The Week Ahead: Bruins Go West

Boston Bruins v Florida Panthers

photo credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

By: Mandi Mahoney | Check me out on Twitter @phonymahoney

The last week was an eventful one for the Bruins, which included three wins (DAL, TOR, and VGK), a loss (VAN), some line shuffling, a leave of absence, and the fabled two home games on consecutive days. It was a crazy home stretch on Causeway Street.

There are three games this week. Hopefully, the Bruins are able to gain some more of the momentum they built with consecutive wins against Toronto and Vegas this weekend.

Defenseman Brandon Carlo will not return to the lineup Wednesday. Kevan Miller may be back by the end of the road trip. Tuukka Rask has rejoined the team after a quick personal leave. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is doing well centering the third line, and David Backes appears to be a decent fourth line right wing these days. Jakub Zboril has been called up from Providence. This just might be a fun trip for the Bruins.

 

Wednesday, November 14th: @ Colorado

The Colorado Avalanche have a record of 8-6-3 and are sitting in fifth place in the NHL’s strong Central Division. People are saying their top line, consisting of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen, is the best line in hockey, but those people would be wrong. They’re close, though: the three have combined for 69 points (nice) in 17 games, their other 9 forwards have combined for a total of 53 points. They’re a little top heavy, but they’re having an easier time with secondary scoring than the Bruins have been.

The Avs’ power play is seventh in the NHL, converting at 25.4%. Their top line of Landeskog, Rantanen, and MacKinnon has combined for 17 points on the man advantage. If the Bruins can neutralize this trio and puck moving defenseman Tyson Barrie, the Avs are not going to have a good night. The same can be said for the effect the Avalanche shutting down the actual best line in hockey would have on the Bruins, though. This is a game that can go either way, though the Avalanche should probably be forced to forfeit for thinking they had the right to retire Ray Bourque’s number.

BONUS FOOTAGE:

Old buddy Carl The Dread Pirate” Soderberg one times a beauty of a game-winner home to beat Edmonton Monday night The Quebec Nordiques Colorado Avalanche are 3-2-1 at home this season.

Friday, November 16th: @ Dallas Stars

On November 5th, the Bruins beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 in overtime when Brad Marchand beat old friend Anton Khudobin for the game-winner.  It was a relief as it has seemed like the Bruins have had a little trouble with Dallas since a player whose name shall not be spoken was sent to Dallas for pennies on the dollar. Quarters on the dollar, maybe? Perhaps a quarter, two dimes, and a nickel? Whatever that trade and its return added up to, it ruined a lot of people’s July 4th in 2013 – so much for celebrating America’s 237th birthday.

Anyway, Dallas lost its last game, 2-1 in Columbus. Their leading scorers are (you guessed it) Tyler Seguin with 17 points, Jamie Benn with 13, Swedish puck mover John Klingberg with 13, and Alexander Radulov with 12. Radulov is leading the way in Corsi, at 56.7% CF. Their goaltending duo is not as bad as expected as Bishop and Khudobin are having a decent start to the season – not telling how long either of those guys will hold up, though.

The Stars’ power play is 12th in the league at 22.4%, and they have killed 80.7% of their penalties, good for 17th in the NHL (Bruins are 18th at 80.3%). Dallas is currently holding fourth place in the Central Division, just ahead of Colorado with 20 points. The Bruins currently are at 22 points. This is likely to be another close one, as Dallas seems to rise to the occasion whenever they play the Bruins.

Saturday, November 17: @ Arizona

The three best things about the Arizona Coyotes are, in this order: Peyote Coyote, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Clayton Keller. That said, they’ve had a better start than expected this season, and are holding onto fifth in the Pacific Division with 17 points. It’s a tight race out West, as the division-leading Vancouver Canucks are only five points ahead, with 22.

The best thing happening in the Arizona hockey world:

The Coyotes’ scoring leader is Boston University alum and top ten pick Clayton Keller, who has scored five goals and assisted on 7, totaling 12 points so far this season. Second on the list is their best player, Swedish defenseman Ekman-Larsson with 2-9-11 totals. In the offseason, the Coyotes traded Max Domi for Montreal pariah Alex Galchenyuk, who has managed to score 8 points in 9 games with the Coyotes.

Fashionable Finnish goalie Antti Raanta has been solid in net, with a save percentage of .929, and surprisingly enough, the Coyotes have allowed the second fewest goals in the NHL, with 39. Nashville has been the stingiest, allowing only 36. On that note, Arizona’s penalty kill is tops – they are killing a ridiculous 91.8% of their penalties. No other is within 4% of them at the moment. Their power play cannot hold a candle to the Bruins’, and they’re at 19%/18th in the NHL, while the Bruins’ have been unstoppable on the man advantage at 30%, good for third in the league.

An important question for the Bruins in this game is going to be whether their secondary scoring can contribute, as Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak have been doing a ton of their damage on the power play. If the third line of Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Anders Bjork can keep coming up with the golden opportunities they’ve created for themselves during the last couple of games, the floodgates are going to open one of these days.

If you’re going to be in the Colorado, Dallas, or Arizona areas, check out SeatGiant.com and use discount code BNGP to save a little money! Click the appropriate links below to get the best seats available!

Colorado Area:   Boston Bruins vs. Colorado Avalanche 11-14-18 Pepsi Center Denver

Texas Area: Boston Bruins vs, Dallas Stars 11-16-18 American Airlines Center Dallas

Arizona Area: Boston Bruins vs. Arizona Coyotes 11-17-18 Gila River Arena Glendale

Bruins Recall Lauzon From The AHL On Emergency Basis

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photo credit: providencebruins.com

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Follow Me On Twitter @phoneymahoney

This morning, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced that the team has recalled 21-year-old defenseman Jeremy Lauzon up from their AHL affiliate in Providence on an emergency basis, as blueliner Brandon Carlo is questionable for tonight’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Lauzon, a left-shot defenseman, was chosen by the Bruins in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, he was skating in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He played there for a total of four seasons and captained them in 2016-17. In 200 games in the Q, Lauzon totaled 130 points, with 35 goals and 95 assists. The 2017-18 season was his first in the AHL, where he played 52 games and served as an alternate captain for Providence. In those 52 games, he notched seven points, having scored one goal and assisting on six others.

The 6’3″ defenseman has the ability to play a two-way game and is currently at 4 points (one goal, three assists) in 8 AHL games this season, and he scored a goal against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in a 5-4 overtime loss. Lauzon was called up earlier in the season, making his NHL debut on October 25th against the Philadelphia Flyers. In his four games, Lauzon played well but was sent back down to Providence once Matt Grzelcyk and Torey Krug were both ready to go back in the Bruins’ lineup.

During his previous call-up, Jeremy Lauzon played four games for the Bruins: one win each over Philadelphia and Carolina, and a loss against both Montreal and Nashville. He played well positionally but was not able to get on the scoreboard while playing 48 minutes across four NHL games. He took two shots, both of which were blocked, but he blocked one himself. Lauzon also had zero giveaways, and two takeaways in those four outings. It’s a small sample size, but these are not bad numbers for a rookie defenseman in his first call-up from the minor leagues to the big show.

It is not guaranteed that Lauzon will be in the Bruins’ lineup against Vegas tonight, as Brandon Carlo may or may not be ready to go. Since Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller, and Urho Vaakanainen are all still injured, if Carlo cannot go tonight, it is possible that Matt Gzelcyk will be moving up to play alongside captain Zdeno Chara on the Bruins top pair, as the two played well together Saturday night against the Maple Leafs. If this is indeed the case, expect Lauzon to play on the third pair with usual seventh defenseman Steve Kampfer. This will leave the second pairing of Torey Krug and John Moore intact.

If Carlo’s injury is not long-term, and it doesn’t like it will be, Lauzon’s call-up probably won’t be very long. Charlie McAvoy has already resumed skating, and Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy says third pair defenseman Kevan Miller may be back in the lineup by the end of the Bruins’ upcoming road trip, which begins in Colorado this Wednesday, and will end November 21 in Detroit.

 

Bruins Game 16 Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Mandi Mahoney | Follow Me On Twitter: @phonymahoney

At 7:00PM, the Boston Bruins will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time since defeating them in seven games during the first round of last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 25. The 11-5-0 Maple Leafs are second in the Atlantic Division with 22 points, behind only Tampa Bay.

The Leafs have scored 58 goals this season, again, second only to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their goal differential is +16, good for third in the NHL, behind (you guessed it), Tampa Bay and Nashville. The Leafs’ special teams are very effective this season; their power play is fifth in the league at 27.3%, and their penalty kill is fourth, at 84.8%. Toronto will be playing on consecutive games, as they beat New Jersey 6-1 at home Friday night.

The Bruins are 8-5-2 with 18 points so far this season and are tied with Buffalo for fourth in the Atlantic Division. Thursday, they lost 8-5 to the Vancouver Canucks in an absolute gong show of a game.  Boston’s power play is third in the NHL, converting at 30.6%, and their penalty kill is less impressive, at 21st in the NHL, or 77%. The Bruins will be looking to make up for lost points tonight, and Toronto will be hoping to rack up more points in hopes of staying near the top of the Atlantic Division, as it will pay off come playoff time.

Who’s Hot?

The second line left wing Jake DeBrusk had been having trouble lighting the lamp this season, but he scored two power-play goals and assisted on another against the Canucks on Thursday. He now is at five goals so far this season. DeBrusk’s center, David Krejci, also notched three assists Thursday night. Hopefully, the two can gain some confidence after getting back some of the scoring they’ve been struggling to find this season.

Toronto defenseman Ron Hainsey, who is a bit long in the tooth at 37 years old, hasn’t been playing very well this year, but he tallied two goals and two assists last night against the New Jersey Devils in what might possibly be the Leafs’ strongest game this season. Center Nazem Kadri scored a goal and an assist last night, and Connor Brown scored a goal and played a great defensive game on Thursday.

Who’s Not?

The Bruins’ bottom six has been, for lack of better adjectives, ugly and disjointed this season. There is very little chemistry between Danton Heinen, David Backes, and Anders Bjork. Maybe it’s due to Backes’ injury issues, maybe it’s because playing the three of them on one line is like choosing one of each player type on Nintendo’s Ice Hockey. Maybe one of them drank Jobu’s rum. Whatever it is, they cannot get into a grove, but they have seemed to be able to get into quite a funk.

As for the Leafs, Frederic Gauthier and Nikita Zaitsev haven’t had a good start to the season, and have been looking invisible for the most part. Toronto’s lineup is pretty strong, though so this may not have too much of a bearing on the game.

Bruins vs. Leafs Outlook

Tuukka Rask has been granted a leave of absence by the Bruins, and Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Miller are still out with injuries. Daniel Vladar has been called up from the Providence Bruins to play backup to Jaroslav Halak, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to presumably center the third line. The Bruins bottom six will likely look a little wacky as a result, as it is believed that David Backes will play right wing on the fourth line, and the third will consist of Heinen, JFK, and Noel Acciari.

The Leafs are pretty hot at this point in the season, even without dynamic center Auston Matthews. It helps to have a world class player like John Tavares centering their second line. Despite the new look to the third and fourth lines, wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect the Leafs’ offense to take full advantage of the Bruins’ troubled bottom six. The Leafs definitely have something to prove after last spring, so they should be very engaged at the Garden tonight.

 

Bruins Recall Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson From AHL

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photo credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Follow Me On Twitter @phoneymahoney

This morning, Bruins GM Don Sweeney announced that the team has recalled Swedish center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson from Providence.

Chosen 45th overall in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Boston University alum is currently in his second full professional season, after making his debut with the Bruins in April 2017. JFK is a two-way center and has scored four points in nine games with the P-Bruins this season, after notching 32 points in 58 games in his first year in the AHL, while struggling with injuries. Today marks his first call-up to Boston since his NHL debut.

This is an interesting recall, as JFK was thought to be one of two players — the other being 2016 first round pick Trent Frederic — competing for third line center on the Bruins’ NHL roster this season. Despite having obvious NHL potential, neither Forsbacka-Karlsson nor Frederic could make a compelling case for themselves in training camp or during the preseason, and both were cut from the Bruins’ NHL roster before the regular season began. JFK has since slipped down the Bruins depth chart.

As it is currently assembled, the Bruins’ third line consists of Danton Heinen, David Backes, and Anders Bjork. The bottom six has been a continual problem this season, as the team has been lacking depth scoring altogether, and the third line has been a turnover machine for the most part. This is a great chance for Forsbacka-Karlsson to take advantage of the opportunity that has been afforded to him.

It is a very lofty comparison, but Forsbacka Karlsson is often noted to possess a skill set similar to that of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. JFK enjoyed two successful seasons at BU, scoring 63 points in 78 games and playing on the power play and penalty kill as the Terriers’ top center. Should Cassidy give him the nod tomorrow night against the Maple Leafs, it is possible that JFK could earn a roster spot in the Bruins’ bottom six by being engaged during every shift, making the intelligent plays he’s known for, and keeping up his usual defensive awareness. He has endured more than his share of injuries and rough stretches since signing with the Bruins, but JFK definitely still possesses NHL potential.

Another likely possibility is that Don Sweeney wants to address the Bruins’ bottom six by bringing new blood in via trade. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson would likely not be a centerpiece in a deal, but he’s a very nice piece to get back, as two-way forwards are coveted in today’s NHL, especially those who are a little more offensively gifted. It wouldn’t be crazy to think that he is being called up specifically to show potential NHL suitors what he brings to the table.

One would think if the Bruins were planning to use a center from Providence to insert into their lineup and improve the bottom six, they would have called up Colby Cave or Cameron Hughes. Since they chose one who has struggled to prove he belongs in the Boston lineup, it isn’t unreasonable to believe it’s because the Bruins wouldn’t be opposed to parting with him if the right deal came along.

The Week Ahead: Bruins Face Old Friends (And Foes)

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photo credit: Greg M. Cooper / USA Today Sports

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Follow Me On Twitter @phoneymahoney

After last week’s win over Carolina and frustrating loss to Nashville, the 7-4-2 Bruins are in a three-way tie for third in the Atlantic Division with 16 points, along with Montreal and Buffalo. The Black and Gold beat the Hurricanes 3-2 without much trouble, but could not muster up any kind of offense against Pekka Rinne and company in Nashville, losing 1-0. Jaroslav Halak kept them in the game with another lights-out performance, but the lack of depth scoring continues to dog the Bruins. This team has everyone wondering exactly what to expect night in and night out.

Halak has started the last two games for the Bruins. Torey Krug and David Backes returned from injured reserve this week, but the Bruins are still without Kevan Miller, Matt Grzelcyk, and Charlie McAvoy for the time being, with no return dates in sight. It should be a fun home stretch.

Now, for the upcoming week…

November 5, Dallas Stars:

This is the game nobody wants to talk about, and for a good reason. Just over five years ago, Peter Chiarelli made what will go down in history as one of the worst trades the Bruins ever made. Jim Nill and the Dallas Stars have the Bruins to thank for the nicely matured goal-scoring center that is Tyler Seguin, and the Bruins have… well, they have nothing, and the fan base may never get over it (to be fair, the author of this post is still mad about trading Joe Juneau for Al Iafrate).

Let’s move on to the issue at hand – tonight’s game.

The Dallas Stars are fifth in the Central Division with 16 points and record of 8-5-0 and are coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Capitals in Washington. The Stars have won their last six games, and have played against some decent teams in that stretch: Los Angeles, Anaheim, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, and Washington.

Tyler Seguin, of course, is the Stars’ leading scorer, with 3 goals and 11 assists for 14 points, and defenseman John Klingberg is second, with 5-7-12 totals. Look for Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov to be difference makers in this one, too. The Stars’ power play is 12th in the league, converting at 23.7%, and they are killing 85% of their penalties, good for sixth in the league. The Bruins haven’t had great success against the Stars since sending Seguin packing so anything can happen in this game.

November 8, Vancouver Canucks:

The last time the Bruins played the Canucks, they posted a 2-1 overtime loss in Vancouver, thanks to a Bo Horvat OT winner. Vancouver is currently second in the Pacific Division with a record of 9-6-0, good for 18 points., and they’ve won their last three games.

As for special teams, the Canucks’ power play is 16th in the NHL, at 20.4%, and their penalty kill is ninth, at 82.%, according to NHL.com. Vancouver is only averaging 26.9 shots per game, but are, on average, allowing over 32. Lanky Swedish center Elias Pettersson is leading the way for the Canucks, with 9-6-15 scoring totals. Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat also pose as threats to the Bruins, and both are tied for second on the Canucks in scoring, with 11 points.

November 10, Toronto Maple Leafs:

The winners of the John Tavares Sweepstakes™ will be in town this Saturday to take on the Bruins. The Leafs are 9-5-0, and phenom Auston Matthews is out with a shoulder injury that will likely sideline him for another three weeks. If center John Tavares doesn’t score a billion points while Matthews is out, we can all expect a meltdown of biblical proportions in Toronto and a center controversy.

The Leafs are second in the division with 18 points. Mitch Marner and defenseman Morgan Rielly are leading the pack in scoring, with 18 points apiece, while Matthews and Tavares each have notched 16. This team has a ton of firepower, and the Bruins should watch out for the classic Leafs stretch pass. The Bruins will also need to stay out of the box, as Toronto’s power-play is fourth in the league, converting at 30/8%. Their penalty kill is almost as impressive at 82.5%, or eighth in the league. This should be a fun night if the Bruins’ defense can stand up to the offensive onslaught that is the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Do the Bruins need to make a trade?

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photo credit: NHL.com

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Follow Me On Twitter @phoneymahoney

Bruins fans have been clamoring for Boston brass to make a trade. Some think a defenseman is needed, some think a second line wing will do the trick, and others think a third line center will cure what ails the Bruins. The Black and Gold opened the season up with a 7-0 loss to the defending Cup champs and have looked inconsistent since. Are the Bruins really in need of a roster shake up, though?

It had seemed to most people that the Bruins were planning to pick up a scoring wing during the offseason, but that didn’t pan out. At this point, the only Bruins forwards with more than three points in the first dozen games are Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and David Krejci – surprise, surprise. By the looks of things, the Bruins may have been expecting either Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson or Trent Frederic to skate in the third line center position. By the end of the preseason, neither player had made a convincing — never mind compelling — argument that he should center the third line. This forced the Bruins to try Sean Kuraly, David Backes, and others as their third line pivot. Kuraly has mostly looked out of place on the third line. Backes is getting old and isn’t very durable, so he’s not really ideal to play center.

Since then, we’ve seen a couple of players who have played all over the lineup in Danton Heinen and Joakim Nordstrom. To a lesser extent, Anders Bjork has also slotted into multiple roster spots, as well. Out of the three, Bjork has the most top six potential, but he hasn’t been getting much ice time, averaging 11:34 per game. Only Noel Acciari and Urho Vaakanainen are averaging less.  Nordstrom is seemingly the best player to fill in at the moment, as he hasn’t been a liability in any position he’s played. Heinen is one of the Bruins’ few “Swiss Army Knife” utility-type players, and while the second line’s advanced stats were good when he played with Krejci and DeBrusk, Cassidy has been more eager to play him in a third line role.

Once Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller return to action, the Bruins may have decisions to make as far as the defense goes, as they’re bordering on being overstocked. Matt Grzelcyk has been their second highest scoring defenseman, behind only McAvoy, and he has been reliable defensively. Aside from a few rough shifts, Brandon Carlo is beginning to look like a very good NHL defenseman. Jeremy Lauzon will likely be sent back down to Providence soon enough, but his first stint on the big Bruins has been impressive, as he’s been positionally sound and hasn’t made any scary mistakes.

Another potential third liner, Ryan Donato, was assigned to Providence earlier today. The rotating cast on the line has looked sloppy in general, but part of that is presumably because they haven’t been able to build much chemistry. The Bruins bottom six hasn’t had a consistent composition at all this season. Taking all of that into consideration, it sounds like the third line and depth scoring need to be addressed. However, it has only been twelve games, and things really aren’t so bad.

The Bruins are tied with five other teams for fourth in the league with 16 points. Their power play is also fourth, converting at 29.7%. The penalty kill could use some help as it has only killed 76.3% of the Bruins’ penalties, but when you’re winning and your power play is as good as the Bruins’, you don’t make big trade simply to bolster your PK.

Goaltending does not need to be addressed; Rask may have had a tough start, but Jaroslav Halak has been fantastic. Halak’s save percentage is .947, good for second best in the league. This ridiculous number will definitely not hold up over the whole season, but there’s absolutely no need to make any kind of move for a goalie. Team defense has been solid, as the team has only given up 29 goals, tied for fourth-best in the league, which is very impressive since puck-moving ace (and second best defenseman) Torey Krug has only played one game.

If the Bruins’ bottom six still isn’t gelling after David Backes returns from injury and they’ve reached the 25 game mark, it may be time to call up wing Peter Cehlarik, who by all accounts is having himself a good season in Providence. Cehlarik was wonderful at training camp and in the preseason, and many fans have been vocal about his not making the team.

Depending on what Forsbacka-Karlsson and Frederic are in the AHLdoing at that point, calling one of them up could be a possibility, or former KHL forward Jan Kovar, if he turns out to be a good fit with Providence. If this happens and the third line still hasn’t gotten its footing, maybe then the Bruins explore their options and make a few calls, but when injuries and youth are taken into consideration, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to make a move so early in the season. The not-so-short answer on the question of whether the Bruins need to make a trade right now seems to be “no”.

 

 

 

The Week Ahead: Bruins Face Two Worthy Opponents

David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, Brandon Carlo

photo credit: AP Photo

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Follow Me On Twitter @phoneymahoney

Since opening the season with an appalling 7-0 loss to the Stanley Cup Champion Capitals, the Bruins have gone 6-3-1 in the next ten games. It’s not a particularly impressive record, though, when it is taken into consideration that they’ve played mostly bottom-feeding teams, including Buffalo, Ottawa, Vancouver, and two games against Edmonton, one of which was an overtime loss.

That’s not to say the Bruins are a bad team, though – they’ve been inconsistent for a good reason. There are several factors at play – injuries to Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, and Kevan Miller have caused some upheaval in the roster. This poses a particular problem in that the roster hadn’t been completely figured out, to begin with, since the team was unsure which players would play the roles of second-line right wing, or third line center.

But hey, maybe there’s good news on the horizon:

The next week of games is going to be interesting as it includes one team that is coming together after a few years of rebuilding and another that has been at or near the top of the standings for a long while.

October 30: at Carolina Hurricanes

The more interesting opponent the Bruins will face this week, the Carolina Hurricanes, are 6-4-0, and look like a whole new team – and considering the moves they made in the offseason, they pretty much are. Ward, Skinner, Nordstrom, Hanifin, and Lindholm were shipped out. Hamilton, Ferland, de Haan, Fox, and Mrazrek are in. They also drafted Andrei Svechnikov, who made the roster out of training camp. Former Canes captain Rod Brind’Amour was brought on as bench boss.

Jacob Slavin has really come into his own, and playing alongside fancy stats darling Dougie Hamilton this season certainly hasn’t hurt. The two should make an impressive – if very young – top pair. The Hurricanes’ defense is greatly improved, with the second pair of de Haan and Justin Faulk, and a third pair that contains Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brett Pesce. Pesce had typically been Slavin’s partner in the past.

The forwards are an interesting bunch as well; Sebastian Aho leads the team in points with 16. He and his linemates, Teuvo Teravainen and Micheal Ferland, have combined for 37 points in eleven games. Left-wing Warren Foegele is playing with two old men in Jordan Staal and captain Justin Williams, and they’ve found chemistry as well, combining for 19 points in 11 games.

Another improvement Carolina made in the offseason is that they became fun. It may sound ridiculous, but these guys are having a blast, and you can tell that they know they’re all in it together – they’re a team, after all, and they’re acting like it. Everyone is getting involved. See examples below.

Figure a: The day “The Floss” officially became uncool

The Canes are 3-2 in their last five games, and they are coming off of a 2-1 loss to the Islanders. It’s not unreasonable to think they’ll want to prove themselves against a team like the Bruins since they’ve only beaten two teams that aren’t considered the bottom of the barrel in Columbus and San Jose.

November 3: at Nashville Predators

The Predators have been among the league’s best for a number of years. They’re defensively solid without being offensively stunted, which can be a hard thing to achieve in today’s NHL. Other than re-signing their own players, Nashville didn’t make any significant offseason moves, but they didn’t have to, either. For some reason, they added Zac  Rinaldo, but that is not a significant move and certainly doesn’t improve their team in the slightest. He’s still Rinaldo, after all.

The Preds are 8-3-0 and are at the top of the Central Division. Their last game was a 5-3 loss to Edmonton, where leading scorer Filip Forsberg (10-4-14 in 11 games) provided the only offense, scoring a hat-trick in vain. He had a ridiculously good game against the Oilers.

The defense remains the Preds’ strength, with the likes of Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and P.K. Subban in the ranks. Goalie Pekka Rinne should be coming off of injured reserve (undisclosed injury) any day now, though backup Juuse Saros is more than capable. Dan Hamhuis is also on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, with no return date.

This week will most definitely present some challenges for the Bruins. They will be playing against two solid teams and dealing with their own injury-riddled roster. They will need to be consistent, and figure out a cleaner way to move the puck out of the defensive zone without defenseman Torey Krug, whose absence has been glaringly obvious. Hopefully, they’re able to hold it together and get at least two out of a possible four points.

Bruins Should Rely On Halak, Give Rask a Rest

NHL: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals

photo credit: NESN

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Follow Me On Twitter @phoneymahoney

Despite some ugly performances of late, the Bruins are in a fortunate position where goaltending is concerned. Tuukka Rask has been anywhere from average to among the league’s best since becoming the Bruins’ starter, and Jaroslav Halak is a more than capable backup.

Since taking the reins as the Bruins’ number one goaltender after the 2011-12 season, Tuukka Rask has been at the center of a goaltending controversy, and much unfair criticism. Boston media and fans have not been fair to him, certainly. Rask has not done himself any favors, either: he’s given many performances that make fans think, “Wow, this guy is a great goaltender,” but he’s also looked like a sloppy backup at times. It’s easy to think of both world-beating outings and complete head shakers put up by Rask – the Eastern Conference Final against the Penguins in 2013 is a great example of the former, and opening night against the Capitals, or Saturday night’s loss to the Habs definitely belong in the latter category.

Rask has played enough great games that when he puts up a total stinker, fans can’t help but think he’s just not trying. To those of us who try to remain neutral in the constant goaltending debate, the arguments often seem silly – people are upset when Rask gets mad, calling him a sore loser, but if he isn’t visibly upset, they say he doesn’t care at all. He cannot win, even when he does win. Everything cannot be his fault.

Now, nobody should be calling for Rask to become the Bruins’ backup goalie. That said, Jaroslav Halak is more like a second starter or half of a tandem than he is a backup goalie. Halak has held own over the years, even when playing for the bottom-of-the-barrel Islanders. He backstopped the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Final in 2009 and was probably the last reliable goaltender the Blues have had between the pipes for any length of time.

Halak and Rask have played exactly the same number of NHL games and are very close statistically:

GP W L T/0TL GA SA SV SV% GAA SO
Halak 455 235 150 50 1084 12915 11831 0.916 2.49 44
Rask 455 241 140 53 986 12613 11627 0.922 2.27 41

While discussing Rask, it wouldn’t be fair not to acknowledge that the Bruins’ defense – or all of their skaters, really – were awful on Saturday night and that they haven’t been particularly impressive this season. Halak, however, is playing behind the same blueline corps, and the same top-heavy forward lines. The season is young, and the sample size is small, but whatever the reason may be, Halak is having a much better time in the crease than Rask has been, up to this point.

GP W L OTL GA SA SV SV% GAA SO
Halak 6 3 0 2 8 146 138 0.945 1.43 2
Rask 6 3 3 0 17 173 156 0.902 3.15 0

For fans who aren’t really into stats (even though the stats provided above are basic), it’s easy to see which goaltender has been more focused this year. Rask often finds himself getting beaten on plays where he isn’t being screened. Halak seems to at least look like he’s focused and paying attention. Against the Habs, Rask let in a soft goal after a really impressive effort by Brendan Gallagher. Great moves on Gally’s part, but it was a save Tuukka should have made. Bruins defense played a role in letting Gallagher walk in and dance around unencumbered, but Rask was not screened and should have made the stop. He also took a boneheaded penalty later in the game, which looked like a loss of focus on his part.

Needless to say, the Bruins were deflated after that one. The entire team should have played better, as it’s unrealistic to expect every game to be a shutout or a one-goal affair, but lately, it seems like Rask lets soft goals in like this and as a result, the whole team loses motivation.

What are the Bruins’ options with Rask? There’s trading him, but that seems drastic given that the team is injury riddled, doesn’t have a third line center when everyone is healthy, and certainly isn’t playing their best. All the Bruins’ woes are not caused by Tuukka. Some think moving him would be the best idea because he’s basically damaged goods at this point and is a distraction to the team. While that may not be completely out of line, it would probably be better to trade a player when he’s playing well, though, and not when his stock is low, and management looks desperate.

Another option is for the Bruins to simply ride out this wave of ugly starts, but that could lose the Bruins some points that will likely be very important at the end of the season, given how competitive the Northeast Division has become. Benching him may not be the best answer, but it’s the easiest to implement. There is no reason Cassidy shouldn’t let Rask ride the pine for a four or five game stretch while Halak does whatever he can to further prove that he’s a reliable NHL goaltender.

Last season, Rask was off to an unimpressive start, and after Anton Khudobin was given a stretch of games, Rask woke up and played like the netminder we all know he can be, and he did so for a long stretch. Maybe Rask was fighting an injury and needed a little more rest, or maybe he needed to watch someone else in the role, but either way, it worked. Perhaps resting him for a little stretch and trusting his backup to get the job done could work for the Bruins again this season. There’s only one way to find out.

Bruins David Krejci Could Benefit From Some Pasta

david-pastrnak-patrice-bergeron-brad-marchand

Photo Credit: Steve Babineau

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Follow Me On Twitter @phoneymahoney

Boston Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy says he isn’t planning to make changes to the Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. With five games under their belts in the 2018-19 campaign, the trio has combined for 30 points and two hat tricks. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a cliche that certainly has its merits, but is that the best approach for the Bruins to take?

Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak are undoubtedly one of the best lines in the NHL. They don’t give many goals up, and they score at a torrid pace – 99 goals last season, to be exact (a great hockey number). When the three are on the ice together, the Bruins always have a chance to come from behind, or to make their lead bigger – always at an advantage. They are scary good.

Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci have shown chemistry together on the second line, but the search for the third forward to play with them has been a very frustrating game of whack-a-mole. Ryan Spooner played with them for a bit and looked to be pulling his NHL game together, but he was part of a trade deadline deal for Rick Nash. Nash played with them late last season and into the playoffs. He looked decent when he was healthy, but bringing him back this season was never an option for the Bruins, as he was mulling over retirement. Ryan Donato has played with Krejci and DeBrusk for a couple of games, and the line was nothing special.

Currently, Cassidy has slotted Joakim Nordstrom into the left wing position, with DeBrusk playing his off wing. To most people, it seemed like a totally wacky line combo, but Nordstrom is a player who can win puck battles and forecheck well, so Cassidy thought the move was justified. Of course, Nordstrom scored (these crazy ideas always seem to work for a game or two), and DeBrusk notched a couple against Detroit on Saturday. This still seems like a line combo that may not last too long, though, given that a second-year player is being asked to play on his off wing on one side, and on the other, a player is playing a different role than is typically expected of him.

Teams can’t expect playoff success if they put all their eggs in one basket, icing all their strongest players on the same line. Depth is very important for success in the NHL, and it was a glaringly obvious problem for the Bruins in the playoffs last year. The Bruins’ top line is among the best in the world, and the pairing of Krejci and DeBrusk is certainly a strong one, but they need a talented wing to skate with them.

Pastrnak has played alongside Krejci a bit, and they’ve enjoyed some success together – most recently during the IIHF World Championships this year. Also, Pasta’s speed and DeBrusk’s nose for the net could be a nightmare for the opposition, especially combined with Krejci’s creative ability and wizardly knack for stopping time — they don’t call him “The Matrix” for nothing. It’s about time Krejci gets a little love, and two solid wings to play with. Pastrnak might be the perfect fit, as having a star-caliber player on the line is likely to take some attention off of Krejci and allow him to be more creative offensively.

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Photo Credit: NHL

It makes a lot of sense that Cassidy doesn’t want to tempt fate by changing line combinations and tinkering with chemistry that has been built over the last two seasons, but Bergeron and Marchand have played with plenty of guys who haven’t been great, but the duo always remained dynamic, and did not allow themselves to be dragged down. Reilly Smith, a struggling Loui Eriksson, and Brett Connolly have all been the third wheel with the dynamic duo, and even when each of them went through rough stretches, 37 and 63 were able to get their jobs done.

Bergy drives, Marshy rides shotgun, and while it’s fun to have someone in the back seat, they don’t need an incredibly strong third player for the right wing. Young players plugged in alongside them have worked in the past, and there’s no reason to think they won’t work for them going forward. Pastrnak has enjoyed two great seasons on the first line, but 37 and 63 will almost certainly be just fine if they are playing with the likes of a young scoring forward like Anders Bjork or Ryan Donato. The advantage to this is that Bergeron and Marchand can make up for almost anyone’s defensive shortcomings, so it’s not particularly risky to have a younger player skate with. Anders Bjork is an electric player himself and should be a great fit.

Many people believe you don’t break up a line that’s working, but Cassidy would always have the option of putting the line back together, whether it be for a single shift to match lines, to score a much-needed goal, or even for a game at a time. Line combinations do not need to be permanent, or even long-term (see: Blackhawks in the dynasty years). David Pastrnak could be what pushes the Krejci and DeBrusk over the edge, giving us a highly effective top six, rather than a great first line, and a pretty decent second line. The entire top six would carry the potential for offensive fireworks while continuing their defensive reliability. The Bruins need depth, and moving Pastrnak to the second line is a good place to start. Cassidy should give it a shot.