Part of the reason being labeled as a “complete player” is such an honor is because it is a compliment rarely shelled out.
Usually, players exhibit a couple of great traits while lacking in other areas. Opponents will respect one area of your game and try to exploit another.
What are those instances for the reigning Eastern Conference champs? Here is a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Boston Bruins’ top stars.
Being the tallest player in the history of the NHL comes with its advantages. One of them is having a longer stick than everyone else. Chara uses this to his full advantage by getting a blade on shots taken by forwards entering the zone or forcing them to the outside.
He’s also been known to use it as a last line of defense when the goalie is out of position.
In addition to his long reach, leadership and slap shot, he also has the endurance of a Kenyan marathon runner. In the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, Chara averaged the second-most ice time of any player with 29:31 per game (Ryan Suter was ahead of him but played only five games). Drew Doughty was third at 27:57.
There’s no doubt that his long reach can save him a few skating strides a game, which helps with managing fatigue.
The one knock on the big man is his poor skating ability. People who are 6’9” aren’t designed to be smooth and graceful, and it’s no surprise that he isn’t.
However, one of his strengths makes up for this weakness the majority of the time. With his long reach, he is able to disrupt plays where he otherwise would have been exposed due to his lack of speed. He can get to the puck from a further distance than anyone else can.
He won’t win many foot races for icings, but just about every team would prefer to have Chara over smooth-skating defensemen like Erik Johnson and Paul Martin.
One of the many positive facets of Bergeron’s game is his success in the faceoff circle.
In this year’s playoffs, he led the league by winning over 62 percent of his draws and dominated the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final by winning 24 of 28 faceoffs against competent faceoff men like Jonathan Toews and David Bolland.
Winning 86 percent of faceoffs in an NHL game is unheard of.
Yahoo! Sports’ Greg Wyshynski wrote a fantastic piece about Bergeron’s success in the faceoff circle. “A lot of guys have a go-to move and he can read it your tendencies. Bergy switches it up. Very creative in the circle. He finds ways to win draws. It’s not just one thing,” teammate Chris Kelly said.
Bruins fans hope Bergeron continues to be creative in the circle for the remainder of his new contract.
The only thing that can dethrone Bergeron from his perch as the best defensive forward in the league is the slew of injuries he attained during last year’s playoffs.
Bergy played with a punctured lung, separated shoulder, torn rib cartilage and broken rib. He also had a bad concussion a few years ago.
All reports indicate that the 28-year-old is healing nicely and should be ready to go by training camp. If there are no lingering effects, this is a non-issue. Bruins fans (and hockey fans) are hoping that there are no long-term health issues for Bergeron.
At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Milan Lucic is a force to be reckoned with—especially in front of the net. He is effective at screening the goalie and has a knack for being in the perfect spot to punch in a rebound.
His size is the most important aspect of his game and he does a good job of utilizing it.
Just like Chara, skating is the weakest asset of Lucic's game. It's most evident when No. 17 is covering for a defenseman and is forced to skate backwards as the opponent streaks toward Boston's zone.
The big man should try to stay on his wing and hope David Krejci covers for him instead.
In addition to his strong defensive skills and speed, Loui Eriksson just doesn’t miss any games. In his last four seasons, the 27-year-old Swede has only missed three games.
Knowing that he will be in the lineup is especially helpful for the Bruins this offseason with the potential injury concern over Gregory Campbell and, to a lesser extent, Patrice Bergeron.
I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but it's worth noting again. Eriksson has never amassed more than 28 penalty minutes in any season. He plays an incredibly smart game, especially in his own zone.
Since scoring 36 goals in 2006-07, Eriksson’s goal scoring numbers have dropped. He has only notched 29, 27, 26 and 12 goals in each of his last four seasons, respectively.
In his 36-goal campaign, he was scoring in over 43 percent of his games. Last year, it was 25 percent.
Some of this can be blamed on the atrocious lineup the Stars have put on the ice over the last few years, but a trend is a trend. With the improved cast of characters that Eriksson will be skating with this season, he should be able to tally 35-40 goals.
Bruins fans are hoping he reverses this trend.