The Boston Bruins have reached the midway point of their 2022-23 season, suffering a loss on home ice for the first time against the Seattle Kraken. Despite the minor hiccup, the Bruins still have the league’s best record. While some teams are ready to close this door on the season, others are gearing up for a playoff push and the potential to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in the spring.
Since the B’s have been at the top for most of the season, we examine the many bright spots and the handful of disappointments with our midseason awards.
Bruins’ Most Valuable Player
There are no words left to describe David Pastrnak. The guy has been playing at an elite level all year and leads the team in scoring, and he could be on the verge of winning his Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. In 40 games, Pastrnak has 32 goals, 26 assists, and 58 points, which is 21 points more than the next player on the roster, Marchand.
Furthermore, 24 points have come on the power play, and after a recent hat trick in Anaheim, he collected his sixth 30-goal season. Pastrnak continues to build his case for a massive contract extension in the offseason. Even though this team is deep based on roster construction, there is no doubt about how much Pastrnak means to the club.
Bruins’ Most Improved Player
This award was also a no-brainer decision since Jake DeBrusk has been so good for the Bruins in 2022-23. Midway through the campaign, he is only nine goals and 12 points shy of his totals from last year and could break through his personal bests when he returns from an injury. After being in the dog house for much of last season, which led to some inconsistencies, he recovered and finished strong at the end of the year.
Right now, he has been noticeably good and much more consistent. One aspect of his play that has seen an improvement is in the high-danger areas, where he has the second-best HDCF% (75%), leading to 18 goals from that area of the ice. This change was highly noticeable in the Winter Classic, where he potted the B’s only two goals for the win. It is just great to see that he’s becoming the player the team envisioned.
Bruins’ Biggest Disappointment
If one player has been a noticeable disappointment, it has been winger Craig Smith. Unlike Connor Clifton, Nick Foligno, Derek Forbort, and Trent Frederic, who have seen their games improve under new head coach Jim Montgomery, Smith has regressed.
His first two seasons in Boston went well because he clicked on the top line and played a rugged style that fit the Bruins’ mold. Furthermore, Smith had his best as a Bruin last season, collecting 36 points and reaching the 30-point plateau for the second consecutive campaign. After scoring 16 goals last year, he’s had a brutal start to the season with just two goals, three assists, and five points in 27 games.
The Biggest Surprise
There is a list of candidates for this award, which led us back to the beginning of the year when players exceeded expectations. Ultimately, there is a case for Hampus Lindholm and even goaltender Linus Ullmark. However, looking back at last year under Bruce Cassidy and this year under Montgomery, there’s a noticeable difference with depth guys playing better.
After a lengthy discussion, Trent Frederic was the best candidate for recognition. He has already surpassed his goal total from last season (nine) and is one point shy (17) from last year’s total with half the season to play. Moreover, the former first-round pick in 2016 is starting to look like a more well-rounded hockey player.
He has the 12th-best CF (51.97) and an HDCF% of 83.3% at even strength. When he is on the ice, the team has scored 15 high-danger goals. Playing on a line with Coyle and Hall has done wonders for his game. However, after the season, he will be a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) and could be in for a nice pay raise.
Bruins’ X Factor In The Second Half
The Bruins are off to a dominant start, 32-5-4, and there is no need for panic or to do more at the rate they are going when hiccups come along, like injuries or losing streaks. The biggest key for the future of this team is staying healthy. Even though DeBrusk is currently injured, he will return, and the rest of the team should wish for good health as playoffs draw closer.