After the first two weeks, there have been some bright spots and some causes for concern for the Boston Bruins. With a 5-2-0 record through seven games, the Bruins can’t complain about too much. Considering that one of those losses came against the red hot Colorado Avalanche, the Bruins season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, at least record-wise. They came away with four division wins, and continued to show-off their revered penalty kill, to the tune of 90%, good enough for first in the NHL. While the team is playing well as a whole, there are a few individuals that have played better than expected, as well as a few that need to step-up their game. We’ll take a look at these individuals in the first edition of Three Up, Three Down for the 2013-2014 season.
The young forward, acquired in the Tyler Seguin deal, came into the season with a shot at winning a spot on the third line. With a strong camp, he did just that. He didn’t stop there though, playing so well alongside Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron on the third, that he has earned time on the second line as Brad Marchand has scuffled out of the gate. The highlight of the first seven games for Smith came against Florida, as he scored his first goal as a Bruin, a goal that would serve as the game winner against Tim Thomas and the Panthers.
After a down year in Providence last season, there weren’t too many people aboard the Jordan Caron bandwagon this fall. The team, however, felt differently, putting him in the mix for the vacant spot on the third line wing. Although he didn’t win it clearly, he was thrust into the lineup after Carl Soderberg suffered an injury late in the preseason. Caron has done nothing to suggest that he will give up that role, even when Soderberg returns. This season, Caron has been more physically involved, and shown a much stronger net drive than in his previous NHL appearances. He has one goal to his credit, with a second goal taken off the board by an intended whistle.
Last season was one to forget for Chris Kelly. He missed a quarter of the season with a leg injury, and when he was on the ice, he was snake bitten, tallying only three goals all year. That appears to be well in the rearview for Kelly, as he has already notched three goals in the first seven games, including an impressive shorthanded goal on a penalty shot in the home opener. To go along with the offense, he’s been consistently good at the faceoff dot to the tune of 56.1% success rate, helping the Bruins gain and maintain puck possession. Kelly’s defensive game was never in question, but it’s certainly nice to see the puck finding the net for him early this season.
Brad Marchand was on pace to shatter his career highs for goals and assists in the lockout shortened season, which raised everyone’s expectations for this year. It’s only seven games, but he has struggled in almost every facet of the game. He has one goal on the season, accounting for his half of his points, and finds himself tied for the second worst +/- on the team at -1. His decision making when he has the puck hasn’t been pretty, resulting in countless turnovers and missed opportunities. In an effort to jumpstart Marchand’s game, coach Claude Julien has bumped him down to the third line, replacing him with Reilly Smith on the second line. No need to panic, it’s likely only a matter of time before he snaps out of this funk and reclaims his spot on the second line, but until then, look out.
With last season’s trade deadline debacle behind him, Iginla signed in Boston this summer as the Bruins replacement for the recently departed Nathan Horton. For fans watching in the preseason, this move looked even better than anticipated, as Iginla put on a scoring clinic. When the games started to count, he may have left the scoring touch behind, remaining scoreless through the first seven games. That’s not to say that he hasn’t played well, but rather that he has not been capitalizing on his opportunities. He leads the team in shots and has been a welcome presence on the power play, despite the lack of production, but for a player with his track record, the goals need to start coming in bunches. Playing alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic, it won’t be long before he gets off the schnide, but for now, the drought continues.
Carl Soderberg cracks the list solely because of an unfortunate injury. He was expected to take a big step forward in his first full NHL season, slotting on the wing next to Chris Kelly on the third line. At the tail end of a strong preseason, Soderberg suffered an ankle injury that forced him out of the home opener. That injury has lingered and caused Soderberg to miss the first two weeks of the season. He made his return to the lineup last night, notching an assist, but for the time being, he will still have to earn a permanent spot in the lineup. It’s still expected that he’ll make a big jump forward this season, but this two week setback doesn’t help matters.
Be sure to follow me on twitter @kirkvance and check back throughout the season for more updates on the Boston Bruins.