Bruins Studnicka Impresses In Debut

(Photo Credit: NHL via Getty images)

By: Jack Gotsell | Follow me on twitter @jackgotsell

Jack Stunicka was impressive in his post COVID break debut. The game was a tryout of sorts for the 21-year-old natural center. However, he found himself in an unusual spot on the right side of David Krecji with Jake Debrusk on the left. After his performance you will likely see him there again when the Bruins take on the Flyers at 3PM. 

What we saw from Studnicka was good; what we didn’t see was even better. There were no glaring rookie mistakes and he played a solid game in his own end. The Ontario native got stronger from when we last saw him in camp at the beginning of the season. Things are going to get a lot more physical as this tournament proceeds, so we are going to see if the muscle Studnicka put on is going to make an impact in the dirty areas and along the boards.

With his first shift Studnicka was able to show off some of his skills when he intercepted a pass and had a great chance to take a shot on goal. The rookie passed it up and tried to feed a covered Krejci to the dismay of Cassidy and the rest of the Bruins faithful. However, he got more comfortable and confident with each shift and took some great shots. “Certainly [Studnicka] had some of our better chances,” said Cassidy in a post game interview. One that sticks out to me was his breakaway chance, where he showed off his electrifying speed when he received a pass from Krejci and put a nice move on the goalie. He also set up Debrusk for a scoring chance at the end of the second period.

He didn’t look out of place on the power-play either. He played in Patrice Bergeron’s famous bumper spot on the second power-play and was able to create some chances. He had a scoring chance but was unable to convert. 

Cassidy was critical of Studnicka, but said he played good. His decision making wasn’t quite where Cassidy would like it to be. “The shooting versus passing, I mean we’re gonna have to live with that for a while. Until he learns the league, what he can get away with,” Cassidy commented referring to the chance Studnicka had early in the game. He didn’t stop there saying “I liked his initiative. A couple of back soft backhand plays, again a lot of young guys, those aren’t gonna happen in this league. Sticks are too good. Certainly had some of our better chances, unfortunately didn’t finish but I thought he played well.” These are all things that are going to be fixed with time. Unfortunately, the Bruins don’t have time since the playoffs are here and he’s gonna need these improvements to come quickly. 

Ondrej Kase has now arrived in Toronto and will be eager to earn his spot back. I expect Studnicka, because of his lack of experience, to be on a short leash until he can earn the coaches’ trust. Studnicka could be a key player for the Bruins in these playoffs with his speed and his offensive abilities and it will be interesting to see if he has the physicality now to go along with those skills. He is a smart two-way hockey player and can play at the NHL level, but this is a team that won the President’s trophy in the regular season and he will have players pushing him for his spot in the lineup.

Studnick did not stick out the way he did versus the Flyers like he did against Columbus. You didn’t see too much of his speed or his offensive ability on display. He had a great back-check that really stood out to me at the end of the Bruins power play, but that was really his only highlight. I did like seeing him down low in front of the net on offense and after whistles. However, if he is going to keep a job through the playoffs, he needs to make an impact.

The line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Studnicka did not look good on Sunday but it was not all on Studnicka. The Bruins as a whole were trying to force extra passes and did not have a shoot-first mentality. With the ice in the playoffs seeing multiple games in a day we are gonna see a lot of bouncing pucks and passes are going to be harder to make and receive. Kase and Ritchie look like they should be ready to go when the Bruins face Tampa on Wednesday.

I would not be surprised to see Studnicka in or out of the lineup. I would like to see the kid get another shot but it is playoff time and everyone needs to contribute every shift or find some pine. Nobody looked great out there besides Kuhlman and he has all the skills to play at this level. When the rookie’s decision making starts to click, Studnicka has the potential to be a star. 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Is Jack Studnicka The Answer To The Bruins Search For Krejci’s Right Wing?

( Photo Credit Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers )

By: Jack Gotsell |Follow me on twitter @jackgotsell

Bruce Cassidy has a big decision to make when it comes to who will be playing on the right side of David Krejci this postseason for the Boston Bruins. With Ondreje Kase unable to get on the ice in the return to play phase of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, being deemed “unfit to play”, the Bruins will look to their young prospect and 2nd round pick in the 2017 entry draft Jack Studnicka to fill the void next to Krejci. If Studnicka plays well he will likely keep the role; and if not, Anders Bjork could likely get a look before we see Kase back next to Krejci.

Studnicka was drafted 53rd overall by the Bruins and has not disappointed. In his rookie season for the organization the 6’2” 21-year-old forward was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team. He led the Providence Bruins in scoring this season with 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points in 60 games. He brings a promising finishing touch that the Bruins and General Manager Don Sweeney have been searching for to boost the top six.

Sweeney was confident he found that boost when the Bruins acquired Kase from the Anaheim Ducks on trade deadline day. The COVID break has left that question still unanswered as we enter the return to play phase. Kase is a shoot-first forward and much like Studnicka, he brings a tremendous amount of speed to his game. In Kase’s time in Anaheim he dealt with a lot of injuries and despite the time off the ice was able to tally a ton of shots. Unfortunately, he was unable to convert on many of those as he continued to struggle with his finish. Kase is in his fifth NHL season and when he’s healthy he shows some flashes of high-end talent. Nothing exemplifies that more than his last healthy season which came in 2017-2018 where he was able to find the back of the net 20 times.

Kase’s battle for the second line right wing will have to wait until he is able to get in the bubble. With that out of his control for now, Studnicka will look to fight for and hold the job. Studnicka only played two games with the big club this season and has never played in an NHL postseason. Being a natural center, he will have to adjust to the responsibilities of the wing while dealing with the pressure of his first postseason minutes. That’s not to say he never played wing; Jack played wing for the Canadian junior team in the 2019 World Junior Championship. In that tournament he tallied 1 goal, 3 assists, and 4 points in 5 games for the silver medalists.

Bruins teammate Patrice Bergeron has been impressed with Studnicka saying “he seems to be getting faster, which is scary.” Bergeron also mentioned that he looks a lot stronger than he did in camp at the beginning of the season and that he plays the game the right way. That’s quite a compliment coming from a future Hall of Famer like Bergeron. Studnicka will continue to look to that vetran leadership as he joins this hungry club in the postseason. 

Cassidy has said “It wouldn’t be automatic that I put Ondrej [Kase] in if the young kid was playing really well.” Cassidy has also made some comparisons between Bergeron and Studnicka referencing that he hopes that Studnicka is the next Patrice Bergeron. He’s noted that it would be great for everyone in the organization if he is and I have to agree. However, Cassidy has said all camp that Anders Bjork looks like one of the best players out there, so he is another guy seeking that job. If Studnicka slips up, Bjork could get that chance not only on the third line with Sean Kuraly and Charlie Coyle, but on the second line as well with Krejci. Clearly the Bruins have some faith in Bjork’s future as they just recently signed him to a 3-year extension. 

The unfamiliarity that Bruce Cassidy has with Kase really hurts him. He doesn’t know him as a player. He was only able to see him in 6 games before the season was put on pause. Cassidy is more familiar with Studnicka and Bjork and he is ready to see both of them lace up in this round-robin tournament. 

For now, it looks like Studnicka will be the guy on the second line when the Bruins play Columbus at 7PM. However, Cassidy confirmed earlier today Bjork and Karson Kuhlman will also see some time at second line right wing tonight. Unfortunately for Kase, he will be watching this one from home as he has still not been able to make the trip to Toronto. It remains to be seen how the lineup will look when the Bruins face the Flyers to open the round-robin tournament. If Studnicka is able to produce some secondary offence it will be an uphill climb for Kase to get back into the Bruins lineup. This is a good problem for Bruce Cassidy and the Boston Bruins to have.  

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below on 7-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

The Roadblocks In Net The Bruins Will Face

( Photo Credit: Lewis Bleiman / prohockeynews.com )

By Jack Gotsell | follow me on twitter @jackgotsell

As the Bruins enter the round-robin, I take a look at the goalies from the Flyers, Lightning, and Capitals. These are the men in the net that stand in the way of the Bruins and their quest to claim the number one seed for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Carter Hart/ Brian Elliott

The Boston Bruins will start their round-robin round off when they face the Philadelphia Flyers August 2nd at 3:00 pm. The guy who is likely to tend the goal for the Flyers is young 21-year-old goaltender Carter Hart. Hart was drafted 48th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2016 NHL draft. Carter Hart is young, but he’s already got a ton of experience under his belt. At just 16, he played 30 games for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In those 30 games, he went 18-5-5 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average, excellent stats for a backstop who wasn’t old enough to get his driver’s license.

The Flyers are in this round-robin due to Hart’s spectacular sophomore season performance. Hart made the start in net in 40 Flyers games this season. He went 24-13-3 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against average. He looks to pick up where he left off when he faces the Bruins for the Flyer’s first game in the round-robin. Carter has said that he did not have access to the ice during the break; however, he was one of the first players back for the Flyers and has been skating for over a month now. This will be Hart’s first taste of NHL playoff hockey, but not his first time playing on a big stage. He has played in both a World Junior Championships and a Western Hockey League final.

In Hart’s last stint between in the pipes, he was matched up against the Bruins on March 10th. During that performance he stopped 27 of 29 pucks. It was a tightly contested game, and the Bruins did not beat Hart easily. The B’s first goal came from a Matt Grzelcyk shot from the point that was not seen by Hart thanks to screens from Bruins forwards Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk. The second goal in the Bruin’s 2-0 victory zoomed in from a shot just inside the blue line by Patrice Bergeron that ramped off the stick of Flyers defenseman Travis Sandheim. The Bruins were unable to score against Hart without a screen or a tip. This was not due to a lack of chances. Hart stood on his head, stopping Richard Trophy winner David Pastrnak on multiple scoring chances throughout the contest.

The Bruins will need to get traffic in front of the young net-minder if they hope to have success against him again. However, with the firepower the Bruins have on the first line, a big performance from Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak could get the job done. I expect to see Hart in the net when the Bruins face-off, but their back up goalie is the very capable veteran, Brian Elliott. It seems teams will play more of their players in the round-robin, unlike a traditional playoff series, so an Elliot start, though unlikely, is not out of the question. Of note, Carter Hart left the ice during the first period of Tuesday’s scrimmage with an injury. What we do know is that whoever is in the Flyer’s crease come August 2nd, they will be a formidable opponent.

Andrei Vasilevskiy

As we move beyond that first puck drop, we look to Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy might be the best goalie the Bruins face in their round-robin. He, much like Tuukka Rask, is coming off a season where he was nominated as a Vezina Trophy finalist. Vasilevskiy started 52 games for the Lightning this season and went 35-14-3 with a .917 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average.

Vasilevskiy lost his last start on March 10th versus the Toronto Maple Leafs but won his start the game before against the Boston Bruins on March 7th. Against the Bruins, he saved 35 of 38 shots. Vasilevskiy looked in peak form in this contest, and so did the Bruins power-play. He was able to match the intensity of the Bruins power play and come up with some big saves to keep the B’S off the scoreboard. It wasn’t until the Bruins were in a 3-0 hole, that they finally cracked Vasilevskiy with a Charlie McAvoy top right corner snipe from inside the slot. After Charlie’s tally, the Bruins were able to take over momentum and dominate play.

Vasilevskiy went on to stand on his head, taking back the momentum until he lost control of the puck, and Kuraly was able to slam it home. Tampa scored again in the 3rd period to make it 4-2 before the Bruins power-play finally struck on a Pastrnak shot through a DeBrusk screen to bring the Bruins within one. Finally, Vasilevskiy was able to seal the game with a big breakaway save on Pastrnak’s game-tying chance.

Vasileveskiy is a tough goalie to beat, but Tampa’s defense allows more goal-scoring opportunities than coach Jon Cooper would like to see. The Bruins will need to capitalize on some of those chances and take advantage of their time on the power play to beat the 6’2″ confident backstop. The Bruins must limit any risky passes or rushes on the power play as last time the two faced off, two early shorties by Tampa, proved to be too big of a hole for the Bruins to dig out of. With Vasilevskiy in goal, the Bruins certainly need their scorers to step up and their special teams to play well to come away with a win.

Branden Holtby/ Ilya Samsonov

Over the past several seasons, Braden Holtby has had the Bruin’s number. However, there is competition among the net-minders in Washington. Ilya Samsonov has played fewer games this season, but the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft has had the better numbers when he’s played. Samsonov has started 22 games this season for the Capitals and played in 26. His record is 16-6-2 with a .913 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average versus the 25-14-6 with a .897 save percentage and 3.11 goals-against average that Braden Holtby carries into this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Todd Reirden has a real goaltending dilemma. Should he go with the rookie’s impressive stats this season, or should he go with the veteran’s Stanley Cup champion experience paired with his history of shutting down the Bruins in big games? It will be a difficult decision for Washington’s new bench boss in the game against Boston and moving forward in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Despite who he chooses as his starter, performance might dictate who holds the job moving forward as the playoffs progress. The expectation is that Holtby will be Washington’s guy for at least the beginning of the round-robin and playoffs, but with Samsonov having a fantastic rookie season, Holtby’s leash could be short.

The Bruins have not seen the Capitals since December 23rd but, when they did, they saw both goalies. The Bruins were able to beat Holtby four times. First was a rebound goal from DeBrusk down low that beat Holtby underneath his pad. The next goal was scored in a similar fashion as Brad Marchand ended his cold streak at the time when he slammed home another rebound to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Anders Bjork then got on the scoreboard 27 seconds later with a rocket shot from the slot that Holtby was able to get a big piece of but unable to stop.

Bergeron ended Holtby’s night early, tipping a puck nearside on Holtby that the goaltender wished he could have back. Samsonov came into the game with a minute left in the first period and was able to slow the bleeding, but could not completely stop it. With 13:05 to go in the second period, Charlie Coyle got a shorthanded breakaway and was able to beat Samsonov with a nice move. Samsonov did not allow another goal for the rest of the game, but the Bruins were able to score a couple of empty-net goals. A sight that Bruins fans hope to see repeated August 9th when they face the Capitals again in the round-robin.

The Bruins certainly have some tough goaltenders to contend with in this round-robin series. With the numbers Tuukka Rask has put up this season, he is in the running for the Vezina Trophy and equal to the task. It is often said that a hot goaltender is needed to win the cup, and if Tuukka can pick up where he left off in March, the Bruins may have that covered.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 186 that we recorded below on 7-20-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

The Bruins Have Something Special In Defenseman Lauzon

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Jack Gotsell | Follow Me On Twitter @jackgotsell

Hockey is a tough sport, and there is nobody who knows that more than Bruins young defenseman Jeremy Lauzon. Jeremy is not the only second-round draft pick (52nd overall) in his family. His younger brother Zachary (51st overall), who has since retired from Hockey citing multiple concussions, was a 2017 draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jeremy helped his brother a lot and supported his decision to put his health first and retire from the sport of Hockey. 

Like his brother, Jeremy had also dealt with many of his own injury issues, such as multiple concussions and a horrific skate laceration to his neck when he was skating for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Jeremy has not let these injuries impact his compete level and the toughness he brings to the game. He dropped the gloves for his first NHL fight when Mathew Tkachuk challenged him in the faceoff circle after being kicked out of a draw in Boston. Following the fight, in a post-game press conference, Jeremy said, “I’m a physical player, so those games are right in my element. I’m just trying to help the team win.”

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Jeremy has since signed an extension with Boston Bruins for two years with a cap hit of $850,000. He’s a tough player that brings a physicality that fills a void left with the injury to Kevan Miller. Lauzon clears out the front of the net and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas and engage in the one on one battles that influence puck control and pace of play. He is often the first one to the scrum after the whistle and thrives on playing the policeman to protect his more finesse teammates on the ice.  His propensity to drop the gloves will endear him to the Garden faithful, and he is destined to be a fan favorite here if he plays out his contract.

Lauzon is the perfect bridge between the media in Boston and the faithful fan base that cheered on the likes of Milan Lucic, Terry O’Reilly, and Eddie Shore, satisfying the fan’s thirst for fisticuffs without sacrificing the need to skate five skilled players at all times. Jeremy’s resume includes a silver medal at the 2017 world junior championships and 15 goals, 21 assists, and 88 penalty minutes in the 2014-2015 season, which he followed up with a QMJHL championship title run the following season. 

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Lauzon is far from a goon, he was a second-round pick in 2015 and has a considerable amount of skills in his bag. In 19 Games with the Boston Bruins this season, he has 1 goal, 1 assist and is a plus 5 on the season. He is a stay at home defenseman that is not flashy like some of the stars in the league. His toughness and ability to take the body have earned him the respect and confidence of his coach along with some well deserved minutes in critical points of the game. He is not flashy, but to the knowledgeable hockey fan, It is hard not to notice the 6 foot 2, 205lb defenseman who always finishes his checks and makes each shift tough for opposing NHL stars.  

The future is bright for the 23-year-old defenseman, and he fits in well after the loss of stay at home defenseman Kevin Miller who looks as if his run in Boston is coming to a tough injury-plagued end. With a well rounded Charlie McAvoy, offensive defensemen Torey Krug, Conor Clifton, and prospect Urho Vaakanainen in the pipeline, much of the defensive zone responsibilities will fall on Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, and Jeremy Lauzon. There is a good chance the Bruins say goodbye to Krug this offseason because the salary cap will stay where it is, and there is a good chance we lose one of these defensemen to Seattle as they stock their backline for their inaugural NHL season. 

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Lauzon’s tough defensive play will be vital in the Bruins quest to conquer Lord Stanley’s cup in this year’s playoffs. Bruce Cassidy loves the consistency of Lauzon and that has kept him in the lineup and barring injury he will be following Captain Zdeno Chara into battle when play resumes. He will most likely be slotted next to offensive-minded defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, picking up more of the defensive responsibilities. It’s a big summer for the Lauzon family as Jeremy continues his quests for the cup and youngest brother Emile looks to embark on his quest to enter the NHL draft which launches later this summer. So while Jeremy looks to hoist the cup over his head, brother Emile looks to throw a jersey over his.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 185 that we recorded below on 7-12-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!