As of the writing of this article, the Boston Bruins currently sit atop the Eastern Conference again with a record of 26-8-9 through 43 games, giving them 61 points. Those 61 points are four points of the second place Florida Panthers.
Just above them in the overall NHL standings, are the Vancouver Canucks who hold a 29-11-4 record through 44 games, and have 44 points. Given how close the two are the overall rankings, it makes the two squads Feb. 8 matchup in Boston that much more intriguing.
It's no secret that the Bruins have gone through some changes this season, and, at times, have left some to be desired on the ice. Here's how each positional group grades up halfway through the season.
Throughout the season, Boston has definitely had their fair share of offensive output thus far as they currently sit 6th in the league in goals scored with 142 scored in just 43 games, giving them an average of 3.30 goals per game.
For the second season in a row, and third time in the last five years, the Bruins are led in scoring by four-time All-Star winger David Pastrnak. On his ledger this season, Pastrnak has played in all 43 games and has racked up 26 goals and 35 assists (61 pts), all while maintaining a +7 plus/minus rating.
Boston has definitely scored a solid amount of goals this season, that much as not been an issue. The Bruins have three players in the 20s for goals, four in the 20s for assists, and five players with at least 25 points.
Overall Grade: A
In speaking of this team, the defense is where they have lost most of their games. Either they haven't been able to defend late because of fatigue, they just flat-out struggled in the third period, or have lost to teams that they shouldn't, most of the time it has not been due to lack of offense, it was the defense letting them down on the back-end.
The struggle has mostly been Boston's inability to keep it out of their backend when they need to the most, or struggle with holding a lead, no matter how big or small it might be.
In fact, out of the top-50 defensemen (sorted by goals scored) the Bruins only hold one spot in Charlie McAvoy - six goals, 23 assists - and one spot in the top-50 for plus/minus rating in Brandon Carlo, who currently holds a +15.
Overall Grade: B
In sports, the old cliche states that "defense wins championships". In hockey, it's a bit of a different refrain, at least in this reporter's opinion. In hockey, it states "goaltending wins championships."
Afterall, the netminder is the last line of defense whether it's a 3-on-1, 2-on-1, 2-on-0, or even a breakaway, the only thing standing between the three-inch piece of rubber and the twine of the net is (on average) is a six-foot-three-inch man covered in hydrophobic synthetic leather.
This year, has been an excellent year for Boston goaltending as both goalies - Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark - have put together All-Star caliber seasons, with the former winning out and getting voted in along with Pastrnak.
On the season, the duo have an equal amount of wins (13), but Swayman has only lost three games in regulation, and holds a 2.38 GAA, and .922 SV%. He also has three shutouts on the season, one shy of his career high of four.
If not for his injury, Ullmark may very well still be competing with Swayman for the starting job day-by-day; however, Swayman's backup for the time-being is Brandon Bussi - a move that may cause the organization to rethink their whole goalie room, especially with youth being on Bussi's side.
Overall Grade: A+
Overall Team Grade: B+ (A- with the curve)