Bruins VS Caps: How Did The Forwards Perform?

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 2.00.51 PM(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

On the surface, Sunday’s preseason game against the Washington Capitals was just that, a preseason game. For the fans, it’s a sign that opening night of the NHL’s regular season is inching that much closer. For the players, it’s an opportunity to impress the coaches and win a spot in the lineup when the puck drops on a brand new season in a few weeks. Going into this year’s preseason matchups, a majority of the Bruins’ roster has already been decided. However, there are some spots available, as well as a number of possible combinations throughout the lineup that the coaches want to test out. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at the performance of the forwards in the opening matchup of the Bruin’s domestic preseason.

Sunday’s matchup with the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals at the TD Garden in Boston was a prime opportunity to do just that. With many of the Bruins’ regulars overseas for the O.R.G. NHL China Games, many spots were given to young prospects, allowing them to strut their stuff. Before getting into the nuts and bolts, here’s the full highlight reel in case you weren’t able to catch the game:

A couple young guns on the offensive side of the puck stood out in particular; 2018 3rd-round draft pick Jakub Lauko, 2015 15th-overall pick Zach Senyshyn, and 2013 4th-round pick Ryan Fitzgerald. Of those players, Lauko showed the most prowess throughout the game. A very fast player, he was able to consistently use his speed to get up and down the ice and create space. For a guy who’s main focus would be scoring goals, he was solid on defense as well, making the sacrifice and putting himself between the puck and the net on multiple occasions. He took one shot off the leg later in the game right at the point and despite feeling quite a bit of pain finished his shift. Not all of his plays will show up on a highlight reel, but the most important of all certainly did. Take a look at the Bruins’ only regulation goal from the game:

The most promising part of this entire play isn’t the end result, but the effort and skill put in to make the play. First off Lauko does a solid job picking the puck up in the slot and maintaining possession while surrounded by Capitals defenders. He doesn’t give up on the play after his first shot attempt gets blocked down; he corrals the puck and rips a quick wrister through the defenseman’s legs to put the Bruins on the board. It’s clear he knows how to celebrate and enjoy his time on the ice too. That kind of jam, as one Bruins announcer Jack Edwards would say, is what coaches look for in young players. Lauko’s skating and scoring ability matched with his willingness to fight for the puck and put his body on the line could have him wearing the black and gold sooner than most might think. Lauko himself certainly agrees, here are his thoughts on his performance:

Fitzgerald’s performance didn’t result in any goals or flashy highlights, but he meshed well on a line with David Krejci and Danton Heinen throughout the entire game. While they weren’t able to convert on any of their scoring chances, they certainly had a good number of them. There were multiple instances in the second and third periods where the Bruins were able to hold the Capitals in their own zone for at least 90 seconds — even 2 minutes at one point.

Fitzgerald fit well in the offensive cycle, took advantage of his opportunities and got the puck toward the net. Most notably is the pass he made to a streaking David Krejci in the opening period in the above highlight reel. Krejci was thwarted, but nonetheless, it was one of the Bruins’ best scoring chances the entire game. Senyshyn also had a strong scoring chance later on in the first period on a rebound from an Anton Blidh breakaway. Senyshyn certainly wanted to make an impression on the Bruins coaches when he dropped the gloves with Tyler Lewington in front of the Capitals’ net. He’s definitely feeling pressure from the other young guys in the system and is looking to be in the conversation when it comes to final roster spots or injury call-ups.

Now for the more established players — the likes of David Krejci, Danton Heinen, and Daniel Winnik. It’s a known fact that Krejci will center the Bruins’ second forward line, but his linemates have been in question all summer. Most likely Jake DeBrusk will retain his spot on the left wing from last season. Danton Heinen looks to move up to the right flank of Krejci in his sophomore season. The pair seemed to have strong chemistry, linking up to create multiple grade-A scoring chances. Heinen was also given the chance to show off his own individual skills at the start of the shootout. Here’s the silky smooth play where Heinen had the puck on a string:

Heinen undoubtedly has the skill and hockey IQ to play on Krejci’s wing for this coming season. If he does, he most certainly will improve on his point totals from last season (16 goals, 31 assists, and 47 points in 77 games). Given more time together throughout the remainder of the preseason, Heinen could win that spot. This would allow Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy to keep the dominant top line from last season of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak together. That line with a DeBrusk-Krejci-Heinen second line would provide strong scoring throughout the top-six and a lot of flexibility in the bottom-six. Assistant coach Joe Sacco had this to say on the Krejci-Heinen combination as well as Lauko and defenseman Axel Andersson’s performance:

Further down in the lineup we find NHL veteran Daniel Winnik who’s been invited to camp on a professional tryout (PTO). Winnik’s been playing in the NHL for over 10 years and has played on eight different teams, playing in 798 career games. He consistently has put up 20-30 points and been a strong bottom-six forward throughout his career. It’s a smart pickup by the Bruins who we’ll likely see getting significant NHL time this year, especially if injuries hit the forward corps as they have in the past few years. Cassidy and the Bruins have a lot of options in front of them at the moment ranging from young prospects just getting their first taste of NHL action to veterans with years of regular season and playoff experience under their belts. The lineup for opening night against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 3 is an unknown at the moment, making for an exciting run up to puck drop.

The Boston Bruins: A Beacon Of Hope And Strength In The Community

IMG_9915(Photo Credit – Jacob Albrecht)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

The Boston Bruins have made their mark on the city of Boston and the New England region since their inception in 1924. The Spoked-B has become a symbol of strength and hope for many throughout the years through the many heroic feats of players, historic comebacks, improbable victories, unmatched perseverance, determination, and the ability to bring the community together in the wake of a tragedy.

The most recent and most memorable experience of this was in the immediacy of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. The Bruins were tasked with healing a heartbroken city, to give some form of normalcy during a time where nothing seemed normal. The first game after the Marathon was that Wednesday, April 17, 2013 against the Buffalo Sabres. The tribute put together, and the reaction and passion of the crowd was unmatched; the emotion could be felt through the TV.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the next game on the 20th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. While neither games were won by the Bruins, the score was the last thing that mattered. Witnessing and being a part of the entire audience of 17,565 at the Garden singing the Star Spangled Banner was an experience like no other. It’s crazy to remember those moments were more than 5 years ago. The Boston Bruins brought the city back together, offered a distraction for a few hours and helped heal thousands of broken hearts.

It didn’t end just there, the magical season that was 2013 continued into the playoffs, most memorably with a stunning 3rd-period comeback victory in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Down 4-1 halfway through the 3rd, it was all but over, but the Bruins, much like the city of Boston, managed to rally to a 5-4 overtime win to move on to the next round.

It’s moments like those that demonstrate how important sports can be to a city and a region. One game, even just one moment, can stand as a beacon of strength, hope, and resiliency at a time when it’s needed most. The team as a whole and certain players, in particular, exemplify this to the extremes. During the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, Patrice Bergeron played the final game of the series in which the Bruins lost with a myriad of injuries. The laundry list of ailments included a broken rib, separated shoulder, torn cartilage, and even a punctured lung. Other players have played with severe injuries over the years; Milan Lucic played with a broken foot in the 2011 playoffs, and Chris Kelly didn’t miss a beat after falling and smashing his face into the goalpost against Montreal that same year. Those feats of strength and performance alone serves as a reminder to keep fighting against all the odds no matter how beat up and torn down you’ve been.

The Bruins have served as a personal inspiration for many. It becomes a safe space, a community that provides an incredibly powerful sense of belonging, camaraderie, and resiliency. If it weren’t for the Bruins and the effect they’ve had on my life, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today, and that I will forever be thankful for.

IMG_9590(Photo Credit: Jacob Albrecht)

Nothing can match the electrifying, frenetic, intense atmosphere of the Garden during a playoff game (pictured above). Being there for Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs this year on April 25, was a perfect example of the camaraderie, passion, and intensity of the Bruins community and fanbase. It’s a moment I’d kill to go back to and live through over and over and over again. The Boston Bruins have provided a massive, yet tight-knit community in Boston, New England, and even around the world for nearly a century, and it’s only growing and getting stronger. So to the Boston Bruins, thank you, for everything you do.

Who Will Round Out The Bruins Blueline?

bruins_kevan_miller_042214(Photo from NBC Sports Boston)

By Jacob Albrecht | Sauce me a follow on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

Last week I covered the decisions the Bruins coaching staff and management have to make regarding who makes up the four forward lines for opening night. This week I’m back to cover which six of the eight NHL defenseman on the roster will lace up the skates for opening night against the Washington Capitals on October 3..

As with the forwards, the Bruins have an embarrassment of riches on the back end coming into this season. Zdeno Chara doesn’t look to be slowing down at all after a great 2017-18 season and playoffs where he managed to hold Auston Matthews to a measly single goal and assist in 7 games. Charlie McAvoy will only improve on his standout rookie season in his sophomore season. Hopefully, Brandon Carlo can stay healthy and manage to get enough luck to suit up for a playoff game.

Torey Krug can still find room for improvement in his defensive game while putting up 60+ points per season and being a catalyst for the Bruins’ power-play and breakout. Matt Grzelcyk hopes to improve his game after signing a 2-year contract this summer. New Bruin John Moore will be aiming to prove he’s worth his 5-year deal signed this summer with his booming shot (see below) from the point and sizable 6-foot-3 frame. Barring an atrocious showing from Moore in the preseason, he’ll suit up on opening night.

The Bruins have options, however, specifically when it comes to the third and final defense pairing. They could stick with what they used last season by playing any combination of Grzelcyk and the Bruins two remaining NHL defenseman: Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid. Alternatively, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy could drop Krug down to the third pair with a bigger, more defensive-minded guy like the aforementioned Miller or McQuaid. This would limit Krug’s time in his own end and therefore limit defensive mistakes while not affecting his ability to produce offense on the power-play.

If Krug were to play 3rd pairing minutes, it is highly likely that Moore would slide in on Brandon Carlo’s left side. The Bruins did acquire him to be another top 4, left-shot defenseman in the first place. As well as he has played at times, it would come as a surprise to see Grzelcyk playing top-4 minutes; he lies closer to the bottom of the depth chart on the blueline. Moore may not put up a significant amount of points as Krug or McAvoy do, but he has shown that he’s capable of jumping in on the rush, and when he has it has come with quite lucrative results. Here are some highlights:

Chances are this year we’ll see a consistent rotation of Matt Grzelcyk, Adam McQuaid, and Kevan Miller on the bottom pair until Cassidy finds the combination he likes best or injuries strike either them or another Bruins blueliner. However, when it comes to opening night, look for the Bruins to go with an element of speed on that pair (we’re looking at you, Grizz and/or Torey).

By the process of elimination, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that the Bruins top defensive pair will remain the same as it was from last year; Zdeno Chara on the left, and Charlie McAvoy on the right. They are one of the best combinations of skill, speed, strength, offensive and defensive capability in the entire NHL. Along with their ability to play strong 200-foot hockey, Chara is a great mentor to the young McAvoy, who’s young enough to be Chara’s son. It’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing more moments like this from McAvoy:

Now, for special teams; it’s quite straightforward for the Bruins this season. Undoubtedly Chara will anchor the top penalty-kill unit with either McAvoy or Carlo. Whoever is not consistently pair with Chara will slide onto the second, probably with Moore as the Bruins will want to see exactly what he’s got in all situations early on. If Kevan Miller and/or Adam McQuaid is in the lineup, look for them to be on the penalty-kill as well, those guys eat rubber and high sticks for a living.

The Bruins generally have only one defenseman on the top power play, and that spot is and has been Torey Krug’s for years now, and that shouldn’t be changing anytime soon. Krug has put up totals of 20 goals and 82 assists for 102 points on the power play alone. That accounts for a staggering 43.4% of his career points. Nearly half of his 59 points last season came on the power play. Torey Krug on the power play is about as common as the Sun rising in the East. Remember this? For reference, that was Krug’s eighth career game, fifth career playoff game, and fourth career goal.

When it comes to the second unit, Charlie McAvoy will continue to receive significant time as he continues to hone his offensive game, which brought home 7 goals, 25 assists and 32 points last year, 7 of which were on the power-play. Aside from these two, Moore and Grzelcyk are most likely to get power-play time considering they both can provide offense.

The Bruins have plenty of options on the blueline and a numerous amount of possible combinations to explore during the preseason. It would be in their best interest to explore all these options and find out what works best before the games start to really count in early October. The excitement is rising as the NHL’s return approaches, stay tuned for more Bruins news and thoughts.

Bruins Have Difficult Choices To Make In Training Camp

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.35.58 PM.png(Photo credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

The Bruins have a good problem going into training camp this September: too many good players that could earn a spot on the big club’s roster when the puck drops on the 2018-2019 NHL season. This “problem” is mostly centered around the forward core, and Don Sweeney, Bruce Cassidy and the rest of the staff have an abundance of options throughout all the forward lines.

Let’s start with the top 6 and what will undoubtedly be the top line (centered by Patrice Bergeron) and the second (centered by David Krejci.) It’s essentially guaranteed that Brad Marchand will line up on Bergeron’s left side, but the right side is more in question. David Pastrnak could retain his role there due to the incredible success that trio had last season, as seen below.

The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line put up 99 goals, 129 assists, and 228 points in total throughout the 2017-2018 regular season. They were the best and deadliest line in the entire NHL — success that continued into the playoffs. Pastrnak scored six points in just one game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s hard to argue splitting these guys up, but there are a few solid options.

Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, and Ryan Donato could all take that spot on Bergeron’s right flank, moving Pastrnak down to Krejci’s right wing. Bjork has had his fair share of struggles with injuries, but with the little time he’s spent at the NHL level, he’s shown he can play. He only managed 4 goals and 12 points in 30 games this past season, but given significant time in the top 6, those totals could quickly rise. Heinen is a much more attractive option at the moment considering he played a full season last year and put up 47 points — no insignificant amount for a rookie. Here’s a great look at the compete level and talent that Heinen could bring the top line:

If Heinen were to move up to the top line, that would spread out the scoring and talent more evenly with the duo of Pastrnak and Krejci on the second line. After his heroic performances in the playoffs and the unforgettable heart he brings to the team, it’s all but a guarantee that the left wing to Krejci would be sophomore winger Jake DeBrusk. Hard to argue with this:

The last option for the top 6 would be rookie (sensing a trend?), Ryan Donato. He’s only provided a small sample size so far, but what he’s provided has been very impressive. In his NHL debut alone he scored his first NHL goal and added 2 more assists, all while playing with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. The chemistry that trio showed up with for that game and subsequent games is a strong argument for them to stick together for the start of 2018-2019. Here are the highlights:

If Donato plays on Krejci’s right side with DeBrusk on the left, that leaves the top line the same as it was this past season — Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak. Heinen would be the odd man out and would slide down to a top-9 role, playing right wing on the third forward line with David Backes opposite him on the left wing.

The third and fourth lines are where roster spots for opening night’s puck drop are more significantly up for grabs. Most important is who will center the third line with Riley Nash gone to Columbus via free agency. The candidates are plentiful — 2017 2nd-round pick Jack Studnicka, 2015 2nd-round pick Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and 2016 1st-round pick Trent Frederic are all prospects vying for that spot. Studnicka has high aspirations for this season and plans to make the NHL squad; we’ll have to wait until camp begins to see how likely of a possibility that truly is. Regarding current roster players, Backes could slide back into the center position considering he’s played significant time as a center in his career. Sean Kuraly, coming off a new three-year deal, could move up to the third line from the fourth-line center position he played last year. This would leave his old spot available to Noel Acciari or any of the prospects mentioned earlier.

After the center positions are cleared up, it’s just down to the wingers. Any combination of Bjork, Heinen, Donato, Backes, Acciari, and prospects such as Studnicka and Forsbacka-Karlsson (have fun fitting that on a jersey) could round out the bottom 6 wings. At the end of the day, the decision lies with Don Sweeney, Bruce Cassidy, and the players themselves because their performances in training camp and preseason will either earn or lose them a roster spot.

One Time Bruin Jarome Iginla Hangs Up His Skates

Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 6.03.43 PM(Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

Jarome Iginla will be announcing his retirement from the NHL this coming Monday on July 30th, 2018. In his 20 NHL seasons, he played 16 of them with the Calgary Flames after being drafted 11th overall in 1995 by the Dallas Stars who then traded him to the Flames. Of the remaining 4 seasons, he’s played, one was with the Boston Bruins. Iginla was originally a trade target of the Bruins at the trade deadline in the lockout-shortened 2013 season but ended up in Pittsburgh instead. That summer he signed a one-year deal to wear the black and gold during 2013-2014.

The 6’1″, 210-pound winger was a perfect fit on David Krejci right side, with Milan Lucic riding the opposite side. As it was when Nathan Horton occupied that spot, having two big wingers flanking Krejci proved to be very effective, and Iginla did not disappoint. He lived up to his knack for putting up 30-goal seasons, totaling 30 goals and 31 assists for an impressive 61 points in his 17th NHL season. He continued his strong play into the playoffs, tallying 5 goals and 2 assists for 7 points in 12 games. Iginla quickly endeared himself in the hearts of Bruins fans with his gritty, physical play, starting off the season by dropping the gloves in the opener:

Not long after did he score his first goal wearing the Spoked-B, a few weeks later against the San Jose Sharks. A typical goal of Iginla; driving hard to the net, getting to the dirty areas, fighting for pucks and ultimately giving whatever it takes to light the lamp when the Bruins need it:

While Iginla’s stint with the Bruins may have been only a single season and fell short of the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup, it was without a doubt a great season and one that a lot of Bruins fans won’t soon forget. Jarome Iginla certainly showed himself worthy of the “once a Bruin, always a Bruin” moniker.

When it comes to the Hockey Hall of Fame, not many are as much of a sure-fire first-ballot inductee as Iginla. Throughout his 20 NHL seasons with the Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, Iginla scored a whopping 625 goals and racked up 675 total assists for an even 1,300 points in 1,554 games played. He impressively scored 30 or more goals in 12 of his 20 NHL seasons, only 5 short of all-time leader Mike Gartner. His 625 goals tie him with Joe Sakic for 15th all-time and comes in at 13th all-time in games played. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the most goals in the NHL both in 2002 and 2004 with 52 and 44 goals, respectively. He also took home the Ted Lindsay Award for the best player as voted by members of the NHLPA in 2002 after a career-high, Art Ross-winning 96-point season. With those numbers and that amount of hardware, Jarome Iginla will undoubtedly be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame very shortly. Here’s the ultimate Calgary Flame’s 500th NHL goal;

In terms of his career specifically with the Flames, Iginla served as captain from 2003 to 2013 and led them to their strongest finish during his career, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 7 games in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. His totals with the Flames are very impressive; 525 goals, 570 assists, and 1,095 points in 1,219 games played. He leads the franchise in goals, points, games played and sits behind Al MacInnis in assists.

It won’t be long before Jarome Iginla’s number 12 will be raised to the rafters in Calgary and he becomes immortalized in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Iginla will always be known as a great goal-scorer who played the game the right way, played it physically, and was one of the better leaders the NHL has ever known. Congratulations to Jarome Iginla on an absolutely fantastic and prolific 20-year NHL career, it was a privilege to have you wearing the Spoked-B even for just a single season.

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.

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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.