Could The Bruins Be Better Off Pumping The Brakes At The Deadline?

(Photo Credit: Associated Press)

By Mike Cratty                             Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

For the past month or so, there has been no shortage of speculation surrounding the Boston Bruins. Whether it’s about there recent surge over the past 25+ games or trade rumors, the Bruins have sure been in the mill. But what about free agency? Staying put at the deadline may be a smart option if making a splash, to some degree, is in the cards. On the subject of free agency, the Bruins have plenty to work with internally, with $13,266,668 in cap space, as of now (refer to the second image).

(Source: @bruinscapspace on Twitter)

With their internal matters being the main priority, the next step would be to decide how to approach an interesting free-agent pool. There aren’t a ton of huge names in the free-agent market, but a few interesting names. These names stick out to me with the defense and not the forward department. There are names that I like in the forward free-agent pool, but I don’t see a screaming need to add to the forward core in free agency, or at the trade deadline. The Bruins have an absurd amount of capable depth forwards, many on the cusp of NHL readiness. Take Peter Cehlarik for example, or possibly Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson.

Ryan McDonagh has been the main name in trade rumors as of late. Despite the fact he has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury. We’ll have to wait and see if he is the guy, but regardless of where he goes, if anywhere, New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton is going to want a haul for him. He has good reason to. McDonagh is a top-pairing caliber defenseman on a pretty reasonable $4.7 million/year contract that is set to expire two summers from now.

Save trade assets including roster players, prospects, and draft picks and head into free agency instead? Control negotiations with your own players and approach the frenzy how you want to. That’s the decision Don Sweeney has to make in the next week.

Although the Bruins’ defensive core has been stellar this season, for the most part, bolstering to it within reason is a no-brainer.

Three players that stick out to me on defense in free agency are John Carlson, Calvin de Haan, and John Moore. When considering the free agency route, one needs to account for the current cap situation of the team going forward.

John Carlson’s name is the most tantalizing of the bunch. A player who has been the number one guy for the Washington Capitals for quite some time, Carlson would be a massive addition to the Bruins’ top-four defensive core. Some players would have to be let go, and maybe some contracts would need to be moved to make his contract work, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities, although complicated. Currently is making $3,966,667 per year, he will be paid handsomely due to the progression of his game, likely in the $6-7.5 million range.

Here are some of the top defensive contracts in the NHL currently: http://www.spotrac.com/nhl/rankings/cap-hit/defenseman/ (Source: www.spotrac.com)

In my eyes, something like Kevin Shattenkirk’s $6,650,000 cap hit would be reasonable. Fairly similar production, outside of this season, similar age as well, both right-shot defensemen. Seems pretty reasonable to me. It’s no secret that free-agents need to be overpaid for a bit at times, especially when you’re on pace for a career year like John Carlson is. In the 2014-2015 season, Carlson finished with 55 points in 82 games, this year, in 58 games, he already has 45 points. If he keeps his pace up, he should break 55 points. Perfect timing for a big-time payday. Seeing him making more than a guy like Kevin Shattenkirk wouldn’t surprise me, approaching $7 million cap territory.

Calvin de Haan and John Moore fly under the radar more than a player of John Carlson’s status as one of the NHL’s better puck-moving defensemen. With the eye test, this is displayed due to their drastically different point outputs. But, all three defensemen possess the capability to move the puck effectively, with Carlson’s ability just leading to more offensive output than the others.

Starting with Calvin de Haan of the New York Islanders, who is set to make $3.3 million this season before he possibly hits the open market. At just 26-years-old, de Haan wields a strong defensive game with good skating ability and smarts. Unfortunately, a season which he could make a case for a nice free-agent payday has been cut short. Calvin de Haan has been out of the Islanders lineup since December 16 and will miss the rest of the season after shoulder surgery. Making his free agency case an interesting one without a huge sample size from a contract year. Before his injury, de Haan played in 33 games, tallying a goal and adding 11 assists, good for 12 points.

John Moore boasts a very similar defensive mold to Calvin de Haan, but with the New Jersey Devils. Keeping a pretty consistent point pace this season, John Moore adds a fresh face to the New Jersey’s defensive core. Currently, with seven goals, 10 assists and 17 points in 58 games, it’s reasonable to think he’ll want a raise in his next contract if he stays on this trajectory. Moore is set to make $1,666,667 before hitting free agency in the summer.

Calvin de Haan and John Moore could be second pairing guys with the Boston Bruins. Pushing Torey Krug for minutes on the left side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Torey Krug could play on the third pairing with Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, Adam McQuaid, or Kevan Miller and hold down top power play minutes. Their styles would fit well in a system implemented by Bruce Cassidy centering in on puck-movement, good skating, and good transition game.

Holding on to trade assets and using cap space instead could be beneficial for the Bruins long-term while holding on to important pieces in case of injury, or moves down the road. There could also be the case where one, multiple, or all of the free-agents mentioned sign elsewhere. What the Bruins decide to do at the trade deadline and beyond will be an intriguing storyline to follow in the future.

Bruins Win Back-To-Back Games On The Road

(Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)

By Mike Cratty                                                           Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

To say the Boston Bruins are rolling is an understatement. After winning 18 of their last 23 games, the Bruins are continuing to show they are a bonafide threat in the NHL. To put things in perspective a little more, they are in the second place in the NHL and the Atlantic division.

They have plenty of skill, but it’s not always flashiness that wins games. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it yet again, they find different ways to win by wearing teams down. Their scoring attack has become so balanced and their team defense has risen to become the NHL’s best. Not to mention Tuukka Rask has played better than any other goalie in the NHL since late November. Anton Khudobin has continued to back Tuukka up sufficiently during that time period, which never hurts.

Following a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, a back-to-back against two Eastern Conference foes, the Detroit Red Wings, and the New York Rangers lied ahead. Being two struggling teams, the Bruins took advantage of their deficiencies enough to win both games. Their record now stands at 33-11-8, with 74 points.

Tuukka Rask started in Detroit, in a game where Austin Czarnik and Torey Krug were in familiar territory. A 3-2 victory came out of it in a game where the excitement was saved mainly for the later portion. Two rookies, in particular, shined in Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly, who both picked up a goal and an assist. David Krejci tallied the other goal, his 10th of the season.

Things almost got out of hand when Wings forward Frans Nielsen made it 3-2 off a rebound with 1:24 remaining in the third period. Luckily the Bruins held on for the win after Charlie McAvoy pinned the puck in the corner after what went on to be the final faceoff.

It’ll be tough for teams like the Red Wings and the Panthers to make up much ground in the Atlantic, seeing as there is currently a 17-point gap between the third and fourth place teams, in Toronto and Florida. The Bruins made it a little tougher and made things a bit more interesting for themselves, setting up for an important contest at Madison Square Garden the next night.

With the Tampa Bay Lightning dropping five of their last 10 games, now is a great time for a leapfrog attempt into first place in the Atlantic, and possibly the NHL, for the Bruins. Their 6-1 throttling of the struggling New York Rangers will help out with that. After an early goal from Rick Nash to make it 1-0, the Bruins woke up and potted six unanswered goals, eventually chasing Henrik Lundqvist from the crease. There is one point separating the Bruins and the Lightning and first place.

Tim Schaller, or Pavel Datsyuk? You tell me. One of the highlights of the night and honestly the season. The New Hampshire native, former Providence Friar, and fourth-liner, Tim Schaller, undresses Anthony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith and puts in an off-balance beauty.

The other five goals on the night came from Patrice Bergeron, who had two, building on his case for the Hart Trophy, Zdeno Chara, Riley Nash, and Sean Kuraly. Sean Kuraly is getting his offensive game going a little bit over the past two games, which is never a bad thing to see from a fourth-liner. Anton Khudobin made 21 saves in net, partly thanks to the defense flustering the Rangers offense for the good majority of the game.

63+37=100. Marchand picked up a lone assist on this goal after returning from his five-game suspension. Shorthanded goals like that shouldn’t be allowed.

The Bruins get some rest before taking on the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden, followed by the New Jersey Devils on the road in the Prudential Center, the next day. Who doesn’t love back-to-back weekend games? As long as the Bruins keep the tempo up, they’ll be hard to play against and make teams have to fight for two points. No one is making it hard to do so in the NHL right now than the Bruins.

Former Boston Bruin Marc Savard Retires From Professional Hockey

(Photo Credit: Reuters)

By: Mike Cratty                                        Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

Yesterday, via his Twitter account (@MSavvy91), former Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard announced his retirement from professional hockey at 40-years-old.

Thanking the numerous organizations that he played for, Savard wraps up a tremendous career that was unfortunately cut short due to concussion troubles. It was really a shame that Savard’s career had to end the way it did when it did. One of the league’s premier playmakers, one of my favorite hockey players at the time, and one of my beloved Bruins ever, Marc Savard had a severe impact on the game of hockey. He brought some lethal speed, vision, and hands to the table that made him a pain to play against.

After tearing up the OHL in the mid to late 1990’s with the Oshawa Generals, Savard was drafted by the New York Rangers in the fourth-round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, 91st overall. Most fans probably recognize Savard by his jersey number, 91. Marc made his way from the Rangers to the Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, as well as the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils while he was sidelined due to concussions.

He was known for racking up the assists more than goals, most notably shown from 2005 to 2007 within two seasons, first with the Atlanta Thrashers, second with the Boston Bruins. In his final season with the Thrashers in the 2005-2006 season, Savard established what went on to be his career best season with 28 goals and 69 assists, good for 97 points in 82 games. He followed that up just a season later, now after signing a four-year/$20 million deal with the Boston Bruins. Just a point shy of his career high, Savard scored 22 goals and added 74 helpers, good for 96 points. To sum it all up, Marc Savard was pretty good at distributing the puck.

Savard’s full career statistics can be seen here: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=8574

The famous scumbag we all know and hate, Matt Cooke had a great deal to do with Marc Savard’s concussion troubles. This hit may be tough for some to watch, but this is what turned Savard’s hockey career and life in general upside down.

(Video Credit: HockeyArchive: YouTube Channel)

A dirty, malicious hit from a dirty, malicious, god-awful hockey player in Matt Cooke. A guy that truly wasn’t worthy of playing professional hockey anywhere ruined the career of one of the NHL’s great star players.

A hit from Matt Hunwick, at a point where Savard eventually came back from the aftermath of that Matt Cooke cheapshot, didn’t help things.

(Video Credit: HockeyArchive: YouTube Channel)

Not nearly as dirty of a hit as the Matt Cooke one, but not a great-looking hit either. Especially on a guy with concussion problems like Savard.

Despite not being able to suit up, Marc Savard did rightfully get his name on the Stanley Cup despite missing the majority of the Bruins Stanley Cup winning 2010-2011 season. When the 2010-2011 season was over, and the Bruins had the cup in their grasp, Marc Savard never played a professional hockey game again.

Savard’s career as a Bruin came to an end in 2015 when his contract rights were traded along with Reilly Smith to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jimmy Hayes.

Past the negatives, Savard’s love for the game can all be seen in my favorite hockey moment of all time.

(Video Credit: NHL: YouTube Channel)

Over time winner in the playoffs, doesn’t get much better than that. The pure jubilation and excitement from Savard as he taps his stick frantically onto the ice, and tosses it into the stands at TD Garden is truly unreal. Savard picks up the loose puck, or maybe, in this case, the tumbling muffin as Jack Edwards might say and snipes it past Brian Boucher, sending TD Garden into bedlam.

Marc Savard was a player that I tried to model my own game after the best I could, among others. He was truly a pleasure to watch, and his skills and accomplishments won’t be forgotten in retirement. He’ll probably with a professional team in some capacity in the near future. Thank you, Savvy for all of the great memories and fun. A true Bruins legend.

Bruins Come Off Of Bye Week With Shootout Win Over Canadiens

(Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern/ USA TODAY Sports)

By: Mike Cratty                                                         Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

Amidst the New England Patriots’ divisional round thumping of the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium last night, the Boston Bruins picked up an important divisional win over the Montreal Canadiens. Although it wasn’t a squeaky clean win, it’s an important one after some significant time off with a league-mandated bye week. There shouldn’t be bye weeks in the NHL.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Bell Centre has proven to be a tough place to play in the past, but the Bruins handled themselves well in Habs territory last night. Bell Centre just doesn’t have the same atmosphere when the Habs aren’t playing well it seems, as shown last night. Although a competitive game, it just didn’t feel like a typical Bruins-Habs game to me. The Canadiens have now lost six of their last 10 games and sit in sixth place in the Atlantic division. The worries of the Bruins possibly coming out sluggish and possibly dropping their first game after significant time off can fade.

Max Pacioretty got the scoring started in what turned out to be a back-and-forth game. That back-and-forth action ceased when David Krejci tied the game up on his seventh goal of the year late in the second period. The game was sent to a wild overtime period with no score followed by a shootout featuring clutch goals from Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk to capture the win. Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk put his name on the scoresheet in regulation as well with the first and second Bruins goals of the game respectively.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

They’re 9-0-3 in their last twelve games and have just ten losses in regulation all year. Sure they’re tied with the San Jose Sharks for the least amount of games played (41), but at the same time, their 10 losses in regulation are tied for the least in the league with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights. To sum it all up, the Bruins are in a very good spot, with room to work with. Especially in terms of the games that they have in hand on their opponents, as well as their ability to confidently roll four forward lines and three defensive pairs.

As long as they stay healthy and keep playing with the same mindset, the Bruins could continue to roll for quite some time. That mindset being just to keep things simple and find different ways to win and wear teams down. Not all teams can confidently roll the combinations that the Bruins can.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Bruins Look To Start The New Year Off Right Against The Islanders

IMG_1707.JPG (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

By Mike Cratty                                                   Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

The Bruins will finish up a three-game road trip to begin 2018 as they face the New York Islanders tonight. Previously, the road trip featured a 5-0 home win over the Ottawa Senators and a 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. Their plates will be full in their second meeting with the Islanders of the 2017-2018 season as they boast a potent, high-scoring offense. The pinnacle of their high scoring comes from their top line consisting of Anders Lee, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey. Bailey (50) and Tavares (49) have the second and fourth most points in the NHL respectively, with Anders Lee sitting at 16th in points (39) and second in goals (24). Talk about a juggernaut that will acquire a significant amount of attention to stop to any degree.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Islanders sit in fifth place in the tightly packed Metropolitan division with a record of 20-15-4 and 44 points. One interesting thing to note about the New York Islanders is their goals for and goals against per game numbers. They average 3.44 goals as a team per game, good for third in the NHL, but allow the most goals on average per game with 3.54. Interesting how that works out. Looking at the matchup in that sense, it is clear that the Bruins will need to limit their top scorers as best as they possibly can, and expose their weak goaltending. Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk, two top-four caliber defensemen for the Islanders, will be out of the lineup tonight, so getting pucks deep and pressuring their depleted defensive core should be a big priority for the Bruins tonight. Jaroslav Halak will be in the cage for the Isles, opposed by the NHL’s first star of December, Tuukka Rask. Take this in – after receiving flack due to a rough start to the year, Tuukka Rask was nearly unstoppable, finishing December with a 9-0-1 record, a 1.22 GAA, and a .955 save percentage.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Bruins need to just keep doing what they’re doing. It’s as simple as that. While their top line hasn’t been its best, the bottom-six forwards have helped carry the load. Their defensive core is slowly continuing to gain legitimacy.

I credit a lot of this to the rejuvenation of Zdeno Chara. The presence of Charlie McAvoy on his pairing has allowed him to be a little more comfortable with age it seems. Teams pay attention to and gameplan for Charlie McAvoy much more than Chara’s past defensive partners, allowing to Chara to do what he does at a higher level. With three games in hand on the Toronto Maple Leafs (23-15-2), who are tied with the Bruins (21-10-6) for second place in the Atlantic division with 48 points, a win tonight in regulation and a Toronto loss could propel the Bruins into sole possession of second place. If the Tampa Bay Lightning keep up their torrid pace and beat the Maple Leafs tonight, this could be a pretty doable task for the Bruins. Here are tonight’s projected lines for both teams:

Islanders

Forwards

Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey

Andrew Ladd – Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle

Shane Prince – Brock Nelson – Tanner Fritz

Jason Chimera – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck

Defense

Nick Leddy – Adam Pelech

Thomas Hickey – Ryan Pulock

Sebastian Aho – Scott Mayfield

Goalies

Jaroslav Halak

Thomas Greiss

Bruins

Forwards

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Ryan Spooner

Danton Heinen – Riley Nash – David Backes

Tim Schaller – Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari

Defense

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller

Goalies

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

The Bruins, 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, will look to continue to roll against the New York Islanders tonight. Tuukka Rask, coming off his 40th career shutout, will look to pick up right where he left off late in 2017 to aid in doing so.

2018 World Junior Championship Will Feature Plenty Of Bruins Prospects

(Photo Credit: Rena Laverty: Rena Laverty Photography & Design)

By Mike Cratty                                                    Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

The 2018 U20 World Junior Championship will get underway starting Monday, Dec. 26 in Buffalo, New York. Team USA won the tournament last year in dramatic fashion over team Canada in a shootout. The World Junior Championship is a great tournament every year – one that is worth gluing your eyes too as you watch some young, highly-touted players showcase their skills. The two groups in the tournament are comprised of five teams. Those groups, as well as the schedule for the whole tournament, can be found below.

Group A: USA, Canada, Denmark, Slovakia, Finland.

Group B: Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus.

Schedule: http://www.buffaloworldjuniors.com/schedule

Six Boston Bruins prospects will be in action throughout the tournament and will all be worth watching. These prospects are featured three of the 10 teams; USA with Trent Frederic, Ryan Lindgren, and Jeremy Swayman, Finland with Urho Vaakanainen and Joona Koppanen, and Sweden with Oskar Steen.

USA: Trent Frederic

The 29th overall pick in 2016, Trent Frederic is having yet another solid season at Wisconsin, this time as a sophomore assistant captain. Frederic’s 16 points in 21 games have him in second place on the Wisconsin Badgers, two points behind senior forward Ryan Wagner.

Something very noticeable about Frederic’s game is his composure and maturity on the ice. His calm, intelligent hockey mind allows him to make smart plays with smoothness in his stride, making things happen in all three zones. In his first go-around in the world juniors, Frederic will be looked to in order to help secure back-to-back tournament victories for the United States.

USA: Ryan Lindgren

At 49th overall in 2016, 20 picks after Frederic came Ryan Lindgren, who will wear an “A” on his sweater throughout the tournament, as he does at the University of Minnesota. Through the first 20 games of his sophomore season at Minnesota, Lindgren has scored two goals and added two assists. This will mark Lindgren’s second world junior tournament with team USA. Last year, he tallied an assist in seven games en route to a shiny gold medal,

Although he isn’t known to put up prolific offensive stats, Lindgren boasts a rigidly defensive game, awareness with and without the puck, and solid skating ability. The United States goaltenders have comfort in knowing Lindgren will be there to clear opponents out of their faces.

USA: Jeremy Swayman

The third Bruins prospect on Team USA is Jeremy Swayman. Drafted just this past summer, 111th overall, Swayman has already taken the role of starting goaltender at the University of Maine of Hockey East in the NCAA. A good friend of the Black N’ Gold team, Drew Johnson of the Hockey Writers, has been all over it when it comes to Jeremy Swayman. Just a glimpse of Drew’s praise for the young goaltender is given when talking about an incredible weekend Swayman put together earlier in the month.

With Jake Oettinger and Joe Woll in the goaltending mix as returners to the team, it is uncertain how much playing time Swayman will receive. Regardless, learning from fellow talented Hockey East goaltenders in Oettinger (BU) and Woll (BC). Swayman carries a 7-3-1 record with a 2.58 GAA and .927 save percentage for the Maine Black Bears heading into Christmas. It’s worth noting that Swayman holds the nation’s eighth-best save percentage, amongst goalies who have played at least 33 percent of their team’s total minutes. Pretty impressive for a freshman.

Finland: Urho Vaakanainen

The most recent of Don Sweeney’s first-round pick’s, specifically 18th overall in 2017, will return for his second World Junior Championship. Likened to that of Scott Niedermayer, Vaakanainen is an excellent skater who makes smart decisions with the puck. Spending his first season with SaiPa of the Liiga, Urho has a goal and three assists in 23 games. Like Ryan Lindgren, he’s not a defenseman who will be leaned on to produce offensively, but rather jump start chances with their skating ability and vision.

In his last go-around in the World Juniors, Urho had a goal in six games on a surprising struggling Finnish squad one year removed from taking gold in 2016 on a wheelhouse Finnish team. Finland will boast an experienced blueline this year including five first-round picks on it (Vaakanainen, Juolevi, Heiskanen, Jokiharju, Valimaki). Vaakanainen will be relied on heavily to make Finland a powerful force in the tournament again.

Finland: Joona Koppanen

Joona Koppanen is off to a weird start to his season playing for Ilves Tampere in the Liiga. Moving up a level from playing for Ilves in juniors to playing for the big club has proven to make things tougher for Joona scoring wise. Playing juniors last year, Joona tallied 23 goals, 31 assists and 54 points in just 38 games. Since being loaned from his junior team to the big club, he has yet to tally a goal but has eight assists in 24 games. The stats show that this may be an adjustment year for the young Finn, which isn’t a bad thing for his development in the long run.

Craziness aside, Joona is an intriguing late-round prospect, 135th overall in 2016, with a daunting 6-foot-5 frame. He skates well for someone of his size, uses his frame effectively and has solid offensive tools. A big guy like him playing amongst a talented Finnish team could produce more great results for Joona in his first go-around in the U20 tournament.

Sweden: Oskar Steen

Oskar Steen, drafted 165th in 2016, boasts some of the best speed and acceleration in the Bruins’ prospect core. An undersized player who can play center and wing that turned some heads at Bruins prospect development camp this summer.

Oskar is adjusting to new surroundings in his first SHL season for Färjestad BK this year. In 28 games, he has scored three goals and added two assists in a year that will be a feeling out process where he’ll have to earn his keep. Tons of points shouldn’t always be expected in those types of years. Not only does Steen show great speed and acceleration, he shows a great desire to have the puck on his stick often, as well as a pretty decent wrist shot. His speed and offensive mind will certainly help within a dynamic, highly skilled Swedish U20 team.

The World Juniors come the day after Christmas so the gifts just keep on giving. Keep an eye on some Bruins prospects playing important roles and enjoy this fantastic tournament. Happy holidays.

The Identity Of The Boston Bruins Is Starting To Show Up

(Photo Credit: Associated Press)

By Mike Cratty                             Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

As the 2017-2018 Boston Bruins continue to get healthy, they are showing us what they can do with an optimal lineup. The Bruins have won six of their last seven games, dating back to November 16 against the Los Angeles Kings. Their last loss came on November 26 against the Edmonton Oilers.

Adam McQuaid and Peter Cehlarik are still recovering from leg injuries, and Jake DeBrusk is dealing with an upper-body injury. The team is almost there after a crazy string of injuries, with some players missing multiple stretches of time.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The team isn’t blowing teams away on the score sheet, but rather they are finding different ways to win, night in and night out. That is their identity in my mind – a team that won’t always blow teams away on the score sheet but has a solid mix of different playing styles, can wear teams down, and find different ways to win. Whether Anton Khudobin or Tuukka Rask step up, or David Pastrnak buries a sweet goal on a breakaway, their newfound health and energy have been huge in allowing them to climb the Atlantic Division standings and make up ground. For a little while, it seemed like the misfortune didn’t have any plans of stopping and the Bruins would be near basement territory in the Atlantic Division. That hasn’t been the case as of late, as they sit in fourth place in the Atlantic with a 12-8-4 record and 28 points, three points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings and one point behind the Montreal Canadiens.

The misfortune that was dumped on the Bruins in the injury department prevented hockey fans from getting a glimpse at the identity a team with the potential to return to the playoffs. The season opener, a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators at home, gave us a quick, short-lived look. With guys like Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork recently returning, as well as David Backes incredibly returning ahead of schedule, this Bruins team is showing fans what many expected. A team with some new faces, some young, some old, and some legitimate Calder trophy candidates. That bunch is starting to meet expectations and wear teams down.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Part of their resurgence has come from the goaltending. When you’re a team that doesn’t score a whole lot, it’s nice to be able to rely on your goalies, and the Bruins sure have as of late. Tuukka Rask has regained some composure in the crease in three straight starts dating back to the loss last Sunday against Edmonton. In those three starts, Rask is 2-1-0 with a 1.67 GAA, .940 save percentage. The Bruins just have two thriving goalies at the moment, which is nice to see because they simply didn’t have that luxury last season. There is no controversy, Tuukka Rask is the number one goalie, but in this case, both goalies are playing very well. That doesn’t change Tuukka’s status as the number one, and he seems to be ok with split time with his buddy Dobby. Anton Khudobin will slot back in tomorrow night against Nashville.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The returns of numerous players have just helped this team gain consistent stability and begin to establish a reputation and an identity.  The lack of stability is a huge part of what led to the team’s slow start. One shining example is the fact that they held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2, arguably the best team in the NHL and definitely the best team in the East.

Whether the Bruins maintain consistency moving forward is going to be one of the main storylines.

With the lineup nearing full health (fingers crossed), here are my optimal lines for the Bruins when they regain full health (not including trades that could be made):

Forwards

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Anders Bjork

Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Danton Heinen – Ryan Spooner – David Backes

Tim Schaller – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

Matt Beleskey/Frank Vatrano

Defense

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Kevan Miller – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Paul Postma

Goalies

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

All I want for Christmas is a fully healthy Bruins lineup, and you should too. This team is showing fans what they are capable of. If this positive trend can continue consistently enough, we may not be looking at a first-round playoff exit like last season.

Three Things The Boston Bruins Have To Be Thankful For

(Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

It’s American Thanksgiving today, and things have recently begun to get better for the Boston Bruins. Last night’s 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils gave the Bruins three straight wins for the first time this season. With the win, the Bruins record sits at 9-7-4 and has them in fourth place in the Atlantic Division.

Solid rookie production

One of the main, if not the main storyline heading into the season was the presence of rookies in the Bruins lineup. Those expectations have been met. Four main guys have stood out in particular; Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, and Charlie McAvoy. These four guys make up half of the Bruins top eight scorers at this points. Heinen has 11 points, McAvoy and DeBrusk each have ten points, while Bjork has nine. The production from these guys has come in 20 games or less as well.

Staying afloat in a hectic season thus far would be really tough if the rookie presence wasn’t in this Bruins lineup. The youth movement is off to a flying start, with multiple rookies reasonably in the mix for the Calder Memorial Trophy, as there is a lot of hockey left.

Steady backup goaltending

One big problem with the Bruins last year was the insecurity of the backup goalie position. That problem seems to have resolved itself as Anton Khudobin is playing excellent. Tuukka Rask has struggled a bit to start the year on top of some concussion troubles, so Khudobin has been forced to step up a bit more than he may have expected.

Khudobin boasts an impressive start to the 2017-2018 season with a 6-0-2 record, 2.13 GAA, and .938 save percentage. His 2.13 GAA is good for third in the NHL, and his .938 save percentage is the NHL’s best.

A huge part of what a backup goaltender’s role is to provide stability and Anton Khudobin has done just that and then some.

Plenty of capable AHL depth

Due to a plethora of injured players, AHL depth has been tested for the Bruins. So far, from Providence, we’ve already seen Danton Heinen, who appears to have secured a full-time NHL role now, Rob O’Gara, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik, Sean Kuraly, Jordan Szwarz, Kenny Agostino, and Zane McIntyre. Good lord. Some have seen more times than other, and none of these guys have really had disastrous stints with the big club. These players have seen 69 games of combined NHL action through 20 regular season games for the team as a whole.

It was fair to expect heading into the 2017-2018 season that the Providence Bruins were going to be stacked, and the players previously mentioned have delivered in their various roles in their call-ups.

Trends like these will need to continue if the Bruins want to make up ground in the Atlantic division and hopefully make the playoffs for a second straight year.

A Three-Game California Road Trip Highlights The Week Ahead For The Bruins

(Photo Credit: WBUR)

By Mike Cratty                                Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

As their back-and-forth start to the 2017-2018 season continues, a three-game western conference road trip lies ahead for the Boston Bruins. With injuries still present in the lineup, the Bruins went 1-2-1 this past week facing the Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs most recently in a home-and-home series. These four games all came within six days so three days of rest before their road trip will be beneficial.

In a forward core with David Krejci, David Backes, and Ryan Spooner still out, the other big guys up front such as Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron have been forced to carry extra weight in their absences.

Getting the ball rolling has been so tough thus far as the Bruins have yet to win two games in a row through 16 games and their record currently sits at 6-6-4. This record has them sitting in sixth place in the Atlantic division with 16 points.

First up is the Anaheim Ducks in the first game of a back-to-back California series on the road trip They have a very similar start to the season as the Bruins, partly due to those injury complications. Their record currently stands at 7-6-3 and has them in sixth place in the Pacific division with 17 points. Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Fowler, Patrick Eaves, Ondrej Kase, Jared Boll, and Ryan Kesler are all currently out due to injury. That’s pretty rough. The craziness within their lineup has played a role in the Ducks losing their last five games, with the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning up next tonight.

The Bruins will look to end their current three-game losing streak with a win over the Ducks to start the road trip.

Game two of the back-to-back California series features the Los Angeles Kings, while they continue to turn heads. The Kings currently sit in first place in the Pacific Division with a three-point lead on the Vegas Golden Knights. Their +15 goal differential is second best in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bounce back seasons from Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have been big in LA’s resurgence to the top of the standings. The Kings are looking reminiscent of the well-rounded teams that won Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.

The Kings have been able to survive without Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, and Marian Gaborik for some time. Jonathan Quick is back to playing like his old self which makes a solid Kings defense look even better in front of him. Back on October 28, the Bruins took a stout Kings team to overtime. They will look to do get two points instead of one this time around.

The conclusion of the road trip will take the Bruins to San Jose to take on the Sharks. San Jose currently holds a 9-6-0 record and sits in a three-way tie for points (18) in the Pacific division with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, just one point ahead of the Anaheim Ducks. Besides the absence of Paul Martin in the lineup, the Sharks have a good bill of health right now, which has helped them win seven of their last ten games.

Facing one of the hottest teams in the league in the Sharks will not make the conclusion of what looks to be a tough road trip any easier. Clarity could be ahead if some good fortune comes the Bruins way. Consistency needs to be established sooner rather than later if they want to keep up in the divisional race as the season continues to progress.

Bruins Lineup Notes Ahead Of Round Two With The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: Adam Richins for BSJ)

By Mike Cratty                                     Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

A flurry of lineup news came to the surface ahead of the Boston Bruins first-ever home game with the Las Vegas Golden Knights tonight. The Bruins had an optional pregame skate this morning. Plenty of lineup shuffling has taken place in an eventful season up to this point.

It’s almost hard to believe that something like that could happen to a team so early, but unfortunately, it has, and the Bruins have had to adjust big-time.

Frank Vatrano sits, Matt Beleskey suits up

To start, it appears that Frank Vatrano will be a healthy scratch tonight. This isn’t shocking because Vatrano has yet to tally a point in nine games. Matt Beleskey will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past three games. Some physical presence from Matt Beleskey in David Backes’ absence could be beneficial against a Vegas Golden Knights team that has turned some heads. Beleskey, like Vatrano, has yet to tally a point this season, but in six games in Beleskey’s case.

Anton Khudobin and David Krejci still out

Anton Khudobin and David Krejci were not on the ice today. Zane McIntyre will suit up tonight in Khudobin’s absence. Khudobin is still dealing with a lower-body injury, while Krejci is still dealing with back issues. McIntyre served as the backup in Columbus and has yet to see NHL action this season. Following Monday’s game against Columbus, McIntyre was sent back down to Providence but then brought back up yesterday due to Anton Khudobin’s current status.

David Backes to IR, Austin Czarnik, and Jordan Szwarz called up

David Backes, on the other hand, was placed on IR earlier today. News broke yesterday that David Backes will miss approximately the next eight weeks due to colon surgery. That’s not what a guy who has already lost time due to diverticulitis wants to see. Jordan Szwarz was also called up as to help lessen the blow yesterday, followed by Austin Czarnik earlier today. Szwarz will play tonight, while Czarnik is a game-time decision.

Czarnik played in 49 games with the Bruins last year and has played in two so far this season. The speedy 24-year-old forward is off to a productive start with the Providence Bruins despite having no points in two games with the Bruins this year. Czarnik is averaging two points-per-game in Providence with four goals and six assists in five games.

Jordan Szwarz set for his Bruins debut

Tonight will be a special night for Jordan Szwarz, as it will be his Boston Bruins debut. Szwarz was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes with the 97th overall pick in the fourth-round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. It has been a rocky career so far for Jordan Szwarz spending the majority of it in the AHL with the Portland Pirates, Springfield Falcons, and most recently the Providence Bruins. Szwarz hasn’t seen NHL action since playing nine games with the Arizona Coyotes in the 2014-2015 season.

In his first season as a Providence Bruin last year, Szwarz earned an “A” on his chest and put up an impressive 22-32-54 stat line in 65 regular season games. All were career highs in his pro career so far. He added to an impressive regular season with six goals, five assist and 11 points in 17 games in the trek to the Eastern Conference Finals for the Providence Bruins, where they, unfortunately, fell to the Syracuse Crunch in five games.

Through six games of the 2017-2018 campaign, Szwarz has five goals, three assists, and eight points in the AHL for the 6-2-0 Providence Bruins.

What the Bruins lineup will look like isn’t a sure thing yet. There will be shuffling in the forward core for sure due to the decimation of a Bruins forward core due to injury. Round one against the Vegas Golden Knights was a tough one to swallow so the Bruins will look for revenge at TD Garden with a different looking lineup.