Early Season Stock Report for the Boston Bruins
With one quarter of the abridged season behind them, the Boston Bruins are flying high. At 8-1-2, the Bruins proudly own the top winning percentage in the Eastern Conference.
With points coming at a premium, Claude Julien's boys have answered the bell with one of the best starts in franchise history. Despite the very healthy number in the win column, the Bruins have yet to fire on all cylinders. Though there has been plenty to celebrate, there remains room for improvement.
With the next few weeks likely set to thin the herd of playoff contenders, it's time evaluate the stock of each Bruins player.
Forward Line 1
David Krejci: Grade: A, Stock: Up
Amidst swirling trade rumors, David Krejci has played magnificently in the early going. Leading the team in assists (seven) and points (11), the young center looks like the indispensable Krejci of old. Perhaps the inconsistent playmaker has finally matured into a dependable star.
Milan Lucic: Grade B+, Stock: Up
After a down season in 2011-12, Milan Lucic has regained his edge. He looks reenergized by the return of bash brother Nathan Horton, and he has been playing with great energy. His 45 hits rank fourth in the National Hockey League, and he has made a significant offensive contribution with eight points in 11 games. If he can limit his team-leading penalty minutes and focus on shooting the puck, his grade should improve.
Nathan Horton: Grade B+, Stock: Up
Nathan Horton has looked strong in his comeback from long-term concussion problems. With seven points and a plus-4 rating, his offensive numbers are encouraging, if not ideal. His biggest impact has come in the clutch. Three of his four goals have come in the third period, and in all three cases, the Bruins have come from behind to force overtime.
Forward Line 2
Patrice Bergeron: Grade: A-, Stock: Static
The defending Frank J. Selke Trophy has been superb as usual. With seven points, his offensive production is in line with his career averages and his plus-6 rating ranks third on the team. His defensive-excellence has helped the penalty kill thrive, though like many of his teammates he has struggled on the power play.
Tyler Seguin: Grade: B, Stock: Down
After an insane goal-scoring streak in Switzerland, expectations were astronomical for the 21-year-old rising star. So far, the winger has failed to meet those expectations with just two goals. However, Seguin has produced his fair share of superb chances, and his luck should turn around soon.
Despite his scoring drought, Seguin's all-around game has been tremendous, earning him a team-leading plus-8 rating. Seguin's grade suffers primarily from a lack of power play success. If he can start lighting the lamp on a regular basis, the power play should improve.
Brad Marchand: Grade: A, Stock: Up
Brad Marchand has picked up Seguin's slack with the league's second highest shooting percentage (43.8). His team-high seven goals prove that the pesky winger is more than just an agitator. Marchand has also reigned in his trademark antics, registering just four penalty minutes.
Forward Line 3
Chris Kelly: Grade: C, Stock: Down
After a superb 20-goal, plus-33 season a year ago, Chris Kelly has disappointed in 2013. He has yet to score a goal, while dishing out just three assists. His minus-3 rating must improve.
Rich Peverley: Grade C+, Stock: Down
Like Kelly, Peverley has not played up to his usual standard. His four points and minus-3 rating have simply not been good enough. Boston's sputtering offense has been directly linked to the struggles of the third line. If the depth scoring does not recover, a mid-season addition might be necessary.
Chris Bourque: Grade C, Stock: Down
Ray Bourque's son arrived in Boston to plenty of fanfare, but the long-time AHL star has once again had trouble establishing himself in the big league's. With just two points to his name, Bourque has added little to Boston's anemic power play and could find himself fighting for his job sooner rather than later. Despite his limited production, Bourque has flashed talent, namely by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Toronto.
Forward Line 4
Gregory Campbell: Grade: B+, Stock: Up
Greg Campbell added some timely scoring early in the season, though his point total hardly exploded. His dependable defense continues to make him a superb fourth-line pivot.
Shawn Thornton: Grade: B, Stock: Static
Though a brutal defeat to Buffalo's John Scott left him concussed, Shawn Thornton has performed admirably as Boston's enforcer. His value to the team will never be shown on the scoresheet, but his veteran presence remains invaluable.
Daniel Paille: Grade: C+, Stock: Down
A former first-round pick, Daniel Paille has made little use of his natural talent. He has looked slow at times, putting up only three points. Though little is expected from the fourth-line winger, he can certainly contribute more.
Defensive Pair 1
Zdeno Chara: Grade: B-, Stock: Down
Since arriving in Boston, Zdeno Chara has been arguably the league's best defender. Despite solid play this season, he has been far from Norris Trophy caliber. Chara has been at his worst on the power play, consistently mishandling the puck.
On defense he continues to stand strong, forming the foundation of the Bruins' elite penalty kill. A little more physicality and improved focus in the offensive end could go a long way.
Johnny Boychuk: Grade: A-, Stock: Up
Elevated to the top-pairing, Johnny Boychuk has been superb. A physical, stay-at-home defender, Boychuk has done a tremendous job of protecting Tuukka Rask. If he starts firing off a few more shots, his point totals could improve.
Defensive Pair 2
Dougie Hamilton: Grade: A-, Stock: Up
Dougie Hamilton has been a pleasant surprise on Boston's blue-line. The 19-year-old rookie has been Boston's best defender at times, but making the difficult transition to the NHL hasn't been without its growing pains. He has been better than advertised in his own zone, making great use of his size.
His offensive upside is obvious, best exhibited by his brilliant assist on David Krejci' game-winner against Carolina. He is still looking for his first career goal, but he has shown the ability to jump start the power-play with excellent vision and a big shot.
Dennis Seidenberg: Grade: A-, Stock: Static
Dennis Seidenberg has been his usual self with a plus-5 rating while logging nearly 23 minutes of ice-time per game. He only has three points so-far, but that number could be trending upward. He earned two vital assists with Tuukka Rask on the bench to force overtime against the New York Rangers on February 12.
Defensive Pair 3
Andrew Ference: Grade: B, Stock: Static
There's not much to be said about Andrew Ference's start to the season. With three points and a minus-1 rating, Ference is doing what is expected of him. A vocal leader, the alternate captain may be more valuable in the locker-room than on the ice.
Adam McQuaid: Grade: B, Stock: Up
After making an unexpected return from off-season surgery in time for opening night, Adam McQuaid's play has been encouraging. His physicality on the back end has been tremendous, even if he has yet to produce a point this season.
Tuukka Rask: Grade: A-, Stock: Up
Tuukka Rask has shined in his new role as the Bruins' No. 1 netminder. He is 6-1-2 in nine starts with a rock-solid 2.07 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
Rask's stock began to soar after allowing just one goal in order to steal a pair of crucial division games against Toronto and Montreal. He has definitively proven that he is up to the challenge of replacing Tim Thomas, and his score would be even higher if not for a mediocre outing against the New York Rangers on February12.
Had he managed to stop a routine shot from New York's Anton Stralman, he could have earned an A+.
Anton Khudobin: Grade: A, Stock: Up
Entering the season completely unproven, Anton Khudobin has been perfectly reliable. He has won both of his starts, including a signature 3-1 victory over Buffalo on February 10. If he can keep his goals-against average in its current 2.00 range, he'll make Claude Julien and the fans very comfortable when Tuukka Rask needs a rest.