NHL teams' grades at the All-Star break: Bruins shine; Blue Jackets flounder
The preseason question surrounding the Boston Bruins was how they would weather the absences of injured Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy.
The answer is they would breeze through it and the rest of the first part of the NHL season.
Now the question is whether they can break the NHL record of 62 wins in a season. The Bruins, who got both players back earlier than expected, enter the All-Star break with a .814 winning percentage, better than the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning finished with when they set and tied the record.
The Bruins lead the Presidents' Trophy race by seven points and the Atlantic Division race by 13.
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Here are our grades for all 32 NHL teams heading into the All-Star break:
Anaheim Ducks - D
The addition of Frank Vatrano, Ryan Strome and John Klingberg was supposed to help the youth-driven team improve. Even with winning their final three games before the break, they're on pace to get 14 fewer points. They have the league's worst goal differential (-80) and didn't get their first regulation win until Nov. 23.
Arizona Coyotes - D
They've been in a long-term rebuilding project and had a road-heavy start to the season. It will take them a while before they improve, unless they land Connor Bedard in the draft lottery.
Boston Bruins - A+
A recently ended three-game winless streak doesn't discount their greatness this season. Coach Jim Montgomery has the team humming after the Bruins moved on from Bruce Cassidy. David Pastrnak is playing himself into a nice raise, Hampus Lindholm led the defense with McAvoiy out and Linus Ullmark set an NHL season record for fastest goalie to 25 wins. Expect the Bruins to make a move to enhance their Stanley Cup chances in case this is Patrice Bergeron's final season.
Buffalo Sabres - B
Tage Thompson is scoring impressive goals and Rasmus Dahlin is having a career season. They have four 50-point scorers, and Alex Tuch (55) has more points than Jack Eichel (34), the player he was traded for last season. Thompson got hurt right before the break and his health will play a big role, but the Sabres have a chance to break their 11-year playoff drought.
Calgary Flames - B-
The Flames had a major offseason revamp (Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk out, Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri in). Huberdeau has improved after a slow start. Goalie Jacob Markstrom has had some confidence problems, saying at one point, "I just suck at hockey."
Carolina Hurricanes - A
They're leading the Metropolitan Division, despite newcomer Max Pacioretty playing only five games before he tore his Achilles tendon again. The Hurricanes are among the leaders in 5-on-5 play, penalty killing, comeback wins and shots against per game.
Chicago Blackhawks - D+
If their goal was to improve their lottery odds and chance of drafting Bedard, they get an A. But the product on the ice is about what was expected when they traded Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach and didn't give qualifying offers to Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik. A recent stretch of six wins in seven games improves their grade a little.
Colorado Avalanche - B
Salary cap-related departures and injuries, especially to captain Gabriel Landeskog, made the start of the Avalanche's Stanley Cup defense difficult. But they have started to put together some wins to get into a playoff position.
Columbus Blue Jackets - D-
Gaudreau's arrival wasn't going to solve all of the Blue Jackets' problems and injuries have played a big role, but this team wasn't expected to take a dive to the bottom of the standings.
Dallas Stars - B+
New coach Peter DeBoer's task was to find scoring beyond the first line. Improved play by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin has helped. Jason Robertson, who missed training camp while waiting for a new contract, leads the top line with 33 goals, eight shy of last season's career high.
Detroit Red Wings - C+
The Red Wings started well after making offseason upgrades, then began sliding back. They're on a better pace than last season, but need to step that up to make the playoffs. Dylan Larkin remains unsigned heading into free agency. So is Tyler Bertuzzi, who has been injured three times this season.
Edmonton Oilers - B
They had some early troubles with Evander Kane out after a nasty skate cut and free-agent goalie Jack Campbell trying to find his game. But Kane is back, goalie Stuart Skinner is an All-Star and Campbell had a strong January. Connor McDavid is having another MVP-caliber season with 92 points and created a good story by suggesting that emergency backup goalie Matt Berlin get a chance to go into a game.
Florida Panthers - C+
Last year's Presidents' Trophy winners remade the team with the Matthew Tkachuk trade. Tkachuk is doing his part, but they have less depth after they moved Huberbeau and Weegar in that deal. Their top two regular goalies have been inconsistent, and No. 3 Alex Lyon has made the last six starts.
Los Angeles Kings - B
Kevin Fiala was a great addition and is helping with an All-Star season. Goaltending has been an issue with Cal Petersen sent to the American Hockey League to find his game. Pheonix Copley has played well enough, but the team might need to look for a goalie and a defenseman at the trade deadline.
Minnesota Wild - B
The Wild are scoring less with Fiala moved to LA, but Matt Boldy has a career-best 16 goals and earned himself a seven-year, $49 million extension. Rookie Marco Rossi hasn't had much of an impact. Backup goalie Filip Gustavsson has put up better numbers than Marc-Andre Fleury. Minnesota is in a playoff spot but not comfortably so.
Montreal Canadiens - D
Cole Caufield (season-ending shoulder surgery) is among the growing list of injured players. The Canadiens are near the bottom in power play, penalty killing and shots allowed per game.
Nashville Predators - C+
The Predators often make a second-half push, and they'll need to after an underachieving first half. In a season in which goal scoring is up, Nashville's numbers have dropped off.
New Jersey Devils - A
Vitek Vanecek has given the Devils the steady goaltending they lacked last season. Jack Hughes has been healthy, as has Doug Hamilton. New Jersey slumped a little after a strong start but now is back, with Hughes being named top star of January.
New York Islanders - C
The Islanders had trouble scoring last season and made only minor offseason moves outside of a coaching change. They still had problems scoring. But give GM Lou Lamoriello credit for his bold trade for Bo Horvat. That should help the team after the break, especially with Ilya Sorokin keeping the goals against down.
New York Rangers - B
Coach Gerard Gallant keeps shuffling the forward lines to find something that works. The Rangers are in a playoff spot because defenseman Adam Fox is in the running for another Norris Trophy, Filip Chytil and K'Andre Miller are having breakthrough seasons and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin has overcome a slow start.
Ottawa Senators - B-
The Senators were aggressive in the offseason, adding Clade Giroux and DeBrincat to a promising young core. The team is starting to jell as Tim Stutzle has a breakout season and Giroux was named first star of the week. A four-game winning streak has put the Senators above .500 for just the second time since early in the season.
Philadelphia Flyers - B-
The Flyers are at .500 despite key injuries, and that's despite a 10-game winless streak. New coach John Tortorella has the Flyers playing more competitively. Goalie Carter Hart is returning to the difference-maker he was early in his career.
Pittsburgh Penguins - B-
They kept the Big Three together, but Kris Letang has had a tough season with a stroke, an injury and the death of his father. The Penguins have lost 12 of 17 games since before Christmas and could use a trade to shake things up.
St. Louis Blues - C
The Blues are the definition of streaky. They followed an eight-game losing streak with a seven-game winning streak. They have lost five in a row heading into the break. Jordan Binnington has looked at times like the goalie who won the 2019 Stanley Cup and other times he has let his emotions get the better of him.
San Jose Sharks - C-
The trade of Brent Burns gave fellow defenseman Erik Karlsson the opportunity to get back to the type of production that had been missing for years. The question is whether the All-Star or Timo Meier will be traded before the deadline as first-year general manager Mike Grier puts his imprint on the team.
Seattle Kraken - A-
The Kraken have a Golden Knights expansion team vibe, but it took them until their second year to get it. GM Ron Francis leveraged cap space to add Andrei Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand and got Calder Trophy-worthy production from Matty Beniers before his injury. Their offense is strong enough that they just need average goaltending to win.
Tampa Bay Lightning - B+
The salary cap-strapped Lightning lost Ondrej Palat off their core, but once again, they've adjusted. Brayden Point has bounced back from his playoff injury to score 29 goals. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who signed an eight-year extension, is having a strong season. The Lightning are in good position to get to the playoffs and make another run.
Toronto Maple Leafs - A-
The goaltending has been better than expected, though Matt Murray has had two injuries this season. Mitch Marner set the franchise record with a 23-game point streak. The Leafs are third in the league, but the true test, as always, will be if they get out of the first round of the playoffs.
Vancouver Canucks - D
The D stands for drama. Things have not gone well, from an 0-5-2 start to all the Bruce Boudreau firing rumors that finally came true to a league-worst penalty kill to president Jim Rutherford saying the team needs to do "major surgery" on the roster to get the salary cap under control to season-ending knee surgery for free agent Ilya Mikheyev. They re-signed J.T. Miller before the season but didn't have the cap space to retain captain Bo Horvat and traded him to the Islanders.
Vegas Golden Knights - B
This season's start shows that last year's playoff miss might have only been a result of too many injuries. But they'll have to guard against a repeat. Mark Stone is out indefinitely after having back surgery, and the team went through a rough stretch in January with him out.
Washington Capitals - B
Alex Ovechkin passed Gordie Howe for second place on the all-time goal list, and the Capitals survived injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. Then John Carlson went out. They're sitting in a wild-card spot, which is how they finished last season.
Winnipeg Jets - B+
Another case of a coaching change turning things around. Rick Bowness has the team running more smoothly than last season when Paul Maurice surprisingly resigned. Defenseman Josh Morrissey has a career-best 53 points and Pierre-Luc Dubois is approaching his career best. The Kyle Connor-led offense now has Nikolaj Ehlers back from an injury.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL report card: Team grades at the All-Star break