Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston at Vegas: 10/8/19

Boston Bruins v Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: David Becker/NHL via Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Vegas Golden Knights

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

Heinen – Coyle – Ritchie

Wagner – Kuraly – Backes

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Vegas’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchessault – Karlsson – Smith

Pacioretty – Glass – Stone

Pirri – Stastny – Zykov

Carrier – Nosek – Reaves

Defense

McNabb – Theodore

Merrill – Holden

Hague – Engelland

Goalies

Fleury

Subban

Two unbeaten teams that are set to be contenders in their respective conferences this year went at it in Vegas for the first time this year. The Bruins were 3-1-0 against the Golden Knights in their four career matchups against one another coming into this one. But, this marked Tuukka Rask’s first bout with the Golden Knights of his career. This game put Zdeno Chara in 23rd place all-time in games played (1,488), now ahead of Wayne Gretzky.

First Period

The game started off fast as David Pastrnak ripped a backhander with speed towards the net right off the bat. Brad Marchand talked about wanting his line to keep trending upwards, chances like that could do it. Brett Ritchie followed it up a couple shifts later with a backhand chance of his own. Some good offensive pace to start for the Bruins, with other chances to boot.

What ended up becoming some really solid back-and-forth was halted by a goaltender interference penalty on Ritchie just 5:15 into the period. The momentum that the Golden Knights established early on in the power play lead to a power-play goal for a wide-open Mark Stone, putting the Bruins down by one 6:36 into the first period. The first time the Bruins trailed in the 2019-2020 season.

It didn’t stop there for the Golden Knights, as former Bruin Reilly Smith broke free and buried a cross-crease pass to make it 2-0 with 8:20 into the period. After a solid first five minutes or so for the Bruins, the game started to slip away quickly.

They didn’t let it bother them too much, as David Pastrnak got the Bruins on the board. Pastrnak’s first of the season was assisted by Patrice Bergeron’s steal and a cross-crease pass from Brad Marchand 11:21 into the period.

More good fortune came the Bruins’ way with 2:22 to go in the period thanks to a Brandon Pirri slashing penalty. A wide-open net right off the bat couldn’t be capitalized on, but the top power-play unit was buzzing to start. The rabid offensive pressure paid off when Marchand buried a one-timer to tie the game. The tying goal, Marchand’s first of the season, was assisted by David Pastrnak and Torey Krug.

The final shots were 12-11 in favor of the Golden Knights in the most electric period of the Bruins season so far. Marchand wanted the line to continue to trend upwards, and that they did in the first period. The top line sprung a much-needed turnaround after being down by two early on.

Score: 2-2

Second Period

You thought the top line was done? Nope. Brad Marchand buried his second of the game and third of the season on a partial break high over the glove of Fleury. Pastrnak’s second assist of the game came off of a crafty indirect pass, making it 3-2 Bruins just 33 seconds into the period.

To make it two goals in 54 seconds, Krug sent a shot on net that deflected off of Ryan Reaves’ stick and in. Brandon Carlo and Sean Kuraly had the assists. Things were changing very rapidly, as Krug’s goal marked the fourth unanswered goal for the Bruins.

David Backes then went to the penalty box for retaliation shortly after Krug’s goal. Luckily, the Bruins restored normalcy and killed the penalty.

Even though the frantic goal-scoring took a break, the Bruins dominated the majority of the flow of play in the second period. One huge chance for the Golden Knights came when Jonathan Marchessault split the defense and got in Rask’s grill, but Rask made the stop. The Bruins played some of their best hockey of the season.

Things got crazy again when it looked like Max Pacioretty scored within the final three minutes of the period. It actually hit the post and didn’t actually cross the goal line. Potential crisis averted. The shots in the second were 15-12 in favor of the Golden Knights, but the Bruins had the lead.

Score: 4-2 Boston

Third Period

Two minutes into the period, Nicolas Hague went to the box for two minutes for hooking. Despite not scoring on the power play, the Bruins continued to create havoc in the offensive zone consistently.

Through the first nine minutes of the period, the shots were 7-0 Bruins, then Brayden McNabb took a holding penalty. Vegas’ first shot didn’t come until 11:32 into the period. The game shifted back in Vegas’ favor after Pacioretty scored on the power play following a Marchand cross-checking penalty, making it 4-3 late.

Gerard Gallant eventually pulled Fleury within the final two minutes. For the first time since 2002, the Bruins start the season 3-0. 82 is still intact. Rask made 31 saves, but unfortunately was hurt at the end of the game and had to be carried off the ice. The Bruins had 35 shots, and the Bruins staved off a tense final three or so minutes to this game. Next up are the Colorado Avalanche on the road at 9:00 PM on Thursday.

Final Score: 4-3 Boston

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 148 that we recorded on 10-6-19 below! 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 Post-Game Recap: Boston at Dallas: 10/3/19

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Dallas Stars

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Coyle – Ritchie

Heinen – Lindholm – Kuhlman

Wagner – Kuraly – Backes

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Dallas’s Lineup

Forwards

Benn – Seguin  – Pavelski

Dickinson – Hintz – Radulov

Cogliano – Faksa – Comeau

Janmark – Dowling – Gurianov

Defense

Lindell – Klingberg

Heiskanen – Sekera

Oleksiak – Polak

Goalies

Bishop

Khudobin

The Bruins are back, and that’s pretty cool. The first stop on the road slate of the season was Dallas where the Bruins took on the Stars to start both team’s respective seasons. David Krejci was a last-minute scratch due to injury, leading to Brett Ritchie’s debut in response. For the Bruins, not a whole lot changed in the offseason outside of replacing Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari with Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie, essentially.

The Stars, on the other hand, landed Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry in free agency. Anyone that was watching knew that the Stars were going to come out of the gate with intensity against the defending Eastern Conference Champion Bruins.

First Period

What’s the weirdest way this season could have started? Former Dallas Star Brett Ritchie scoring on his first shot as a Bruin just 1:09 into the game. Yeah, that happened. Charlie Coyle had the lone assist.

Alexander Radulov went to the box 4:23 into the period for holding. Danton Heinen made him pay late in the man advantage to give the Bruins a two-goal lead 14:01 to go. Two goals on two shots. Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy had the helpers.

The rest of the period was much quieter than the first five minutes. But, the Bruins managed to control the flow of play for much of the remainder of the period, despite not scoring more goals than the two they scored early on. Radek Faksa went off for high sticking with 2:27 go in the period, giving the Bruins an opportunity for the Bruins to go up by three.

Although they failed to convert on the power play, Dallas didn’t get on the board, so the missed opportunity was a bit more palpable. Not a bad way to start the season, especially the first period. The shots were 6-4 in favor of the Bruins.

Score: 2-0 Boston

Second Period

It was a pretty standard, back-and-forth period to start until Roman Polak went into the boards awkwardly and made some pretty painful-looking shoulder contact with the boards. He was down for quite a while in some serious pain before being helped off the ice on a stretcher by team personnel.

Shortly after the injury, Roope Hintz buried the first Dallas goal of the season to cut the Bruins’ lead in half with 12:05 to go. Radulov then went off the ice for the second time for tripping Par Lindholm just past the halfway point. It wasn’t a very eventful power-play opportunity, so normalcy ensued. Dallas certainly had a bit more energy after losing Polak to injury.

A fourth Boston power play came after McAvoy was interfered with by Mattias Janmark. McAvoy then went off for a penalty of his own, making it a 4-on-4, temporarily. Luckily, for the Bruins, Dallas didn’t score on the power play following the conclusion of Janmark’s penalty. The shots were 9-7 in favor of Dallas this time around, as they began to turn the tide a bit.

Score: 2-1 Boston 

Third Period

Some momentum was generated in the Bruins favor early thanks to some offensive chances from the Bergeron line. That was until Zdeno Chara went to the box for interference within the first minute. Rask made a couple solid saves within the final 30 seconds of the power play to preserve the one-goal lead.

Despite not scoring on the power play, Dallas kept the offensive zone pressure up and kept Tuukka Rask busy. That pressure kept up for quite some time, pretty consistently through the first ten or so minutes of the period. One of the highlights on the Bruins side of this onslaught in favor of Dallas was when Rask flashed the leather on a shot from Hintz that was labeled for the top corner.

Speaking of Hintz, Chris Wagner buried him at the eventual conclusion of the next shift. Through the first eight minutes of the third period, the shots were 11-7 Dallas, and they weren’t giving the Bruins much.

For the most part, outside of a Karson Kuhlman breakaway chance, credit to Dallas for not allowing a whole lot of fluidity through the neutral zone and into the defensive zone for the Bruins. If you scroll past the tweet below, you’ll see both of Kuhlman’s big-time scoring chances from the game.

Huge blocks from Brad Marchand, Chris Wagner, and a strong defensive stand preserved the win for the Bruins after Jim Montgomery pulled Ben Bishop late. The shots were 16-7 Dallas in the third, meaning Rask is very much worthy of praise for being instrumental in holding the one-goal lead for so long.

The Bruins start of the season in the win column. An 82-0 season is still possible, folks. Next up are the Arizona Coyotes on the road this Saturday at 9 PM. There is plenty to work on despite a hot start from now until Saturday night.

Final Score: 2-1 Boston

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 147 that we recorded on 9-30-19 below! 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!

Cratty: Bold Predictions For The 2019-2020 Bruins Season

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

There’s a lot to be excited when it comes to the Bruins this year, and I have high expectations, as you’ll soon find out. Some new faces will join the fold, while Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari went elsewhere within the division in unrestricted free agency. Luckily the Bruins are equipped internally within the organization and with new outside additions via free agency to soften the blow of losing Johansson and Acciari. I think it’s going to be a big year.

Jake DeBrusk scores 30 goals

He was close last year, but I think DeBrusk will hit 30 goals this season. Right on the dot. Potentially having a full year with David Krejci and Karson Kuhlman will increase his goal-scoring output.

If Kuhlman can seal the revolving door on Krejci’s right-wing shut, it will allow the line to establish their chemistry even further. Last year, they generated 7.00 GF/60 last season. Imagine what they could do in a full season versus the limited amount of time we saw them together last season? He hit 27 last season in just 68 games, mark DeBrusk down for the 30 this year.

Charlie Coyle hits the 20-goal mark

While we’re on the topic of goals, I think Charlie Coyle has a big year on the third line and eclipses the 20-goal mark. He has hit 21 and 18 goals respectively in a single season in the past, but in the past two years, he has scored 11 and 12 goals. This will be the second time he hits 20.

He established some serious chemistry with Danton Heinen last season and even looked good with him when the Bruins played the Flyers just last Thursday. Last season, after getting his feet wet for a few games, Coyle was a tank from after the trade deadline into the playoffs.

Add Anders Bjork to that line and you add a young, hungry player with really solid playmaking upside on a line that’s already set to be good. Whether Bjork plays on the third line in the regular season much remains to be seen, but he has seen time with Heinen and Coyle on that line throughout the past week or so.

Coyle looked extremely comfortable after coming over from Minnesota at the trade deadline. If he can pick up where he left off, I think there’s a really good chance he can score 20+ goals.

Patrice Bergeron has a career year

Bergeron had a great 2018-2019 season despite missing 17 regular-season games. This is contingent on him staying healthy, but I think Bergeron will hit a new career-high in points with 88 of them.

Age isn’t slowing him down. He tallied a career-high 79 points last season at 33-years-old in just 65 games. If good health is on his side and he can play a good bit more than 65 games, a fairly sizeable point jump isn’t out of the question. Marchand and Pastrnak are in the primes of their careers and Bergeron will continue to seem prime ice time on special teams as well as even strength. That combination of things sets up the potential for a huge year for Bergeron. Building on a milestone year last year would be awesome to see.

Torey Krug signs a contract extension during the season

No unrestricted free-agency for Torey Krug. From an undrafted former Michigan State Spartan now, Krug continues to improve and become a better leader by the day. His tenacity couple pure puck-moving and offensive excellence make him a vital piece on the back end.

Torey Krug’s don’t just fall from the sky. He is a unique defenseman in a lot of ways. Krug has hinted at him being interested in taking less money than he may be worth to stay in Boston, and that would just make things easier.

Krug and his wife Melanie just welcomed a baby girl to the world over the summer. He loves it here. Signing long-term to stay with a team in which he plays a big role and loves the city, as well as being able to raise his daughter makes a lot of sense. Having that burden off his back of having to deal with unrestricted free-agency makes sense for him, the team, and his family.

Boston Bruins: 2020 Stanley Cup Champions

The sour taste of defeat in the core from 2013 was already there, now everyone except for the free-agent additions essentially has that bad taste of defeat in their mouths from this past season. The team was devastated and is still set to be a cup contender, even after losing Johansson and Acciari to unrestricted free agency. They took the loss hard.

Teams in the East such as the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and Florida Panthers definitely got better, plus prominent teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Washington Capitals are still in the mix. But, I trust that the Bruins are formidable enough to make a run to the Cup Final.

A chunk of young players gained very valuable experience from a long cup run, even in defeat, and the team as a whole is going to come out with redemption on their minds. I have them playing the Vegas Golden Knights in the finals, but it’s anyone’s guess as to who will go the distance this before the regular season even starts.

October 3 isn’t far away, redemption isn’t far away. The sky is the limit for the Bruins this year. Nine years is a long time in between Stanley Cup Championships. The Bruins have what it takes to capture banner number seven.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 146 that we recorded on 9-22-19 below! 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!

Opportunities Are Abundant In The Bruins System For Anders Bjork

Image result for anders bjork

(Photo Credit: Brian Babineau: NHL/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

One of the most popular names in training camp in recent weeks has been Anders Bjork. Thanks in large part to an impressive showing at the prospects challenge, Bjork has caught the eyes of many. His dynamic skill set and comfortability are still ever so present after two shoulder surgeries in as many years.

Bjork has seen time with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle most recently, but there are still other options for him.

On the wing with Jack Studnicka in Providence

Whether it’s on the left-wing or the right, if Bjork and Studnicka both end up down in Providence to start the season, I would love to see what they could do together. Bjork and Studnicka are the two most dynamic forwards in the system and could seriously light it up together. The other winger could be any of a number of players, perhaps someone like Jakub Lauko, Ryan Fitzgerald, Cameron Hughes, or Oskar Steen.

If the coaching staff decides that playing in the AHL is best for Bjork to start, it would be best to equip him with skilled linemates such as the players listed above.

First-line right-wing

Despite not lighting it up on the scoresheet, it’s fair to say that Bjork has looked the most comfortable on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Playing with two well-established veterans allows Bjork to learn and if he puts himself in the right spots to generate chances, score as well.

In time with the top line this past year, Heinen also looked pretty confident on the first line right-wing. With Bjork’s career off to a turbulent start with injuries, playing with two established veterans that he can learn from and potentially produce at a high-level with could be just what Bjork needs to ease into becoming a full-time NHL player.

Second-line right-wing 

This one isn’t very likely in my eyes, but it’s still possible. The way I see it, the second-line right wing job is Karson Kuhlman’s to lose. Alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci last season, Kuhlman completed a second line that generated 7.00 GF/60 last season. That’s insane. His speed and forechecking ability also adds a lot to that line and makes the line difficult to deal with in the offensive zone.

The speed of DeBrusk and Bjork on Krejci’s wings is definitely worth exploring at some point though. It just probably won’t be right away to start the 2019-2020 season.

Third-line left-wing

I think this is where Bjork will land to start the season. Bjork has been playing on Coyle’s left with Heinen on the right for the past week in practice, as well as last night against the Philadelphia Flyers. The three of them looked great together last night, consistently pushing the pace through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone.

Not only did they pretty much dominate through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, but they also did a great job limiting the Flyers scoring chances.

31 shot attempts. 31! Anders Bjork was a menace to deal with last night. His smooth skating and offensive abilities could add an important element to the third line. Coyle was a tank last year, especially in the playoffs. His big body, prowess in all three zones, and scoring abilities in a third-line role make him the ideal man for the job.

As the third-line center, Coyle established some serious chemistry with Heinen. The two looked very comfortable with each other again last night.

Where Heinen thrives is creating scoring chances for his linemates and limiting opponent scoring chances. He thrived in that area in a down year offensively for him last year. If Heinen can get back to around the 47-point mark he hit in his rookie season, do what he does best, and Bjork and Coyle can bring what they do best to the table, as previously mentioned, this has the potential to be a dominant third line.

Bjork spoke to Bruins reporter Eric Russo about Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen before last night’s preseason win for the Bruins over the Flyers.

Where Bjork lands is still to be determined over the next couple weeks, but there are certainly a lot of options for him. If he can stay healthy, he has high upside that is worth getting excited about.

Getting To Know The Bruins Prospects Challenge Invitees

(Photo Credit: Vincent Ethier/CHL Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Another year, another prospect challenge for the Bruins. This year’s roster, similarly to in year’s past, features a number of players invited to the camp on an invitee basis. I’m gonna help you get to know a little more about these invitees. You can find the roster and schedule here.

Jacob Gaucher – C – Val-d’Or Foreurs – QMJHL

Gaucher is a big, 18-year-old center that carries a 6-foot-3, 181-pound frame around with him. Last season marked his first full season in the QMJHL, a season in which he had 24 points in 68 games. This season could be a more productive one as he may see more playing time than he did as a rookie. Certainly should be an interesting player to watch at the prospects challenge. It’s hard to miss a guy that’s 6-foot-3 out on the ice.

Dante Hannoun – C – Prince Albert Raiders – WHL

Ever seen Dante Hannoun and Danton Heinen in the same room? I haven’t. Really makes you think…

Hannoun played an instrumental role in a very successful season for the Raiders last season that saw them win their first WHL championship in 34 years this past season. After being acquired from the Victoria Royals on January 3, Hannoun put up 31 points in 28 regular-season games, and 24 points in 23 playoff games. Big-time players make big-time plays, like, ya know, scoring in overtime to win in game seven of the WHL championship.

(Video Credit: Western Hockey League on YouTube)

Alex-Olivier Voyer – RW – Sherbrooke Phoenix – QMJHL

We have known that Alex-Olivier Voyer was going to be attending the prospects challenge since July 26. Black N’ Gold Founder, CEO, and podcast host Mark Allred, wrote a bit about Voyer on the day of the report, you can find what Mark had to say here. Mark pretty much touches on everything you need to know about Voyer in his article, with video included, so definitely check that out.

Max Martin – D – Prince Albert Raiders – WHL

A teammate of Hannoun, Max Martin also basked in the glory of being a WHL champion. Martin tallied an impressive 41 points in 59 regular-season games this past season, and added 8 assists in 21 playoff games en route to a championship. We’ll have to wait and see if Martin can make some noise at the prospects challenge, perhaps like he did in the clip below.

Check out this crazy hit that Martin laid this past season.

(Video Credit: SPORTSNET on YouTube)

Riley McCourt – D – Flint Firebirds – OHL

I reached out to TheHockeyWriters.com writer Mark Scheig to find out a bit more about Riley McCourt and this is what he had to say, “Decent skater. Has some offense. Played on a horrible team in Flint.”

To me, McCourt sounds like a player who may be playing with something to prove and to put himself on the map a little bit perhaps after a turbulent season with the Flint Firebirds.

Despite playing on a horrible Flint Firebirds team, McCourt managed to put up 32 points in 47 games on the back end. This whole situation he played through this year makes him a player to monitor in my eyes.

Andrew Perrott – D – Owen Sound Attack – OHL

Andrew Perrott’s father, Nathan saw NHL time up until the 2005-2006 season with the Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Dallas Stars.

Now his son, Andrew is blazing his own path, most recently with the Owen Sound Attack. Perrott was acquired from the London Knights by the Attack on January 4. In 31 games, he tallied 10 points. Perrott will be one of the younger players at camp, as he is just 18-years-old. This will be a good jumping-off point before heading into year two with the Owen Sound Attack.

In the clip below, you’ll find Perrott dropping the gloves with New York Rangers prospect Tim Gettinger. The most impressive part outside of holding his own in the fight is the height and weight difference between the two.

(Video Credit: Game Day Sports Network on YouTube)

Jordan Sambrook – D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – OHL

Formerly a Detroit Red Wings draft pick, Jordan Sambrook now finds himself in unrestricted free agency. Meaning perhaps if he does well at the prospects challenge, maybe the Bruins could sign him to an AHL deal.

Sambrook wore the “A” on his sweater for the Greyhounds this past season and had a productive year. He put up 49 points in 67 regular-season games, and seven in eleven playoff games. Sambrook carries a big frame on him at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, which can certainly help for defensemen. Should be a player to watch with something to prove at the prospects challenge.

Taylor Gauthier – G – Prince George Cougars – WHL

Taylor Gauthier has a bit of background with the Bruins, as the right-handed catching goaltender attended Bruins development camp this past July. Gauthier had solid showing at Bruins camp. Last season was a busy one for Gauthier, as he appeared in 55 games and finished the season with a 15-30-2 record, a 3.25 GAA, and a .899 goals save percentage on a struggling Prince George Cougars team.

Below you’ll find a couple nice saves that Gauthier made at the U18 Worlds for Team Canada back in April.

Rookie camp actually began today, with prospect game action beginning tomorrow. It should be a fun event with some new and familiar faces in the fold.

Bruins Defensive Depth Could Be Tested Early On In The Regular Season

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round in the 2018 Stanley Cup play-offs at the Air Canada Centre on April 19, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Matt Grzelcyk(Claus Andersen)

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Ideally, this scenario never happens and we can resume peaceful existence, but there is a chance that Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are not in the opening night lineup for the Bruins. In this event, things need to be done in a certain way, in my eyes. This scenario also assumes that John Moore and Kevan Miller will be out of the lineup recovering from their respective injuries.

First defensive pairing; Chara-Clifton

Zdeno Chara and Connor Clifton have a little bit of experience with one another, but not much. I still think this is the ideal first pairing with a decimated defensive core. While I think there is a chance Chara’s playing time gets scaled back ever so slightly this season, this would not be the scenario to do so. A shutdown presence is very much needed in this case.

Clifton didn’t shy away from a larger role no matter where he played in the lineup last season, making him the best option in this scenario, with Matt Grzelcyk on his off side not being the worst thing either. But ultimately, I think Clifton should be the guy on pairing number one in this scenario.

Clifton’s physical presence, skating, and puck-moving abilities could really compliment Chara’s shutdown style pretty well.

(Video Credit: Tom Brady on YouTube)

Second defensive pairing: Krug-Kampfer

On the second pairing, Torey Krug and Stevie Snipes join forces to further stabilize the top-four. Torey Krug is a wagon and Kampfer really improved as the season progressed. He even scored a huge goal in game one against Carolina in the Eastern Conference Finals, earning himself the title of Stevie Snipes.

Krug’s defensive game took a step in the right direction, and Kampfer’s defensive and puck-moving abilities are solid enough to complement Krug’s game and potentially create a solid duo on the back end.

Third defensive pairing: Vaakanainen-Grzelcyk

This is where it get’s interesting. This pairing has the potential to be a puck possession, zone exit-entry monster pairing. Grzelcyk has seen time on his opposite side with Chara in the past, but I think putting him with Urho Vaakanainen could be very beneficial for Vaakanainen.

Who knows? Maybe Grzelcyk will be able to showcase his one-timer again on his opposite side.

(Video Credit: SPORTSNET on YouTube)

Despite being undersized, Grzelcyk’s been able to handle himself in the physical game fairly well, and he and Vaakanainen could very well create offense and facilitate plenty of puck possession through the neutral zone.

A good chunk of this pairing success hinges on how well Vaakanainen continues to adapt to the NHL in a second stint. His first stint this past season was cut short due to a concussion after an elbow from Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki. An elbow that netted Borowiecki a one-game suspension.

In this doomsday scenario, I would love to see what this pairing could do with one another.

What else is there?

Alex Petrovic is set to join the Bruins in camp on a PTO. There is also still a chance that the Bruins perhaps sign another defenseman to join the mix at camp and potentially provide reinforcement past a PTO.

There are also a few AHL options, god forbid it gets to the point so early in the season. Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and Wiley Sherman are the three available options at this point in time. Lauzon and Zboril have seen brief NHL time, Sherman hasn’t. Hopefully it doesn’t come to disrupting their AHL development in the event of more chaos on the back end for the Bruins.

In this scenario, things could be a lot worse, and I think this would be the best way to operate with McAvoy, Carlo, Moore, and Miller all potentially out of the lineup to start the season. The depth was tested for quite some time early last season, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I don’t think it will, but crazier things have happened.

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

Image result for Boston Bruins 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals

(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.