Biggest Questions Facing The Bruins As They Enter The 2020 Playoffs

Notes, Thoughts And Observations From Ondrej Kase's Bruins Debut ...
( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images )

By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

What is up with Kase and Ritchie?

There is a lot up in the air with the Bruin’s two most recent acquisitions. We know Ondrej Kase was the only player to not travel to Toronto with the team. It’s been said that the Czech Republic native will meet the team later, but if he’s healthy, what role will he have? He’s only played six games with Boston, and with younger guys (that will be mentioned later) getting more chemistry with the team, it will be interesting to see what type of role he’ll have when he’s with the team.

That same story remains true with Nick Ritchie. Despite traveling to Toronto with the team, Ritchie has just now made his first on ice appearance in Ontario’s capital, in an optional skate this morning. He wasn’t featured Bruin’s lineup in the exhibition game and it’s anyone’s guess as to when he’ll join the Bs for a game. The physical forward would be a really nice addition to the lineup, and his presence would be a welcome addition to the forward group.

How will the kids play?

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 26: Jack Studnicka #68 of the Boston Bruins warms up prior to the game against the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on November 26, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Bruins seem to have three players penciled into their lineup that have yet to play a playoff game in their NHL career. The trio of players are Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Jeremy Lauzon. I recently wrote an article about how I believe Bjork has a good chance to break out in the playoffs. He’s an incredibly skilled player that has had success in every league he’s been in. The Notre Dame alum has developed into a really good 200-foot player and is a guy I can totally see having a Marcus Johansson like run in the playoffs. 

As for Studnicka, it appears that he will get the start to the right of David Krejci on the second line and I love it. He’s done everything you want in a young player making the jump to the pros. He led the entire AHL in shorthanded goals and was within the top 15 in both total goals and points. Getting the chance to play in the top six in the NHL playoffs as a 21-year-old is not something many can do, especially for a President’s Trophy winning team. It’s been all praise from teammates and I’m really excited to see how he does after his promising showing in the exhibition game. 

We saw Connor Clifton take big steps in his NHL career last year as a rookie in the playoffs, and now Jeremy Lauzon is looking to do the same. The French-Canadian plays the perfect playoff style of hockey. The adjective I would use to describe him certainly wouldn’t be shy as he already has 10 fights in his short NHL career. He’s added a nice physical presence next to Matt Grzelcyk and that bottom pair has been a big part of the B’s success. Since joining the big club, the Bruins have had a 15-3-1 record in games Lauzon has played in.

Can Rask replicate last year’s playoff success?

Bruins' Tuukka Rask Reveals Item He Brought To Toronto, Game Plan ...
(Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Rask was excellent in the 2018-19 Playoffs. Saying anything but that would be idiotic.  Outside of the final game of the Cup, Rask was absolutely dominant in elimination and series clinching games. In five elimination games, the Finnish tender allowed just four goals to go with a .973 save percentage. And as crazy as it may sound, he was even better in series clinching games. He allowed ONE goal in the three games, good for a .990 save percentage and if you picked this up, well done, had more shutouts than goals allowed. Those are elite numbers. 

It will definitely be interesting to see how the time off will affect the B’s starter coming off of his best regular season since winning the Vezina in 2014. Luckily if Rask falters for any reason, they have one of the best backups in the league in Jaroslav Halak. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. 

Will the formatting of the playoffs hurt the Bruins?

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 16: Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins and Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins fight during the second period at TD Garden on January 16, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Well the immediate answer is yes. As they were six points up on the second place team in the league, Bs were poised to finish the regular season as the number one seed. They would’ve had home ice throughout the entirety of the playoffs but are now forced to play in a round robin to determine where they finish. If the Bs fail to maintain the top spot in the East they would end up playing a better team than they would have normally faced. Can you believe if they end up playing the Penguins in the first round instead of a team around the 7-9 seed? No disrespect to any of those teams, but that would be incredibly tough on the Presidents Trophy winning team. 

If there’s any pro out of this, it would be the fact that the Bruins now play high intensity games that matter, but without a lose or go home stipulation. Maybe if they don’t show up in the three round robin games it sends a message. Maybe if they DO show up it will give the team confidence and add a little swagger to their play. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

Can the veterans succeed after so much time off?

Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand - Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
(Photo Credit: Minas Panaglotakis/ Getty Images)

There’s no questioning if the leadership of the Bruin’s veterans will be there when the playoffs begin, it will. But will their usual great play be there as well? Zdeno Chara (42), Patrice Bergeon (34), David Krejci (33) and Brad Marchand (31) have all had amazing NHL careers, but without a proper training camp and so much time off, it may be tough to get back into the swing of things with the intensity of playoff hockey. Brad Marchand said earlier in quarantine that he thinks younger teams like the Maple Leafs and Lightning will have the advantage over teams with an older core. With that being said, you know Bruce Cassidy and co will have the Bruins ready to play when the time comes. 

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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Anders Bjork Looks Set To Break Out In 2020 NHL Playoffs

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Having a breakout performance in the playoffs can take your career to brand new levels. Someone can go from a third liner, to a super impactful player on a Stanley Cup caliber team. We’ve seen it recently with guys like Jake Guenztel, Nikita Kucherov and even Boston’s own Brad Marchand. And you know what? Nows a pretty good time for another Bruin to join that list, and I think that Bruin can be Anders Bjork. 

Bjork has enjoyed a nice first full (ish) season with the big club. After two seasons cut short to shoulder injuries, there was some worry that the Notre Dame product would never be the same. Thankfully that was not the case. Featured primarily in a 3rd line role, Bjork was able to hit career highs in both goals (nine) and assists (ten) in 58 games. So realistically, could we see the soon to be 24-year-old follow in the aforementioned Marchand’s footsteps?  

Marchand came into the league as a 21-year-old and was incredibly disappointing, putting up a single assist in 20 games. But the following season he was able to put up a very respectable 41 points and more importantly, 19 points in the playoffs. His league-leading 10 even-strength goals helped the Bs capture their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Playing with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi helped Marchand become the star he is today. Now with Bjork getting a similar treatment, he can certainly find his way to have a break outperformance.

(Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Bjork has succeeded everywhere he has played. He was on the same U18 Developmental Team as Jack Eichel, Alex Tuch, and Dylan Larkin, finishing 5th on the team in scoring. When he reached the college level, he was always the best player on the ice for the Fighting Irish. He was a Hobey Baker finalist in his final season in college, touting the “A,” he scored 21 goals and 52 points in just 39 games.

The lefty had a lot of success at the World Juniors as apart of team USA that had studs like Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, and Zach Werenski on it. He was featured on the 2nd line with Christian Dvorak and Sonny Milano for most of the tournament, putting up three goals in the seven games. Most importantly scoring two goals in the bronze medal game, one of which was UNREAL.

There’s a bit in question regarding David Pastrnak (and now Ondrej Kase) and his availability at the moment. While I don’t think his absence will carry over into the playoffs, the Bruins would still be in good hands with Bjork on their top line. The Wisconsin native has had success playing beside the dynamic duo of Marchand and Bergeron. When paired together, the trio has produced a GF/60 rate of 4.02. For comparison, with David Pastrnak to the right, the line has a 3.63 GF/60. But even if he isn’t on the top unit, there’s no reason he can’t succeed on the 3rd line as Marcus Johansson and company did last postseason. 

Bjork has developed some great chemistry with Charlie Coyle on the third line. Their combination of speed and skill makes them a dangerous duo in all ends of the ice. The two are excellent possession players, and it gives coach Bruce Cassidy the option to roll his lines in any way he pleases. Bjork’s two-way play has been a much-improved area in his game, making him far from a one-dimensional player. His hockey IQ is up there with the best on the Bs, and with all eyes on him, it’s a perfect time to show everyone how good he really is.

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!

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Options For The Bruins If Torey Krug Doesn’t Re-Sign

Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins
(Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Bruins are going to have a biiiiig decision this offseason when dealing with upcoming UFA Torey Krug. Now that there’s a flat cap for the next couple years, Don Sweeney and co will have their work cut out for them. Personally, I think the Bs need to resign Krug, his departure would leave a big hole at the left side and on the powerplay. But what if, for whatever reason, Torey Krug and the Bruins don’t find common ground and he walks? I’ll go through a couple options that the Bruins can do. 

Cap Projections

The Bruins are projected to have a tad under $18 million in cap space. They have options on what kind of contracts to give to guys like Jake Debrusk and Matt Grzelcyk; they may choose to save cap now and sign their younger players to bridge-like deals or choose to give out longer deals. With a Krug contract likely taking up around  $6.5-7 million in cap per season, the Bruins would have around $11 million to work with to sign Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, Anders Bjork, Jake Debrusk and Joakim Nordstrom (who is likely gone). It will be a hard task regardless of what Sweeney decides to do. 

Option 1: Fix the problem internally

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If Krug says goodbye to Boston, there will certainly be a missing presence at defense. But one thing’s for sure, the Bruins have a plethora of guys in Providence and Boston ready to fill the void. One player that would have a far bigger role with Krug’s departure would be Matt Grzelcyk. He would likely take over powerplay duties and with the success he’s had when featured on the 1st PP unit, I don’t think the Bruins will be too upset. 

Chara will likely be around again next year, leaving one more spot on the left side. The contenders for that spot would be: Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen, John Moore and Jeremy Lauzon, with the latter two able to play the right side as well. Zboril is an interesting case. In most other organizations, he’d likely be an everyday NHLer right now,  but with the Bruins depth at the back end, he’s spent most of his professional career in Providence. He’s eligible to be claimed on waivers starting next year, so it’s a sink or swim situation for the Czechman. 

(Photo Credit: Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports)

Urho Vaakanainen is still just 21-years-old and has loads of potential. He’d certainly be up to the task of becoming an everyday dman but if it doesn’t seem like he’s ready, the Bs can still send him to Providence to eat a ton of icetime up. Jeremy Lauzon has been really good since getting called up to Boston. The big, physical defenseman has played both sides and has been a solid presence to have on the bottom pair. I can’t see him not retaining some sort of role on the blue line next year. And finally John Moore, who has always been a good bottom pairing guy for the Bs. With the low cap, Moore’s days in Boston may be numbered, but if he stays a Bruin, he’ll be a solid, mobile dman for them. 

If the Bruins decide to go in house with their team next year, that would allow them to sign guys like Jake Debrusk and Matt Grzelyck to longer term deals rather than bridge deals. Instead of giving them contracts around 2×4.5 and 2×2.5 respectively, they could look to go for deals around 6×6 and 5×4 to set up the team in a better long term position. 

Option 2: Fix the defense internally, use the money to acquire another forward. 

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Instead of the money being allocated to longer deals for Gryz and Debrusk, the Bruins could use the hypothetical $7 million from Krug and go out and sign a big time forward. There’s a solid crop of UFAs to hit the open market that would look great wearing the spoked-B. I’m not too sure the Bruins have the real estate to pull off a big signing like Taylor Hall, but there are plenty of B+ players the Bruins could go after. 

There are a couple of forwards (who can play both wings) coming out of Florida who would fit very well to the side of David Krejci. Those two names being Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. Hoffman has spent his entire career in the Atlantic division and hasn’t scored under 22 goals and 56 points since the 2014-15 season (where he had 27 goals and 48 points). He’s a creative player a lot of skill and a great release. With a playmaker like Krejci and speedy winger like Jake Debrusk, it would be hard to think of him not putting up 30 goals and 60 points. 

Dadonov is another skilled winger and is coming off of a big 70 point season. He’s been a great possession player since returning to the NHL, averaging a 52.5 Corsi% in three seasons. Something that may get overlooked are the players Dadonov had success with in Florida. He’s used to a center that likes to slow the game down (Alexsander Barkov) and playing with a similar player in Krejci could prove to be beneficial for both players.

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 28: Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) makes a save on Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli (73) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings on October 28, 2016, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Kings defeated the Bruins 2-1 (OT). (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

And then there’s a player who’s been linked to Boston for years, Tyler Toffoli. He’s always been a player who can play anywhere in the top nine, and always performs in the playoffs. After watching him succeed in Vancouver this year, there’s clearly not an issue of fitting a new system. I’d think Toffoli would be a bit cheaper than the previous two options, and money is everything these days.

Guys like Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Alex Galchenyuk and Derick Brassard are some others the Bruins could choose to buy low on. Granlund had many great seasons in Minnesota but hasn’t looked the same in Nashville. Haula erupted in Vegas but hasn’t been quite as good after his gruesome injury last year. Galchenyuk has all the talent in the world and I would be really interested how he’d fare in a system like the Bruins, with leaders like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. Brassard could slot in a lot of places and with his playoff track record, could be really solid. To end this off, just take a look at this hypothetical disguuuusting lineup.

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Debrusk – Krejci – Hoffman/Dadonov/Toffoli

Bjork – Coyle – Kase

Ritchie – Kuraly – Wagner

Option 3: Sign a replacement defenseman

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

The market for defensemen isn’t flowing with crazy talent, but there are a lot of solid pieces in free agency. If the Bs can’t sign Krug, they likely wouldn’t be able to go after Tyson Barrie either. He’d probably have a cap hit a bit under Krug’s, but with how good the Bruin’s right side is, wouldn’t make much sense regardless of his cap hit. But there are two targets that would likely come in at a decent cap number if they hit the open market.

Those two are a pair of Calgary Flames dmen by the names of Erik Gustafsson and T.J. Brodie.  Gustafsson had an excellent 2018 campaign. He broke out with a 60 point season and actually had more even strength assists than Krug. After a down season this year, it would certainly be more of a gamble but I can’t see his cap hit getting too high. A one-two year deal around $4 million could be a good, prove it contract for both sides. 

T.J. Brodie has had a couple really solid years in a row. He’s averaged over 30 points, a +20 rating and right around a 54.2% Corsi, despite not having a big role in the Flames powerplay. He’s more reliable than Gustafsson and if Grzelcyk or McAvoy can take over powerplay duties from Krug, the Bs would still have a great defensive core. 

Obviously trades can also happen. If the Bruins sign a forward, they could trade one of their middle-six guys, maybe for a defenseman, maybe for a draft pick, who knows. But at the end of the day, Krug or no Krug, the Bruins will still be a competitive team next year. I just hope he’s a part of their success. 

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!

Boston Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy Named Finalist For Jack Adams Award

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy enjoying his home life during NHL shutdown.
(Photo Credit: Christopher Evans/ Boston Herald)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, along with Alain Vigneault (PHI) and John Tortorella (CBJ) have been named the finalists for the 2020 Jack Adams Award.

Cassidy has coached the Bruins to a 44-14-12 record this year, capturing the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular season team. The Bruins also have the best goal differential and goals allowed average in the entire league. This is Cassidy’s second time as a finalist for the award, the first coming in 2018.

The former Washington Capitals coach has notably been a key factor in the development of many of the Bruin’s younger defenseman. As he was formerly the coach of the Providence Bruins, Cassidy has upped the game of guys like Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton. Their transition from the minors to the big leagues have been seamless, and I think Cassidy needs to be attributed to much of that success.

Since joining the Bruins mid-season after the firing of Claude Julien, the Bruins and Cassidy have been at the top of the league in almost every team stat. In his three full seasons as head coach, Cassidy has helped the Bs win the 2nd most games in the league (143), score the 6th most goals in the league (751), allow the fewest goals in the league (590) and have the league’s 2nd best powerplay percentage (24.9%).

A big congratulations to Bruce Cassidy on a well deserved accomplishment.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 185 that we released 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!

Who’s The Most Underrated Player On The Bruins?

(Photo Credit: James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

I’m a Bruins fan, but I feel there’s a lot of players on the Boston Bruins roster that don’t get the recognition they deserve. Whether that be league-wide, or by fans in Boston, there are a lot of underappreciated guys like Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly, and Torey Krug just to name a few. As you continue to read below, I give my idea’s as a diehard and question who is the most underrated player on this National Hockey League Bruins team? Let me kno0w your thoughts in the comments section below about my mentions of the Bruins players.

Brad Marchand

When 95% of hockey fans hear the name “Brad Marchand,” the first thing they think of is his antics on the ice. While he’s certainly deserved his reputation in that sense, he needs to be talked about amongst the greats of the NHL right now. He should be spoken in the same breath as the likes of Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Alex Ovechkin. 

Over the past three seasons, only Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, and Leon Draistaitl have more points than the A1 agitator. And he does far more than just score points. He’s been in the top 16 for Selke voting over the past three years and is well known as one of the better playoff performers in recent history. Despite one specific play sticking out like a sore thumb, everyone’s favorite rat led the playoffs in scoring last year and is currently 17th in active playoff scoring, despite being younger, and having fewer games under his belt than just about everyone around him. 

Charlie Coyle

usatsi_12589604.jpg
(Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins have had a hole at the third-line center position for quite some time. They’ve gotten good performances for a year from guys like Ryan Spooner and Riley Nash, but the consistency was never there. Now with Charlie Coyle, the Bruins have never been deeper.  He’s given the Bruins a level of stability that’s really needed to be a Stanley Cup contender.  

He’s managed to average more even-strength minutes than guys like Patrice Bergeron and Jake Debrusk, and it’s been remarkable how much he’s helped the Bruin’s even-strength woes. 13 of his 16 goals have come at even strength, good for 4th on the team. He has a ton of skill for a guy his size and his ability to keep control of the puck is excellent. If he was put in a more prominent role, I think he’d have a real good chance to be a 20-something goal, 55 point guy. 

Brandon Carlo

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks
(Photo Credit: Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Offensively, he’ll never get confused with his defensive partner Torey Krug, but Brandon Carlo may be one of the best defensive defensemen in the league. At 6’5, Carlo has a great reach, and despite his big frame, the Colorado native can really move. He’s relentless in the Bruin’s own zone and has helped the Bs boast the 3rd best penalty kill in the league. 

As he’s gotten older, the 23-year-old has only improved. He’s added a much-needed snarl to his game, and the once nicknamed “Bambi” has been way better with the puck on his stick. Despite the shortened season, the defenseman notched a career-high with 19 points in 67 games, following an excellent run in the playoffs. It took three seasons for Carlo to get a shot to play for Lord Stanley, and he did not disappoint. He touted a +10 rating, good for second in the entire playoffs, and had a couple really important goals for the Bruins. Learning from one of the best, Brandon Carlo will be a force at the blueline for many years to come. 

Matt Grzelcyk

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 19: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on January 19, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

If I had to describe Matt Grzelcyk in one word, it would probably be easier than trying to remember how to spell his last name. But that word would be great. He’s just great at everything he does. He makes a great first pass, he’s great at leading the transition, he’s a great skater with a great head on his shoulders. The Boston University product has simply been a swiss army knife. The Bruins have had nine defensive pairings this season that have played over 100 minutes together. Matt Grzelcyk is on the top FIVE in terms of GA/60 (goals allowed per 60 minutes). And in terms of Corsi, Gryz is featured on three of the top four. Give him more minutes. 

Honorable Mentions

(Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

David Krejci – He’s never really been appreciated by fans. He’s done everything you want from a 2nd line center despite not having a real right winger for years.

Patrice Bergeron – A little out of the running because he’s been “underrated” for so many years. But I still think he needs a more praise for how good he really it. 

Zdeno Chara – People seem to focus on his legs, not his importance to the Bruins. Their D-core won’t be the same when he leaves. 

Tuukka Rask – It seems like everyone outside of Boston realizes how good Mr. Rask is, he’s elite.

I’m not sure I could pick the most underrated player on the Bruins. Gun to my head, I’d think I would have to say Brandon Carlo, but the others aren’t far behind. Who do you think takes the crown for the most underrated player on the Bruins?

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please 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!

What The Bruins Defensive Pairs Could Look Like In The 2020 Playoffs

( Photo Credit: Getty Images )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Bruins have arguably the deepest defensive core in the entire league, and that can never be a bad thing. It’s going to be very intriguing to see how each defenseman comes back from all the time off and will be very telling on who gets the nod when playoffs begin. I just recently gave my opinion on the Bruins forward group, and here are my thoughts on the defense.

1st Pairing: Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy

(Photo Credit: Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Starting out with a bit of a surprise, I really think the Bruins should keep the former Boston University pairing together. I talked a bit about it in my last article about how important speed is going to be in the upcoming playoffs, and here is exhibit A. Taking nothing away from the future first-ballot Hall of Famer that is Zdeno Chara, but he doesn’t have the legs he used to and I’m not sure how the time off will affect his game. Matt Grzelcyk should get a bulk of shifts with Charlie McAvoy.

He’s undersized, not very physical, and doesn’t put up crazy offensive numbers, but Matt Grzelyck may be the most underrated defensemen in the league. His importance to the Bruins is wildly understated, he just does everything right. The mobile defenseman always makes a good first pass and is excellent at the transition game.

The Charlestown native is an analytical darling. Among NHL defensemen with 40+ games, Gryz ranks third in even-strength goals per 60 minutes. He has a very solid 52.8 Corsi and 54.6 Fenwick. And did all of Grzelyck’s success halt in the playoffs? Nope. In last year’s playoff run, the 26-year-old totaled four goals and eight points. Despite being put in tough positions and starting in the Bruins’ end 53.4% of the time, Grzelyck still managed to post a 54.4 Corsi. It’s going to suck seeing him in Seattle…

Boston media was all over Charlie McAvoy at the beginning of the season. Pekka Rinne (yes the goalie) scored a goal before Chucky Mac did, but he was still playing good hockey. He’s constantly paired against his opponent’s top lines and has proven time and time again that he can take any task he’s assigned. McAvoy came to Boston as a teenager and averaged 26 MINUTES a game in the playoffs without a lick of NHL experience. He’s done a remarkable job against the likes of Steven Stamkos, Auston Matthews, and Nikita Kucherov in the playoffs and deserves to eat up as many minutes as Bruce Cassidy gives him.

2nd Pairing: Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Yin and Yang. The pairing just works. On the left, you have one of the most dynamic offensive defensemen in the league. On the right, you have a 6’5 defensive specialist who’s grown into an incredibly reliable player on the back end for the Bruins. 

When I think of playoff Torey Krug I think of two things. The first being his 2013 run where he was plucked out of Providence and lit it up for the Bruins. Watching him against the Rangers was special. He displayed a crazy amount of poise and skill, scoring FOUR goals in five games. The subtle things are what stood out. Getting into open space, a little footwork before scoring are just a few examples. The second thing is this.

Brandon Carlo is a defenseman every team wishes they had. He reminds me of Niklas Hjalmarsson. He’s not a player that will light up the scoresheet (although his offensive output has been far more impressive as of late) but he’s so hard to beat one on one, he blocks everything that comes his way and is the type of guy you need to win a cup (see Hjalmarsson’s three Stanley Cups). The 2015 2nd rounder has become a great skater, and he’s finally using his size against opponents. And the craziest thing is he’s still just 23. 

3rd Pairing: Zdeno Chara – Jeremy Lauzon

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 31: Jeremy Lauzon #79 of the Boston Bruins waits for a face off during an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils on December 31, 2019 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Devils won 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

I need to retcon a bit on having Grzelcyk on the first pairing. Maybe it’s a 30%-70% split, maybe it’s a 50%-50% split, but there are still circumstances where Chara needs to be with McAvoy because they are so effective in so many situations. In last year’s postseason, he had six times the amount of giveaways as takeaways and had a tough 46 Corsi, but he led the entire playoffs with a plus-11 rating and you can’t argue with the captain of a team that was a game (or a penalty call) away from winning the cup. He’s the ultimate competitor, not many people can break their jaw and play the next game. 

I had to deliberate a lot with the sixth man at the backend. Bruce Cassidy could go for experience and play John Moore (who I thought played very solid in the Cup), he could elect for someone to play on their strong side like Connor Clifton, or go with the “hot” hand (if you could call it that after all the time off) with Jeremy Lauzon, who I think should get the nod. 

Lauzon doesn’t have any playoff experience, but like we’ve seen with some of the aforementioned players, that may not be an issue. The French-Canadian has a whole lot of grit to his game, he already has two fights under his belt, one against the tough bastard that is Matthew Tkachuk, which is something you love to see from a young player. His style of play should mesh perfectly with the pace of typical playoff hockey.

Having John Moore, Connor Clifton, and even Steven Kampfer are huge luxuries to have and will all be big assets if Lauzon (or any others) look out of place. And of course, Tuukka Rask will be the starter, don’t need anyone to say otherwise.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! 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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What The Bruins Forward Lines Could Look Like In The 2020 Playoffs

(Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

I think we all need hockey back in our lives ASAP. Thankfully the return is getting closer and closer by the day. But as hockey comes back, a lot of questions come back as well. The Bruins, especially after a pretty busy trade deadline, have one of the deepest and most interesting forward cores in the league. With such a competitive group and only a limited number of spots, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Bs forwards lines shake up. Here’s my best guess at what we see. 

1st Line: Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

It’s going to be reeeeally fun to see these guys dominate again. Obviously if the rest of the lines stall and aren’t able to generate offense, we’d likely see Pasta on the 2nd line to spread the wealth a bit, but there just isn’t a better line in hockey. To have a line that sports an 100 point player, Selke winner, and now Rocket Richard winner is something no other line in the league can do. 

Over the past three years, the trio has combined for 312 goals and 726 points in 625 games. Their success has been unparalleled by the rest of the league and man, I haven’t even started to talk about what they do in the playoffs. Obviously Marchand and Bergeron have a cup to their name and with the way Pastrnak has played in the postseason, I don’t think he’s too far behind. And for all of the advanced analytics guys, how does a combined 56.1 corsi sound? There’s not much more to say about the excellence of the three, so I’ll just move onto the more interesting lines of the Bruins. 

2nd Line: Jake Debrusk – David Krejci – Ondrej Kase

(Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

The age old question. Who the hell is playing on David Krejci’s wing? Well I think the Bruins may have found that answer in Ondrej Kase. The young Czech native does a lot well, but the most important thing for him (and the Bruins) is that he puts up points AT EVEN STRENGTH. Two seasons ago, Kase potted 20 goals and 38 points in 66 games and guess what, 19 even strength goals, 35 even strength points and five game winners. The next year he scored just one PP goal out of his 11 in total and didn’t score a single goal this season with a man up. If Kase can stay healthy, I think Krejci may have a permanent resident to his right. 

The other two members on the 2nd line aren’t too much of a surprise in David Krejci and Jake Debrusk. The veteran and the young winger have built some solid chemistry over the past couple years, and while they’ve been a bit streaky at times, when the two are on their game, it’s a major asset for the Bruins 2nd line. 

Everybody knows how lights out playoff David Krejci is. He’s led the league in playoff scoring twice, including in the Bruins’ cup victory in 2011. When intensity is at its peak, Krejci always seems to step to the plate and his winger Debrusk has started to follow in his footsteps. We saw Debrusk’s flair for the dramatic in the playoffs of his rookie year. He lit it up against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, scoring five goals (including this beauty) and seven points in seven games. 

3rd Line: Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork

(Photo Credit: Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Outside of Charlie Coyle slotting in at 3C, the bottom six is basically all up for grabs. The Bruins and coach Bruce Cassidy have a lot of options. They could go young and fast, they could go with a more defensive outlook, they could try and out-muscle, or (like I have) a mix of all three: grit, size and speed. 

Nick Ritchie is a big dude. At 6’2, 234 pounds, the former Duck knows how to throw his body around. He averages over 200 hits a season and we saw pretty quickly that he knows how to drop the mitts. The winger has a surprisingly good set of hands in tight, and is not forgein to dishing out some A+ passes. Ritchie spent a lot of minutes in Anaheim centered by Ryan Getzlaf, and his new center in Charlie Coyle, has a lot of similarities to Getzlaf. He’s a big, strong center, just maybe with a bit more hair.

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Last year’s acquisition of Charlie Coyle may have been the best move Don Sweeney has made in his tenure as GM of the Bruins. After a slow start to his career in Boston, the Boston University product was a major part of the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals. With Coyle anchoring the 3rd line, it gave Cassidy the option to simply roll four lines. On a line that was money all playoffs, Coyle put up nine goals and 16 points to go along with great 200 foot play. 

And then that leaves Anders Bjork. He’s got skill, he’s got speed, he’s got high hockey IQ and he finally began to put it all together this season. After a couple injury riddled years bouncing between the NHL and AHL, the Notre Dame grad finally found some consistency to his game. He’s looked stronger, more confident with the puck and most importantly, has been able to drive a play by himself. His 19 points in 58 games aren’t going to blow you away, but he’s got all the little things down, the points will start to come. 

4th Line: Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Karson Kuhlman

(Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Aside from Sean Kuraly, the usual members of the 4th line have not had the same success as they had last season. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom have been far from bad, but they haven’t been as effective. So instead of the veteran Wagner on this line, I think Karson Kuhlman should get the nod. My reasoning? Speed. The entire league is going to have fresh legs, so having a guy who’s as tenacious as it gets on the forecheck with wheels is going to be key. We saw what Kuhlman can bring to the table in a handful of the regular season and playoff games and, he never looked out of place. In the playoffs, the waterbug ripped a goal (which was unreal) and had two assists in eight games. 

Like I said before, I think Kuraly is a shoo-in for a spot in the lineup when the Bruins return. He’s been as clutch as you can get when the playoffs begin. We saw it against Ottawa, we saw it against Toronto (a lot) and into the finals against St. Louis. He’s got a lot of skill for a bottom-six forward and has the perfect mix of size and speed. 

Stanley Cup winner Joakim Nordstrom (yeah, he won a cup) was awesome in the playoffs last season. After we curiously saw the speedster to the left of David Krejci a few times in the regular season, Nordstrom took off as a fourth-liner. He just works incredibly hard, winning puck battles and cutting off passing and shooting lanes. In 23 postseason games, the Swede had three goals, eight points and was second among Bruins forwards in blocked shots. 

As for the rest, we’ll certainly see Chris Wagner and Par Lindholm as defensive, able bodies. But I also think we get to take a look at some prospects from the AHL in the playoffs, you can take a look at who I think will have a shot here

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! 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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Former Bruin Jarome Iginla To Be Inducted Into Hockey Hall Of Fame

Jarome Iginla is fighting for that first goal.
( Photo Credit: Getty Images )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Former Boston Bruin (and more prominently Calgary Flame) Jarome Iginla has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 20-year veteran was able to make it into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Originally drafted 11th overall by the Dallas Stars, Iginla was traded to the Calgary Flames before stepping on the ice with Dallas. Up north, he started his career off with a bang, finishing second in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting his rookie season. Everything after that cemented the Edmonton, Alberta native in hockey history. 

Iginla finished his career with 1,300 points on the dot. He was the league’s top power forward for years, he won scoring titles, he captured gold in the Olympics, but he never got to touch the Stanley Cup. The big righty was inches away from winning it all with the Flames in 2004, but controversy aside, the Flames met their match against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the finals. 

After 17 years of wearing the Calgary C on his sweater, Iginla’s time came with the Flames to an end in 2013, and he almost got dealt to Boston at the trade deadline. But instead, the veteran went to Pittsburgh. He played very well with the Penguins but was ultimately kicked out of the playoffs by the aforementioned Boston Bruins. 

Are The Boston Bruins And Jarome Iginla Still A Good Fit For Each ...
(Photo Credit: Brian Babineau/Getty Images)

Iginla gave the “if you can’t beat em, join em,” saying a try, and took his talents to Boston in the following free agency. Iginla was great with the Bs, he delivered throughout the entire season and into the playoffs. The then 36-year-old reached the back of the net 30 times and notched 31 assists in the regular season. But as you all know, Iggy and the Bruins were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens, and unfortunately, that was the last Iginla saw of the playoffs. The greatest to ever wear #12 bookended his career with a few seasons in Colorado and a stint with the LA Kings, ultimately hanging up his skates in 2017. 

As someone who we all would’ve loved to have seen spend more time in Boston, it’s great to see Iginla get the recognition he deserves. He will be the fourth black player inducted following Grant Fuhr, Angela Williams, and of course, Willie O-Ree. Congrats to Jarome on the incredible career and achievement!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please 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!

Bruins Recent History (And Success) With Czech Republic Players

Dallas Stars v Boston Bruins
(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

At this year’s Trade Deadline, the Bruins were pretty active players. They made two deals with the Anaheim Ducks, the most interesting being the acquisition of Ondrej Kase. While Kase is a highly skilled player with blazing speed and age on his side, the most interesting thing to me, is actually his nationality. The winger is of course a native of the Czech Republic, and the Bruins have quite the success rate with players that hail from the Czech Republic. So naturally, I had a little look at the Czech players that have donned the spoked B in the past ten or so years and wrote an article on it. The Bs have some skilled prospects in the system like Jakub Zboril, Jakub Lauko, and Daniel Vladar but due to their minuscule time in the NHL, they will only get this mention. 

David Krejci

David Krejci of the Boston Bruins celebrates after
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

It’s crazy to think that when it’s all said and done, David Krejci will likely go down as one of the top Czech players of all-time. He currently sits at 11th all-time in scoring with 686 points and can realistically get to number three by the end of his career, passing Milan Hejduk with 805 points. I feel Krejci never gets the recognition he truly deserves. He’s been instrumental in each and every deep playoff run by the Bruins. He’s in 11th place when talking about active players in playoff scoring and continues to prove how important he is to the Bruins. 

The slick playmaker has been a Bruin his entire career. After a few seasons where many though the best of Krejci may be behind him, the center had quite a resurgence last season. He put up 20 goals and 53 apples with a successful go of it in the playoffs with 16 points in the Bruins cup run. As underrated as a #2 center can be, it would be weird to think of Krejci sporting any jersey besides the black and gold. He’ll be a Bruin for life.

David Pastrnak

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 06: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins plays against the St. Louis Blues during the first period of Game Five of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 06, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

He’s just so damn good. Just as the aforementioned Krejci, Pasta will also likely go down as one of the greatest Czech players we’ll ever see. He’s second (to a player that will be mentioned shortly) in points-per-game of all Czech players and he’s only going to continue to improve. Since he stepped on the scene, Pastrnak has been a game-changer for the Bruins. After two seasons where he played just about half the schedule and put up a respectable 53 points, Pasta took massive strides. He helped the Bs get back into the playoffs with his 70 point performance and his partnership with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand has developed into the best line in all of hockey. 

This season, Pastrnak was able to capture his first career Rocket, Richard, sharing the honors with Alex Ovechkin. He would’ve almost certainly hit the 50 goal and 100 point marks had the season continued, but his 48 tucks in 70 games aren’t too shabby. Since coming into the league as a teen, Pasta has grown into an incredible player, and most of all, a complete player. I’m sure his linemates in Bergeron and Marchand have contributed to his growth, but there is no question the 24-year-old will continue to have his name among the current greats for years to come.

Jaromir Jagr

(Photo Credit: Michael Ivins/ USA TODAY Sports)

And here’s the top Czech player of all time. There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about Jagr. Despite going overseas for three seasons (plus a season and a half missed worth of lockouts) the living legend has still managed to sit second all-time in points. A year after returning to the NHL, Jagr made his way to Boston at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline. The Bs pulled off a deal to acquire the veteran, sending a 2nd rounder (which ended up being Jason Dickinson) and a couple of minor leaguers. 

On a shaky Dallas team, Jagr put up a respectable 14 goals and 26 points in 34 games. At the ripe old age of 40, the forward became a solid veteran presence for a Bruins team looking to capture their 2nd cup in three years. When he got to Boston, it was no surprise that Jagr was able to adapt to the Bruins’ system quickly and put up nine points in the last 11 regular-season games. 

When Jagr and the Bs got into the playoffs, it was a bit of a different story. After failing to get Jarome Iginla at the deadline and “settling” for Jagr, the Bruins were of course still able to go on a hell of a run in the playoffs. It’s not that Jagr was bad, he wasn’t, but it was remarkable how snakebitten he was throughout the playoffs. It felt like he hit a billion posts, and without a goal in 22 games, he still put up 10 assists in the Bs’ run that ultimately ended in the dying moments of Game Six. 

Tomas Kaberle

(Photo Credit: Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

Now here’s a player that was on a Bruins team that went on a run, and DIDN’T lose in the Stanley Cup. Tomas Kaberle was yet another trade deadline acquisition by the Bruins, and man did they give up a haul for him. Going to the Toronto Maple Leafs was Joe Colborne (who at the time was a highly-touted prospect) a 1st round pick (which was used on Rickard Rakell) and a 2nd round pick (which was used to draft Mike Winther). Despite what they gave up, the Bruins went on to win the cup so there’s not much to deliberate on if the trade was a win for the Bruins.

Kaberle didn’t have a massive role in the Bs’ Stanley Cup run, as seen by his 16 minutes of ice time a game, but still remained solid throughout the playoffs. The defenseman played all 25 games and notched 11 assists and a plus-8 rating. And yes, they won the cup nine years ago on this day.

Clearly, the Bruins have had a pretty good track record with Czech players in their team. All four have reached the Stanley Cup and captured the gold twice with Boston and I think we all hope that Ondrej Kase can do the same. The speedy winger had just one assist in his six games with the Bs, but with all the talent he has, I can’t see the youngster’s drought lasting much longer as we enter the playoffs.

I’m not going to lie, I originally had a funny little piece on Andrej Meszaros and his storied Bruins career. But when reviewing the article, I realized he is in fact Slovakian. Nice.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please 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!

Who Could Get The Call From Providence When Playoffs Begin?

Frederic Looking to Seize Opportunity
(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

It’s all but confirmed that we will be getting playoff hockey in the summer. But with this massive break between action, there is certain to be plenty of rust for this Bruins squad. With the season entering sink or swim mode, the Bruins don’t have the luxury to let everyday starters get out of their funk. Coach Bruce Cassidy will have some tough decisions to make if his NHLers aren’t up to the task, but the Bs have plenty of talent in Providence that will be chomping at the bit to see some ice in the Playoffs, especially with the increased roster space. Here are a few reinforcements from the AHL that I’d like to see if Boston runs into any issues.

Trent Frederic

( Photo Credit: Brian Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images )

Trent Frederic figured out pretty quickly how to become a fan favorite in Boston. By dropping his mitts in his first NHL game, he showed what type of player he really is. The 6’2, 203-pound center is tough as nails and would be a welcome presence to have in the bottom six. Remember earlier this season when the Bruins had no response for Tuukka Rask getting run over against the Blue Jackets? Well, Frederic certainly wouldn’t let that go.  

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We’ve seen the St. Louis native here and there with Boston, playing with the big club for 17 games in his brief career. And after watching those 17 games, you can’t question what the youngster brings to the table. He’s a big, strong and physical player with a gnarly edge to his game. The AHL penalty minutes leader would seamlessly slide into the intensity of playoff hockey.

Jack Studnicka

( Photo Credit: David Kirouac / Icon Sportswire- Getty Images )

In his first year as a pro, Studnicka looked anything but out of place. He led the entire AHL in shorthanded goals while reaching his first career All-Star Game in the process.  The rookie potted 23 goals to go along with 26 assists in 60 games, helping Providence have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The young centerman has WHEELS.

The former 2nd round pick hasn’t been shy from showing up in big games. In his OHL Playoff career (aside from his rookie campaign) Studnicka has potted 11 goals and 31 points in 27 games. How’s this for a stat line for an NHL debut? 1 assist, plus-1 rating, 67% on draws in 14:30 of ice time. Not too shabby for someone thrust into a prominent 2nd line role. Adding a guy as dynamic as Studnicka to an already potent 3rd line could be just what the Doctor ordered for the Bruins. 

Zach Senyshyn

( Photo Credit: Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press via AP )

Has he found the scoring touch he had in Juniors? No. Has he been lighting up the AHL? No. Has he been as good as the other 2015 1st rounders that seem to follow him wherever he goes? No. Buuuuut when he was finally given the chance to impact the big club, he looked like he belonged in the NHL. 

In his short stint with the Bruins earlier this season, the former Greyhound was a part of a dynamic 3rd line with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle. Despite the minimal ice-time he got, Senyshyn showed off why he still has the pedigree of a 1st round pick. He and his linemates were buzzing around, creating a high possession, high energy 3rd line the Bruins had hoped to get. The now 23-year-old was enjoying a nice start to his 2019 NHL season with two assists (and if you remember, a goal that probably should’ve counted) in just three games until an unfortunate injury in his fourth game essentially cost him the rest of his season in Boston. 

As for defenders? I’m not sure we see any jump up from the AHL. We already saw Jeremy Lauzon jump into the NHL as smooth as one could, and with Connor Clifton coming back from an injury, I can’t see a guy like Urho Vaakanainen pushing any of them for a spot but with everything that has happened so far in 2020, you never really know.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 182 that we recorded below on 6-7-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please 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!