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BOSTON (CBS) - This is the second in a three-part series grading the Bruins at the All-Star Break.
The Boston Bruins enter every season knowing that their defense corps will be built around a player who’s capable of producing a Norris Trophy-worthy season and keeping every opponent sniper off the score sheet on a nightly basis.
What they get from their other blueliners in support of Zdeno Chara’s efforts usually determines how they fare as a team. Behind both a solid pair of goaltenders and strong work from their defensemen, Boston went into the All-Star break fourth in the NHL in goals allowed per game 2.15.
While this position might be the area general manager Peter Chiarelli will most want to upgrade again before the February 28 trade deadline, Boston has received solid performances from most of this crew during its impressive first half of action.
Here are my grades for the defensemen:
As part of Boston’s top defense pair with Chara for nearly the entire season, Boychuk has posted an impressive plus-24 rating. His decision-making is mostly solid, but Chara is able to cover up many of Boychuk’s mistakes. With his shot, and for the minutes he plays, Boychuk should add more offense to Boston’s cause. He’s already matched the three goals he scored in the regular season in 2010-11 but is barely on pace to match last season’s total of 16 points. The Bruins need more from Boychuk is he’s going to be a first-pair mainstay.
To be tied for third in the league at a plus-26 and play the type of minutes Chara does against the caliber of opposing lines he faces is remarkable. It’s also impressive that he’s on pace to match his career-best total of 51 points with 27 points in 45 games so far. Twelve of his points have come on the power play, which is a major reason for the unit’s gradual improvement from last season.
Mid-Season Grades: The Goalies
After a slow start to his season and his adaptation to Boston’s system, Corvo began to hit his stride in mid-November. However, now that he should be acclimated to life in black and gold, he’s struggled mightily. He went into the break point-less in his final nine games with a minus-5 rating over that span. He’s giveaway-prone and doesn’t battle enough to make up for his mistakes. He’s been anything but the power-play and second-pair answer Boston was hoping he’d be when they traded for him last summer.
The Bruins gave up 10 goals in the first two games of his three-game suspension. Does that tell you how valuable Ference is to their lineup? Well, that might be overstating things, but Ference has been one of Boston’s most reliable blueliners at both ends, with a plus-15 rating and 20 points (five more than he recorded all of last season). A solid positional player, Ference also has continued to be the guy that typically steps in to defend a teammate he feels has been illegally checked.
It’s one thing to only play in just nine games. It’s another to do it over a four-month span. While Kampfer has looked overmatched in his appearances, there’s no way to tell how much of his struggles were caused by inactivity.
All you need to know about “Darth Quaider” is that more often than not when the Bruins can get a line change before a faceoff in their own end, McQuaid is the man head coach Claude Julien typically puts out with Chara. Now that he’s gained some semblance of health, McQuaid has been a hit-throwing, shot-blocking machine. He’s still prone to some young-player mistakes, but he’s chipped in with seven points already this season.
His average ice time of 23:59 so far this season would be a career high if Seidenberg continues to play at that clip. That amount of ice time on top of the enormous workload he carried last year in the postseason might be why Seidenberg has slowed down a bit the last several weeks and has seemingly been in on more opposing goals than ones for Boston. He’s still the team leader in shot blocks. With just two goals, Seidenberg doesn’t seem likely to match last year’s total (7).
Coming Friday: The Forwards