After 20 or so games, it seems like it's a good time to sit back, take stock, and hand out judgement. Taking inspiration from Pensburgh, let's break down and analyze how different bits of the Bruins have done so far this season.
The goaltending, so far, hasn't been as bad as you think. At 5v5, the Bruin's goaltenders have been pretty dead average. The average 5v5 Sv% for a team so far this year has been 92.7%, and the Bruins are sitting not-exactly-pretty at 92.1%.
Tuukka Rask was a point of worry early on, but as these things go he's been getting better as the year's gone on. But while it's nice to see that his 5v5 Sv% is no longer sub-.900, the dude's eating 7 mil in cap space. So far he's been "not that bad", and you just need more than that from a guy with that salary.
Backup Jonas Gustavsson has played surprisingly well. I expected less, so I'm happy
Grade: C-. The kind of C- a straight A honors student gets once in 10th grade English and never, ever forgets.
Bad. Just plain bad. There's no way around it.
On a bad night, which is most of them, Zdeno Chara looks like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon. While still very good at his job, he's clearly getting too old for this. Torey Krug looks like a situational player that's only useful on the powerplay and in ozone faceoffs against Tanner Glass. And everyone else looks like they belong in the AHL.
On a good night, Zdeno Chara looks like a Norris candidate. Torey Krug looks like a second pairing guy, knowing exactly where to position himself in his own zone, making safe but effective passes out of his zone, and patrolling the points to keep the puck in the other team's zone as long as possible. Colin Miller and Zach Trotman both look like guys who are going to be top 4 NHLers some day soon. Joe Morrow and McQuaid aren't making horrible mistakes, and Kevan Miller isn't playing.
What's most telling about this situation is that even on a good night, the Bruins still only have 2 top 4 defensemen, and one is Torey Krug. The blueline is clearly this team's bottleneck. Hope for either a trade or a caterpillar-to-butterfly overnight transformation of either Trotman or Chiller.
As for special teams, Krug, Chara, and Chiller have done everything you could want a defenseman to do on the powerplay. But on the PK? Oh boy. Holy shit have they been bad. Chara's been really the only serviceable d man on the penalty kill. Kevan Miller has been a Greek tragedy on skates when shorthanded. McQuaid has made a large amount of uncharacteristic mistakes. The PK's really just been pathetic.
Grade: D-. You're barely passing, step up.
Oh gosh. This one is a spicy meatball. Lots to unpack.
So, the season started with both Marchand and Eriksson skating next to Bergeron. This line was dominant, to say the least. They had about twice as many shot attempts as the competition on any given night and played the toughest minutes you could get. It was glorious. But all good things come to an end, and once other lines started struggling this glorious super line had to be broken up.
To start the year, the Spooner line was about as bad as the Bergeron line was good. Spooner has, most of the time, looked like a kitten distracted by a laser beam in his own zone. A 2-1-2 backcheck with Spooner at center is basically a 2-2 powerplay for the other team. At the other end of the ice, he just hasn't been producing enough 5v5 for his offense to make up for it. With a rotating cast of wingers, he's looked better as the season has progressed, but he's still been pretty bad.
David Krejci was on fire to start the season, but has cooled down considerably since Pastrnak was injured. Pastrnak, in his own end, got manhandled a bit more than you'd like him too and at times he just didn't look like he was physically ready for the NHL. But unlike Ryan Spooner, his 5v5 offensive contributions always seemed to outweigh his defensive woes, so you never really wanted him out of the line up.
The Bruins had an influx of new scoring wingers to start the season, and so far they've done well. If playing a "Bruins style of hockey" means anything to you, then you'll love these guys. The best of the bunch has probably been Brett Connolly, who's looked like a top 6 NHLer in both ends of the ice. The guy hits hard, hits smart, and shoots often. Tampa better hit on those two draft picks, because Connolly is looking like a steal. Jimmy Hayes has been a vintage "skate in straight line at goal, score goal" type of guy. Beleskey's been kind of that guy, but he just hasn't been able to generate enough offense. He does seem to excel at the other end of the ice, and that's something that this team sorely needs more players to do. Frank Vatrano is the newbie, and he's looked like a young Brad Marchand, only with a puck-shooting machine gun instead of a stick. Kid's leading the league in shots/60 and has only 1 goal. Expect both those numbers to change if he keeps getting ice time.
But what about the shutdown line guys? The best stuff here has come from FA pick up Joonas Kemppainen. He's looked like the real deal after 20 games. He plays tough minutes and comes out as an even, low event possession player. That's good. That means that players who are supposed to make things happen, can't make things happen when he's on the ice. Not noticing this guy is a good thing, it means he's doing his job.
In contrast, the worst news for this group of players has got to be Chris Kelly's knee injury. Kelly was a great player in his own zone and excellent on the PK, and holy shit do the Bruins need more of that. On the bright(?) side, losing Kelly probably didn't hurt that much considering he was on pace to record his worst defensive season as a Bruin, by far.
As for the wings, they've been solidly "not as bad as I thought they'd be". Tyler Randell's looked pretty meh in his own zone, but he's more goals than Beleskey and Pastrnak so he can't be doing that much wrong. Zac Rinaldo has looked slightly better than Randell but still overall meh. Some people are taking solace in the fact that he's a very fast skater. I am not convinced a player's speed matters all that much when they're 10 feet out of position. Max Talbot has been pretty darn bad so far, at least as bad as Campbell was last year.
As for special teams, the PP has been holy gosh darn wonderful. Spooner's earning his money and his roster spot here. That first unit moves the puck across the ice the way a virtuoso violinist moves their bow across the strings. There's nothing you can say about that first PP other than "it's good". The second PP unit has also been good. They've been more "really really angry metalcore drummer" than virtuoso violinist, but hey, they've gotten good results.
Grade: A-. A few weakpoints can't take away from overall awesomeness of this forward unit.
Julien lost his security blanket in Gregory Campbell during the offseason, and his deployment strategy has flourished because of it. The defense has gotten better through this first 20 games, and that's all on Julien. The Bruins have won more tight checking, low scoring games than they deserved to. That's not because of Joe Morrow's amazing shutdown ability. It's because Claude Julien knows how to coach good defense. Hate on the 1-4 all you want, but the Bruins would have lost a few games without it.
Some people will hate on Claude for benching Spooner and Pastrnak at times. I'm not one of those people. Any time either of those guys have sat, it's been for a good cause. I'd derride him for playing Miller instead of Trotman, but that's forgivable compared to the utterly baffling line up choices Claude had last season.
PP coaching has been excellent, and I'm pretty sure the PK's more a personell issue than anything else.
Grade: B+. Good.
Sweeney gave up a pick for Rinaldo while Lee Stempniak was sniped on a PTO by the Devils. In hindsight, probably shuda got Franson or even Schlemko instead of Irwin. Hayes has looked like an upgrade over Smith, so far. Joonas Kemppainen has been a serious diamond in the rough finding. Frank Vatrano and Austin Czarnik have both looked like first round talents coming out of college. Monster's been surprisingly good. Really glad to see vets that play bad like Talbot get waived instead of sticking around as "glue guys".
But none of that matters, because of the trade of He Who Shall Not Be Named.
Grade: shuduv kept
One thing I kept writing over and over in this piece was "getting better", and that's a good way to describe this Bruins team as a whole. They're getting better. It was hard to go anywhere but up after the first 3 games, but they seem to be getting there.