January 26, 2012

Bruins First Half Report Card (Part II)

By Jesse Connolly

With the All-Star break upon us, it's time to dive back into our report card duties and hand out grades for the B's defensemen, goaltenders and their coach, Claude Julien, for their first-half performances.

DEFENSEMEN


Zdeno Chara (A)

45 games, 7 goals, 20 assists, 27 points, plus-26

While the numbers more than tell the story for Chara’s season, including his five power-play goals (2nd among NHL d-men) and his plus-26 rating (1st among NHL d-men), the Bruins captain has been his typical, dominant self in his own zone. Currently on pace for a 48-point season, Chara promises to be one of the three candidates for the Norris Trophy.


Joe Corvo (C+)

47 games, 2 goals, 15 assists, 17 points, plus-14

Corvo’s 15 assists are solid, but both of his two goals this season came in one single contest against Columbus, putting him well off his usual double-digit pace. No. 14 has been sufficient in his own zone, but it’s hard to gauge how much credit partner Dennis Seidenberg deserves for that. The 30-year-old’s first half has been highly reminiscent of the 58-game Derek Morris experience in 2009-10.


Andrew Ference (A-)

43 games, 4 goals, 16 assists, 20 points, plus-15

Ference’s totals are quite similar to those put up by Corvo, but the perception is considerably different. Ference has brought his usual wealth of tenacity (perhaps a little too much if you ask Ryan McDonagh), composure in his own zone  and his trademark, team-first attitude this season, but his surplus of production – as he’s already topped his total of 15 points in 70 games last year – has been a welcomed surprise from the alternate captain.


Dennis Seidenberg (B+)

47 games, 2 goals, 15 assists, 17 points, plus-16

Given that he ranks second on the team with just under 24 minutes of ice time, it’s surprising the offensive numbers aren’t higher for Seidenberg – a more than adequate puck-mover with a solid shot from the point. Nevertheless, who can knock a player that leads the team in blocked shots and ranks third on the club in hits? Seidenberg’s ability to anchor the second pairing continues to be a big boon for the B’s.


Johnny Boychuk (B)

46 games, 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points, plus-24

While his numbers may not befit a top-pairing defenseman, Boychuk has been extremely reliable since a somewhat shaky start to the year. Furthermore, he’s on pace to set career highs in games played, hits and blocked shots, as No. 55 has more than done his part to complement Chara on the B’s blueline.


Adam McQuaid (B)

42 games, 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points, plus-16

Never flashy but always consistent, McQuaid has certified himself as a bottom-pairing presence that Claude Julien can always count on to get the job done. He’ll head into the break on a high note offensively with three points in his last three games.

Steve Kampfer (incomplete)

9 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, plus-6

Matt Bartkowski (incomplete)

3 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, minus-2

GOALIES


Tim Thomas (A)

31 games, 20-9-0, 2.12 GAA, .933 save percentage, 4 shutouts

After yet another superhuman start to the season, highlighted by a 9-0-0 mark in November, Thomas has come back down to Earth a bit. The 37-year-old vet is 4-3-0 with a rather ordinary 2.70 GAA since the calendar turned to 2012. However, that can’t take much away from the fact that the reigning Conn Smythe winner is headed to his fourth All-Star Game and promises to be in the mix for the Vezina Trophy once again this season.


Tuukka Rask (A)

18 games, 11-5-2, 1.82 GAA, .938 save percentage, 3 shutouts

Things have gone in the opposite direction for Rask, who overcame a sluggish start and went on reel off a seven-game winning streak in which he boasted a mesmerizing 0.94 GAA. The Finnish netminder has more than earned his share of starts over the last few months and has helped give Boston, unquestionably, the best goaltending duo in the National Hockey League.

COACH


Claude Julien (A)

47 games, 37-14-2, 64 points

Despite guiding his team to a championship last season, many were again questioning if Julien was the right man for the job when the Bruins stumbled out of the gate to a 3-7-0 record. Now, everyone’s singing a different tune. The veteran bench boss has his club within striking distance of the top spot in the NHL, playing superb hockey at home and on the road and still hungry to keep climbing the standings after a stretch in which they won 25 of 30 games. Tack the league’s best goal differential (+69) on top of all that and you’ve got a performance that promises to earn Julien consideration for the Jack Adams Award.