After 21 games, the Boston Bruins are 12-7-2.
Their 26 points rank them second in the Northeast behind Montreal, and seventh overall in the Eastern Conference. Every team ahead of them, however, has played at least three games more.
With a quarter of the season gone, it seemed like a good idea to grade the players who have piqued some interest about a possible Stanley Cup challenge.
Tuukka Rask: A-
Sometimes, you make your own luck. Sometimes, however, you have absolutely no luck at all.
Nobody knows how Rask is 1-5-1 this season.
A bad first game allowed Tim Thomas to regain the number one position, but since then, the young goalie has been very good. His 2.36 GAA and .935 save percentage would make him the starter on almost any team in the league, but when your team only seems to have a bad night when you are between the pipes, it is difficult to challenge for the No. 1 spot.
Tim Thomas: A+
Thomas got off to the best-ever start by a Bruins goalie. Since then, he has come back down to Earth slightly, but he is probably still the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy.
His numbers speak for themselves: 15 GP, 11-2-1, .951 Sv%, 1.56 GAA.
Johnny Boychuck: B
Boychuck has played only 11 games, missing time after sustaining a fractured arm against the Rangers. He had three assists in the first five games, but since his return has not registered a point.
That might be down to the injury, but he needs to return to his best and become more of a goal-scoring threat.
Zdeno Chara: A
2009/10 was a bit of a down year for the captain, but this season, he has been back at his best. Plus-11, 10 points, 26:27 TOI/G, controlled the game well, good physical presence.
He is having a great year—just ask Alexander Ovechkin.
Andew Ference: B-
Ference leads the team with a plus-12, and has made precious few errors. In Boychuck’s absence, he was great.
That said, he has only two points (both assists). That is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when playing alongside Chara, and the team cannot have two defensemen on the same line with 60+ shots.
Matt Hunwick: C
His skating ability and size mean that he will never be happy staying in the defensive zone.
However, when he has had to, he has looked uncomfortable with the puck.
When he goes forward, he has not contributed a great amount, with only three points (1 G, 2 A) his plus/minus differential is fourth-best amongst defensemen, but he needs to play better as the season goes on.
Adam McQuaid: B
With a full complement of healthy defensemen, McQuaid will be warming the bench for a while.
Still, he was good in his 10 games this season, and will likely be called upon again down the stretch.
Dennis Seidenberg: A-
Remember that 1940s Bugs Bunny cartoon, where Bugs is playing baseball, and plays every position?
At times this season, the Bruins’ penalty kill has felt very similar: Almost every shot is blocked, and almost every time, it is Dennis Seidenberg you see, sprawled across the ice at the goalie’s feet. He also leads Boston’s defensemen in hits.
Offensively and with the man advantage, he has been less impressive, but defensively, he has been stellar.
Mark Stuart: C+
Some of Stuart’s numbers are very similar to Ference’s. He has been on the ice two seconds less than Ference and has just one fewer shot. Both have two assists and 23 PIM, and neither has a goal.
However, while Ference has been great, Stuart has struggled. His minus-1 is tied for second-worst on the team and he has rarely looked steady with the puck.
This is particularly noticeable when going forward.
Patrice Bergeron: B-
The good: Leads forwards in ice time when a man down (B’s lead NHL on the PK); team-best 52.8% faceoff winnings percentage; team-best 10 assists.
The bad: Only three goals from 50 shots; when centering Horton and Lucic, should be better.
Gregory Campbell: A
Cambell leads the Bruins’ forwards in shots blocked and has been very good on the PK. He has chipped in with two goals and four assists, and has played well centering the–so far brilliant–fourth line.
It would be nice, though, if a player that is taking a quarter of your faceoffs could win more than 47.1% of them.
Jordan Caron: B
Relegated to the role of ‘the other rookie’ Caron has had a very good season, but he has done it quietly.
He has racked up 13:23 per game and has scored on 11.5% of his shots–fourth best on the team.
Nathan Horton: A
What a pickup Horton has been.
After his phenomenal start, he has cooled off considerably, but is still having a great season on balance. His 18 points lead the team, but he is in his longest point drought of the season, at four games. Also, he has scored just one goal in the past nine games.
If he plays anywhere near as well as he did in October, he might be the best player on this team.
David Krejci: B
Krejci has not scored in seven games, and has just three assists over that span. How much of that is down to his missing six games with a concussion is debateable.
Of those seven games, the Bruins have won just two.
Krejci started the season with six points in the first four games. The black and gold need him to play like that again in the remaining three quarters of the season.
Milan Lucic: A
Plagued by injury almost all of the year, last season was a bit of a lost one for Lucic. Now, fully healthy, it is clear that he is worth every penny of the extension the Bruins gave him a year ago.
His 10 goals lead the team, he is tied for the points lead with Horton (18), has three game-winners, and has been a huge physical presence again.
The Bruins’ best player this year.
Brad Marchand: B+
The most glaring problem Marchand has had, is that he creates a lot of chances, but has only converted three of them.
The wait for his first goal was agonising, frequently coming achingly close; it became infuriating to watch. On the other hand, two of those three goals were on the penalty kill.
Daniel Paille: C
He has been a healthy scratch much of the season, and when he has played, it is easy to see why.
A very disappointing start, and it means Paille will find himself near the top of the list of potential cuts, with the Bruins near the cap.
Mark Recchi: B-
Should one be more lenient when grading the 42-year-old Recchi? He does play his rear end off, each and every night, but the future HoFer has notched just four goals.
Then again, two of them were game-winners.
Michael Ryder: B-
As was the case with Recchi, there is the question: How does one assess Ryder?
It is easy to say that he is more consistent than he was in the past, and his 12 points and two game-winning goals are good, but he does make $4 million. For that level of production, that might be too high a cap hit.
His plus/minus differential is by far the worst on the team, at minus-5. Thus far then, it is fair to say Ryder’s been good, but not for the money.
Tyler Seguin: B
Offensively, he has started better than most would have imagined, and his speed is a brilliant weapon.
He has struggled in the defensive zone, and on transition, but he has played more often–and better–than anyone would have predicted before the season.
His four goals lead all Bruins centers.
Shawn Thornton: A
What else could one ask from Thornton? Three fighting majors, one would expect that, but no one expected him to rack up 46 shots on goal, and find the net four times.
The numbers are even better when you realise he has only played 10:19 a game.
Blake Wheeler: B-
Wheeler could be more willing to go to the net–no Bruins forward with fewer than 40 shots has played as much as he has (36 shots, 15:44)–but he has performed well on the penalty kill, and has established himself as a solid, responsible young player.