Boston Bruins 2022-23 Season Report Card

Every year, the month of May brings final grades and report cards for students across the continent as school years come to an end. Since the Boston Bruins’ season has come to an end, it’s as good of a time as any to give out grades to the team in different areas: forwards, defense, goaltending, and coaching. Since the team as a whole did the equivalent of bombing the final exam in the playoffs, their grades have certainly taken a hit.

Related: 3 Bruins Takeaways From 2023 Playoff Exit

If this team was just evaluated on the regular season, it would be a straight-A report card. Little went wrong during the regular season (which may have been part of the problem in the end). But, when evaluating the 2022-23 Bruins, their playoff series against the Florida Panthers can and must be factored into it, since at the end of the day that is what will be remembered the most by the history books.

The Forwards: A-

This has been the best group of forwards the Bruins have had in a long time. Headlined by the incredible season of David Pastrnak, who earned himself a deserved eight-year contract extension, this group was clicking on all levels. While Brad Marchand did not have his best regular season, he still put together a solid year after coming back early from major surgery last summer. Patrice Bergeron continues to show little sign of slowing down, and the return of David Krejci went a long way in stabilizing the lines. Also, special shout out to Taylor Hall, who ended up finding his spot on the third line, but made the most of the reduced role and was still an important, consistent contributor.

David Pastrnak Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the postseason, the forwards continued to shine. Tyler Bertuzzi was the best player on the team, and Charlie Coyle had one of the best games of his career in Game 3. In addition, Jake DeBrusk, Pastrnak, and Marchand showed up in the superstar form one would expect. They still made mistakes and bad decisions like the rest of the lineup, but in general, the forwards weren’t the biggest part of the problem for the Bruins in their playoff series. 

The forwards finish with an A-. If they had gone further in the playoffs, it could have been an A or A+. Pavel Zacha, Trent Frederic, Pastrnak, DeBrusk, and AJ Greer all registered career highs in points during the regular season while Tomas Nosek matched his previous career high from the 2020-21 season. They weren’t mistake-free, but as a whole, the forwards were an impressive group, even in the playoffs.

The Defense: B

The postseason was rough for the blue line. It was better during the regular season, but I also think there were stretches where the great goaltending (more on that later) may have covered for them during the regular season. Charlie McAvoy continues to be one of the best defensemen in the NHL and is the clear headliner of this group, and the future of the Bruins’ blue line. He is the only one that had both an impressive regular and postseason. Despite missing time at the start after surgery last summer, he had 52 points in 67 games. He registered five assists in seven playoff games and brought the physicality to the ice.

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Outside of McAvoy, things were a bit more up and down. Hampus Lindholm had a fantastic regular season, but was quiet on the scoresheet in the playoffs. Dmitry Orlov was a great trade deadline acquisition and started the playoffs strong, but probably shouldn’t have been on the top pairing with McAvoy in the later games. And most people know how the playoffs went for Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, and Connor Clifton. 

The defense would have been given an A- for its regular season, but in light of the playoffs, got bumped down to a B. They struggled to clear the puck out of their own zone at times and had plenty of moments where they left the goaltenders out to dry. Has the group improved from last season? Yes, but that doesn’t matter a whole lot when they break down in the playoffs.

Goaltending: B+

If this was just for the regular season, goaltending would have been an easy A+. Linus Ullmark should be a Vezina finalist and will have a very good shot at winning the trophy for the first time in his career. Jeremy Swayman had some down moments, but as a whole, he continues to develop well for a young goaltender and has certainly earned himself a nice contract this summer. 

But what was such a strong point of the roster during the season became incredibly detrimental to them in the postseason. Ullmark was not at top form, and arguably his best moment in the series, dropping the gloves with Matthew Tkachuk before the refs interfered, wasn’t even about his play. It takes a lot for me to blame goalies as I think in most cases, blame can be given to the skaters on plays for leaving their goaltenders out to dry, and that certainly happened in this series. The turnovers the team made did not help either. Still, even I will admit that there were several goals that should have been stopped by Ullmark and Swayman.  

Linus Ullmark Jeremy Swayman Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

So despite goaltending being an A+ for the regular season, the postseason performance knocks it down a full letter grade to a B+. But some of the blame for the bad goaltending, especially if Ullmark was truly battling an injury during the series, comes to the coaching.

Coaching: B-

I’ll be the first to say that I was skeptical when general manager Don Sweeney fired Bruce Cassidy and brought in Jim Montgomery. But, he showed during the regular season that he can be a great coach and knows how to manage a room. The players clearly bought into his system, and his style truly benefited young guys like Jake DeBrusk and Trent Frederic who struggled under Cassidy but had their best regular seasons under Montgomery. 

From the regular season, the biggest mark on the coaching staff was the struggles on the power play. With all the great performances by the forwards this season, the fact that it took until the playoffs to really get it figured out is disappointing. It’s not just on the players for failing to get the power play going, but on the coaching staff too.

Jim Montgomery Boston Bruins head coach
Jim Montgomery, Boston Bruins head coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The real faults with the coaching staff come in the playoffs. Montgomery jumbled up the lines, despite the fact that players were exceeding expectations all season in the spots they’d found in the lineup. He even went as far as to separate Bergeron and Marchand, which feels like a crime, particularly in the playoffs. And of course, the biggest part of the coaching discourse this past week, why didn’t Swayman go in sooner? If Ullmark was truly injured, as insiders have remarked, then why were the coaches not communicating about that and playing Swayman, who had a solid season himself?

The coaching staff made some truly head-scratching decisions in the playoffs, and really seemed to overthink things. Hockey does not need to be complicated. If something worked well in the regular season, you should stick with it in the postseason. I think Montgomery and the rest of the Bruins staff are good at their jobs, as shown by the regular season, but they truly made things harder for themselves in the playoffs.

Wrapping Up 2022-23

It is disappointing that the season ended this way, and no one seems more upset than the players themselves. It’ll be hard to run it back exactly the same next season, particularly with Bertuzzi and Orlov most likely out the door and the futures of Bergeron and Krejci up in the air, but this playoff exit doesn’t mean the team needs to be completely blown up and start again from scratch. This group choked when it mattered most, but they still put together a historic regular season. Hopefully, this can become motivation for next season, similar to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first round sweep the season before they won the Stanley Cup in 2020. 

Related: Bruins’ Sweeney Made Right Trade Deadline Call Despite Collapse

Keep up with The Hockey Writers throughout the next few weeks as Scott Roche gives out individual grades for each player on the roster for the 2022-23 season. As summer gets closer, they’ll also be plenty of content leading up to the NHL Entry Level Draft and the start of free agency.

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