Bruins on Boylston: Which Bruins were All-Star snubs?


Leo Kagan

Boston Bruins face off against the Calgary Flames on November 10, 2022. Photo by Leo Kagan

By Leo Kagan, Assistant Sports Editor

The NHL released its initial selections for the 2023 All-Star Game—the league’s best players all gathered on the same sheet of ice for a weekend—on Jan. 5, with every franchise represented by a single player. The requirement that each of the league’s clubs must have an All-Star participate in the game draws criticism every year—the NHL’s worst teams send players that aren’t having All-Star seasons while the league’s best teams find several of their legitimate superstars snubbed. 

This year, the Bruins found themselves in the latter category; though fully deserving goaltender Linus Ullmark earned the Bruins’ All-Star spot—with a 25-3-1 record and .937 save percentage, the league’s top marks—the NHL ignored right winger David Pastrňák, currently in the throes of a career year. He trails Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers’ center and the world’s best player, by just three goals in the league goal-scoring race. 

The glaring omission was rectified by the league’s fan-voting on Twitter, which allowed fans the chance to select twelve additional players—three from each division—to send to the All-Star Game, an expanded version of 2022’s “Last Man In” campaign. Though Pastrňák eventually made the cut via the controversial fan-voting, the simple fact remains that the current system spurns far too many deserving players from All-Star festivities—some of those players being Bruins. 

To correct the NHL’s rigid All-Star system, I’ll identify four more players in a loaded Bruins lineup deserving of an All-Star spot alongside the rest of the NHL’s best. 

Center – Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron has never been an offensive powerhouse—never topping 80 points in a single season—but his dedication to defensive excellence is second to none. It’s why he’s won a record-setting five Frank J. Selke titles as the league’s best defensive forward: and why he deserves All-Star consideration. 

It’s not as if Bergeron is purely a shutdown defender—he delivers high-end value on both sides of the puck. He’s on pace to surpass the 30-goal mark for the seventh time in his career and tally 65 points. Even advanced analytics speak to the impact he provides whenever he steps foot on the ice. 

This season, Bergeron has produced 10.46 individual expected goals, a metric that measures how well a player generates high-danger offense while limiting chances for the opponent. 10.46 ixG places him just inside the top 40 players league-wide—All-Star level possession. Bergeron dominates play while on the ice, controlling a whopping 62.9 percent of scoring chances according to his Corsi percentage. But he’s not just benefitting from playing with some of the best players in the league: his relative Corsi of 16.1% suggests he’s driving play at an otherworldly level. 

At season’s end, Bergeron will likely capture his sixth Selke, the product of his remarkable two-way ability. The question shouldn’t be why should Bergeron be at the All-Star Game, it’s why isn’t he? 

Defenseman – Hampus Lindholm

Lindholm stepped up in a big way during defenseman Charlie McAvoy’s absence at the start of the season, filling the role of No. 1 blue-liner admirably while the 24-year-old McAvoy recovered from shoulder surgery. Though McAvoy returned on Nov. 10, Lindholm hasn’t slowed down and is still shutting opponents down with clinical efficiency and contributing generously on offense. 

Lindholm’s counting stats are strong—with 32 points through 48 games, the Swedish defender ranks 16th in scoring among defenseman. His plus-34 rating is a league-leading mark, and his 4.9% relative Corsi suggests that like Bergeron, Lindholm drives play at a high rate. 

The Bruins acquired Lindholm at the 2022 trade deadline, a move that left skeptics wondering if the blue-liner could bounce back from a series of down years analytically. But since the move from Anaheim, Lindholm has flourished and his analytics have rebounded too. In Boston, Lindholm has been a top-notch defender. 

While he’s unlikely to capture the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman this season—San Jose’s Erik Karlsson, Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin, and Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey are the most likely recipients—it would not be shocking to see the Bruins new ace defender among the top 10 in Norris vote-getters at season’s end. 

But that’s the unfortunate reality of the All-Star Game: high-octane offense is prioritized to the point that just a fraction of the league’s best defensemen are invited, and some who deserve to be there miss out on the action. 

Left wing – Brad Marchand

In recent seasons, Marchand has been the Bruins’ best all-around player. He evolved from a scrappy fourth-liner who broke onto the Bruins’ roster over a decade ago into a legitimate first-line talent who collects Selke Trophy votes. This year, Pastrňák’s ascendance into the realm of the league’s best suggests that Marchand may be aging into a more Bergeron-esque role: that of a superb leader who drives play but isn’t a true MVP. 

But whether Marchand is the Bruins’ MVP or not should have no bearing on his All-Star status—make no mistake, Marchand is still a superstar. 

Like Bergeron, Marchand is a consistent and reliable defensive forward. His 53 short-handed points are the most by any player since the 2009-10 season: when Marchand entered the league. But his game has a little more offensive pop than Bergeron’s. Marchand is a skilled puck-protector and a crafty stick-handler, bringing an element of unpredictability to the ice every time he hops over the boards. 

This year, the left winger got off to a slow start, missing a chunk of games while recovering from hip surgery. Once he returned, he took a while to hit his stride, putting up points in spurts but not playing consistently. In recent games, however, he’s rounded into form, demonstrating the same dominant ability he’s showcased in years past, scoring 5 goals and 13 points in the last ten games while putting up a plus-9 rating. 

With more time, Marchand will continue to sharpen his skill in preparation for the playoffs, where he’s a proven clutch performer: through 139 postseason contests, Marchand has scored 118 points. A player like that—a defensive stalwart, a puck-handling wizard, and a playoff superstar—is the kind of player you want at the All-Star Game. 

Defenseman – Charlie McAvoy

McAvoy—like Marchand and fellow B’s defenseman Matt Grzelcyk—wasn’t ready for game one of the regular season. Like Marchand, he took some time to get back to full speed, but now he’s regained his spot as one of the league’s premier defensemen, collecting 30 points, good for 20th among defensemen despite playing nine games or fewer than nearly every higher-scoring defenseman. 

McAvoy has been the Bruins’ best defenseman since former captain Zdeno Chara’s departure in the 2021 offseason—and even arguably before it. But what’s changed this year is McAvoy’s high-flying offensive production. In seasons past, McAvoy’s been a superb defender, among the league’s best in shutting down zone entries and suppressing shot generation. And while he’s still among the best in show in those departments, he’s unleashed a more dynamic side to his game—look no further than his highlight-reel goal against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. 

If McAvoy hadn’t missed so much time at the start of the season, jumping out of the gates with the well-rounded game he’s playing now, perhaps he’d be in real contention for the Norris Trophy. But even without those first 10 games, McAvoy’s been dominant, and certainly worthy of an All-Star bid. 

Bruins’ All-Stars

Put these four in tandem with Pastrnak and Ullmark and you’ve got a six-man starting lineup. A little gratuitous? Maybe. But the 38-6-4 Bruins have played like a bunch of All-Stars. 

There may only be six truly worthy All-Stars, but up and down the lineup, each and every player has played to and exceeded expectations—it’s why the Bruins are the best team in the league right now.