Sunday, February 5 2023

Grading every Bruin at the quarter pole of a record-setting start to 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins are the NHL’s best team at the quarter point of the 2022-23 NHL season.

It’s a pretty surprising development when you consider that first-line left wing Brad Marchand, No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy and top-four defenseman Matt Grzelcyk all missed the start of the campaign recovering from offseason surgeries.

Bruins set impressive NHL record by extending unbeaten streak at home

Depth has been the Bruins’ strength so far. They have 20 different goal scorers and all four lines are contributing in multiple ways. The goaltending, thanks to Linus Ullmark, also has ranked among the league’s best. Head coach Jim Montgomery has implemented a faster, more aggressive offensive approach and this style has benefited the team as a whole and many players individually.

The results speak for themselves. The Bruins rank No. 1 in goals scored (84), No. 1 in goals allowed (47) and own the league’s best record at 18-3-0.

Let’s look at first-quarter grades for every Bruins player who’s played eight or more games.

Stats: 14 G, 18 A in 21 GP

Grade: A+

Pastrnak likely is making himself even more money on his next contract with an awesome start to the season. He has tallied 13 more points than the next-highest scorer on the Bruins (Bergeron with 19) and ranks third in the league overall. Pastrnak is on pace to score 54 goals and become the first 50-goal scorer for the Bruins since Cam Neely in 1993-94.

Hampus Lindholm, D

Stats: 4 G, 14 A in 21 GP

Grade: A+

Lindholm did a tremendous job filling in for Charlie McAvoy as the No. 1 defenseman over the first couple weeks of the campaign. He’s getting it done at both ends of the ice, tallying 18 points (sixth-most among d-men) in 21 games and playing excellent defense (plus good penalty kill work).

Now that McAvoy is healthy, the Bruins are in the enviable position of having two legit No. 1 defensemen. It will be a huge advantage for Boston in the playoffs.

Linus Ullmark, G

Stats: 13-1-0, .935 SV%, 2.00 GAA

Grade: A+

Ullmark arguably has been the Bruins’ MVP so far. He leads the league in wins, save percentage and goals against average. He also ranks second in goals saved above average (13.7), along with a sparkling .857 save percentage on high-danger chances.

Latest update on Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark’s upper body injury

Ullmark is the top contender for the Vezina Trophy after 21 games.

Leading the pack

Save Percentage

.935

NHL Rank

1st

Variation

Double

Stats: 9 G, 10 A in 19 GP

Grade: A

Consistent offensive production and elite defense — what else would we expect from Bergeron? The Bruins captain is on track to score 20-plus goals for the 10th consecutive year, while driving puck possession, scoring chances and goals at a high rate. The Bruins are scoring an astounding 76.81 percent of all goals when Bergeron is on the ice — the third-best mark in the league of any forward with 200-plus 5-on-5 minutes, per Natural Stat Trick.

David Krejci, C

Stats: 8 G, 9 A in 18 GP

Grade: A

Krejci spent a year away from the NHL and it hasn’t negatively impacted him one bit. He is scoring a career-high 1.57 goals per 60 minutes and a career-high 3.34 points per 60 minutes. Krejci’s eight goals in 18 games are as many as he scored in his 51 games played during the 2020-21 season. Krejci has given the Bruins a massive boost at No. 2 center over Erik Haula.

Brad Marchand, LW

Stats: 6 G, 11 A in 13 GP

Grade: A-

Marchand returned from offseason hip surgery much earlier than expected and looks like a faster, more agile player. He’s on pace to score above a point per game for the seventh consecutive season.

Jake DeBrusk, LW

Stats: 7 G, 9 A in 20 GP

Grade: A-

DeBrusk looks like a rejuvenated player now that he no longer has to play for head coach Bruce Cassidy. The 26-year-old forward had seven points (four goals, three assists) over the first 20 games last season. He’s more than doubled that scoring production in the opening 20 games of this season.

Nick Foligno, LW

Stats: 4 G, 8 A in 21 GP

Grade: A-

Foligno’s scoring has been the most pleasant surprise for the Bruins this season. After scoring just two goals and being almost unplayable last season, Foligno has been a regular contributor offensively and is providing the toughness and leadership you’d expect of a respected veteran. Few players have benefited from Montgomery’s style of hockey more than Foligno. His offensive production is giving the Bruins valuable bottom-six scoring depth.

Charlie McAvoy, D

Stats: 2 G, 8 A in 8 GP

Grade: A-

McAvoy recently returned from his offseason surgery rehab and hasn’t skipped a beat. Not only is McAvoy driving offense at a high rate, the Bruins have been a fortress defensively when he’s on the ice. Boston has outscored teams 6-1 with a .983 save percentage during McAvoy’s 5-on-5 minutes.

Pavel Zacha, C/LW

Stats: 3 G, 11 A in 21 GP

Grade: B+

Zacha’s versatility, including his ability to play center during Krejci’s injury absence, has been quite valuable for the Bruins. Zacha is on pace for 54 points, which would shatter his previous career high of 36. Trading Erik Haula for Zacha could go down as one of the sneaky good moves of the 2022 offseason.

Connor Clifton, D

Stats: 2 G, 6 A in 21 GP

Grade: B+

Montgomery’s uptempo style and more aggressive offensive approach has allowed Clifton to showcase his scoring talent more effectively. His defense hasn’t been bad, either. The Bruins are outscoring opponents 18-11 with a 74-50 advantage in high-danger chances during Clifton’s 5-on-5 ice time.

Derek Forbort, D

Stats: 1 G, 2 A in 10 GP

Grade: B+

Forbort has missed a few weeks with a broken finger but is expected to return soon, possibly this weekend when the defending champion Colorado Avalanche come to TD Garden on Saturday. The veteran defenseman has provided a much-needed physical presence on the back end as the team leader in shot blocks per 60 (5.73) and shorthanded ice time per game (3.36). The Bruins had the No. 1 ranked penalty kill during Forbort’s 10 games played.

Charlie Coyle, C

Stats: 6 G, 3 A in 21 GP

Grade: B

Coyle has been solid as the No. 3 center. He’s producing offensively at a good enough rate while winning 53 percent of his faceoffs and leading all B’s forwards in penalty kill ice time per game (3:03).

Tomas Nosek, C

Stats: 2 G, 4 A in 21 GP

Grade: B

Nosek scored three goals in 75 games last season. He already has two through 21 games this year. Scoring isn’t why Nosek is in the lineup, though. His versatility, speed, faceoff skill, penalty killing and defensive play earn him consistent minutes and a well-deserved bottom-six role.

Taylor Hall, LW

Stats: 6 G, 7 A in 21 GP

Grade: B

Hall has been a solid contributor offensively. The only concern is a lack of consistency. He has scored only one goal in the last 11 games. Luckily for the Bruins, they have enough offensive depth throughout the lineup to make up for Hall’s inconsistent production.

USA TODAY Sports

Matt Grzelcyk, D

Stats: 1 G, 5 A in 17 GP

Grade: B

Grzelcyk has been solid in his return from offseason shoulder surgery. Only Bergeron has been on the ice for fewer 5-on-5 goals against than Grzelcyk among Bruins players with 17 or more games played.

Trent Frederic, C/LW

Stats: 3 G, 3 A in 18 GP

Grade: B-

Frederic has been more engaged and productive offensively under Montgomery. Consistency is still an issue, but few players on Boston’s roster bring more truculence to the ice than Frederic. He has done enough to earn consistent ice time, which is no small feat given the forward depth on this roster.

A.J. Greer, LW

Stats: 3 G, 4 A in 16 GP

Grade: B-

Greer burst onto the scene with three goals in his first four games. He has failed to hit the back of the net in his last 14 appearances. Greer does a great job bringing a physical presence every night and is willing to drop his gloves to stick up for his teammates or change the momentum of a game. But for him to earn a regular role, the offensive production must be more consistent.

Brandon Carlo, D

Stats: 0 G, 2 A in 17 GP

Grade: B-

Carlo is never going to stuff the stat sheet with flashy offensive stats, but he does his job as a quality defensive defenseman who blocks shots, kills penalties and plays against top-six forwards. The B’s have allowed just four goals in Carlo’s 249:46 of 5-on-5 ice time in 17 games.

Craig Smith, RW

Stats: 1 G, 2 A in 12 GP

Grade: B-

Smith battled injuries last season and it hurt his offensive production. Unfortunately for him and the Bruins, the 2022-23 campaign has been more of the same in that regard. The difference this season is the B’s have enough depth on the wings to make up for Smith’s lack of production and injuries. As a result, the Bruins can be patient with Smith and give him enough time to get back to 100 percent health.

Anton Stralman, D

Stats: 0 G, 0 A in 8 GP

Grade: C+

Stralman’s role is simple: A depth defenseman who can play heavy minutes and give guys a breather. Blue line depth is hugely important and has been a fatal weakness in some recent playoff runs for Boston. Having Stralman on the roster gives Montgomery a trustworthy veteran who can fill multiple roles on a given night.

Stats: 4-2-0, .890 SV%, 2.92 GAA

Grade: C-

Swayman has been a disappointment so far. He has allowed 15 goals in five starts, including four goals given up during a loss to the Florida Panthers last Wednesday in his most recent start. There’s no reason to panic over Swayman’s play, but he definitely needs to be better.

Swayman might get an opportunity for extended playing time depending on Ullmark’s status. The Swedish netminder is day-to-day after leaving Saturday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the third period with an upper body injury.

USA TODAY Sports

Jakub Zboril, D

Stats: 1 G, 0 A in 13 GP

Grade: C-

Zboril’s offensive production has been a little disappointing. If that doesn’t change, Zboril could lose more minutes to Stralman. He’s been lackluster defensively, too. The 2015 first-round pick has been on the ice for seven 5-on-5 goals against in just 13 games. His 41.67 goals-for percentage is the second-worst among B’s defensemen.

Mike Reilly, D

Stats: 0 G, 1 A in 10 GP

Grade: C-

Reilly didn’t make much of an impact at either end of the ice and was waived on Nov. 9. Trading the veteran defenseman and his $3 million salary cap hit is the ideal scenario for both sides, but it seems the Bruins haven’t found a deal to their liking yet.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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