The Bruins Aren’t Losing The Atlantic Division Arms Race

NHL: MAR 19 Blue Jackets at Bruins(Photo credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

The Atlantic Division has seen some major moves and improvements so far this offseason. The Toronto Maple Leafs won the John Tavares sweepstakes and inked him to a 7-year contract, the Tampa Bay Lightning extended Ryan McDonagh for 7 years at just under $7 million a year. Rumors have been swirling in Tampa that Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson could be headed there via blockbuster trade. The Buffalo Sabres drafted a generational talent on defense in Rasmus Dahlin with the 1st overall pick and brought back a significant return for center Ryan O’Reilly.

The top teams in the Atlantic are significantly improving their rosters, so where does that leave the boys in black and gold?

Exactly where they were in 2017-2018, finishing the regular season at or close to the top of what is now arguably the most competitive division in hockey. It looks to be a three-way battle for the top spot this coming season between the Bruins, Lightning, and Maple Leafs. Soon enough the Sabres will be nipping at those teams’ heels, and the pesky Florida Panthers can’t be forgotten after nearly missing the playoffs this past season.

The Bruins are right where they should be in the so-called arms race in the Atlantic Division. There isn’t and shouldn’t be a need to make a blockbuster trade or signing this offseason. Don Sweeney’s best option is to stand pat and stay the course of drafting and developing a strong crop of prospects that can quickly make the jump to being full-time NHLers. It’s proven to be successful so far, with the likes of Ryan Donato, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, and Danton Heinen making significant impacts at the NHL level this past season. We all remember the impact DeBrusk has made so far, but in case you need a reminder:

There’s more to come too, forward Jack Studnicka’s goal is to make the big club out of training camp, and the Bruins’ highest pick in 2017 at 18th overall, defenseman Urho Vaakanainen has looked strong and will be making his Providence Bruins debut this coming season. He’s not far from wearing the Spoked B on Garden ice.

Not everyone thinks of prospects when it comes to the offseason and the big moves that are made, but the young kids are on their way, and many have already arrived. They’ll be able to bring the competition to the other improved squads in the Atlantic Division this year and for many more years to come.

Prospects are all well and good, but what else have the Bruins done this offseason?

Quite a bit actually. Don Sweeney hasn’t made any blockbuster moves this offseason, but the moves he made have shown his belief in the course the team is currently on. The most significant acquisition was the signing of New Jersey Devils left-shot defenseman John Moore to a 5-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $2.75 million on the opening day of free agency. The 27-year-old stands at 6’3″ and 203 pounds. The Bruins have been searching for a left-shot defenseman recently, and they found their guy in Moore. In the last 2 seasons, he’s accumulated 19 goals total, scoring 12 in 2016-2017 and 7 this past season. It’s a bit early to judge the move just yet, but Moore looks to impress the Bruins faithful with his strong slapper from the point as seen below:

At the forward position, the Bruins picked up depth forwards Joakim Nordstrom formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes and Chris Wagner formerly of the New York Islanders. Both of these guys will be battling with many of the young guns for the final roster spots in the bottom 6 for opening night. The more competition, the better in this case. They’ll push both themselves and the other guys vying for those spots to bring their best game night-in and night-out. It’s doubtful that we’ll see consistent 3rd and 4th line combinations the first few weeks of the season. Here’s a quick look at what Wagner can bring to the table, somewhat reminiscent of former Bruin and 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Daniel Paille:

Lastly, the Bruins signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak, also out of Long Island to replace last year’s backup goalie, Anton Khudobin. Halak has faced his fair share of criticism over the years, partially due to being consistently put into a starter role behind a not-so-great defensive team. With much less responsibility placed on him in Boston while backing up elite goalie Tuukka Rask, his chance for success increases quite a bit.

The moral of the story of this offseason is that the Boston Bruins are not falling behind in the arms race that is the Atlantic Division. The combination of developing young players and prospects and the important (but not blockbuster) free agent signings this summer put the Bruins right where they should be, fighting for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

Bruins Prospect Curtis Hall; High Ceiling, Great Flow

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(Photo credit: Boston Bruins)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

With their late 4th round pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins selected center Curtis Hall, a Princeton, New Jersey native currently playing in the USHL at 119th overall. At only 18 years of age, Hall has a man’s body, coming in at 6’2″ and 200 pounds. Here are Hall’s first words as a Boston Bruins draft pick:

Hall has committed to Yale for the coming school year, which in of itself shows that he’s a smart kid with a strong work ethic off the ice. It is a very convenient situation for the Bruins to have Hall playing right in their backyard as well. It’ll be interesting to see how he competes and the numbers he can put up at the college level. This past season he put up 13 goals and 18 assists for a total of 31 points in 54 games with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms. Those numbers are a significant improvement over his 7 goals, 14 assists, and 21 points in 59 games the year before in 2016-2017.

Hall won’t be seen as an incredibly highly skilled player which his numbers reflect, however he chips in strongly on offense, but focuses mainly on playing a consistent, 200-foot game. After being drafted, the American described himself by saying, “I’m a hard working two-way centerman. Coaches can rely on me in all areas of the game. I have offensive ability, but I can play really good defense as well. I’m a 200-foot forward.” That description is very comparable to many other current and former Bruins centers. His ceiling likely isn’t as high as that of Patrice Bergeron’s, but his game is clearly reminiscent of the the 4-time Selke Trophy winner’s. Curtis Hall could also be compared to a guy like Rich Peverley, strong in his own end and can chip in offensively at the same time without compromising defense. Hall looks to have a ceiling of a very strong 3rd line center, and very likely could be a top 6 center behind Bergeron if his development goes well. Regardless of his skill and ceiling, his lettuce is absolutely unreal. as is evidenced below in exhibits A, B, C and D:

Hall impressed quite a bit at the Bruins Development Camp this past week. He was able to effectively use his frame to create space for himself and his teammates, including in the dirty areas in front of the net. With that size, he should be able to push a lot of other guys around at the NHL level when he’s given a chance. He’s a guy that wants to get in there to make a difference in a game, and as our favorite Bruins broadcast team Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley would say, “he’s got jam.” Another of Hall’s strengths is his skating, and he knows it. He knows what his strengths are and how to properly use them to his advantage to best his opponent. He seems to have a strong shot from what could be seen throughout the on-ice sessions of development camp, and he especially showcased it during the scrimmage on Friday:

Not only is the shot itself impressive, being from a very tight angle, top shelf and the puck being positioned on the outside, but so is the work required to get the opportunity. He uses his size, speed and agility to beat the defender on a spin move which creates the space he needs to drive towards the net. His quick acceleration on a few strides from a slow speed affords him that scoring chance. Some guys in this same situation would’ve backed off and stayed on the boards or rotated out to the point, but not Hall. It could be guessed that Hall wouldn’t always shoot that puck if he had a man open right in front of the crease. Despite him scoring on a beautiful finish on this play, the most critical part is the decisions he makes leading up to that finish. It shows Hall has a strong hockey IQ that can be improved and heightened on his journey through professional hockey.

After day 2 of development camp Hall gave the interview above, and there’s a lot to like about it. He’s confident in his game and the way he plays, which is huge in professional sports of any kind. Having that good head on his shoulders gives him a great chance of success at the NHL level. He’s calm, cool and collected, he’s respectful with the media and wants to jump right in and communicate well with the organization and his teammates. These are all good signs to see from a young guy less than a week after being drafted. The strongest sign I saw during camp was his work ethic. On that third day of camp, he was one of the last few guys off the ice. He stayed out there to get those extra few shots, strides and stickhandling in. Being one of the last off shows that extra dedication and want to improve.

Hall is committed to improving his game, and that has to make the Bruins management and coaching staff very happy with their 119th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The Bruins might have a long-term top 9, hopefully, top 6 center on their hands in Curtis Hall. He’s got the heart, work ethic, strong body/head, and he’s got some unreal, majestic flow. Welcome to Boston, Curtis!

Reassessing Bruins’ Options At 2nd Line Right Wing

Carolina Hurricanes v Boston BruinsPhoto credit: Adam Glanzam/Getty Images

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

Now that the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes are over and he has signed with the Los Angeles Kings, the Bruins will look to finalize the second forward line, specifically the wing on David Krejci’s right side. Don Sweeney and the Bruins have plenty of options to fill that role, both within and outside the organization.

Rick Nash – Pending UFA

The Bruins’ major trade deadline acquisition had a tough go in the black and gold, suffering a concussion and only playing a total of 11 regular season games, and all 12 playoff games. In those games, he managed to score 6 goals and add 5 assists for a total of 11 points. Not the best totals in the world, but his concussion and likely slightly rushed recovery must be taken into consideration.

Despite his difficulties in a Bruins uniform, Nash’s bread and butter is scoring goals with his quick release and laser of a shot in the slot. Not merely just a goal scorer, he’s consistently successful at using his large frame to his advantage when it comes to net and board battles in the attacking zone. He’s hard to move off the puck and is a staple in front of the net on the power play.

The decision whether or not to resign Rick Nash is a difficult one considering the many young and talented Bruins that are going to need new contracts next summer and the summer after that (McAvoy, DeBrusk, Heinen, Carlo). Taking into account Kovalchuk’s contract ($6.25 million AAV for 3 years), the ballpark for signing Nash would likely come in around there, probably a little cheaper. If the Bruins can sign Rick Nash for 2 years at no more than $5 or so million a year, chances are they’ll pull the trigger.

However, in the way of a potential return for Rick Nash is him possibly retiring. If he decides to hang up the skates on his career as he has been recently reported to be thinking about, the Bruins will have to look towards youth within the organization or in the trade market.

Youth Within The Organization – Donato, Heinen, Bjork

Staying within the organization is easily the safest and most inexpensive option for the Bruins at second line right wing, and there are plenty of options to choose from. 21-year-old Ryan Donato seems to be the strongest candidate at the moment as he played incredibly well in his 12 games this year, scoring 5 goals and 4 assists for a total 9 points. His NHL debut was particularly impressive, scoring his first NHL goal and adding 2 assists in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The critical factor here is that in his short time in the NHL so far, a vast majority of it has been spent on Krejci’s right wing on the second line. Here are the highlights from his debut (first goal at about 1 minute):

Donato is first and foremost a shooter, he loves to shoot the puck and get to the dirty areas in and around the net to score goals. He’s a young guy with a good head on his shoulders, a lot of skill, a great shot and a lot of experience around the Bruins through his father, former Bruin Ted Donato. The combination of DeBrusk, Krejci, and Donato is deadly as they’ve already shown, and those young guys on Krejci’s wings are only going to get better with time.

Heinen has much more NHL experience than Donato, but not by a large margin. In 85 total games, he’s scored 16 goals and assisted on 31 for 47 points, all in his first full rookie season in 2017-2018. He’s impressed quite a lot and was one of the most successful Bruins rookies this season playing mostly third line time when everyone was healthy. Heinen could very quickly and successfully make the jump to the second line and put up similar numbers, if not better considering he’d be playing with a more skilled center in Krejci.

Heinen is overall a solid 200-foot player, as is evidenced by his use on the penalty kill and ability to score while shorthanded. With his excellent size, skill, and speed, Heinen could only improve and add to the play style that David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk have cultivated this past season. The only thing working against Heinen getting a promotion to the second line are his teammates.

Anders Bjork is an interesting case for the second line. He has limited NHL experience, and although he has played well, scoring 4 goals, 8 assists for 12 points in 30 games, he has suffered a serious injury. This past season he suffered a left shoulder injury which put him out for 6 months. He certainly will get a crack at the roster this coming season, especially if he impresses in training camp, but lining up next to Krejci on a nightly basis is likely a stretch for the 21-year-old.

Jeff Skinner – Possible Trade Target

The long shot of all the Bruins’ options. There have been plenty of rumors around the draft weekend that Jeff Skinner is on the trade block in Carolina. With the recent trade of Noah Hanifin and Hampus Lindholm to the Calgary Flames, it is clear that the Hurricanes are looking to move players in an effort to rebuild. Pursuing a trade is likely low on Don Sweeney’s list of options, as it takes a lot to get a lot in today’s NHL and the focus since he has taken over general manager duties has been to draft and develop. A trade for Skinner would also be difficult considering he has a no-movement clause and has already turned down multiple trade proposals. However, if the Bruins are interested and can make it work, the 26-year-old’s numbers are strong; 204 goals, 175 assists for 379 points in 579 games.

He has an incredible release and smooth hands. Grubauer didn’t even stand a chance on that shot after Skinner sliced through the Capital’s two defenders on the rush. The Bruins have proven scorers in Pastrnak and Marchand, but it is never a bad thing to add a bonafide top 6 scoring winger with a proven track record of 20 and 30 goal seasons. Getting Skinner out of Carolina would likely involve a pick, a strong prospect, and a fairly young roster player, either a forward or defenseman. The Bruins might not be willing to cough that up after missing out on the first round of this year’s draft.

The Bruins have tons of options to fill the open roster spot at second line right wing. They can resign Rick Nash, or look more towards the youth within the organization in Donato, Heinen or Bjork. Don Sweeney could take a chance on a trade for Jeff Skinner and add another scorer. Kovalchuk is off the board and on the way to Los Angeles, and that leaves the Bruins with one less option and makes their decision that much easier.

Former Bruin Daniel Paille’s Career Likely Over

bb161118bb160-1024x576Photo credit: Bildbyrån

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

Former Boston Bruin Daniel Paille is likely going to hang up his skates following a nasty blindsided hit to the head he suffered early last November while playing for the SHL’s Brynäs IF Club. Paille had suffered previous head injuries during his career in the NHL with the Bruins, but none of this magnitude. Here’s the hit he took which looks all too familiar to Bruins fans:

It’s tough to watch anyone suffer such a vicious hit and the aftermath has proven fatal to the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion’s hockey career. He has not played since the incident, an absence from the ice of about 7 months. As of earlier this week it was revealed that Paille suffered a severe brain injury as a result of the blindside hit.

The offender, German Thomas Larkin was handed a fairly light punishment which Paille responded to, saying, “It is obvious that players’ safety and the integrity of sports are not something they prioritize. I want this player to be held liable and punished for his actions.” Words such as these coming from a former player, especially one with a significant history of head injuries, are very heavy. Players must be better protected from dangerous hits such as this one across all levels and leagues of hockey.

It is a shame to see a beloved former Bruin’s career end in such a painful and violent way, but Paille will always be known as one-third of “The Merlot Line,” with the other two being Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. He played the game with consistent high intensity and energy, which quickly endeared him in the hearts of Boston’s craziest fans. Nobody will be quick to forget Paille’s contributions from the 2009-2010 season up through 2014-2015, especially his incredible skating and sneaky goal-scoring ability. Least forgettable is his strong work ethic, willingness to block shots and take a hit during the 2011 playoff run which saw the Bruins bring home the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years.

116746408.0.jpgPhoto credit: Bruce Bennet/Getty Images

Paille totaled 50 goals and 45 assists for 95 points in 365 games with the Bruins. He was a monster on the penalty kill, using his speed and skating ability to outrun his opponents and score a total of 8 short-handed goals during his Bruins career. Paille was never a guy to be flashy, or show up on the highlight reels and the stats sheets, but without his contributions, things could’ve gone quite different for the boys in the Spoked-B.

Here’s a clip of one of Paille’s most memorable and significant moments as a Bruin, scoring the game-winning goal in double-overtime in game 2 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks:

The hope is that Paille can return to the ice one day, in some capacity, and most importantly that he fully recovers from this scary injury.

He may not be on the ice anymore, but his name will forever be engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Once a Bruin, always a Bruin. Get well soon, Danny.

Could The Bruins Make A PK Subban Trade Work?

PK-Subban-Nashville-Predators.jpg(Photo credit: Humphrey/AP)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

PK Subban is a name very well known amongst the Boston Bruins and their fans, mostly from his time with the Bruins’ greatest rival, the Montreal Canadiens. Subban has scored a numerous amount of massive goals against the Bruins over the years, especially in the playoffs. However, since being traded to the Nashville Predators before the 2016-2017 NHL season, the animosity towards PK has faded in Boston, and an admiration for him has emerged.

With recent rumors indicating that Predators general manager David Poile will be listening to offers on Subban this offseason, the idea of the Bruins acquiring the right-shot defenseman is worth bringing up.

But how would he fit in?

Putting aside salary cap issues and the Bruins current difficult contract situation with their younger players, Subban would fit in seamlessly on a team that combines youth and veteran leadership to play a fast, physical, exciting brand of hockey. If Subban were to be described using just three words, fast, physical and exciting are the first three that come to mind. He is an incredible skater, which allows him to be a two-way defenseman who can be active at both ends of the ice. He’s one of the best in the business at leading an intense rush and breaking out of his own zone. He’s scored multiple breakaway goals in his career and has used his speed to create a hole in the opponents’ blue-line defense.

Fast doesn’t describe just Subban’s skating. He has an absolute rocket of a shot that he’s tickled the twine with quite a few times, especially on the power-play. Here are a couple examples:

The excitement is always there in his game, it is shown through his celebrations, enthusiastic interviews, physical play and desperation to be on the ice for every big moment in every game. The man just loves the game and wants his name on the Stanley Cup. He brings an unreal amount of excitement to the sport and is a great personality both on and off the ice, having donated millions to hospitals and spending time with many different groups and charities.

Subban loves to use his whole body to make a hit, it’s why he’s one of the better and more well-known hitters in the NHL. Here’s just one example of one of his crushing hits at the blue-line that he’s become famous (and sometimes infamous) for:

It’s safe to say that Subban would only add to what is already a deadly Bruins power-play, likely playing on the top unit with Bruins rookie standout from this past season, Charlie McAvoy.

Special teams are all well and good, but most of PK’s minutes would be played at even-strength, so where would Bruce Cassidy slot the right-handed defenseman into the lineup?

Likely on the second pair either on Torey Krug’s right, or Brandon Carlo’s left as Subban is a guy who can quickly adapt and plays all over the ice regardless. Playing his off side would likely cause no issue.

On the ice, it looks that trading for PK Subban would work near flawlessly if Cassidy plays him in the right situations (there is little doubt of the opposite). The real question as to whether this trade could work lies off the ice much more than it does on the ice.

What would the Bruins trade for him? How would he fit into the salary cap?

Both excellent, and fundamental questions. For a player of his caliber, it’s generally assumed that a 1st round pick will be required to make any sort of deal happen, so there goes the Bruins’ highest pick in 2019. Considering Nashville doesn’t have a 1st in 2018, acquiring another one in 2019 would be quite attractive for them. Likely Don Sweeney would need to part with at least one NHL-ready forward and a strong defensive prospect or young regular as well. That forward could be Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork, while the defenseman could be prospects Jakub Zboril or Jeremy Lauzon, or current NHL regular Matt Grzelcyk. Chances are that package of a pick and two players wouldn’t get the job done, and another prospect or 2nd-4th round pick would likely be required.

It takes a lot to get a lot in today’s NHL, and Bruins management would need to be willing to part ways with a significant amount of assets to get PK Subban in a Bruins uniform for the 2018-2019 season.

The Bruins are in a tricky salary cap situation, with multiple key depth players needing a new contract this coming offseason, and many young players all but guaranteed for a pay raise in the next couple of years. Here’s what the Bruins current roster looks like via CapFriendly.com:

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The Bruins are likely to be right around the ceiling of the salary cap once players are resigned, and extensions are signed for the coming years, which makes it challenging to fit Subban’s $9 million contract over the next four years under the ceiling. It would require significant dumping of salary and some hometown discounts for players looking to stay in the black and gold.

It’ll be difficult, and it may not be the most likely of scenarios for this offseason, but Bruins management is a smart group. If Don Sweeney can find a way to finagle a solid deal and fit Subban under the cap, he’ll pull the trigger on it, and PK Subban will be the newest Boston Bruin.

Will it happen? Only time will tell.

Bruins’ McAvoy & DeBrusk Showing Strength In Development

Charlie McAvoy

(Photo credit: AP Photo)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725!

A mere few seasons ago things were not looking too hot for the boys in black and gold. After a start to the season in which the Bruins continued to look like the perennial playoff contenders they had been since the 2007-2008 season, they stumbled down the stretch and missed the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. This would mark Peter Chiarelli’s last season as the general manager of the Bruins, and his shoes would be filled by former player and assistant general manager Don Sweeney on May 20th, 2015.

Some of Sweeney’s initial moves were somewhat questionable, specifically at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, New York. Originally just having a single 1st round pick, Sweeney went out and acquired both the Calgary Flames’ and Los Angeles King’s draft picks for Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic, respectively. This gave Bruins management picks 13-15, and the goal at the time was to move up into the top 5 and likely select defensemen Noah Hanifin. However that didn’t pan out, and the Bruins selected defensemen Jakub Zboril at 13th overall, winger Jake DeBrusk at 14th overall and winger Zach Senyshyn at 15th overall.

Both Zboril and Senyshyn are still developing, but Jake DeBrusk had an impressive debut season in 2017-2018, tallying 16 goals, 27 assists for 43 points in 70 games. Most impressively was the 6 goals and 2 assists he scored in 12 playoff games this spring.

DeBrusk showed a jump and energy in the playoffs that the Bruins desperately needed. He brought a 110% level of effort on every shift and managed to score 2 goals in game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the second of which was the game-winning goal. DeBrusk was one of the most consistent players during the Bruins short playoff run. He gutted out tough shifts when he had to and came through massively in clutch moments. It could be said that without DeBrusk’s performance, the Bruins would not have beat Maple Leafs in game 7 to advance to the conference semifinals.

DeBrusk hasn’t been the only shining star to come out of the draft since Sweeney took over general manager duties. The Bruins’ 1st round pick in 2016, defenseman Charlie McAvoy, also selected at 14th overall made the jump to the NHL during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. McAvoy seamlessly fits into the Bruins’ D corps in their 6-game series loss to the Ottawa Senators. Starting on the top pair on Zdeno Chara’s right side, McAvoy had a solid rookie season, potting 7 goals and 25 assists for 32 points in only 63 games played.

Here’s McAvoy’s 1st NHL goal in his NHL regular season debut against the Nashville Predators:

McAvoy also showed to be a clutch player when it came down to it in big moments during the season, winning 2 shootouts, one against the New Jersey Devils in the 11th round, and one against the Winnipeg Jets, giving the Bruins valuable extra points. Not only impressing in the shootout, but the young defenseman also scored the game-winning goal to cap off a 2-goal comeback against the Carolina Hurricanes down the stretch to keep a strong points streak going for the Bruins.

McAvoy and DeBrusk fit so well into the Bruins’ lineup this past season, and their strong rookie seasons helped propel a team that wasn’t expected to even make the playoffs to a 50-win, 112-point season. Much of that is a credit to the players themselves, but head coach Bruce Cassidy gave them confidence by playing them in high-pressure situations. Zdeno Chara and David Krejci must be given some credit too as they were the perfect mentors for two young guys just getting the initial taste of NHL action.

These two are special players, as are many other young guns in the Bruins’ system. It is only a matter of time before they occupy the status of the NHL’s elite players and hopefully a space on one of the Stanley Cup’s rings too.

Should The Bruins Acquire Boston Native Noah Hanifin?

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(Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck/NHL via Getty Images)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725!

The Boston Bruins have shown through injuries, poor starts in their playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and their aging leader Zdeno Chara who has to retire eventually that there is a need for a mobile, two-way left defenseman with upside. Ideally, this defenseman would line up on Brandon Carlo’s left side, rounding out the top 4.

That’s where Noah Hanifin comes in.

Drafted 5th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Hanifin grew up just outside of Boston in Norwood, Massachusetts and attended Boston College before being drafted. Hanifin played just one season for the Eagles as a 17-year-old, the second youngest player in Eagles history. He immediately made the jump from college hockey to the NHL, signing a 3-year entry-level contract with the Hurricanes and making his NHL debut on October 8th, 2015 against the Nashville Predators. It only took the then 18-year-old just over 4 weeks to score his first NHL goal against current Bruins backup goalie Anton Khudobin then of the Anaheim Ducks on November 16th, 2015.

While he may have potted his first goal from the point, a significant portion of Hanifin’s goals has come from much closer to the net. Combing through some highlights on YouTube it’s clear that he’s not shy about jumping into the rush and getting to the dirty areas where most goals are scored. There are numerous examples of this, despite his limited experience in the league.

Hanifin has seen consistent ice time in high-pressure situations in his short NHL career, has taken those opportunities by the scruff of their neck and taken advantage of them. He’s scored 4 game-winning goals, multiple of which were in overtime. These goals further show his willingness to take a risk and attack the net off the rush as well as with possession in the zone to tickle the twine at the back of the net.

A young defenseman with a knack for showing up clutch in important moments can be invaluable to a team with a mix of young guns and veteran leaders vying for a Stanley Cup. The 21-year-old, 6’3″, 206-pound Hanifin could be exactly that for the Boston Bruins for years to come.

What do his statistics look like over the past few years?

Quite impressive for someone playing on a team that has missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons. His rookie season totals: 4 goals and 18 assists for 22 points (4-18-22) with a -14 plus/minus rating. He’s shown steady growth since then, posting 4-25-29 totals alongside a -19 rating in his sophomore season. His 3rd season and this past 2017-2018 season was his most successful offensively; he posted 10 goals, combined with 22 assists for a total of 32 points. Once again his plus/minus was not attractive at -20, but that can be overlooked as plus/minus typically isn’t very indicative of a player’s ability especially when said player plays for a team that finished 6th in its division (36 W, 35 L, 11 OTL, 83 points). Transplant Hanifin onto the Bruins, a top-tier team in the NHL who’s coaching staff know how to use a defenseman of his caliber, and he’d flourish.

How would he fit in with the Boston Bruins?

First and foremost, Hanifin would have no qualms about lacing up the skates for the black and gold considering he’s a Massachusetts native and grew up in the Greater Boston Area. His size, skill, and strong skating ability fits in line with Don Sweeney and Bruce Cassidy’s current philosophy of building a fast, physical hockey team. Hanifin would most likely hop into the top 4 as Brandon Carlo’s defensive partner.

Secondly, the Bruins current management is very fond of the young defenseman as the goal of stockpiling 1st round picks in the 2015 draft was to move up and draft him in the top 5.

Here’s a look at what the team could look like at the start of the 2018-2019 season if the Bruins were to acquire Noah Hanifin (disclaimer: salaries and forward lines are hypothetical as the focus is solely on the defensive pairings here):

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(Via CapFriendly)

Hanifin perfectly fills the Bruins’ need for a top 4 left-shot defenseman who can play in all situations. He can play on the power play and produce, can eat up some minutes on the penalty kill and Bruce Cassidy would feel confident sending him over the bench in the final 5 minutes of a tie game. Hanifin would give Cassidy the ability to limit Torey Krug’s ice time when it comes to important defensive zone faceoffs. Krug isn’t necessarily bad in his own zone, but nobody would call him particularly great either as he’s a power play and offensive specialist.

On another note, with another strong top 4 defenseman on the left side, Cassidy could shave down Zdeno Chara’s ice time a little bit here and there to keep the big man refreshed and energized throughout the entire season and playoffs. Chara would still be playing the most important minutes, but the Bruins would be forced to rely on him much less.

The Bruins have a good problem on the back end, they’ve got too many good defensemen that do the same thing. Krug and Matt Grzelyck are both good, fast skaters who specialize in offense. Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller are both big, strong, physical, stay-at-home defenders who are known for shot blocking. Grzelcyk could easily be involved in a trade for Hanifin and would help clear a space for him as well.

As is shown in the lines above, if Hanifin were to be acquired, Grzelcyk and McQuaid would likely be the odd men out. The ice time would be split fairly evenly between the 2nd and 3rd pairs, with Krug getting more power play time and Hanifin taking on penalty killing duties. Krug would remain in his top PP unit spot, with Hanifin likely landing on the secondary unit, as well as the 2nd PK unit.

Hypotheticals are all well and good, but how realistic is it that the Bruins could make this move?

Actually quite realistic. Hanifin’s name has popped up in Hurricane trade rumors before during the season. Bob McKenzie, one of, if not the most trusted name when it comes to the NHL rumor mill, said that nearly everyone in Carolina is available.

The Carolina Hurricanes are the perfect trading partner for the Bruins. The Canes have a logjam on defense as well with Faulk, Slavin, Fleury and of course Hanifin. Acquiring a guy like Hanifin is no easy feat in today’s NHL. Young, mobile, talented defensemen with size and speed are a hot commodity and always have been, more so now than ever before. Don Sweeney has to be willing to part ways with a good crop of assets to make this trade happen.

Some possible deals that Sweeney could make:

Option A: Grzelcyk, Heinen, a 2019 1st round pick, and a forward prospect if need be.

Option B: Jakub Zboril, Anders Bjork, a 2019 1st round pick, a future 3rd round pick.

If you’d like to weigh in, check out this Twitter poll below and let me know what you think.

Should The Bruins Play Krejci & Pastrnak Together?

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 2.55.44 PM(Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on twitter @bruinsfan3725!

With their Bruins seasons over, David Pastrnak and David Krejci have joined the Czech Republic at the IIHF Men’s World Championships this week in Denmark. Due to their connection as being teammates, they have been playing on the same line. To say they’ve been prolific would be an understatement.

In a 4-3 overtime win over Russia on May 10th, 2018 the pair combined for a total of 7 points, Pastrnak scoring 2 goals, including the game-winning goal and adding an assist, while Krejci scored a goal of his own and assisted on 3 others.

Here’s Krejci’s goal which was an absolute snipe to tie it at 1:

(Via @A_Kalnins on Twitter)

It’s no secret that both Krejci and Pastrnak are highly skilled and are among the most talented players in the NHL, evidenced by Krejci leading the league in points in both the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as well as Pastrnak’s incredible season this year (totals of 35-45-80) and explosion of a hat trick and 6 points in game 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Another example of Pastrnak’s unreal skill level on his OT winner against Russia:

(Via @A_Kalnins on Twitter)

After seeing such incredible play from these 2 Bruin forwards, Bruins fans, and more importantly Bruins management should give the idea of playing Pastrnak and Krejci on the same line a lot more thought. It’s impossible to ignore the numbers they can put up and the chemistry they have together both from being teammates on multiple stages and from both being Czech.

While it would be difficult to go wrong by pairing these 2 up as linemates, it would require splitting up the Bruins most effective line from this past season of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. Each player on that line scored at least 30 goals, a rare feat in today’s NHL.

Would the Bruins be willing to split up what was widely considered the best line in hockey this season in order to spread out the talent among the top 6 and give David Krejci more consistency on his wings?

It’s likely that Bruce Cassidy will give it a shot in preseason and maybe even on opening night. However, that all depends on the development and growth of the other young guys vying to crack the Bruins top 6. Someone needs to replace Pastrnak on Bergeron’s right side, and there are plenty of candidates. The obvious and most likely is Ryan Donato, but his experience at the NHL level is limited. Danton Heinen could move up from the 3rd line, or a healthy Anders Bjork could slide in on that open wing. No line combination is ever truly set in stone, which allows Bruce Cassidy to try out any of these possibilities and see if they come to fruition at any point in the 2018-2019 NHL season.

How the Bruins coaching staff reacts to Pastrnak and Krejci’s success overseas is yet to be seen, but it without a doubt gives them a plethora of options when it comes to who lines up with who on opening night in October.

Will Bruce Cassidy switch things up in the fall, or will we see a familiar trio of numbers vaulting over the boards for their first shift of a new season?

Boston Bruins Drawing Focus To NHL’s Officiating Woes

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(Photo via @brianfluharty on Twitter)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725!

Game 4 between the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning on May 4th, 2018 was an interesting contest, to say the least.

Despite the game being won in overtime, the most memorable moments by a long shot were Brad Marchand’s lick on Ryan Callahan after Marchand stopped the Lightning forward right in his tracks with a textbook hip-check and the missed call that led to the tying goal in the 3rd period.

The lick in question:

(Via @PeteBlackburn on Twitter)

An interesting moment, and the second time that Marchand has done this during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as he also licked the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Leo Komarov in game 1 of the opening round. This continued habit has led to an uproar on social media as well as among players, coaches and league officials, with many calling for the NHL to put an end to Marchand’s licking days.

They asked, and they received, as the league has officially told both Marchand and Bruins GM Don Sweeney that any further licking will result in punishment on the ice and likely off it too. Maybe these antics don’t have a place in the sport of hockey, maybe they are an embarrassment, or maybe they aren’t, and Marchand has figured out the most effective way to get under his opponent’s skin.

Regardless, it is ridiculous that these antics are getting all the attention around the league while the terrible, inconsistent officiating throughout each and every playoff series is being swept under the rug.

As previously mentioned, Steven Stamkos’ game-tying goal in game 4 would have been waved off it wasn’t for this missed call on Nikita Kucherov taking down Charlie McAvoy:

(Via @PeteBlackburn on Twitter)

This is just one example of many calls that were missed or incorrectly made in not only this game but throughout the entire series. Another example from last night’s game 4:

(Via @PeteBlackburn on Twitter)

It is blatantly obvious that there is a stark lack of consistency among the officiating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The focus must remain consistent, and the thresholds of different calls such as hooking, holding, slashing and tripping that are established must remain in place for the entirety of a game and series. Marchand may need to be reprimanded as that is the consensus around the league, but the officials must be held accountable for mistakes such as these. Bad calls happen, and typically over a 60-minute hockey game or a best-of-7 series they even out and the better team wins, that is part of hockey. It becomes a problem when the officials make calls that directly influence and change the outcome of a game. If Stamkos’ goal had been waved off due to Kucherov’s hold on McAvoy, the Bruins would have retained their 3-2 lead and likely held on or extended it to win game 4 and tie the series at 2 games apiece.

Have the referees this postseason just been plain terrible and made a numerous amount of egregious mistakes? Or is there some bias towards certain teams and players?

Regardless of the answer, many have called for the coach’s challenge to be expanded to allow coaches to challenge a scoring play where there may have been a penalty call that was missed such as was the case on Stamkos’ goal.

One way or another, the NHL and its officials need to focus more heavily on how games are being called than on whether or not a player is using unorthodox methods to get under his opponent’s skin.

Jake DeBrusk Embodies What It Means To Be A Boston Bruin

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(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

Every postseason has its heroes. Some of them are unexpected heroes that come up with a big hit, an important shot block or a huge goal when it is needed most. The Bruins are no stranger to this fact and over the years have had numerous guys show up in the most critical moments in the most critical games. Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell, Patrice Bergeron, and Torey Krug are a few that come to mind.

This spring, there’s a new hero rising the ranks and making history while wearing the Spoked B.

Rookie winger, #74 Jake DeBrusk

As a  first-round draft pick in 2015, DeBrusk finally broke the Bruins roster this season, and impressively scored his 1st NHL goal in his NHL debut against the Nashville Predators. His strong rookie season helped propel the youthful Bruins into the playoffs as the number 2 seed in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

Playing alongside David Krejci and Rick Nash on the 2nd line throughout the playoff run, DeBrusk has impressed in a multitude of ways, not only scoring 6 goals and adding 2 assists for a total of 8 points through 10 playoff games so far. Strong numbers for a 21-year-old rookie, but what’s more impressive is when those goals have been scored.

Easily his most important goal of the playoffs so far was the game-winning goal in game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 25th, 2018.

(Via @PeteBlackburn on Twitter)

His 2nd goal of the game, it ended up clinching the series for the Bruins and without his intensity and drive the final 20 minutes of game 7 could have looked very different (and much more low-scoring).

DeBrusk has been one of the Bruins’ best and most consistent players in the playoffs, bringing the same effort and intensity on every shift in every game. That has shown throughout his play, especially on the goals he’s scored, but it also shines through in his celebrations.

(Via @PeteBlackburn on Twitter)

Grabbing the Spoked B on his chest proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this kid loves playing for this team, his teammates, his coaches, and of course the city of Boston. His passion and intensity has impressed the most. His compete level never dips, and it’s clear that throughout the regular season and playoffs that he’s earned the trust and faith of his teammates and coaches.

Maybe DeBrusk’s strongest shift of the playoffs so far came in game one against the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 28th, 2018. Here’s his mammoth of a change in the defensive zone.

This sequence of taking a hard hit, blocking a shot and diving desperately to get the puck out of his own zone can only be described as all heart. A shift like that doesn’t show up on the scoresheet at the end of the game, but fans, teammates and coaches alike notice plays like these. Not once did Jake DeBrusk give up on this shift, it’s clear he wasn’t even thinking about the bench until he cleared the puck.

That is what it means to be a Boston Bruin. Fighting for every inch, never giving up on a play, coming in clutch when it matters most, playing with unmatched heart and the will to win no matter what.

Jake DeBrusk has the heart of a lion, plays the game like a Bruin should, and he likely will have an extra letter on his sweater in short order.