Last Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders marked the end of the first quarter of the season for the Bruins. So, while I’m a tad late, I figured it was time to reflect on the year so far. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Goaltending Has Been Spectacular
Starting with the Bruins’ netminders, they’ve been incredible to start this season. Rask has appeared in nine games so far, going 6-2-1 with a 0.906 save percentage (SV%) and 2.51 goals-against average (GAA). This is one scenario in which the numbers are lying to you, because Rask’s are about average. But, Rask has been playing outstanding, and this is perhaps the best start to a season he’s had in awhile. His average save percentage is largely due to the low number of shots he’s faced (just 244 in those 9 games, so an average of 27 per game). Meanwhile, his average GAA is likely due in large part due to a couple of games that were high-scoring, and the fact that he’s only played in nine games this season, so the high-scoring games have a greater effect. But regardless, Tuukka has been at the top of his game so far this year, and the Bruins are certainly better for it.
Halak has been outstanding so far this season his well. Statistically he’s actually been the better goalie, but as I detailed above, Tuukka’s stats don’t tell the whole story. Halak’s paint a pretty accurate picture of how well he’s been playing though, as he holds a 4-1-1 record, a 0.929 SV%, and a 1.66 GAA. He’s truly been outstanding to start this season. The Bruins are unbelievably lucky to have such a good backup goaltending tandem. They’ve been a huge part of the success so far this year, and that’ll certainly stay true going forward.
Defense Better Than Expected
Perhaps my favorite surprise of the season has been the defense. Going into it, I expected some growing pains, as Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara were being replaced by two young guns in Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril. Thankfully though, I was mostly wrong. Both Lauzon and Zboril have stepped up big time and have largely played well. There have been nights where they, particularly Zboril, have looked their age and experience level. But, that’s to be expected. Overall though, they have been impressive. My major concern with them, and again mainly Zboril, is the playoffs. The playoffs tend to eat young players alive the first time around, and I’m concerned that’ll be the case here. The Bruins can’t really afford for it to be, so hopefully, they can somehow avoid that. If they can, this team could easily go deep this year.
But overall, the defense has been excellent. They’re done a great job with shot suppression, allowing just 382 in 15 games. That’s an average of just 25 shots per game, which is incredible. They were also strong in transition for a good part of the season, but that’s started to fall off as Grzelcyk’s absence stretches on. But, once he’s back, I expect it to go back to being where it was to start the season, which was great. As for offense, outside of Charlie McAvoy, you’d like to see a little more out of them. But, given the circumstances, I’ll take just solid defense right now.
Offense Still Top Heavy
Last but not least, we’ve arrived at the Bruins’ offense. They began this season without a 5v5 goal for three games, which sent many fans into a completely rational (not) tailspin. But, once the dam broke, the floodgates opened and they went on a hot streak. Unfortunately though, they’ve gone a bit cold again. They’re scoring, but it’s been a lot sloppier. That’s not great obviously. But, just like I said back at the beginning of the season, these stretches happen. They will snap out of it and be fine again.
The biggest problem the Bruins offense has had so far this year is they are yet again very top heavy. Six players have at least ten points this year. Those six are: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Nick Ritchie, and David Krejci. The only surprising one there is Ritchie. After those six, the next highest scorer on the Bruins is Craig Smith, who has five points on the year. That’s not ideal. It could definitely be worse, but it could also be a lot better.
Ondrej Kase, who was brought in to help with this issue, has been limited to just two games due to a concussion. So, once he recovers and settles back into the lineup, he should be a big help. But, the Bruins could use more than just one person. The Coyle line has been quiet lately after a strong start to the year. Hopefully, they can snap out of it soon, because as we saw early in the year, when they’re going, they’re an excellent line. As well as the Bruins have played for most of this season, it would be a huge boost if they could start getting some consistent secondary scoring again. So, let’s hope they figure it out soon.
Bruins’ Biggest Problem So Far is Injuries
If I had to pick one thing as the Bruins’ biggest problem so far this season, it’s been injuries. As I mentioned above, Kase has only played two games due to a concussion. Matt Grzelcyk has been limited to just six due a lower-body injury. Those are two players who were supposed to have key roles this year. The Bruins have largely been able to overcome both absences, but Grzlecyk’s is growing more apparent by the game, and Kase would definitely be a boost to the second line.
Those two aren’t the only ones who’ve missed significant time either. Pastrnak missed the first seven games while he was still recovering from off-season hip surgery. DeBrusk missed five games due to a lower-body injury too. And now, David Krejci is out for at least Sunday’s game with a lower-body injury. Miller is out for unknown reasons as well. Hopefully, neither of those are too serious because they’ve both been great to start the year.
All of this has led to us not being able to see this Bruins team as it was imagined before the season began. That’s obviously not an ideal situation, as it’s very hard to tell what issues, if any, are going to need to be addressed externally before the playoffs begin, since we don’t truly know what we currently have. So, I would definitely pick that as the biggest problem the Bruins have had so far this year. Hopefully, everyone gets healthy soon, and we can finally get a look at a fully healthy Bruins team.
Overall, the Bruins Have Been Great So Far
All things considered, if you’re a level-headed fan (an increasingly rare find on Bruins Twitter these days), you really haven’t had much to complain about so far this season. The goaltending has been spectacular, the defense has been better than many expected, and the offense, while top-heavy, has been mostly good as well. This team clearly has outstanding chemistry as well, as they always compete hard even when they’re not at their best. You really can’t ask for much more out of them. There’s a reason they’re at the top of a very competitive division. All we can hope for now is that they keep this level of a play up and then build on it, which they almost surely will. As long as that happens, they should be primed for a deep playoff run this year. So, buckle up Bruins fans, and let’s hope we’re watching Bruins hockey in the summer again this year!
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com.
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