoy a few days off before the stretch drive commences next Tuesday, the respite provides an opportunity to evaluate how the team has done to this point.

With the exception of a sluggish start in October as the Bruins tried to shake off the Cup hangover and a slight hiccup with some shaky outings just before the break, the Bruins haven’t had much to complain about so far this year. They’re 31-14-2, solidly atop the Northeast Division and just two points out of first place in the Eastern Conference. 

So even grading on a curve with high expectations for the reigning Cup champs, there aren’t many Bruins who will be ashamed to put their midseason report cards up on the fridge at home. First up for the midterm exams are the forwards, who have helped the Bruins tally an NHL-best 171 goals through 47 games. 

Grades are based on the expectations for the players coming into the season and the fulfillment of their specific roles on the team, and not meant to be used as a direct comparison between players. With that duly noted, it’s on to the evaluations.

David Krejci

After leading the league in playoff scoring, Krejci, like most of the team, got off to a slow start this season. A core injury that cost him three games in October contributed to that sluggish start as much as any effects from the Cup hangover. He had just 5-12-17 totals through 27 games, with seven of those points coming in one three-game burst in early November. That hot streak didn’t last, but it showed his skills were still intact, and he’s been more consistent in displaying them of late. He entered the break with 6-15-21 totals in his last 17 games, putting him third overall on the team with 38 points for the season. He’s also contributed to the club’s success in the faceoff circle, ranking third on the team by winning 53.4 percent of the draws he takes. Krejci does tend to be feast or famine in that category in each individual game though, with nights like Tuesday’s 1-9 performance offsetting days when he dominates on the draw. It’s also concerning that he’s the only Bruins regular that is a minus this season at minus-1, while fellow centers Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly are plus-27 and plus-23 respectively. Midseason Grade: B

Milan Lucic

Lucic has had some lulls this season, but overall the production has been there, with his 17-20-37 totals through 46 games showing last season’s breakthrough campaign was not a fluke. He still lacks discipline at times, with a one-game suspension for a hit from behind and another hearing that drew no supplemental discipline for his controversial hit on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. That incident put him under the microscope by the league and makes playing his physical a little tougher, but he needs to play with that edge to be effective. It would be nice to see him spend less time in the box, or at least take someone with him when he does go. He has 88 penalty minutes so far, but just three fighting majors. He does lead the team with 107 hits, almost double the total of the second-highest forward (Shawn Thornton with 60). Midseason Grade: B+

Nathan Horton

Horton’s numbers aren’t horrible, as he’s a respectable 17-15-32 through 46 games. But Horton hasn’t quite reached the level he was playing at last postseason for most of this year. He struggled early fighting through the aftereffects of the severe concussion that ended his postseason in Game 3 of the Cup Final. He picked up his play a bit as the team turned things around, but slipped into another bit of a slump until Claude Julien called him out on a recent road trip. Horton responded, and has 8-4-12 totals in his last 14 games, but suffered another concussion, this one fortunately labeled just a mild one, Sunday in Philadelphia, and how he responds to this latest injury will bear monitoring in the second half. Midseason Grade: B-

Patrice Bergeron

No one has been more consistent this season than Bergeron, who contributes in all facets of the game. He provides offense (sharing the team lead with Tyler Seguin with 15-28-43 totals). He is one of the top defensive forwards in the league long overdue for Selke recognition. He is a mainstay on both the penalty kill and power play and is one of the top faceoff men in the NHL (9th in league at 57.0 percent). He should be playing in the All-Star Game in Ottawa this weekend, but will have to settle for top marks here. Midseason Grade: A+

Brad Marchand

Just based on production, there is little to quibble with in Marchand’s first half. He has 17-17-34 totals and is a plus-25 in just 41 games, putting him on pace to shatter his breakthrough totals of 21-20-41 in 77 games a year ago. But it’s the reason he’s only played 41 games that raises concern. He was suspended five games for a low hit on Vancouver’s Sami Salo earlier this month. The punishment was excessive, but Marchand put himself on the league’s radar with his questionable antics before that incident, including a two-game suspension for an elbow to the head last year and a fine for slew-footing this season. Like Lucic, Marchand needs to play on the edge to be effective, but he has to learn how to do it without crossing the line and costing himself — and his team — games. Midseason Grade: B+

Tyler Seguin

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the second-year phenom, though the highs have definitely risen higher than the lows ever plummeted. Seguin opened his sophomore campaign on fire, posting 11-9-20 totals in his first 15 games. But he slipped to just 2-4-6 over the next 15 games. He only played in 14 of them though, getting benched for one after missing the team breakfast and meeting in Winnipeg. He’s bounced back to a point-a-game pace with 6-11-17 totals in his last 17 games and while the youngster probably hasn’t seen his last slump and still needs to compete more consistently, there’s no denying his talent or the fact that he’s has begun to harness those skills at the NHL level. Midseason Grade: A-

Chris Kelly

For the first 10 weeks of the season, Kelly had Bruins fans eager to sing his praises, though maybe not quite in this fashion, as he racked up 12 goals through 30 games. Not bad for a guy who’s never scored more than 15 in his first six seasons in the NHL. That surprising production has regressed with just two goals in his last 17 games, but fortunately Kelly contributes much more than just offense. He’s a strong defensive forward who has matched his uniform number with a plus-23, a key penalty killer and steady faceoff man winning 54.5 percent of his draws and solid leader who was given an A in his first full season in Boston. He’s even shown a willingness to stick up for his teammates, dropping the gloves twice after questionable hits against fellow Bruins to match the two fighting majors he had in his entire six-year career coming into the year. Midseason Grade: A-

Benoit Pouliot

Pouliot wasn’t a popular signing this summer as the 2005 fourth overall pick came to Boston after an uninspiring stint in Montreal. Those concerns appeared well founded early as he failed to register a point in his first eight games and was scratched five times in the first 15 games of the year. But after an adjustment period, he proved he could fit into Claude Julien’s system and has posted respectable 8-9-17 totals along with a plus-18. He’s made better use of his 6-foot-3, 199-pound frame with 54 hits and has formed some solid chemistry on a line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, as well as filling in on Patrice Bergeron’s wing when Brad Marchand was suspended. He still takes some undisciplined penalties, but overall he’s provided solid value on Boston’s $1.1-million investment. Midseason Grade: B

Rich Peverley

Peverley proved his versatility last year in the playoffs and has continued to shine in a variety of roles in his first full season in Boston. He can play center or wing, move up and down the depth chart and contributes in all facets as one of the team’s top penalty killers and a regular on the power play, most recently manning a point alongside Zdeno Chara on the first unit. Peverley’s spent most of the season with Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot, forming one of the league’s most effective third lines. He doesn’t take as many draws as the team’s four regular centers, but has excelled in the opportunities he’s had (62.8 percent). It would be nice to see Peverley finish a few more chances (8 goals on 84 shots), but he’s dished out 25 assists so the Bruins won’t complain too much about his production. Midseason Grade: B+

Gregory Campbell

After being one of just eight players in the NHL with 10 or fighting majors and 10 or more goals, the dependable Campbell is on pace for another impressive double-double campaign with six fights and six goals at the break. Campbell also has seven assists, a plus-8 rating, 56 hits and has won 52.9 percent of the draws he’s taken while providing toughness and leadership to the team. Midseason Grade: B+

Daniel Paille

Just as he did in Boston’s playoff run, Paille has been providing the Bruins with energy and effort on the fourth line and penalty kill. He doesn’t have the finishing touch to convert all the chances his hustle and hockey sense produce, but he has chipped in eight goals to go along with his strong defensive play. Midseason Grade: B+

Shawn Thornton

Toughness was never an issue with Thornton, nor was his willingness to stand up for his team. It hasn’t been this year either, as he leads the team with 12 fighting majors, virtually every one of which has been well timed to spark the squad in a sluggish stretch or to come to the defense of a teammate. It hasn’t always worked, but the Bruins are 8-3-1 when Thornton has fought, and several of those bouts have turned momentum enough that Boston goals have followed shortly thereafter. Thornton is slightly off the pace from his career-high 10 goals last year, but he does have solid 4-6-10 totals despite averaging a team-low 9:05 of ice time. He’s second among forwards with 60 hits in those limited shifts, and has shown some impressive skill for a tough guy, most notably with his nifty penalty shot goal against Winnipeg. Midseason Grade: A-

Zach Hamill

After struggling for much of his first three pro seasons, the 2007 eighth overall pick was moved from center to wing in Providence this season and the switch paid off. A strong start in the AHL earned him a call-up and he impressed early with two assists and a plus-4 rating in his first three games. He didn’t have another point in his next 10 games before the break though, and has still yet to score his first NHL goal in 16 career games. He has been reliable defensively and has been up long enough to require waivers to be returned to Providence, so barring moves before the trade deadline the Bruins will likely keep him around as the 13th forward the rest of the way. Midseason Grade: C

Jordan Caron

Coming into the year, a spot on the big club was Caron’s to lose with the departures of Mark Recchi (retirement) and Michael Ryder (Dallas), and Caron did earn a spot out of camp and was in the opening-night lineup. He alternated with Benoit Pouliot on the third line early, but after seven games with no points he slowly lost that battle for playing time. Caron, a 2009 first-round pick, still has plenty of time to develop and the size and skill to be an NHL regular, but he’ll likely continue to shuffle back and forth from Providence for the rest of this season, playing in Boston when injuries strike. Midseason Grade: C-

Coming Friday: The midseason report card hands out grades to the Bruins defense.

 

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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