December was all things considered another good month to be a Boston Bruins fan. The way the month ended with a very lucky win against the Coyotes and forty plus minutes of sleeping and most of a period of passable effort for the sedated in a loss to the Stars shouldn’t overshadow the month as a whole.
Brad Marchand: Continued his strong play on the year climbing into a tie for the team lead in goal scoring. Added his first short handed goal of the season, a powerplay assist, and two game winning goals while being a point per game player for the month. The month included being named NHL’s first star of the week when he had a five point game 3g 2a.
Benoit Pouliot: Turned in the best December of his career in goals. Continued to make Julien and Chiarelli look like they own the Midas touch, played a smart game throughout the month and moved from being a reactive part of the team going only where the system told him to being an active player and leveraging his teammates.
Andrew Ference: Boston’s favorite tree-hugging pitbull only doubled the number of points he had on the season in December. In addition to that he turned in more blocked shots than either October and November and did all of this while only taking two PIMS.
Jordan Caron: He who hesitates is lost. Jordan Caron is he.
Johnny Boychuk: The Prince Of Pinchestan continues to disappoint offensively acquiring just two points in the month, turning the puck over on numerous occasions. When he’s at the height of his prowess his play can be described as “high risk high reward”, at this point the reward portion is present in a portion statistically indifferent from zero.
Tyler Seguin: Numbers down across the board. Not just offensive numbers but things that show effort as well. No one sane expect the results of a month like November when he was over a point per game to continue, and a season long 28 shooting percentage is not sustainable. The physical, neutral zone and defensive zone play however fell into the toilet. As I’m sure someone pointed out to him, the sooner the puck leaves the defensive zone and gets to the offensive zone the better chance one has to score.
Tyler Seguin leads the team in points, has earned a huge increase in ice time over last year with much improved three zone play, and has done at wing and center. This could be an even more interesting year to watch him than many fans expected.
Patrice Bergeron leads all forwards in time on ice with almost twenty minutes a game, leads the team in powerplay time (on a powerplay that is slightly better than the playoff version), and has been a physical force on the ice above being positionally sound, and his normal three zone play.
Chris Kelly leads the team in shooting percentage, captains a penalty kill unit that is over 90% at home this year, has a short handed goal and managed to find and beat the one member of the Carolina Hurricanes that hasn’t perfected the Claude Lemiexu turtle.
David Krejci who’s stats tell the story, as does his having plunged from fifth in time on ice per game last year to tenth this year.
Joe Corvo has been a turnover machine, ineffective at full strength, possesses a team worst -6 and despite four times as much powerplay time has the same number of powerplay assists as Andrew Ference.
The Merlot Line had an uncharacteristically bad month. Last year they were for multiple long stretches the most consistent line on the team and better than many teams third lines, this month they looked like marginal NHL players.
Another pretty spiffy month for the Bruins. True, they were shutout once, and lost two games in a shootout, but they won nine of fourteen, maintained their position at the top of the division. Of the losses, two came to playoff teams. The unfamiliar Los Angeles Kings and the Penguins who the Bruins still have a winning record against.
Patrice Bergeron: 17 points +13 in 14 games outscoring all others in the month, where’s the surprise in finding him here again? Heck, the NHL even got it right and named him first star of the month.
Brad Marchand: Coincidence you say? A pox on your house! Putting a speedy, aggressive winger who has no fear of contact, a willingness to hit, shoot and play hard on a line with a future hall of famer and a legit three zone center who excels at faceoffs, puck protection and shredding opposing defense can lead to good things? Really, are you sure? Well apparently Julien knew this.
Zdeno Chara: A half dozen goals and assists apiece and a plus seven are pretty snazzy stats. Add in the fact that his four powerplay goals allowed the team to stay out of the NHL’s bottom third of team in powerplay percentage. He also added a shorthanded goal on the month. That’s captain material.
David Krejci: While at this point its clear to everyone he’s stumbling along through an injury, its past time he sat out a couple games to his feet back under him. Jack Edwards commented during a recent game that he was repeatedly flexing a knee on the ice isn’t good news. The fact that he had zero goals in January, and his shots on goal went down a full third from Decembers total is not good at all. Even with Savard out, the both Krejci and the team will be better off with him taking a several days off to get healthier.
Blake Wheeler: I’m still impressed by his work ethic, but at his salary he needs to produce goals. With just once goal in January, and being a minus in two of the last three Bruins games, he needs to stop over-thinking his shots and let them go. He actually had a four game points streak during the month but failed to convert the momentum.
Shawn Thornton: January is the only month of the season he did not record a goal. We expect more from a high end sniper.
December was a pretty good month to be a member of the Boston Bruins. With eight wins in fourteen contests and a point in three more, there’s not to much to complain about for anyone, except maybe the Tuukka Rask fanatics who saw him defending the pipes just twice the month.
Patrice Bergeron. I criticized him roundly for a lackluster October, and didn’t think much of his year at the quarter poll. But Bergeron was possibly the best forward the Bruins had all month, getting it done in all situations. He had powerplay, short handed, and even strength goals, he even doubled November’s shooting percentage while increasing his shots on goal about 30%.
Michael Ryder. Yes really. While his play at even strength is occasionally invisible, last month he had four of his five goals, and half of his ten points on the powerplay. Despite so many points coming when they don’t affect his +/- was not affected, he went from a -3 for the month of November to a +4 for December. He’s played well both with and without the puck, in the December finale he was a +1 in over 20 minutes of play, despite the loss.
Tim Thomas. Shocking I know, they guy who leads the NHL in GAA, Sv%, and shutouts, is a star. But it needs to be said. Despite the fact he played seven straight games wrapping around the holiday break. Despite facing the offensively stacked Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and Tampa Bay Lightning twice each in December, Tim Thomas still put up better stats than he did in November. In November he was a respectable, 2.29 GAA and .929 sv%. December saw him put up an inhuman 1.94 GAA and .942 Sv%. He’s the only qualifying goalie to bring a GAA under 2 into the new year.
Johnny Boychuck. While his play hasn’t actually been bad, he’s not doing what he’s capable of, or what brought him to the dance in the first place. A guy who can score 20 goals in the AHL, should have at least one 26 games into an NHL season. He averaged less shots on goal in December than either October or November.
Tyler Seguin. Is clearly having some growing pains, and has just one of his five goals this season at home, where he is also a minus five on the season. I suspect he’s about to get both feet under him, but has like much of the roster been shuffled around a bit. His stats for December offensively were what he had in November, but he’s doing things almost right to often.
Tuukka Rask. While it’s a bit of a reach to make this stick, the Bruins had a good enough month, that all three Stumbles are still a touch marginal, Rask actually did play slightly worse in December than in October. His stats, and likely illness in the closing week, as well as some of the opponents dictated he wouldn’t play much, well, that and Tim Thomas.
While it’s tough to pick three guys who had months that weren’t as good as we hoped, it is still possible.
While he wasn’t alone in failing to compete in the early goings of game one, he’s certainly paid the most for it. Last year he plaid on all four lines and threatened to live up to his first round draft pick pedigree. Last season he led the teams penalty killing efforts to good effect and a solid chunk of ice time. This year he’s been replaced by a third round pick who came into the season with twenty NHL games played and not a single goal. He clearly hasn’t impressed the coaching staff enough in practice to make Marchand’s stay on the roster temporary.
With the preseason he had, including a five point game, and a contract extension one would hope he’d come charging out of the gates. Sadly this was not the case. It took five games for the recently resigned center to get his first point of the season, and after eight he’s got just four points. He’s also third of the four centers on the team in faceoffs. He’s actually under 50% in the faceoff dot for the first time in years. One has to wonder how many more points he’d have if he could win a few more faceoffs.
Like Paille, he’s been a victim of team play. Unlike Paille he’s gotten the chance to rectify his sloppy first game. Unfortunately for Rask and Bruins fans everywhere, the second game was not better than the first. Two of the goals he let in against the Rangers were rather fluky but the other was one he should have had. His play through two games this season is reminding fans rather pointedly of his post season meltdown against the Flyers. Is this a sophomore slump? Is it just the team playing poorly in front of him? Or was Rask just brought along too quickly? Only time will tell.