The Bruins top 4 defensemen, in terms of 5v5 time on ice.
Chara is leading the Bruins in time on ice. That's normal. That's expected. Even at his age, he's still obviously a number 1 defenseman in the NHL.
But the guys behind him?
Torey Krug is clearly a top 4 defenseman in both ends of the ice, he's proven that so far this season. But he still probably shouldn't be one of your big minute eating guys. McQuaid and Miller are both good bottom pairing guys... but they're not playing on the bottom pairing. They've been playing in the top 4. Hell, both Kevan Miller AND McQuaid have played games next to Chara on the TOP PAIR. When Kevan Miller is a top pairing defenseman, something is obviously very wrong.
And yet... The defense hasn't sucked. At least, no where near as much as it should. The Bruins are currently 11th in 5v5 goals against at even strength. And in the second half of this very young season, the last 15 games, the Bruins have been 3rd in the league in goals against at even strength. In terms of special teams, the Bruins have had the BEST PK in the league over that period of time, allowing only 3 powerplay goals total over the last 15 games.
How many people, 15 games ago, would have predicted that? Hell, I would have been ecstatic if we managed to have even a mediocre defense. A defense with Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid as their top 4 should be getting scored on a whole lot more. This turnaround is insane, and we have only one man to thank for it.
Claude Julien has seriously made something out of nothing with the defense this season. Guys like Colin Miller and Zach Trotman managed to turn into NHL defensemen much, much sooner than was anticipated. Accelerated development like that usually happens because of the coach. Spooner now looks like he knows what to do during the backcheck instead of skating around like a distracted kitty cat. That's coaching. The entire team's play, even the forwards, has looked much, much better in the defensive zone. And when was the last truly embarrassing Kevan Miller .gif you saw?
That's right, it was over 15 games ago.
Hate on the Kevan Miller deployment all you want. Hate on him sending Gregory Campbell out as the extra attacker. Hate on him for not playing Pasta more. And the defense is far from perfect right now. They still need a LOT of work in the neutral zone. But don't forget that Julien is one of the best defensive systems coach in the world, and when the Bruins sorely, sorely needed him to step up, he took a defense full of AHLers and bottom pairing guys and he pushed them to be much better as a unit than they have any right to be.
He was supposed to be the first coach fired.
Instead he made a defense that was downright atrocious into much, much more than the sum of it's parts.
And isn't that what coaching is all about?