Bruins midseason report card: Forwards

Savard

Savard

The Boston Bruins’ forward corps possesses plenty of star power. Center Marc Savard will head to his second career NHL All-Star Game later this month and he currently sits fourth in the NHL with 52 points (14 goals). His right winger Phil Kessel sits fourth in goals with 24. And Savard, Blake Wheeler and David Krejci are all in the top five in the league in plus/minus.

But the Bruins didn’t build their 30-7-4 record by relying on just one line or a quintet of forwards. Their offense is third at 3.58 goals per game and their power play is third at 23.9 percent.

All four lines have contributed at one point or another during the season’s first half, and each group has held its own in the defensive end, despite injuries to some key players.

So here it is, my midseason player-by-player grades for the Bruins’ forwards:

Marc Savard: A

While his projected chemistry with Michael Ryder didn’t work out, he’s found a sixth sense with Kessel and the duo have become one of the most feared in the league. Savard’s managed to rack up points despite a rotating group of left wingers that’s included Milan Lucic and P.J. Axelsson. His league-best plus-28 rating proves that the one-dimensional Savard who landed in Boston in ’06 is a distant memory.

David Krejci: A-minus

Second on the club with 43 points (and tied for second with 15 goals), the second-year pivot has challenged Savard all season for the title of first-line center. His chemistry with Wheeler has been uncanny and his ability to seemingly make plays out of nothing has proven the Bruins correct for banking on his development. He’s shown a tendency to lose focus and intensity for a game or two at a time, but with one year of NHL hockey under his belt he’s gotten better at getting back on track and making sure the word ‘slumping’ never precedes his name.

Phil Kessel: A-minus

The maturity and hockey sense have finally caught up to the speed and skill with the third-year winger, and they’ve combined to give the Bruins the sniper they’d hoped they’d someday have when they used draft pick No. 5 on Kessel in ’06. Sometimes he can still get pushed around and he’ll try to take on the world on his way to the offensive zone, but his play at the defensive end and his extraordinary ability to use his speed to cover up on the backcheck have made Kessel an all-around threat — and they’ll make him a rich man as an RFA this summer.

Michael Ryder: B-plus

With just two goals through the first month of the season and three on his ledger through Nov. 17, Ryder looked like a possible free-agent bust, despite his solid defensive play and his ability to wreak havoc on the power play. He was brought here to score goals, and once he settled in and gained some confidence he became everything the Bruins hoped he’d be. Of his 15 goals, seven have been game-winners (leading the league). And those media naysayers that railed against the Ryder signing have been silenced.

Milan Lucic: B

The team leader in hits with 154, Lucic probably still hasn’t found his stride offensively — and that might still be a season or two away. But his early-season hat trick gave everyone a hint of the type of scorer he could be down the road. And his ability to hold his own on the Bruins’ top line for the bulk of the first half proved that he’s matured in Year 2 of his NHL career. A recent slump both in scoring and plus/minus before his injury absence lowered his grade.

Blake Wheeler: A-minus

Only a tendency to sometimes show off his puck-handling moves rather than get the simple shot on net cost the Bruins rookie the perfect grade. No one realistically could’ve predicted 13-12-25 totals and a plus-25 rating through the first half of the season when the first-year pro first showed up for training camp last fall. If Wheeler keeps his stick to himself defensively and continues to progress and use his size, the second half will be a full-blown Calder Trophy drive.

Chuck Kobasew: B-minus

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