Ference/By S. Bradley

Now that the Bruins have passed the halfway point of their season, it’s time to grade each player before they officially start their second half at home against Ottawa tonight.

Perhaps no group of players on one team in the entire NHL takes more heat that the Bruins’ defense corps.

Yet, the league’s best defense as far as goals allowed can’t do it all with just top-notch goaltending.

That being said, we all know where the Bruins need to upgrade on their back end. Pretty much every players back there could stand to up his game at least a notch.

Here’s a look at my midseason grades:

Zdeno Chara
First quarter grade: A
Midseason grade: B

Opposing snipers — with the exception of Buffalo’s Drew Stafford — continue to run into a roadblock when they play the Bruins, mostly because of Chara’s presence on the ice for nearly 30 minutes an evening. However, he went nearly two months between goals, which for a regular on the power play is just inexcusable. Chara’s physical edge seems to have calmed down as well, with little in the way of extracurricular activity (within the course of the game at least).

Dennis Seidenberg
First quarter grade: B-plus
Midseason grade: B-minus

The veteran has posted a plus-5 rating on this season, and has been solid. While Boston could stand to get some more from him in terms of points, Seidenberg continues to lead the team in blocked shots by a wide margin. However, at his pay rate and for his role in the Bruins’ scheme, Boston needs more from him. He has played mostly on the second pair without Chara and needs to be more assertive at both ends of the rink as the lead player on his pair. He has to be more aggressive pushing the puck and add more to the dismal power play.

Andrew Ference
First quarter grade: B
Midterm grade: B-plus

The much-criticized blueliner’s plus/minus (now a plus-14) has benefited from playing a long stretch of this season paired with Chara. But there’s no arguing his reliability has been almost second to none through the season’s first half, especially since he has been healthy. Since the return of Johnny Boychuk, Ference has continued to thrive as a third-pair defenseman who gets his minutes increased sometimes late in contests. Plus, he has already popped in two goals after posting a goose egg last season.

Boychuk/By S. Bradley

Johnny Boychuk
First quarter grade: B
Midterm grade: C-minus

Oh where oh where have you gone Johnny Boychuk? The sensation of last season who earned himself a two-year contract extension returned from injury this season Nov. 18 and has been a shadow of his former self. Although he has done a better job lately of getting his shot through traffic, he is still looking for his first goal of the season — an offensive deficiency that cost him a spot on the power play. Boychuk has struggled on breakouts and his positional play has also suffered in stretches this season.

Steve Kampfer
First quarter grade: None
Midterm grade: B-plus

Based on his bounce-back ability alone, Kampfer has been a revelation since his promotion to Boston from the AHL. After each of his rare glaring errors since his NHL debut, he has come right back and done something positive to make up for it. Head coach Claude Julien has limited his minutes down the stretch at times, but Kampfer has scored three goals, posted a plus-4 rating and has given the Bruins a playmaking dynamic they lacked on the back end before his arrival. As with all Boston’s power-play performers, Kampfer has to bear down and make something happen with his shot more often.

Adam McQuaid
First quarter grade: B
Midseason grade: B

You always know what you’re going to get with McQuaid in the lineup: simple plays, sound defense and the occasional fight. He has held his own in scraps with opponents of all ilks and sizes. And he has managed a plus-6 rating in limited minutes. He’s still looking for his first goal of the season and has contributed just four assists.

Mark Stuart
First quarter grade: B-minus
Midseason grade: B-minus

Stuart was injured just a few games after the Bruins’ season hit the quarter pole. He went into his absence on a 10-game point-less drought and still hadn’t shown signs he was ready to emerge as a top-four blueliner in this crucial season of his career.