Bruins report card: Tuukka, defense with lowest grades of the bunch - Metro US

Bruins report card: Tuukka, defense with lowest grades of the bunch

David Krejci and the Bruins forwards receive an A.
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Heading into the 2016 All-Star break, the Bruins are 26-18-5 overall, which is good enough for third-place in the Atlantic Division and fifth-place in the Eastern Conference. They have been just awful at TD Garden (11-13-2) but they are unquestionably one of the best road teams in the NHL (15-5-2). The unpredictability of this club is further illustrated by the fact that they own the third-best goal-differential in the East (plus-16).

Coaching (B): For someone who came into this campaign with his job in serious jeopardy, head coach Claude Julien has settled in after a bumpy start. Boston should make the postseason this spring but if it fails to do so for the second year in a row, Julien will likely be fired. Having already been let go from two other head coaching jobs in the NHL (Montreal and New Jersey), he has clearly learned some important lessons about tweaking things in his style before it’s too late. Specifically, in this season with so many young players in and out of the lineup, he has been much more open to changing lines in the middle of a game – something which he used to loathe to do. He is still one of the best in the league behind the bench.

Goaltending (C+): It has been an uneven season so far for Tuukka Rask (17-15-4, 2.49 goals against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts) in 2015-16. He is still Boston’s most important player so when he is on his game andthey are capable of playing with almost anyone. Julien has done a good job so far in terms of giving Rask some rest, which should come in handy when they really need him down the stretch. Backup Jonas Gustavsson (9-3-1, 2.38 goals against average, .915 save percentage) has been a very pleasant surprise for the B’s. They have to hope that the undisclosed illness that sent him to Mass General Hospital on Tuesday night is nothing too serious.

Defensemen (C-): Thus far, (with apologies to Forrest Gump) you never seem to know what you’ll get out of Boston’s defensemen. Zdeno Chara (7 goals, 20 assists, plus-9) will be 39 in less than two months and the captain has obviously slowed down. The scary part for the B’s is that they are nowhere close to having anyone else that can push him as a top defenseman. Injury-prone Dennis Seidenberg (0 goals, 7 assists, minus-3) has played in 33 games and Adam McQuaid (1 goal, 5 assists, plus-6) has played in 38 but he is currently on IR with a concussion. Rookie Colin Miller (3 goals, 12 assists, plus-1) has shown promise while Kevan Miller (3 goals, 10 assists, plus-5) has been a turnover machine.

Forwards (A): On paper, this doesn’t appear to be an offensive juggernaut, but at least when you examine thestatistics, you realize that the Bruins’ offense has really carried them. The Bruins have scored the second most goals in the East (147) which also ties them with the Blackhawksfor third in the league, and they also surprisingly possess the second-best power play in the NHL (25.9 percent). Six different guys have double-digit goal totals, led by All-Star Patrice Bergeron (19 goals, 25 assists, plus-10) and Brad Marchand (20 goals, 12 assists), who has played like an All-Star for the most part except for his needless three-game suspension. Free agent-to-be Loui Eriksson (15 goals, 24 assists, plus-11) is setting himself up for a big pay day, either here or elsewhere while Ryan Spooner (10 goals, team-best 27 assists) is having a breakout season. David Krejci (11 goals, 25 assists) still feels like the key part of the offense.You can truly see his importance when he’s not in the lineup.

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