Boston Bruins: 2013 Midseason Grades

We’re a judgmental bunch.

That’s not to say that we think we’re better than anyone or that our opinion matters more, but as a society, we judge. It’s the nature of the beast and a big part of being a sports fan. From the comfort of our couches, seats and press box viewing areas, we have this unfair advantage to tell someone that they’re doing something wrong and be perfectly okay with saying it.

It’s a little much at times, but it’s expected. The players and the coaches get it and put up with it every day when they open up their favorite sports blog or read their favorite column on their iPad or Kindle. God forbid they see what’s being said on Twitter.

So here’s our contribution of guilt-free, good ol’ fashioned judging. The Boston Bruins started out the truncated 2013 NHL season with full marks. They’ve been very good but still have plenty more to show. What follows is a player-by-player midseason report card of the players and coaches, 24 games in.

Tuukka Rask: Blown 3-Goal Leads Now A Distant Memory

There are ghosts in the TD Garden at times.

It’s unspoken, to say the least, but we’re all well aware of them. They come up when we least expect them, sometimes years after their first appearances. They may sift into the heads of the players and the fans, almost subconsciously and without warning. Then sometimes, all at once, we see them and they take over. The only way to get rid of them is to beat them, the way that they once beat you.

Save your narratives about blown leads of three for another time. Tuukka Rask finally got rid of those ghosts.

Boston Bruins: Does Andrew Ference Deserve a Contract Extension?

This all seems too familiar.

It will be three years next month when I originally wrote a column on what a mistake it was extending Andrew Ference. And at the time, it sort of was. Ference finished the 2009-10 season playing in only 51 games, recording eight assists and no goals. He was even worse in the postseason after his contract extension. He never played in a game in which he could be considered a “plus” player and finished those 13 games with a -9.

The stats weren’t pretty, but Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli must have saw something in the oft-injured defenseman that warranted an $850,000 raise that bumped Ference’s annual salary to $2.25 million. Turns out Chiarelli was right all along.

Nathan Horton Back to Being Captain Clutch

Nathan Horton knows about being clutch. You’ve heard this narrative before.

Perhaps the most poignant part of any Bruins Stanley Cup montage came when Tim Thomas congratulated Horton after Boston clinched the Eastern Conference Championship.

“You did it again! I can’t believe it,” said Thomas.

Horton did it again on Tuesday night.

In the team’s sixth game of the season against the New Jersey Devils, Horton scored the game-tying goal with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, sending the game to overtime and an eventual 2-1 Bruins win.

Setting Realistic Expectations for the 2013 Boston Bruins

It’s possible that in six months, when the 2013 NHL season is said and done, the Boston Bruins will have won their second Stanley Cup in three years.

It’s also possible that the Boston Bruins will fail to win the Northeast Division and will have to face a stacked team such as the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2013 NHL Playoffs.

Realistically though, the expectations for the 2013 Boston Bruins team should be somewhere between legitimate Stanley Cup contenders and strong front-runners for first place in the Northeast Division, making them among the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. If all goes well, then yes—the Boston Bruins have a real shot at playing deep into June for Lord Stanley’s Cup. If injuries begin to surmount and deplete the team’s offensive depth and Tuukka Rask is unable to stay healthy than the Bruins could very well see the latter of the scenarios listed above.