Why The Bruins Can’t Afford To Mess Up The Torey Krug Situation

Torey Krug Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports))

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

It’s no secret that Torey Krug’s role on the Bruins is a pretty vital one. Being the power-play quarterback, top scorer from the back end, and a high-energy player, Krug is tasked with quite a bit.

One of the main storylines this offseason has been what to do with Torey Krug down the road, as he is set to hit unrestricted free agency next July. Whatever ends up happening, it needs to be executed a certain way, in my eyes. Things could end up panning out a few different ways.

The ideal solution: A long-term deal

Ideally, the necessary moves and negotiations are made to accommodate Krug. While ideal, it won’t be easy. Krug’s stock continues to trend upwards as time passes by due to his consistency. His stock as a free agent has never been higher after another great regular season and a stellar playoff run.

His 53 points in the regular season and 18 in the playoffs were best on the team amongst defensemen. While points aren’t everything when it comes to evaluating defensemen, they certainly don’t blemish a player’s image.

For an undersized defenseman, Krug proved this year that his size won’t affect his ability to be an effective defenseman in his own zone and in the physical aspect of the game. He also continued to show why he is one of the most effective power-play quarterbacks in the entire league, amongst a great first power-play unit that included David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron.

Additionally, Krug further established excellent chemistry with Brandon Carlo. Their differing styles actually complement one another very well. Carlo often cleans things up defensively, as that’s where his expertise lies, allowing Krug to effectively carry the puck and create offense. Having that comfortability and chemistry is huge for Carlo, and vice versa, as he is still developing into a shutdown defenseman at 22-years-old.

When it comes to comparables, CapFriendly has a great tool for drawing contract comparables on their website. Some of the contracts they list as comparables to Krug are Tyson Barrie ($5.5M AAV), Jared Spurgeon ($5,187,500 AAV), and Matt Dumba ($6M AAV).

While I think Krug will make north of $6 million per year in his next deal, whatever the exact amount may be, these are potential starting points for contract comparables that could come up in future contract negotiations to stay in Boston.

With things very much up in the air right now surrounding how much Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo will make, proper accommodations need to be made to make Krug’s next contract fit under the cap. Not only will however much Carlo and McAvoy make factor into the cap, Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, Charlie Coyle, Brett Ritchie, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller will all be looking for new deals next summer.

Don Sweeney has his work cut out for him in that department.

If you can’t keep him, trade him

Do everything you possibly can to keep Krug long-term, but if you can’t, you have to trade him if you’re Don Sweeney. If you don’t trade him in this case and lose him for nothing as a UFA, it’s bad mismanagement of assets.

A player of Krug’s caliber could fetch a large haul on the trade market. Whether a trade revolves around a top-six right-winger to play with David Krejci, or picks and prospects, a large haul could be obtained.

With Krug’s pending UFA status, it’s anyone’s guess as to what Sweeney could get in return for him. But as mentioned previously, in a perfect world, Sweeney doesn’t even have to seriously consider having to move on from a player of Krug’s caliber.

NESN Hires Sophia Jurksztowicz As Next Bruins Rinkside Reporter

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(Photo Credit: Instagram: sophiajurksztowicz)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

After the news came out that Alex Kraemer would not be returning as the Bruins rinkside reporter, there was a void to be filled. Earlier Tuesday morning, NESN named Sophia Jurksztowicz the Bruins rinkside reporter.

Sophia’s brings plenty of professional experience to the job. Her past work includes time with Hockey Night In Canada, TheScore, Rogers Sportsnet, and CBC Sports Network, amongst other things. For good reason, NESN is pleased with the addition to their Bruins broadcasting team.

“We’re very excited to have Sophia join NESN,” said Rick Jaffe, VP of Programming & Production. “She brings a wealth of hockey knowledge and understanding of the game to our broadcasts.”

You can follow Sophia on Twitter @sjurksztowicz. Below is a sample of her work.

(Video credit: SPORTSNET on YouTube)

Cratty: Top-10 Bruins Prospects

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(Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

The Bruins’ prospect core is looking pretty solid after the 2019 NHL Draft. This list includes players on ELC’s, so a player like Cooper Zech will not be included because he is on an AHL contract.

Additionally, I will not include Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman on this list as Bjork, despite still being on an ELC, has played 50 NHL games. Karson Kuhlman has pretty safely established himself as an NHL player, in my opinion. With all of that on the table, here are my top-10 Bruins prospects right now.

1. Urho Vaakanainen

At number one stands the top defensive prospect in the system. The 18th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Urho Vaakanainen absolutely the potential to be a top-pairing NHL defenseman. Currently, the defensive core is crowded, but Vaakanainen will carve out an important defensive role sometime in the near future.

His ability to clean things up in his own zone and dictate the play from the back end through the neutral zone is at a high level. Defensemen who can do that thrive in today’s NHL. Offense isn’t his strongest suit, but his skating and puck-moving abilities allow him to find his teammates with ease for scoring chances. This combination of skills puts him at the top of the Bruins prospect core in my eyes.

Check out this heads up assist by Vaakanainen in the AHL this past January.

2. Jack Studnicka

Deciding between Jack Studnicka and John Beecher at number two was tough. But, I gave Studnicka the edge because of what he has proven in the past. Beecher proved himself to be worthy of first-round consideration behind a crop of high-end U.S. NTDP forwards this past season, but I think there is still potential to be unlocked in the future at the University of Michigan.

Studnicka possesses high-end skills in all three zones, especially in the offensive zone. His well-rounded game allowed him to thrive in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals and the Niagara IceDogs. The top-six center potential is definitely there. After lighting it up in Juniors, his sights are now set on an NHL roster spot.

Oh yeah, and he has some sick hands and finishing ability.

3. John Beecher

John Beecher has a great blend of size and speed down as a centerman. Here’s an example from yesterday at the World Junior Summer Showcase.

That combination of size and speed gives him the potential to be a deadly second-line center down the road. Said combination also makes him a menace for defenders to contain. His time at the University of Michigan in the future will only do good things for his game and makes him a very intriguing prospect.

4. Jakub Lauko

When I see Jakub Lauko, I think of Brad Marchand. They both possess high-end offensive ability as left-wingers and plenty of nastiness in their game. Lauko plays a high-energy style and has excellent puck skills. He absolutely has top-six forward upside. When he was drafted, he said he wanted to prove he was the steal of the 2018 draft at 77th overall. He’s also not afraid to show off his personality.

He was a true impact player for Rouyn-Noranda in their Memorial Cup Championship run this past season.

5. Axel Andersson

Axel Andersson is a right-handed defenseman with a powerful skating stride and solid puck skills, qualifying himself as another defenseman that really fits the mold of today’s premier NHL defenseman. He still needs some time to develop, but he projects as a top-4 defenseman. Here’s a glimpse of what he can make happen with those puck skills.

6. Oskar Steen

Everything Oskar Steen does, he does with blazing speed. He’s a very quick skater, smooth puck handler, and has an NHL shot already. His smaller frame doesn’t phase him when it comes to getting in the corners. He’s just a tough player to contain, and he’ll fight for a roster spot with the Bruins this season.

Below you’ll see Steen make a great read on a loose puck and show off that NHL shot he already possesses.

7. Jeremy Lauzon

Jeremy Lauzon gave us a quick glimpse at what he can do in a short, 16-game NHL stint this past season. He moves the puck effectively, is stout defensively, and can hold his own in the offensive zone. While the Bruins defensive core is fairly crowded at the moment, Lauzon still holds the potential to be a second or third pairing NHL defenseman.

Below you’ll find a clip of an electric goal Lauzon scored for Team Canada in the 2017 World Junior Championships.

8. Jeremy Swayman

The first goalie on the list is Jeremy Swayman of the University of Maine. What sticks out with Swayman is his athleticism and quickness. His movement in the crease is very smooth and allows him to make tough saves. Of the Bruins’ goalie prospects, he possesses the highest NHL upside in my eyes.

Below you’ll find a glimpse of that high-end athleticism and quickness on display against Quinnipiac from 2017.

9. Zachary Senyshyn

Zachary Senyshyn is another player who will fight for an NHL roster spot this season. He has a past history of being a pure goal scorer in part thanks to his excellent shooting ability. Don’t let the fact that he hasn’t lit up the score sheet in the AHL take away from his potential to be a legitimate goal scorer.

10. Kyle Keyser

Kyle Keyser also possesses some great athleticism and quickness in the crease and rounds out the top-10. He was acquired as a diamond in the rough undrafted free agent signing and is now set to spend this season with the Providence Bruins and possibly the Atlanta Gladiators.

He has a thing for sprawling saves.

The Bruins prospect core is doing just fine, which is nice reassurance to have with an already proven cup contending team.

Cratty: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night: Version One

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(Photo Credit: Associated Press/Charles Krupa)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Before I begin, I want to preface this by saying this will be the first of multiple versions. These won’t factor in any hypothetical trades and is based on what I think the best lineup would be on opening night for the Bruins.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Bjork

If there is a spot for Anders Bjork on this team come opening night, I think it would be best to throw him on the first line. He showed comfortability there at times with the past, and putting a player with dynamic offensive upside such as Anders Bjork on the first line could really start to unlock his potential.

Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron will stay perched in their normal spots. I think there is a high chance we see Pastrnak on the first line as usual, but I think there is room for Pastrnak to succeed elsewhere in the lineup while being able to accommodate Bjork in a scoring role.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci stay where they are most familiar, and David Pastrnak gives another consistent scoring winger. The second-line right-wing position has been a revolving door for too long. This is the best internal option to fix the issue that the team has. Doing this could essentially give the Bruins a line 1A, 1B scenario.

Third Line: Heinen – Coyle – Kuhlman

This line has the potential to be one of the better third lines in the NHL. Heinen and Coyle gelled really well together and Kuhlman has the potential to add great speed and forechecking ability on the wing. A line that can wear you down in all three zones and score.

Additionally, I hope Danton Heinen stays in this spot consistently, as an increase in production could be seen if he has a consistent home with consistent linemates. He was moving up and down the lineup a lot, and the same could be said for Karson Kuhlman. The two could complement each other quite well with Charlie Coyle seemingly clicking with any linemates thrown his way.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

With Noel Acciari off to Florida, Chris Wagner makes a lot of sense in his old spot alongside Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly. I don’t thin Acciari’s departure will deter this fourth line from being dominant yet again. When a change of pace is needed, Pär Lindholm and Brett Ritchie are available.

Extras: Lindholm – Ritchie

When it comes down to it, I think Lindholm and Ritchie were signed to be NHL depth forwards on this team. I don’t see either of them being sent down to the AHL unless they really struggle in camp.

With them in the fold, I could see David Backes being sent to the AHL for cap relief and so these guys can play. That is if Backes isn’t traded before opening night. Backes is still a serviceable NHL forward, but he struggled to find consistency for much of last season.

First Pairing: Chara – McAvoy

When put together, this pair was pretty consistently dominant. Master and apprentice, both having displayed shutdown tactics in different eras of the NHL, as well as alongside one another. There is no need to break up this pairing.

Second Pairing: Krug – Carlo

Same deal here. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo contrasting styles actually complemented one another quite well. Krug had an excellent season yet again, primarily offensively and on the power play, and Carlo had arguably the best season of his young career. No need to break it up.

Third Pairing: Grzelcyk – Clifton

The fact that this is the third defensive pairing really shows how deep the Bruins are in the top-six. This could be a second pairing on plenty of other NHL teams. Towards the latter half of the season and into the playoffs, Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton were rock solid together. Two talented young puck movers who can break the puck out effectively and establish offense and speed through the neutral zone. A larger sample size of Grzlecyk and Clifton would serve the team well.

Extras: Kampfer – Miller (IR) – Moore (LTIR)

Steven Kampfer is the seventh defenseman until Kevan Miller and John Moore return. Miller’s situation is tough. It’s hard to tell if he will be healthy enough to suit up on opening night. In this scenario, he isn’t ready to suit up due to the fact that he is still recovering. Being on IR frees up a roster spot until his return. Moore’s recovery timetable is set to be longer, so he is on LTIR in this scenario, freeing up yet another roster spot. Whether their eventual returns affect the top-six remains to be seen.

Goalies: Rask – Halak

This is a no-brainer. Rask and Halak bring us to 23 on the opening night roster.

This is a balanced lineup top to bottom that I hope Bruce Cassidy won’t have to shuffle around all that much. Three forward lines that can all score, a great fourth line, and a rock-solid top-six defensive core, backstopped by two great goalies. A lot can change between now and camp. We’ll see how things shake out.

Massachusetts Native Mike Hardman Excited To Attend Bruins Development Camp

<who>Photo Credit: Lorne White/KelownaNow </who>Mike Hardman's scored his seventh of the season for the Warriors.

( Photo Credit: Lorne White/KelownaNow )

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

A native of Hanover, Massachusetts, the early portion of Mike Hardman’s hockey career started with the Bay State Breakers and Providence Capitals as a young kid, and eventually blossomed into a very productive year in the BCHL that helped him catch the eye of Jerry York and the Boston College Men’s hockey staff. I caught up with Hardman ahead of development camp.

For Hardman, his determination and diligence paid off in his quest to play college hockey at the Division I level. Hardman will join the Boston College Eagles, along with 2019 first-round pick Matthew Boldy, Spencer Knight, and Alex Newhook, amongst others this fall.

After development camp, Hardman is very excited to be a part of such a talented group. “It’s really exciting, grew up in Hanover so going to Beanpots and Hockey East games, it’s really just a dream come true to play for coach York and just to go to school at BC is unbelievable,” said Hardman. “We have a good class coming in, but if you look at all of the other Beanpot schools, there’s a lot of good freshmen going to those schools too, so, it’s going to be a really, really fun year and hopefully we can win some championships.”

Hardman played prep hockey at The Winchendon School (MA) before playing for the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers for a year ahead of his most recent season with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors.

His lone season with West Kelowna, ahead of his freshman year with Boston College this fall was his best yet. His 72 points (39-33-72) in 58 games were good for third in BCHL scoring behind Ryan Brushett (84) and Alex Newhook (102). His 39 goals were good for second in the league. His success at the BCHL level drew the attention of more college teams, so Hardman eventually decided to flip his original commitment from Union College to Boston College this past January. Although he gained a lot of confidence from playing in the BCHL, he knows the transition to NCAA hockey will be a challenge.

At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Hardman carries a big frame on the left wing and uses his size to his advantage. He looks forward to continuing to do so in the future, starting with development camp. “I think the big thing for me is I’m a big guy with a good shot, good hands as well and I think my skating has gotten a lot better in the past couple years,” said Hardman.

As much as he recognizes his strengths on the ice, he is looking forward to improving parts of his game that need some work. “The biggest thing for camp is to see how my game is against others, you’re playing against some guys that are first-rounders, so I’m just looking at these guys and seeing what I need to work on,” said Hardman.

Additionally, he wants to improve certain aspects of his skating game, “It’s my first three steps, accelerating, I think when I’m skating, I can keep up with anybody, but getting off to a quicker start is the biggest thing for me.”

Unfortunately for Hardman, his name wasn’t called this past weekend at the NHL draft, but he isn’t going to let going undrafted deter his focus going forward. “I was pretty disappointed with what happened in the draft, but I think it might be the best thing for me going forward,” said Hardman. “I’m really just humbled and happy to be invited to Bruins camp, it’s going to be a ton of fun.”

Five Potential Fits For The Bruins With The 30th Overall Pick

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(Photo Credit: MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

The 2019 NHL Entry Draft will get underway this Friday, a long-awaited day for many hockey fans. Who will go first? Jack Hughes? Kaapo Kakko? Who will go third after those two? Those questions and many more will be answered.

Don Sweeney’s time to shine for the Bruins will come much later in the first round and beyond than those decisions in relation to top prospects like Hughes and Kakko.

The Bruins hold the 30th overall pick in the first round. Below you will find five players that I believe would be great fits for the Bruins near the end of the first round. I will save my number one guy for last, although some of you probably already know who it is.

Albin Grewe – C/RW – Djurgårdens IF J20 – SuperElit

Amongst many questions that this Swedish forward fielded at the NHL Draft Combine, one of them was to say who a player he likes was. His answer? Bruins forward Brad Marchand. Grewe spoke to 23 of the 31 NHL teams at the combine. When you watch Grewe play, you’ll see the similarities to him and Marchand.

Their frames are very similar, Grewe is slightly taller than Marchand, and their both tenacious, shifty wingers who are tough to knock off the puck. If you look at his profile on eliteprospects.com, you’ll see things like this:

“He’s a strong skater, who’s relentless on the forecheck, and a serious trash talker who gets under the skin of his opponents each night, EPrinkside.com 2019

“He is at the top of the food chain, a t-rex, eats everything and thinks everything is under him, Robert Ohlsson (Coach) 2018

Getting under the skin of his opponents is certainly similar to Marchand, but what I like the most is what his coach, Robert Ohlsson had to say. What an epic way to be described. My first thought when first evaluating Grewe as a player was that he plays like a junkyard dog, but being the top of the food chain and being a t-rex are perfect descriptions. Grewe earns his space and isn’t afraid of much, and when he finds a scoring chance, he has good vision and a very quick release.

Last season with Djurgårdens IF J20 of the SuperElit league, Grewe was over a point-per-game player with 34 points (13-21-34) in 25 regular season games. He can also play both center and right wing. Who doesn’t love versatility? In my eyes, Grewe would be a perfect fit with the style of play that the Bruins bring to the table as a whole. Below you can find highlights of Grewe playing internationally for Team Sweden from this past year.

(Video Credit: bigwhite06 on YouTube)

Philip Tomasino – C – Niagara IceDogs – OHL

This one is sort of unlikely, but the draft can be unpredictable. I say this because there is a good chance that Philip Tomasino will not be on the board at pick 30. But if he is, Don Sweeney and crew should totally consider drafting him.

Fun fact about Tomasino, for a brief time this past season he was a teammate of Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka. This was after Studnicka was traded from the Oshawa Generals to the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL. Studnicka gave Tomasino some pointers before the combine. Tomasino spoke to 30 teams at the combine

Tomasino: NHL combine interview (Audio provided by @markscheig on Twitter):

https://www.dropbox.com/s/fl7pi6tmryvn715/Philip%20Tomasino.m4a?dl=0

Another fun fact, Tomasino is still only 17-years-old, and will be until July 28. What strikes me the most about Tomasino is his skating ability. His stride is not only smooth, but his speed is effortless it seems, and he has a soft set of hands to boot.

Last season was a breakout season for Tomasino, tripling his 24 points from the year before with 72 (34-38-72) in 67 games.

His combination of being a prolific skater and puck handler makes him very hard to knock off the puck, making life tough for opposing players. The Bruins’ prospect core could use another top center prospect to go with Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic, and Tomasino would be a great pick if available at 30th overall.

(Video Credit: HSD Prospects on YouTube)

Nathan Légaré – RW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar – QMJHL

Nathan Légaré is another player who may not be available at 30th overall, but could be on the Bruins radar if he drops that far. He is a pure sniper, who was second in the QMJHL in goal scoring this season with 45 goals, only trailing the newest Providence Bruin Samuel Asselin who had 48 goals.

Like Tomasino, Légaré tripled his point total from the year before, going from 29 points to 87 (45-42-87) in 68 games and established himself as a deadly CHL scorer. The way he skates, shoots, and handles the puck is reminiscent of Colorado Avalanche star forward Nathan MacKinnon. This is not me saying Légaré is going to be as good as MacKinnon, but I definitely see similarities in their skill sets.

Légaré would give the Bruins a top-flight young scorer on the right side, something they could certainly use along with right-wing prospects like Zachary Senyshyn and Oskar Steen.

(Video Credit: Hockey Prospects Center on YouTube)

Bobby Brink – RW – Sioux City Musketeers – USHL

Like Tomasino, Bobby Brink is also still 17-years-old, but until July 8. As the trend continues, there is a solid chance that Brink is not on the board at 30th overall. But, if he is, it would be a no-brainer for Don Sweeney to take such an electric young winger.

Brink was one of the top players in the USHL this season. With 35 goals, 33 assists, and 68 points in 45 games, Brink’s goal totals were good for second in the league, top-20 in assists, and fourth in points. Lastly, his impressive 1.58 points-per-game was third in the league behind Alex Turcotte and Jack Hughes, who are both top-5 prospects in the draft.

He is a small, shifty winger who is a threat to score every time he touches the puck thanks to a very quick release and hard shot. Two seasons from now, he will take his talents to Denver to play for the perennial Frozen Four-bound Denver Pioneers in the NCAA. Whichever team drafts Brink is drafting a polarizing, young scorer who is only going to improve over time.

(Video Credit: Hockey Prospects Center on YouTube)

Connor McMichael – C – London Knights – OHL

Here’s my guy, my ideal fit for the Bruins at 30th overall, Connor McMichael. Playing mainly third line minutes for the London Knights last season, McMichael managed to post a scoring line of 36-36-72 in 67 games — that’s pretty impressive. He spoke to 29 teams at the combine.

McMichael: NHL combine interview (Audio provided by @markscheig on Twitter):

https://www.dropbox.com/s/t0n2s2ben21d4q4/Connor%20McMichael.m4a?dl=0

McMichael possesses high-end skating ability, hands, and explosiveness that makes him extremely hard to contain. When asked at the combine who some players he models his game after are, he mentioned Sean Monahan, Bo Horvat, and Auston Matthews. I see the Auston Matthews in his game the most out of the three. Again, this is not me saying McMichael is going to be as good as Matthews, but I definitely see similarities in the way McMichael skates, shoots, and carries the puck.

On top of his offensive prowess, McMichael can handle himself well in all three zones, making him a threat wherever he is on the ice. His high hockey IQ not only allows him to score a lot, but also find his linemates and create high danger scoring chances. He holds the potential to be a legitimate threat in all three zones, which will make him a tough player to gameplan for. All of these things make McMichael a potential can’t miss guy for Sweeney if he drops to 30th overall.

(Video Credit: Hockey Prospects Center on YouTube)

Sweeney and crew could go for one of these guys at 30th overall, or go totally off the board. If he goes with one of these five guys, I’ll be thrilled, and I think you should be too. It will surely be interesting to see how things pan out this weekend in Vancouver. It’s going to be an exciting two days.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 4: Boston at St. Louis: 6/3/19

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(Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: St. Louis Blues

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Moore – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

St Louis’s Lineup

Forwards

Schwartz – Schenn – Tarasenko

Sanford – O’Reilly – Perron

Blais – Bozak – Maroon

Barbashev – Sundqvist – Steen

Defense

Edmundson – Pietrangelo

Bouwmeester –  Parayko

Dunn –  Gunnarsson

Goalies

Binnington

Allen

First Period

The goal scoring started really early, 43 seconds in off of a wraparound from Ryan O’Reilly. Tuukka Rask made the initial save on a point shot from Vince Dunn, but O’Reilly buried the quick wraparound very shortly after. The Bruins were forced to battle some early momentum from St. Louis from the get-go. Just what the Blues wanted.

The Blues continued to push the pace after scoring the first goal, outshooting the Bruins 7-3 through the first 6:53 and outhitting them 11-5. After that, the Bruins made some headway in terms of creating offense, but struggled with finding puck luck.

That all changed when Charlie Coyle got on the board for the ninth time in the playoffs. Danton Heinen took a hit to make a play and Coyle’s chance initially came off of a Zdeno Chara shot, before potting his own rebound. Chara’s assist was his fourth. It was 1-1 with 6:46 to go, goals in three straight games for Coyle.

Vladimir Tarasenko got lost in coverage and scored to take back the lead for the Blues with 13:14 left in the period. Tarasenko is the last person on the Blues you want to have a golden opportunity to score.

The Blues controlled play for much of the period, and also laid some pretty solid hits, which was a big reason as to why they were succeeding. They were the better team in the first period. Two big advantages for St. Louis in the first came in shots at 13-9 and in hits at 24-16.

Score: 2-1 St. Louis

Second Period

Things were fairly standard early until Chara had a Brayden Schenn shot deflect up and off of his face, bloodying the Bruins captain and forcing him to get repairs.

The first penalty of the game came 5:47 into the period when Coyle high-sticked Carl Gunnarsson. The Bruins killed off the penalty without one of their main penalty killers in Chara.

A Bruins power play came shortly after thanks to a delay of game penalty on Colton Parayko. The Bruins had a massive opportunity to tie the game, but they did not convert and the Blues held their one-goal lead.

Connor Clifton went to the box for an illegal check to the head of Tarasenko after a lengthy stint of offensive zone time for St. Louis. But who else but Brandon Carlo to tie the game with a shorthanded goal with 5:41 left? Carlo’s first career Stanley Cup playoff goal was assisted. Patrice Bergeron (8) and Brad Marchand (13) has the assists. The goal made Carlo the 20th Bruin to score a playoff goal this season. That’s a franchise record.

It was not a perfect period for the Bruins, but Carlo’s late shorthanded goal was massive. The Bruins took the hit advantage this time, 13-8, but the Blues held the shot advantage, 12-10. After two, shots were 25-19, hits were 32-29, both in favor of the Blues. Chara did not return to game action after taking a puck up high. The Bruins needed to feed off of the energy from the Carlo goal into the third period.

Score: 2-2

Third Period

Good news for the Bruins came in the form of Zdeno Chara’s return, with a fishbowl on his helmet. Bad news came in the form of a Danton Heinen tripping penalty just 2:08 into the period. Rask made a series of huge saves on the penalty kill, helping the Bruins kill it off. Through four and a half minutes and after the Heinen penalty was killed, the Bruins held a 13-3 advantage in blocked shots.

Coyle drew a high sticking penalty with 13:18 remaining to give the Bruins their second power play of the game. Up to this point, Chara remained on the bench for the whole period. Not a whole lot of cohesiveness came on the power play, and as a result, the Bruins failed to score.

Oskar Sundqvist has certainly made some noise in different ways in this series. That’s one way to put it. David Backes decided to flatten him.

O’Reilly added to his monster performance in this game, and he got rewarded for it when he quickly buried a rebound. Poor coverage in front of the net did not help Rask after a tough shot to contain up high and O’Reilly found an open spot in the chaos. Not too long after, Rask made a big stop on Patrick Maroon on a 2-on-1. St. Louis remained ahead by a goal with 8:44 to go. Shots to this point in the period were 9-3 in favor of St. Louis.

Things were pretty bad for the Bruins for the remainder of the third. Not a lot of cohesiveness and a bad turnover by Clifton that led to Schenn’s empty-net goal. The Schenn goal came with 1:29, 4-2 St. Louis. With 25.7 seconds remaining, Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug went off following a scrum. Another scrum happened at the buzzer. Chara went the whole third period without a shift, he was there to rally his troops.

Next up is game five in Boston on Thursday at 8 PM ET. The shots were 13-4 in favor of St. Louis and the hits were even at 12. ST. Louis clawed their way back into the series with force. A pivotal game five awaits.

Final Score: 4-2 St. Louis

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 2: St. Louis at Boston: 5/29/19

Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues mixes it up with Jake DeBrusk and Connor Clifton of the Boston Bruins during the second period in Game 1 of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on May 27, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Boston Bruins

Away: St. Louis Blues

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

St Louis’s Lineup

Forwards

Schwartz – Schenn – Tarasenko

Blais – O’Reilly – Perron

Fabbri – Bozak – Maroon

Barbashev – Sundqvist – Steen

Defense

Edmundson – Pietrangelo

Bouwmeester –  Parayko

Gunnarsson –  Bortuzzo

Goalies

Binnington

Allen

First Period

A game one win for the Bruins that had featured plenty of fireworks set up for an epic game two. David Backes got right into the fray after a bust game one, this time with Patrick Maroon just 2:04 in front of Tuukka Rask.

The first power play came following a Sammy Blais collision with Rask. Charlie Coyle made it hurt and scored 49 seconds into the power play. Coyle’s seventh of the playoffs was assisted by Jake DeBrusk (5) and David Pastrnak (9). Their power play struggled in game one, but set the tone early thanks to Coyle’s five-hole goal.

The Blues didn’t waste too much time before they responded off of a Robert Bortuzzo shot that snuck by Rask and in. The puck deflected off of Matt Grzelcyk before finding its way to the back of the net.

But wait, there’s more. Joakim Nordstrom buried one on the backhand. Another five-hole goal, Nordstrom’s third of the playoffs, was a product of Sean Kuraly’s fifth assist.

Yet another response goal came with around five minutes left. Rask made the save initially, as did Chara afterward, but Vladimir Tarasenko buried the third chance to tie the game at two.

Oskar Sundqvist went off for two minutes as a result of an iffy hit from behind on Matt Grzelcyk and a large scrum ensued. Grzlecyk left the ice and went to the locker room with the assistance of his teammates and Head Athletic Trainer Don DelNegro. The Bruins failed to convert on the power play before the end of the period.

The Blues outhit the Bruins 18-9 and outshot them 10-8. It was a rollercoaster of a period that ended in suspense as a result of the Grzelcyk injury.

Score: 2-2

Second Period

Tarasenko went to the locker room within the first minute of the period after sliding awkwardly into the boards with Nordstrom in pursuit — not what the Blues wanted. Grzekcyk was not on the Bruins bench to start the period.

In better news, Bill Belichick went out of his way to talk to Todd Angilly after he waved the banner before the game.

Connor Clifton was the first to head to the box in the second for interference with 16:26 to go. St. Louis didn’t convert. Backes is not messing around when it comes to getting amongst the physicality and tension with his former team.

Tarasenko returned to the Blues bench, Grzlecyk did not return to the Bruins bench. Similar to what happened between Clifton and Edmundson happened with DeBrusk and Edmundson, with DeBrusk on the receiving end and Edmundson going to the box for tripping. Edmundson also gave DeBrusk a stinger beforehand with a slash. No dice on the power play for the Bruins.

Zdeno Chara was not pleased with the effort level in the period, as the Bruins were getting outplayed.

The penalties kept coming, this time in the form of a Clifton high-sticking penalty on Tyler Bozak that drew blood. The Bruins had a double minor penalty to kill of before the end of the second period.

Nordstrom did his best Gregory Campbell impression on the power play, eating two huge shot blocks. Just past halfway into the extended St. Louis power play came a goaltender interference penalty against Jaden Schwartz, creating a 4-on-4.

Torey Krug found himself with his helmet off again, this time he was tangled up with Colton Parayko. In the final seconds, before the Bruins pulled the goalie with 1.2 seconds left, Krug was amongst a scrum in front of Jordan Binnington being an agitator. Known agitator Brad Marchand was doing his thing at the end of the period too.

The Blues advantages in the first two periods in hits and shots stayed true through the second. The hits were 15-10, and the shots were 14-6 in the period, bringing the totals to 33-19 and 24-14 respectively. The Bruins needed a response in the third period. The absence of Grzelcyk was hurting them, amongst other things.

Score: 2-2

Third Period

Grzelcyk was not on the bench for the third period either, leaving the Bruins shorthanded on the back end again. Also, Clifton blocked a shot with his forehead and Krug made a huge defensive play to stop a cross-crease chance.

The plays the Bruins were trying to make in the second period and into the third just weren’t very cohesive for the most part, and St. Louis was not letting up on them.

An opportunity for a momentum shift came in the form of a power play with 6:38 left in the period. Brayden Schenn helped snap Noel Acciari’s stick in the middle of a shot, along with the flex on the stick. Some chances came and went for the Bruins, but nothing concrete and the game remained tied.

A hectic end to the period followed and no one scored, leading to overtime.

Third period: Hits: 12-12, Shots: 9-9

Regulation: Hits: 45-31 St. Louis, Shots: 33-23 St. Louis

Score: 2-2

Overtime

Bad news came during the intermission and free hockey ensued.

The Blues had the Bruins pinned in their own zone for the large majority of the first three minutes. Shortly after Brandon Carlo drew a delayed call, a Carl Gunnarsson slapshot from the point beat Rask through an Alex Pietrangelo screen to end it. The Blues had four shots to zero for the Bruins and won thanks to their suffocating forecheck and zone pressure. Rask made 34 saves on 37 shots and was a huge reason as to why the game made it to overtime.

Game three in St. Louis is up next on Saturday at 8 PM ET. The Bruins will need to be much better going forward.

Final Score: 3-2 St. Louis

Star Power, Consistency Amongst Keys To Bruins Defeating Carolina

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(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

By: Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Last time I wrote an article like this, it was about a more grueling type of series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although this wasn’t an easy series for the Bruins, despite winning it in a four-game sweep over the Carolina Hurricanes, this series had a different feel to it.

I won’t pinpoint every reason why they won the series because praise can go all around, but here are some of the main things that led to the team’s triumph as a whole, with a shot at the Stanley Cup on their minds.

Tuukka Rask is still really good

The list goes on for Rask. Bruce Cassidy even spoke to his focus and the zone he is in after last night’s series-clinching win in game four. The man is locked in. Letting up just five goals to the Canes all series, and stopping 109 of 114 shots had a massive influence on the team’s success. It’s comforting to play in front of a goalie that is playing out of his mind, and Rask surely is.

Team defense has been spectacular

The Bruins have won their last seven playoff games, and have outscored their opponents 29-8 in that span. Eight goals in seven games, that’s mind-boggling. I’m sure Rask would be the first one to tell you that the team defense in front of him as of late has been phenomenal.

Even in the absences of Charlie McAvoy in game one, and Zdeno Chara in game four, the overall defensive structure was pretty rock solid. That speaks to the depth and determination of this group. Rask provided a little more clarity from his perspective after the game last night, he gets into it around the 45-second mark of the video below.

Prowess and on the penalty kill and power play

Carolina’s power play was ineffective against the Bruins, and credit there goes back to Rask, again, and the penalty killing units in front of him. The Canes were 1/14 on the power play against the Bruins, with the lone goal coming three minutes and 42 seconds into the first period of game one.

On the other side of things, the Bruins were 7/15 (46.6%) on the power play. A huge reason as to why they were so successful on the man advantage was the simplicity of the puck movement and shot selection. They were calm and moved the puck efficiently. Their power play struggles when they are not doing those things, which we have seen previously in this playoff run.

The first two goals of game four were on the power play, making it, so Carolina had to play from behind with their backs already up against the wall. Special teams were a serious difference maker.

The top line showed up big-time

Most recently, the top line showed up on each of the four goals in the Bruins’ game four win last night, as shown in the videos above. The top line took some criticism earlier in the playoffs, saw some line juggling take place, and then they responded in a big way.

Game four stats:

Patrice Bergeron: 2G, 1A

Brad Marchand: 1G, 1A

David Pastrnak: 1G, 2A

That helps. One cannot overstate their importance, because the Bruins literally wouldn’t have won the game without them and Rask last night. The top line combined for six goals and eight assists in four games against Carolina, bringing their combined playoff totals to 22 goals and 24 assists in 51 games. That’s really good, can confirm.

Players stepping up in the absences of teammates

First, it was McAvoy in game one. Steven Kampfer slotted in due to McAvoy’s one-game suspension, and even scored the first goal of the series, in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game — and he did it just 2:55 into the first period. What a way to insert yourself into the lineup to fill the shoes of a top line defender in McAvoy.

Chris Wagner and Zdeno Chara were out of the lineup last night, Wagner with a hand/wrist injury due to a blocked shot in game three, and Chara with an undisclosed injury. Noel Acciari and John Moore slotted in due to their absences, and both played solid games last night in one of the team’s better overall performances in the whole postseason, as said by Cassidy after the game.

Sometimes things like that happen, and you need guys to step up, and Kampfer, Acciari, and Moore did when their names were called. The team as a whole was consistently good throughout the majority of the series, and the ‘next man up’ mentality can be credited for that, in part.

Now, the Bruins await the fates of the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks, who square off in game four of the Western Conference Finals tonight. San Jose currently leads the series 2-1. Whoever the opponent is, the Bruins now have some time to decompress until the Stanley Cup Finals roll around.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECF Game 3: Boston at Carolina

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(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Carolina Hurricanes

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Carolina’s Lineup

Forwards

Svechnikov – Staal – Teravainen

Niederreiter – Aho – Williams

Foegele – McKegg – McGinn

Ferland – Wallmark – Maenalanen

Defense

Slavin – Hamilton

Pesce –  Faulk

Fleury –  de Haan

Goalies

McElhinney

Mrazek

First Period

Round one in PNC Arena came with high stakes for both teams. Would the Bruins go up 3-0, or would Carolina put the pressure on?

Things started off on a sour note for the Bruins, as the Canes established offensive pressure early, and Teuvo Teravainen somehow missed a wide-open Bruins net. Brandon Carlo then inadvertently gave them a power play as a result of a delay of game call. The power play came just 55 seconds into the period.

The first scrum of the game came after the first whistle on the power play as some real estate in the Bruins heads could be beneficial in making this series interesting. The Bruins killed off the power play in large part thanks to two huge saves by Tuukka Rask in front of the net at the end of the power play on Micheal Ferland and Justin Williams

Carolina’s power-play struggles continued, moving to 5 for 46 after the conclusion of their first man advantage of game three. But, the Canes definitely pushed the pace early on, and Rask stood tall.

The shots were 11-1 Canes through about six and a half minutes. That’s not what you want if you’re the Bruins. At this point, Torey Krug and Justin Williams went off on matching minor penalties, holding for Krug, roughing for Williams, 4-on-4 hockey commenced for two minutes.

The Bruins started to see some good chances come their way at the conclusion of the 4-on-4. The energy was high on both sides in the first period. The high-danger shots were there for Carolina, tasking the Bruins with limiting those going forward if they wanted any chance of winning.

A scoring chance from David Backes, a scrum, and a video review ensued around the halfway point of the period. The principal point of discussion was how the puck crossed the line, but the call stood in favor of the Canes. Shortly after, Williams ate another poop sandwich and was the only one in the penalty box after another altercation with Krug.

Just 45 seconds into the power play, Jake DeBrusk went off for slashing, creating a 4-on-4 for 1:15. That wasn’t all, as six seconds later, David Krejci made it 4-on-3 thanks to a high-sticking penalty. Even after the man advantage became a 5-on-3 for a little bit, the Canes failed to convert, and Rask looked solid again.

A big scrum ensued after another huge save from Rask, keeping with the trend, on Maenalanen. Former Minnesota Wild teammates Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter even went after it. Coyle, Krug, and Maenalanen went to the box following the scrum, Carolina came out with a 5-on-4. Stop if you’ve heard this before, Rask played awesome on the penalty kill and held the Canes scoreless.

The Krug and Williams fiasco extended into the final two minutes, as Williams intentionally went up high and Krug and sat for two as a result.

The Bruins failed to score on the man advantage before the end of the period, but had the 27 remaining seconds bled into the second period for the Bruins. Overall, it was an ugly period, with the final shots sitting at 20-6.

Here’s a visual:

Not great, despite the Bruins winning 61% of the faceoffs. I can’t imagine Bruce Cassidy was very happy with anyone in the locker room, besides Rask.

Score: 0-0

Second Period

The Bruins gave themselves and Rask a pick me up early in the second period. Joakim Nordstrom took a hit to make a play, leading to Sean Kuraly finding Chris Wagner out front to give the Bruins a one-goal lead. The goal made Wagner and Matt Grzelcyk the co-leaders in goals for the series, on both teams — just as everyone expected. Wagner’s second was assisted by Nordstrom (3) and Kuraly (2). What a shift from the fourth line.

Good fortune continued to come the Bruins’ way in the form of a Niederreiter high-sticking penalty on Krejci.

The Bruins made no mistake this time on the power play. Brad Marchand walked into the slot and backhanded on off of Calvin de Haan and in. Marchand’s sixth made it 2-0 Bruins, assisted by David Pastrnak (7) and Krejci (6). The effort level in the second period took a big leap for the Bruins. Krejci’s assist gave him his 100th career playoff point, tying him with Rick Middleton and Johnny Bucyk for third-most in Bruins history.

Just seven seconds before the halfway point, Backes was high-sticked by Ferland to give the Bruins another power play.

Don’t let de Haan’s goal distract you from the fact that Rask did this. But that’s one that Rask wants back. 2-1 Bruins with 6:12 to go.

This happened too.

Things went much better in more areas than not for the Bruins this time around. The final shots for the period were 18-6 Bruins in the second, moving the totals to 26-24 Carolina overall. A huge third period awaited both teams

Score: 2-1 Boston

Third Period

This time, de Haan found his way into the spotlight for a tripping penalty 3:43 into the period. The Bruins were 1/4 on the power play heading into this one, with eight shots.

A point hammer from Krug found its way in, but DeBrusk made contact with McElhinney as a result of a collision with Jaccob Slavin as McElhinney was headed towards the outside of the crease. This had to have been a tough call for the officials, but they ruled in favor of the Canes. The score remained 2-1.

Make of that what you will.

The misfortune continued for the Bruins as Grzelcyk went off for interference with 14:22 to go in the period. Rask continued to make big saves and the Bruins killed off the penalty, making the Canes 0/5 on the power play.

Things were pretty back-and-forth for the rest of the period, at times. Wagner took a Justin Faulk slapshot off his hand and went to the locker room in the final three minutes of the period.

McElhinney was pulled for the extra attacker just around the two-minute mark. The final shots were 36-31 Canes, 10-7 in the period. The final tally was 35 saves for Rask in an epic showing from him, yet again. The Bruins take a three-game lead in the series in a hectic one. Next up is game four on the road again on Thursday at 8 PM ET.

Final Score: 2-1 Boston