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Sean Kuraly’s time with the Boston Bruins has come to an end, and when you look back at his body of work, it’s a shame that it ended on a relatively down note.
After two seasons in which he totaled more than 20 points, Kuraly saw his production decline to just nine points and generally wasn’t as effective as he had been in the past.
In fact, Kuraly was part of one of the larger schisms on this site this season, when the fourth line was relatively ineffective in the playoffs.
Some of us thought the fourth line was a problem. Others thought they were doing just fine. Ultimately, it didn’t matter much.
Over the course of his Bruins career, Kuraly was, at his best, fun to watch: tenacious on the forecheck, willing to throw his body around, and, of course, a scorer of big goals.
The big goals weren’t there this season, and while you can’t fault Kuraly for his effort, the results simply didn’t follow this time around.
To be fair to Kuraly, he was deployed in a pretty tough role for the most part: as you can see from the stats above, Kuraly started a whopping 76% of his even-strength shifts in the defensive zone.
It’s easy to look like you’re always pinned in your own zone when...you always have to start in your own zone.
Kuraly did have similarly tough deployments in his previous seasons and still managed to perform at a higher level, but it’s a little unfair to hold, say, ugly possession numbers against him given how he was used.
However, when Kuraly and his fourth line pals were at their best in past seasons, they would have at least a couple shifts a game where they wrought havoc with either their physicality or aggression on the forecheck.
Sure, that happened occasionally last season, but not nearly as often. The blame can’t solely be placed on Kuraly, as his linemates had relatively down years as well.
Ultimately, one of the areas that will suffer most with Kuraly off to Columbus is the penalty kill. Kuraly ranked second on the Bruins in shorthanded time on ice per game at 1:53, four seconds more than Patrice Bergeron.
While Kuraly may not have garnered the PK accolades of Brad Marchand or Bergeron (mainly due to their shorthanded production), he remained a very effective penalty killer.
Some of the guys the B’s brought in this offseason will be ready to step into that role, but it remains to be seen if they can do it as well as Kuraly.
In the end, it wasn’t a great season for the Ohio kid, who is now headed home to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But given the tough sledding he was given by his coach and the heavy lifting he did on the PK, it’s probably fair to say that he deserved to be rated on a bit of a curve — basically, when you’re doing that much yeoman’s work for that long, you can be expected to slip a little.
When looked at as a whole, Kuraly’s time with the Bruins was absolutely a success. He was a fixture in the bottom six and averaged around a goal every 9-10 games while being great on the penalty kill.
He also earned fans due to his penchant for being a big-game player. To illustrate that point: Kuraly’s GPG in the regular season was 0.09, but in the playoffs his scoring rate nearly doubled at 0.16.
Not MVP-caliber numbers, but impressive stuff for a grinder.
Best of luck back home, Sean Kuraly. Thanks for the big goals.