Bruins Backes, Wagner Likely To Sit Out Game Seven

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues

(Photo credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

Boston Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy indicated on Monday that the lineup for Wednesday’s series-deciding seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals will probably look just like the one that took the ice for Sunday’s 5-1 victory, with one possible exception that seemed even less likely as the week progressed. If those plans hold up, that means former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes will once again watch the game from the TD Garden press box.

Backes has been in and out of the lineup throughout the playoffs. He was a healthy scratch for game five when Cassidy opted to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in an effort to boost the strength of a banged-up blue line. Backes also was scratched for game six in favor of the speedier Karson Kuhlman.

The decision to insert Kuhlman in the second line left wing slot that Backes had been occupying paid off for Cassidy, with Kuhlman scoring a goal and helping the second line put forth a solid effort in the win. As a result, it makes sense for the coach to stick with Kuhlman for the final game. For his part, Backes seems to be glad to play whatever role he is assigned in the team’s quest for the Cup.

Chris Wagner is another season-long contributor who likely will not dress for Wednesday’s game. Wagner, who suffered an arm injury when he blocked a shot in the third game of Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, somewhat surprisingly participated in practice leading up to Sunday’s game six. Wagner was a full participant in Tuesday’s final practice of the season, as well. However, Cassidy’s plans for game seven do not include inserting Wagner back into the mix, even if he is healthy enough to play.

With fourth liners Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari racking up first line-type minutes and contributing on the score sheet throughout the series, it would be difficult for Cassidy to justify sitting any of them in game seven to make room for Wagner. So, it appears as if the Walpole native will be joining Backes on the ninth floor cheering on his teammates on Wednesday.

That brings us to the player Cassidy dubbed “the wild card” when discussing his lineup for game seven: Matt Grzelcyk. Charlestown’s Grzelcyk was placed in concussion protocol following a hit that forced him out of game two.

Although Grzelcyk has returned to practicing with the team and with the Black Aces, most of that time, he has been donning a red non-contact jersey. Before the game on Sunday, it was announced that he had still not cleared concussion protocol, meaning he could not play in game six. Grzelcyk was still in the non-contact jersey for Tuesday’s practice, making any potential return to game action even less likely.

Even if Grzelcyk is cleared for game seven, Cassidy said there was no guarantee he would play. John Moore has been filling in during Grzelcyk’s absence, and either Moore or Connor Clifton would probably be relegated to a healthy scratch if Grzelcyk does play.

Here is the expected lineup for game seven, based on the lines at Tuesday’s practice.

 

From Peaky Blinders to Soccer-Tennis: Bruins’ Team Chemistry Shines Through

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

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

Bruins fans have been pretty spoiled this year. In addition to NESN’s long-running “Behind the B” series, which offers a more candid look at the team, the NHL produced a program leading up to the Bruins/Blackhawks New Year’s Day Winter Classic game at Notre Dame Stadium, and the Bruins have been featured in numerous special series and segments throughout the team’s long playoff run.

One thing that has been obvious from the abundance of behind-the-scenes footage made available this season is that this particular Bruins’ team has strong chemistry – both on and off the ice. Comprised of a core of veterans who have battled alongside each other for years and a group of future stars who grew up together, if you will, in development camps, the AHL and now on the NHL-level, the team as a whole seems to have found the secret to coming together as one cohesive unit.

This chemistry has also been quickly recognized and adopted by newer players like Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johanssen, who were acquired near the trade deadline, and 2018 free-agent signings Chris Wagner, John Moore, Joakim Nordstrom and Jaroslav Halak.

In fact, Wagner played a key role in the team-unifying phenomenon that seems to have started it all. On Nov. 1, 2018, Wagner posted a Halloween-themed photo on Instagram that featured him, six of his teammates and Torey Krug’s wife dressed up in the style made popular by the television show Peaky Blinders.

Two months later, the entire team donned Peaky Blinders garb to make a decided fashion statement as they entered the stadium for the Winter Classic. The look was so popular, a “Peaky Bruins” poster was created and handed out to fans at a game at TD Garden later in the season.

A poll conducted on Twitter indicated that many Bruins fans agreed that the Peaky Bruins was their favorite display of the team’s chemistry so far this season.

Of course, good chemistry on any team comes from good leadership. Captain Zdeno Chara has long-preached an everyone is equal attitude, from the most seasoned veteran to the greenest rookie. Chara also calls on each member of the team to support the others, and he leads by example.

The 42-year-old captain has demonstrated his team-first mentality several times throughout the season. The most memorable examples came in the clinching game four of the Eastern Conference Finals, when the injured Chara put on his uniform and came onto the ice to celebrate with his team, as well as when he sat on the bench in a full-face shield in the third period of game four of the Stanley Cup Finals Monday to support the team after being knocked out of the game. His teammates certainly took notice.

After Wagner left game-three of the ECF with an apparent arm injury, he returned to Boston for medical tests while the rest of the team remained in Carolina for what turned out to be the series-clinching game. Still, the team made sure to include Wagner in the post-game locker room celebration.

And, that brings us to soccer-tennis. Lots of hockey players warm up before the games with spirited games of “no-touch.” However, this Bruins team apparently has upped its game to a hybrid sport that can be played in the locker room, the weight room, or just about anywhere.

The long list of unique moments from the 2018-2019 version of the Boston Bruins also included the legend of “the fishbowl.” The full-face shield seemed to give both Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari a scoring touch when injuries forced them to wear it. In Kuraly’s case, teammates teased him about the powers of the plexiglass. The tables were turned when Steven Kampfer, who had made fun of Kuraly’s choice of protective gear, suffered a mouth injury in the next game that left him wearing the same shield.

Of course, the ultimate team-bonding moment will occur if the Bruins win this series and hoist the Stanley Cup. However, win or lose, this team promises to hold a special place in fans’ hearts for years to come.

Three Hometown Heroes Looking To Etch Permanent Place In Bruins History

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins

Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

By Carrie Salls | Look for me on Twitter @nittgrl73

If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year, Matt Grzelcyk, Chris Wagner and Charlie Coyle will be the first Massachusetts-born Bruins to have their names inscribed on the coveted hardware since Myles Lane did so in 1929.

Regardless of the outcome of this year’s Cup quest, the three current hometown heroes appear to have already cemented their spots in Boston sports lore. Charlestown, Mass.-native Grzelcyk has been a Bruin the longest of the three, having been drafted by Boston. Wagner, dubbed by teammates as “the Mayor of Walpole,” was signed by the Bruins as a free agent in the summer of 2018, and E. Weymouth’s Coyle was acquired just before the trade deadline in February in a deal that sent Bruins prospect, and another Boston native, Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild.

During the regular season, Wagner thrilled fans with his hard-nosed, tough play on a fourth-line that has come up big for the Bs time and again throughout the 2018-2019 campaign. He was rewarded for his efforts when the fans voted him as the recipient of the 7th Player Award at the end of the season.

Wagner was forced to leave game-three of the Eastern Conference Finals after suffering an apparent arm injury on a pivotal shot-block. He has yet to appear in a Cup finals game. His spot has been occupied by Noel Acciari, a native of Johnston, R.I.

During Wednesday’s game, Grzelcyk was hit from behind when retrieving a puck, sending his head into the boards, and he had to be helped off the ice by teammates. Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed Thursday that Grzelcyk has been placed in concussion protocol and is officially listed as day-to-day.

Grzelcyk has been lauded by fans and the coaching staff for his toughness and strong performance throughout the playoff run. His best game was highlighted by two goals scored in a Mother’s Day matinee during the ECF.

Coyle has made his presence known on the ice since the playoffs began, as well. His primary contribution has come with healthy points production throughout the post-season.

Although more National Hockey League players still hale from Canada than any other country on the planet, statistics provided by quanthockey.com show that America is closing the nationality gap long-dominated by its neighbor to the north. A total of 435 active players on NHL rosters are Canadian, according to those statistics, followed by 286 Americans.

The Boston Bruins’ current roster is no exception to that trend, as 14 active players are Americans. In fact, only four members of the current Bruins squad are Canadian-born.

In addition, five members of the so-called “Black Aces,” a small group of prospects and players who spent the majority of the season playing for the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence and have been practicing with the NHL club during the deep playoff run, also were born in the United States. Among the Black Aces, Paul Carey, Trent Frederic, Lee Stempniak, Kyle Keyser, and Zane McIntyre were born in the United States.

In addition to Grzelcyk, Wagner, Coyle, and Acciari, U.S.-born Bruins who have appeared in 2019 playoff games include David Backes, Karson Kuhlman, Sean Kuraly, Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton, Steven Kampfer, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and John Moore. Injured defenseman Kevan Miller, who played college hockey at the University of Vermont, is also American.

Miller and Acciari are not the only current Bruins to have played college hockey in New England. Coyle, Grzelcyk, and McAvoy all attended Boston University. Bruins assistant coaches Jay Pandolfo, and Joe Sacco also played at BU.

Distance, Job Loss Won’t Keep Boston Fan From Cup Finals

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By Carrie Salls | Check me out on Twitter @nittgrl73

Earlier this season, Boston Bruins fan Leanne Baker said she wanted to attend the Stanley Cup Finals if Boston indeed made it to hockey’s holy grail. On Thursday, May 16th, 2019, Boston punched its ticket to the final round of the playoffs.

Kent, England-native Baker said her final decision to fly from London Heathrow Airport to Boston was cemented after the team defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Now, Baker is in Boston to attend games one and two at TD Garden.

Finding tickets to the games proved to be one of the easier parts of Baker’s plan.

“I know a few people who I connect with via social media, one lady was a season ticket holder and her friend who is a season ticket holder had tickets to sell, she knew I was coming over from the U.K., and I was asked if I wanted them!” Baker said.

Baker’s road to accomplish her goal was not without its difficulties, however. She said in an interview conducted via Twitter that the small business for which she was working in administration did not like her somewhat sudden schedule change.

“Work had an issue because it was short notice, there wasn’t a problem with it being short-staffed, but they got funny about it,” Baker said.

Baker did not let job loss stand in her way. On Saturday, she embarked on the seven-and-a-half-hour flight, announcing on Twitter that she’d arrived safely at her destination Saturday evening.

Baker first started following the Bruins during the 2014-2015 season. She first got started following the NHL in general.

“Hockey isn’t a massive sport over in the U.K., but it really is a great sport,” Baker said.

Choosing a favorite team did not prove all that difficult for the 23-year-old, as Baker was already a New England Patriots fan before she started following hockey.

“I started watching some Bruins games and everything about them was great,” Baker said. “The way they played, their determination and grit, their character, and the fact that the team has no quit in them is great.”

Baker, who made a previous trip to watch the team play in-person during the 2017-2018 season, named David Pastrnak as her favorite Bruins player.

Even at home, Baker said she often needs to make sacrifices to watch Bruins games.

“I will sometimes catch the games being played at 1 a.m. BST. By the time I go to bed, it’s 4 a.m., and then I was up at 6 a.m. for work,” Baker said. “During the playoffs, I haven’t missed a game no matter what the time, even if it means only having a few hours sleep.”

Since her arrival in the United States, Baker’s Twitter feed has looked much like those of so many Bruins fans who have been not-so-patiently waiting for the final series to begin on Monday night.

We’re all right there with you, Leanne!

Kuraly Plays Key Role in Bruins’ Success

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By: Carrie Salls | Check me out on Twitter @nittgrl73

Sean Kuraly did not score in the Bruins’ 4-0 Eastern Conference Championship-clinching game on Thursday. In fact, he recorded just one shot.

Although the fourth-line center did lead all Boston centers in the game with 18:16 of time on ice, only four fewer seconds than top TOI forward Brad Marchand, one of Kuraly’s biggest contributions to Thursday night’s win may have actually come from his play in the first few games of the series against the Carolina Hurricanes, namely game three.

According to a Tweet from Brian Messenger of NBC 10 Boston, Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff used the play of Kuraly and the other fourth liners as a teaching tool for the team’s first line, frequently dubbed “The Perfection Line.”

The results of that coaching move were evident, as the first line returned to dominant form in the series clincher.

It’s not particularly surprising that Cassidy turned to the game tapes highlighting Kuraly and his linemates to provide some inspiration to first-line stars Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and David Pastrnak. The coach has long sung the praises of the ability of 26-year-old Dublin, Ohio, native Kuraly’s speed and his ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone and maintain possession.

Cassidy has also turned to Kuraly’s line on numerous occasions to start games, relying on the line’s high-energy, physical nature.

Throughout what is to date the Bruins’ most successful campaign since 2013, Kuraly’s teammates have recognized his skill and importance to the team, as well.

Of course, Kuraly is no stranger to the playoffs and big-game success. Most Bruins fans got their first real look at just what the former Miami University captain can do in high-stakes games when he burst onto the scene to score the game-tying goal and game-winner in the second overtime period of the first-round playoff game against the Ottawa Senators in April 2017.

Kuraly’s playoff success continued with four points in the 2017-2018 postseason, which ended when the Bruins lost in the division finals round to the Tampa Bay Lightning. So far in the team’s 2018-2019 playoff run, Kuraly has amassed five points, including two goals and three assists, despite the fact that he missed the first four games of the Toronto series while recovering from a broken hand suffered blocking a shot late in the regular season.

Some of number 52’s big-game magic was evident during the regular season this year too, highlighted by the game-winning goal scored against the Buffalo Sabres in the final game in 2018, the eventual game-winner scored in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks and a memorable three-point night against the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Jan. 12.

After coming back from the hand injury, it didn’t take long for Kuraly’s big-game presence to be felt in Game 7 against the Leafs, as he scored a crucial goal that gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead and seemed to turn the tide of momentum solidly in Boston’s favor.

In just his second full season as a Boston Bruin and still in the first year of a three-year contract signed in July 2018, Kuraly’s teammates and coaches, and Bruins fans, certainly have reason to be excited about Sean Kuraly’s non-stop energy and big-game prowess.