With the Bruins off to one of their best starts in franchise history, it’s time to evaluate the players heading into the All-Star break. The grades may seem a little on the higher end overall, but that's also true of the Bruins’ performance. So take a look, and feel free to comment. I’d love to hear some feedback from Bruins fans and non-Bruins fans alike.
David Krejci: A+
His talent showed in the Montreal series last spring, but no one could have predicted his offensive explosion this year. He’s playing with a maturity and creativity beyond his years, and he is quickly becoming one of the most exciting players to watch in the NHL.
Marc Savard: A
Still the premier playmaker on the team, leading in points (56) and assists (40). His +28 puts him at No. 1 in the NHL in the +/- category.
Phil Kessel: A
He has matured by leaps and bounds from season to season, and he’s finally finding his place as an elite goal-scorer. He still has a tendency to try to do too much when he has the puck, but if that’s his biggest drawback, then the Bruins are in good shape.
Michael Ryder: A-
Had a slow start to the season, but seven of his 18 goals have been game-winners (in addition to a shootout game-winner vs. Toronto). He is on pace to be a 30-goal-scorer, and without Bergeron and Sturm, his goal-scoring ability is crucial to the Bruins’ success.
Blake Wheeler: B+
He is proving to be a very balanced player with remarkable skating ability. He currently sits sixth on the team with 30 points, and don’t be shocked if his scoring pace increases in the second half as he really finds his game.
Milan Lucic: B+
He is compared to Cam Neely on an hourly basis, and his fighting ability is certainly at Neely’s level. But his goal-scoring production needs to increase significantly if he wants to truly be Boston’s new “power forward.”
P.J. Axelsson: B
He is the ideal defensive forward role player for the B’s. He leads all Bruin forwards in short-handed ice time, but his lack of offense is evident in the fact that two of his four goals have been empty-netters.
Stephane Yelle: B
Similar to Axelsson, he provides a veteran presence that a young team like the Bruins absolutely needs. His contribution lies more in his leadership role than in goals and assists.
Chuck Kobasew: B
He has cooled down considerably from his hot start to the season, but he’s the same solid player he was last year. Don’t be surprised if he hits another hot streak down the stretch.
Marco Sturm: B-
Had a decent start to the season before once again being sidelined for the season with a devastating knee injury. Before the injury, Sturm had four power play goals in only 19 games. While the B's will certainly miss his offensive production, their depth should overcome this setback.
Shawn Thornton: B-
Thornton's team-leading 88 penalty minutes—attributed to his willingness to drop the gloves—combined with his energy, allows Milan Lucic to focus more on being a complete hockey player and not just an enforcer.
Petteri Nokalainen: C-
Through 27 games, he has tallied only one assist, and at minus-3, is one of only four Bruins to be a minus player on the season.
Vladimir Sobotka: D+
High expectations in the preseason have not come to fruition. Though he has spent a good deal of time in Providence, he has netted only one goal and two assists through 19 games. In addition, his minus-9 rating is worst on the team.
Patrice Bergeron: D+
Possibly still hampered by last year’s concussion, but his four goals and 14 assists in 31 games is sub-par at best.
Zdeno Chara: A
No surprise that his defensive play is stellar, but his seven goals and 10 assists on the man advantage have been a catalyst for the third-best power-play unit in the NHL.
Dennis Wideman: A
His plus-26 ranks third in the NHL, and first among all defensemen. His average ice time is second on the Bruins, behind only Chara. In addition, he is becoming an offensive force on the power play, with five goals.
Aaron Ward: B+
The man is a shot-blocking machine and an integral part of the Bruins' defense. His willingness to sacrifice his body epitomizes the grit of the Bruins team. One goal and five assists isn’t exactly great, but his intangibles make him vital to the team.
Matt Hunwick: B+
With the injury to Andrew Ference, Hunwick became an everyday defenseman—probably a little sooner than Claude Julien would have liked. But he has performed remarkably. His 15 points is an added bonus to strong defensive play.
Shane Hnidy: B
Similar to Aaron Ward, he is a tough, gritty defenseman who isn’t afraid to mix things up. Not a ton of offensive production, but goals and assists certainly aren’t the only measure of a defenseman.
Mark Stuart B-
Similar to Shawn Thornton, his pugilist abilities give the Bruins another physical presence. Nothing flashy, but he does his job effectively.
Tim Thomas: A+
He has certainly silenced the critics who said last year was a fluke. A league-leading .934 save percentage, coupled with a 2.09 GAA, proves that Thomas has taken his place among the goaltending elite.
Someone tell that to whoever makes the All-Star ballots.
Manny Fernandez: A+
The Bruins needed a viable No. 2 goaltender, but they got a superstar in Fernandez. Last year’s injury has clearly healed perfectly, and he—like Thomas—is in the top five in save percentage (.928) and GAA (2.07).
Martin St. Pierre