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.