As midterm exams go, the Bruins had an easy one.
Game 28 in their 56-game schedule was their first matchup with the tire fire that is the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Needless to say, the Bruins passed.
Here’s a look at how each Bruins player has graded out through the first half of the truncated season: (as always players are graded vs. their expectations and role, not just production)
Neither age (35) nor the weight of the captain’s C seems to have slowed this future Hall of Famer down.
Anders Bjork: F
He was supposed to work his way up from the fourth line to the top six, not play his way out of the lineup. Might be time for the Notre Dame project to get a change of scenery.
Charlie Coyle: C
If he’s the heir apparent to Krejci as the No. 2 center, he better get more aggressive offensively. Even if he refuses to shoot more, we’ve missed those shifts where he seemingly protects the puck down low for minutes on end.
Jake DeBrusk: D
Is he the J.D. Martinez of the Bruins, unable to adapt to playing COVID times? If he’s going to turn things around he’s got to get to the dirty areas and make himself more of a menace.
Trent Frederic: A-minus
Sometimes his antics are a little goofy and you hope he doesn’t cost the Bruins with a bad penalty down the line. But otherwise he’s done the pest act and provided some offense — can’t ask for much more.
David Krejci: B-minus
His time on the first power play went well while it lasted — in terms of him distributing the puck. Still, a team desperate for secondary scoring needs more than one goal from its second-line center.
Sean Kuraly: F
Does he have the contract year blues? Or is there something bothering him? Whatever has happened, he’s even played his way into Cassidy’s bad side, somewhere we never expected to see the long-time coach favorite.
With 34 points in 28 games, it’s time for PHWA members to steer their Bruins-related Hart Trophy attention toward No. 63.
David Pastrnak: A-minus
If you shot like Pastrnak, would you be as addicted as he is to the drop pass? But he’s still scoring at an amazing pace.
Nick Ritchie: A
No one expected anything from the power forward, and for most of the first half he’s been all of Boston’s secondary scoring while screening goalies and skating pretty well on Cassidy’s ever-shuffling lines.
Craig Smith: C-plus
He shoots a lot, that’s great. But there’s not much else he does, so it’s up to him to do the work necessary to improve on his 7.7 shooting percentage and make those shots count more.
Jack Studnicka: B
The vision and hands are there, just lacks finish so far.
Chris Wagner: F
Unlike Kuraly, he has contract security. Similar to Kuraly, he seems to have lost the game that helped make Boston’s fourth line Cassidy’s second-most trusted group.
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Brandon Carlo: B-minus
The offense is never coming, so stop waiting for it. But it would be more helpful if he was able to drive a pair with a younger guy better than having to be paired with a vet like Grzelcyk. Maybe he’s been most affected by Chara’s departure.
Connor Clifton: B
Fans love Cliffy Hockey, but one has to wonder how long the Bruins can survive his high-risk game in their top four while they’re plagued by injuries.
Jeremy Lauzon: B
Was probably hitting his stride when he got injured. Still needs mileage to become a consistent NHL defender and puck mover.
Charlie McAvoy: A-minus
The Norris Trophy talk might have calmed the past couple weeks, but he’s clearly taken major steps toward filling Chara’s weighty shoes.
Kevan Miller: B
Got off to a relatively respectable start, but it’s apparent the Bruins can’t count on having him for the stretch run and that might add to general manager Don Sweeney’s shopping list.
Matt Grzelcyk: B
Steady when healthy, he is certainly not Torey Krug (not that the Bruins thought that) but a solid puck-mover that needs to keep up his recent aggression with his shot.
Urho Vaakanainen: C
Still a work-in-progress, he showed some of the lackadaisical tendencies that failed to endear him to Cassidy when he first came to North America.
Jakub Zboril: B
He’s come as advertised — lots of skill and confidence, not much awareness or hockey sense. Seemingly makes a boneheaded play for every sweet one, which the Bruins hope he’ll play his way out of as he gains experience.
Jaroslav Halak: A
There’s always going to be a portion of the population that wants him to play more than Rask, and as long as Halak’s making his case the Bruins will be in business.
Tuukka Rask: A-minus
Numbers are still strong despite the youthful defense corps and the lack of offense both he and Halak have had to endure.
Daniel Vladar: Woah
Usually, this would be an incomplete, but did you see that stick save on Colton Sceviour on Tuesday? Holy moly.
Incomplete: Par Lindholm, Jarred Tinordi, Steven Kampfer, Anton Blidh, Karson Kulman, Ondrej Kase, Greg McKegg, Jack Ahcan, Oskar Steen, Zach Senyshyn, John Moore