Midseason grades for Bruins forwards

Matt Kalman
January 04, 2019 - 12:16 pm

Sixth in the NHL in goals per game last season (3.26), the Bruins have struggled to get their offense in gear this season and rank 18th (2.9).

Most of the problem has been the unexpected sophomore slumps of several young forwards, leaving the Bruins most nights to lean on one line and their power play to provide most of the scoring. Forty-four percent of the Bruins’ 113 goals have been scored by their top three goal scorers.

Here are the grades for the Bruins’ forwards:

(Grades are best on expectations for the players’ performance and production.)

Noel Acciari

Grade: C

You can’t forgive a guy for scoring one goal in 34 games, especially when he often gets bumped up from the fourth line to the third line. But it’s especially hard to excuse the long stretches of games this year when Acciari wasn’t the physical presence the Bruins need on nights they’re not feeling it. His handful of healthy scratches tells the story of his lackluster start

David Backes

Grade: C-minus

If you were to grade Backes as a fourth-liner you’d probably give him a better letter. But he has three goals in 33 games despite getting a decent chunk of power-play time. He continues to be the misfit that can’t find proper linemates and the most expensive “leadership” signing in the league.

Patrice Bergeron

Grade: A

Even missing 16 games with a ribs/collarbone injury didn’t slow Bergeron down, as he’s scored at better than a point per game (35 points in 25 games) for the season and since his return from injury (nine points in six games).

Colby Cave

Grade: B-minus

For a guy who was leading Providence in points (18) before he was called up, you’d expect Cave to have better hands. He’s scored just one goal in 20 games and has had several Grade-A chances to add to his total that have hit glass or wall rather than twine. However he’s been a strong defensive anchor for the bottom six.

Jake DeBrusk

Grade: B

It was a slow go for DeBrusk in the first half of the first half, as he learned how to deal with expectations and constant lineup changes forced by injury. He also missed nine games with a concussion. But he’s rallied to reach 13 goals and looks primed to be an offensive catalyst in the second half.

Ryan Donato

Grade: B-minus

If you just saw he scored five goals, you’d think Donato was one of the Bruins’ more reliable scorers. But only two of his goals have come at even strength and at least one went in off a defenseman in front of the net. If he could learn to be as reliable away from puck as DeBrusk, he might earn more ice time and add to his offensive totals. But right now he’s one dimensional.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson

Grade: D

The amazing skill the Bruins have been boasting about hasn’t translated from the AHL to the NHL and he can’t be trusted to take a key draw or play at all in the defensive zone. Forsbacka Karlsson even flopped as Bergeron’s fill-in between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, a role a player with the rookie’s skill set should be able to thrive in.

Danton Heinen

Grade: D

The goal droughts have been long and worrying considering Heinen’s came off a 16-goal rookie season. And he can’t complain he hasn’t had enough chances to play on the first or second line because he’s been one of the few healthy forwards the whole first half. His confidence seems shot but the Bruins can’t risk putting him through waivers so he’s going to have to find his game in the NHL.

David Krejci

Grade: B-minus

He has 33 points in 41 games. Although some of that came during a string of games filling in for Bergeron on the first line, he’s found chemistry with DeBrusk and had some big games considering the revolving door that’s been spinning on his other wing.    

Sean Kuraly

Grade: B

For a while there was a lot of activity and not a lot of production from Kuraly, but then he had his nose broken and became a different player. Actually his improvement probably had more to do with his move to the wing. He gets extra credit for scoring the game-winner in Buffalo and in the Winter Classic.

Brad Marchand

Grade: A-minus

It’s hard to argue with 44 points in 40 games, especially when one of his linemates is among the league leaders in goals scored. But Marchand has had more quiet games than you’d expect, and sometimes he’s seemed reluctant to shoot. His antics in Dallas and Nashville also cost him a perfect grade.

Joakim Nordstrom

Grade: B

You’d like to see a guy who’s often cast in the top six finish more, but the Bruins couldn’t really expect much more for their $1 million from the Swede. His five goals tie him for sixth on the team. And he’s been vital for the penalty kill.

David Pastrnak

Grade: A

When you handle the puck as much as Pastrnak, you’re going to have some giveaways. But when you score 25 goals and get 52 points in 41 games, those giveaways are just blips on the radar. Most importantly, Pastrnak can now be trusted to play in all situations.

Chris Wagner

Grade: B-minus

Maybe it was adjusting to playing at home and/or Cassidy trying to figure out how to use him, but Wagner started slow. He’s come on in the past several weeks and leads the team in hits while chipping in four goals.

Looking ahead

Time is running out for one of the younger forwards to prove he’s worthy of being the second wing on the second line or the third-line center. So expect general manager Don Sweeney to solidify at least one of those positions before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. And expect the Bruins will score more, regardless of who’s added, if they stay healthy.