NHL stock watch: Grading key Bruins players early in 2021-22 season

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Bruins stock watch: Which Bruins players are trending up, down? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins made a lot of changes in the offseason, and it's showing on the ice.

The results through 11 games, both from an overall team and individual player perspective, have been fairly disappointing.

It's a small sample size, but the Bruins' inconsistency offensively and lackluster defense have already put them in a hole in the Atlantic Division. The B's already are fifth in the division standings, and even though they have several games in hand due to their weird schedule, we can't assume those matchups will be wins given the way they've played so far.

Let's take a look at which Bruins players' stock are rising and falling with about a month gone in the regular season (all stats via Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted).

Stock up

 

Brad Marchand, LW

Marchand continues to be at the peak of his powers. The best left winger in the world leads the Bruins with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 11 games, which is also tied for seventh among all players. He's well on his way to a sixth consecutive season scoring above a point-per-game rate. 

Patrice Bergeron, C

The B's captain had a bit of a slow start with zero goals and just 11 5-on-5 shots through five games, but he exploded with a four-goal performance versus the San Jose Sharks last week and chipped in the game-winning goal against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Bergeron is up to 11 points in 11 games.

The Bruins control 65.1 percent of all 5-on-5 shot attempts when Bergeron is on the ice -- the highest of any player in the league. In other words, Bergeron is still a premier puck possession driver.

David Pastrnak, RW

Pastrnak's scoring has been a little inconsistent, but he's turned it on of late with two goals and three assists over the B's last three games. The All-Star right winger is up to 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 11 games and leads the Bruins with 53 shots on net -- 22 higher than Bergeron in second.

Charlie McAvoy, D

McAvoy's offensive production is up. He's tallied seven points (one goal, six assists) in 11 games, putting him on pace for 52 points over a full 82-game season. His career high is 32, set in 2017-18 and 2019-20. McAvoy already has half as many power-play points (four) as he posted last season.

From a defensive standpoint, the Bruins are allowing 1.87 goals against per 60 minutes with McAvoy on the ice, the second-best rate of any defenseman on the team. The Bruins also are possessing the puck at a high level with McAvoy on the ice, evidenced by his 56.40 Corsi For percentage during 5-on-5 play -- the 10th-best among all defenseman with 150-plus 5-on-5 minutes played.

McAvoy ranks in the top percentiles of many important statistical areas at 5-on-5, as evidenced in the player chart below (through nine games).

The Bruins are getting strong production from their No. 1 defenseman and minutes leader (23:56 per game). Unfortunately for the B's, the rest of the blue line is mostly struggling.

Stock down

 

Derek Forbort, D

Forbort signed a three-year, $9 million contract in free agency, and it's beginning to look like a bad deal.

The veteran defenseman was supposed to provide a steady defensive presence on the blue line as a physical player who would block a ton of shots and kill penalties. Instead, Forbort has been on the ice for nine 5-on-5 goals against (3.3 per 60 minutes) and five power-play goals against.

5-on-5 Defense

GA/60 minutes

3.3

NHL rank (min. 100 TOI among d-men)

166th

Variation

Double

Forbort is playing against the opponents' top-six forwards quite a bit, so it's not like he's struggling versus bad competition. But when defense and penalty killing are strengths of your game and the Bruins struggle in both areas when you're on the ice, that's a problem.

Craig Smith, RW

Smith has scored 20-plus goals five times in his career and he's typically a reliable player. That hasn't been the case so far in 2021-22.

The veteran winger arguably is the Bruins' most disappointing player, with zero points in eight games. The Bruins also are allowing 5.27 goals against per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 action with Smith on the ice -- the highest rate of anyone on the team with seven or more games played. 

Smith also is someone who's never been afraid to shoot the puck. Therefore, his 19 shots in eight games is pretty weak. Secondary scoring has been a massive issue for the Bruins, and Smith needs to be far more productive offensively for that weakness to show signs of improvement.

Taylor Hall, LW

Hall was great for the Bruins last year after he came to Boston in a trade-deadline deal. After re-signing with the B's on a four-year contract, there were high expectations for Hall's first full season in Boston.

He's fallen a little bit short of expectations thus far.

Hall has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 11 games. These aren't terrible numbers at all, but he's scored just one goal in the last eight games. Hall was benched by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy during Tuesday's win over the Senators after some sloppy turnovers.

Hall hasn't been a disaster by any means, but when secondary scoring is a glaring weakness, the second line has to step up and shoulder more of the offensive burden. It hasn't so far, and Hall is among the reasons why.

Erik Haula, C

One of the Bruins' worst free agent signings has been Haula. He's yet to score a single goal and has tallied only one assist in 11 games. The entire third line has been largely unproductive this season, and as the center of that group, Haula needs to find the scoresheet with more regularity.

Jake DeBrusk, LW

DeBrusk had such a nice start to the season, scoring in the opener against the Dallas Stars and again versus the Sharks a week later. Unfortunately for the Bruins, he hasn't scored since -- seven straight games without a goal or an assist. This kind of inconsistency was a major problem for DeBrusk last season.

There was a lot of optimism that DeBrusk, who's in a contract year, would return to being a 20-goal scorer and provide much-needed scoring depth this season. He's currently on pace to score just 14.76 goals, assuming he plays all 82 games. 

He also hasn't stood out defensively. DeBrusk was beat by Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci too easily along the boards in the build up to Leon Draisaitl's go-ahead goal in the third period Thursday night.

Linus Ullmark, G

Ullmark has played six of the Bruins' 11 games this season with a .903 save percentage and a 3.01 goals against average. His .900 save percentage at 5-on-5 ranks 43rd among the 47 goalies in the league with 150 or more 5-on-5 minutes played. His goals saved above average at 5-on-5 is minus-3.52. 

Six games is a pretty small sample, and the Bruins obviously haven't defended well in front of him. That said, they need Ullmark to be better than he's shown so far. It's clear that this B's team doesn't have the defensive ability that previous ones did over the last decade. This makes goaltending even more important, and Ullmark will have to bail out the Bruins on more nights than expected.