Why A Wildcard Spot May Not Be The Worst Scenario For The Bruins

Image result for boston bruins

Photo Credit: Christopher Evans/Boston Herald

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

We are midway through December, and there is plenty of panic in Boston.

“We need an enforcer!”

“Our goaltending sucks!”

“We can’t score!”

OK, can everyone just take a deep breath, please? By having the injury bug eviscerate this roster early, the Bruins may just have stumbled into their best-case scenario come the playoffs. Also, the goaltending hasn’t been the problem, and ENFORCERS ARE NEVER THE ANSWER. So, what do I mean?

Well, the Bruins are currently 5th in the Atlantic Division. Before you get your pants in a knot, let’s put some context into the equation. While they are 5th in the Atlantic, they have played one game fewer than fourth place Montreal, and are trailing the Habs by only a point. They are a significantly better team than the Canadiens, whom I am unconvinced can maintain their current level of play. That’s not even the interesting part. Despite having played two more games than the Bruins, the 6th place Detroit Red Wings trail the B’s by 5 points. Ottawa has played the same number of games like Detroit, and are 6 points behind Boston. Boston has played one more game than the Florida Panthers, but they sit dead last in the division, a full eight points behind the Bruins. They aren’t going to get caught from behind in the Atlantic.

Atlantic Standings

They should inevitably pass the Canadiens, so that begs the question – how close are they to the guaranteed divisional playoff spot? At the moment, the Bruins have a game in hand on every team above them in the Atlantic Division and trail the 3rd place Buffalo Sabres by 5 points, the Toronto Maple Leafs by 6, and the Tampa Bay Lightning by 13. Nobody is catching Tampa. In any division. That team is well on its way to a President’s Trophy. If you had said Buffalo would be only a point behind the Maple Leafs in third place in the Atlantic at this point in the season, well, please get in contact with me, I could use the services of someone who can see the future.

So, the Bruins are fifth in their division. But they currently occupy the 2nd wildcard spot. As it stands, it is pretty clear that Tampa Bay is going to be the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and will, therefore, host the second wildcard team. As previously noted, there is no reason to think that Boston won’t finish the season ahead of the Canadiens. They are not in danger of dropping out of a wildcard spot either. Currently, the Bruins sit with 38 points in 32 games. That is 5th in the Atlantic Division, but would be SECOND in the Metropolitan Division. No, that is not a typo. The Bruins are 5th in the division, but only 6th in the conference. Believe it or not, they are actually a Top 10 team in the entire league. They just happen to play in one of the most stacked divisions in recent memory.

League Standings

So, why should they WANT to finish in the first wildcard spot? Well, they almost certainly would need to face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals in the first round. That’s no easy task. But finishing in a divisional spot means they have to face two of Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Buffalo to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. The current Metropolitan Division playoff teams are Pittsburgh and Columbus (who isn’t on board for ANOTHER Pittsburgh/Columbus throw-down), either of whom is a significantly easier matchup than the juggernauts in the Atlantic. Currently, Tampa Bay is #1 in the league, Toronto is 5th, and Buffalo is 7th. Washington is 6th, but Columbus is 15th, and Pittsburgh is 17th. That’s a pretty simple bit of math.

Wildcard Standings

What killed the Bruins when they got to Tampa Bay last postseason was the 7-game death-match that was their First Round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They were exhausted, beat-up, and could not keep up. They are guaranteed to have a similarly difficult matchup if they finish in either 2nd or 3rd in the Atlantic Division this year. Don’t do that. This team is good enough to be in the playoffs and do some damage once fully healthy, so don’t rush anyone back. Let Bergeron and Chara take as long as they need to be fully healthy. Use this time to experiment with line combinations, and see what you have in some depth pieces. Acclimate Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to the NHL game, as the kid line with JFK between Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato has begun to look good the last few games. You still have Anders Bjork shredding the American Hockey League. Don’t make a massive trade for a short-term piece. Stay the course, finish fourth, take the easier path to the Stanley Cup Final. You may be thanking me if you do.

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How Do the Bruins Survive Without Patrice Bergeron?

Image result for David Krejci

Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

The frustrating part for Bruins fans about losing Patrice Bergeron for at least a month is the loss of the most dominant 200-foot line in hockey. David Krejci between the two feels like the natural fix, but that decision is made more complicated by the lack of a defined #3 center on the roster. This has lead to a myriad of bizarre line combinations, including seeing Joakim Nordstrom, a career left-winger, centering a Top 6 line, Colby Cave, an undrafted career minor-leaguer, between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and completely splitting Marchand and Pastrnak and rolling out a Frankenstein-esque amalgamation of forwards in their Top 6. I decided to take a deeper look at how the Bruins have fared with different line combinations in their Top 6, and attempt to determine what the best setup they have tried it thus far.

Using the data provided by Corsica.hockey’s line tool, I gathered every line the Bruins have iced this year. As I am looking at 5-on-5 data only, and the typical limiter of 50 minutes of on-ice time together only gave me five total line combinations, I expanded the parameters and limited lines to having spent at least 10 minutes of 5-on-5 time on ice as a group. That gave me the following lines:

Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk
Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, Joakim Nordstrom
Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari
Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, David Backes
Anders Bjork, David Backes, Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Danton Heinen
Brad Marchand, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen, David Krejci, David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, Ryan Donato
Anders Bjork, Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner
Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom, Jake DeBrusk
Anders Bjork, David Backes, Ryan Donato
Brad Marchand, Colby Cave, David Pastrnak
Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly, Anders Bjork
Anders Bjork, Joakim Nordstrom, Ryan Donato
Joakim Nordstrom, Colby Cave, Noel Acciari
Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari
Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, Noel Acciari
Brad Marchand, David Krejci, David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork, David Krejci, David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Noel Acciari
Joakim Nordstrom, David Backes, Noel Acciari
Ryan Donato, Sean Kuraly, David Backes
Brad Marchand, Sean Kuraly, David Pastrnak

Here is a breakdown of the time on ice spent together as a line for each combination.

Time on Ice


Of the 27 different combinations, here is what I can conclude:

Goals For vs Expected Goals For

When looking at the difference between each line’s expected goals for percentage and their goals for percentage (the total goals scored by the team while that line is on the ice as a percentage of all goals scored while that line is on the ice), a few things stand out. For one, Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci are really good together, but having Ryan Donato ride with them is really not a good idea. As much as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson may eventually be a good middle 6 center, he was a decidedly BAD fit between Marchand and Pastrnak. Surprisingly, having Colby Cave in that spot instead of JFK has produced excellent results so far, bordering on the line underperforming their expected numbers.

The key to this chart is actually how the rest of the lineup should be structured based on the numbers. Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, and David Backes have been very good when put together as a line, and realistically should be able to handle 3rd line minutes if necessary. Wagner with Joakim Nordstrom and Anders Bjork has been an even better line in fewer minutes, but with how effective Wagner is with the Kuraly/Backes duo, I would suggest this is a place where you play Ryan Donato in the middle, heavily shelter his zone starts, and let him and Bjork learn the defensive side with Nordstrom and be available for the second powerplay unit.

This allows you to see whether or not Donato can realistically be an NHL centerman, and gives you Nordstrom as a faceoff option if Donato struggles in the dot. That leaves Danton Heinen as the 3rd member of the Krejci/DeBrusk line, which has been the best combo the Bruins have had on the second line, and it isn’t incredibly close. The trio actually is out-performing the Bergeron line in fewer minutes.

PDO vs Expected PDO

How lucky have they been? Krejci in the Bergeron spot has been extremely lucky in a small sample, so I don’t put a ton of stock into their performance. Likewise, JFK in that spot wasn’t lucky and bordered on unlucky. Again, though, Cave there is a conundrum; that grouping has outperformed their EXPECTED PDO a ton, but have a very low expected PDO, which tells me their results are RIDICULOUSLY lucky.

Shots For Differential per 60

What about the shot differentials? I accounted for time on ice in this case, which gives a better approximation of individual impact as a line. In this case, Cave shows extremely well as a Bergeron replacement, and we see that Heinen/Krejci/DeBrusk and the original Bergeron line are both very good. Nordstrom between DeBrusk and Marchand has been decidedly bad, and putting Krejci between Marchand and Pastrnak has produced plenty of offense, but have been disastrous in terms of shot suppression. Nordstrom/Acciari/Kuraly have interesting numbers, and the Bjork/Wagner/Nordstrom line has been REALLY good. Granted, so has Wagner/Kuraly/Backes, so I think the real trick will be deciding where to slot Ryan Donato into the bottom 6. Once again, this allows for the sheltered 3rd line theory proposed above.



Well, let’s boil this down a bit. I think that, if the lineup is fully healthy, it should look something like this:

Marchand                                             Bergeron                                 Pastrnak

Heinen                                                   Krejci                                       DeBrusk

Bjork                                                      Donato                                     Nordstrom

Wagner                                                  Kuraly                                      Backes


So, this presents a few questions. For one, you now have a $6 million right winger. Backes’ contract was an albatross when it was signed, and that doesn’t change now. I’d rather put him in a position where his skill set is best utilized rather than attempting to jam a square peg into a round hole. His foot speed has diminished to the point where he is no longer an effective center, and he doesn’t fit as an offensive player in the Top 9. Additionally, the third line should get almost no defensive zone starts. Focus on playing them in the offensive zone, allow Bjork and Donato to go wild and be creative, and Nordstrom is there to make sure the line isn’t a complete black hole defensively. This allows you to make sure Donato can or can’t be an NHL centerman without a ton of stress on him to produce.

Image result for Colby Cave

Photo Credit: NHL.com

But what about Bergeron not being there? Well, for now (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), I think leaving Colby Cave there for a bit wouldn’t hurt. Realistically, he isn’t an NHL scorer, so he is there to win faceoffs, be defensively responsible, screen the goaltender, and allow Marchand and Pastrnak to be magicians. This is only 5-on-5 so I would not use him in overtime (Bruce…), and he wouldn’t get a sniff on the man-advantage. This allows the other three lines to try and get rolling and find some chemistry for when the Bergeron line is fully healthy. That way, when Bergy returns, secondary scoring doesn’t return to being a massive problem for the team.

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Can You Count From 1-99 Using Just Bruins Players Throughout History?

Photo Credit: The Hockey News

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

Short answer? No. Not tremendously surprising, but still, you can get pretty close. I have highlighted the best player to wear each number throughout the team’s history below. Please note that this is a matter of personal opinion, and I took into account a player’s entire career when determining the best player to wear the number. There are a few numbers that have never been worn, and a few that only one player has worn. I have added commentary on some of the more interesting picks, as well as some of the more controversial ones.

*Indicates the number is retired in honor of the player

^Indicates the player is the only one to have worn the number in the history of the franchise

1) Giles Gilbert (1974-1980)

*^2) Eddie Shore (1926-1940)

Hockey Hall of Famer. Only one to ever wear the number with the B’s. ‘Nuff said.

*^3) Lionel Hitchman (1922-1934)

*4) Bobby Orr (1967-1976)

You might have heard of the first offensive defenseman? Oh, you haven’t? Look him up. He was pretty good.

*5) Dit Clapper (1927-1947)

OK, they should’ve retired this guy’s number based on his name alone. But his numbers were pretty good too.

Image result for joe thornton rookie

Photo Credit: Getty Images

6) Joe Thornton (1998-2000)

I bet many younger B’s fans remember Jumbo Joe in his Boston days. But how many knew he wore a number other than his iconic #19?

*7) Phil Esposito (1967-1976)

Did I mention the ’70s Bruins were kind of good?

*8) Cam Neely (1987-1996)

I may have issues with his management career, but not much was wrong with his on-ice career. The man could BURY the puck on cue.

*9) John Bucyk (1958-1978)

Bucyk is often the forgotten man from the ’70s juggernaut, but he’s a Hockey Hall of Famer for a reason.

10) Jean Ratelle (1976-1981)

He isn’t known for his exploits in the Black and Gold, but Ratelle was one of the more underrated stars of the ’70s.

11) PJ Axelsson (1998-2009)

12) Adam Oates (1992-1997)

Plenty of competition for this one, but the ridiculous offensive numbers he posted in the mid-90s ultimately took the cake.

13) Ken Linesman (1985-1990)

The original rat, Linesman, did more with his mouth than he did with the puck, but DANG was he good at it.

14) Ace Bailey (1969-1973)

*15) Milt Schmidt (1951-1955)

16) Derek Sanderson (1968-1974)

17) Milan Lucic (2008-2015)

Looch will always be a fan favorite for his handiwork – both with the puck and his fists.

18) Barry Pederson (1981)

19) Joe Thornton (2001-2006)

Yes, Joe is on here twice. No, I don’t think Tyler Seguin is better than him. Thornton is a Hall of Famer. Seguin’s not there yet.

20) Dallas Smith (1965-1977)

21) Ted Donato (1993-1999)

22) Willie O’Ree (1958-1961)

He didn’t put up stand out numbers, but the newest Hall of Famer on the list did so much more for the game than score goals.

23) Terry O’Reilly (1972)

*24) Terry O’Reilly (1973-1985)

25) Andy Brickley (1989-1992)

26) Blake Wheeler (2009-2011)

If only Peter Chiarelli didn’t trade his good players…

27) Dave Christian (1989-1991)

Did you know Christian was one of the more successful members of the Miracle on Ice team of 1980? I didn’t.

28) Mark Recchi (2009-2011)

He brought us a Cup in 2011, and he’s in the Hall of Fame.

Image result for rick middleton

Photo Credit: CBS Sports Boston

29) Rick Middleton (1976-1988)

His number goes to the rafters this week. The pretty clear winner here.

30) Gerry Cheevers (1969-1980)

31) Jacques Plante (1973)

Wait – Jacques Plante wore the spoked B?

32) Don Sweeney (1989-2003)

Hey look, our GM played for the team!

33) Zdeno Chara (2007-present)

Big Z will see his name in the Hall and his number in the rafters very soon. First, he’d have to retire, and I’m not sure I see the android known as Chara breaking down for good for a while.

34) Geoff Courtnall (1984)

35) Andy Moog (1988-1993)

36) Dave Reid (1985-1988)

37) Patrice Bergeron (2004-present)

One of, if not THE greatest defensive forward in the history of the NHL will be a Bruin for life, captain when Chara retires, and will also see his number in the rafters and his name in the Hall. Classy individual, on and off the ice.

38) Dave Andreychuk (2000)

39) Greg Johnston (1986-1990)

40) Tuukka Rask (2008-present)

Tuukka Rask has the best career save percentage of all time. In the NHL. He is and has been great. Full stop.

41) Jason Allison (1997-2001)

42) David Backes (2017-present)

This is more of a result of very few impactful players wearing the #42 for Boston. The only other intriguing name was Blake Wheeler, and I gave the career track record of Backes the edge here.

Image result for al iafrate bruins

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

43) Al Iafrate (1994)

The B’s love their heavy clappers from the point.

44) Dennis Seidenberg (2010-2016)

Quietly one of the better shutdown defensemen in the league in his prime.

45) Robert Lang (1998)

46) David Krejci (2007-present)

I haven’t seen many players be able to purposely slow down the game to throw the opposition off like Krejci. He is a consistent playoff performer, and if he played on any other team, he’d be the #1 center.

47) Torey Krug (2012-present)

Again a result of few players donning #47, I think it is pretty clear that Krug is one of the best offensive defensemen in the game, and his only other “competition” for this spot was Steven Kampfer.

48) Matt Grzelcyk (2017-present)

Give it to the local boy, because nobody else really did anything in their careers.

49) Joe Juneau (1992-1994)

50) Jonathan Sigalet (2007)


51) Ryan Spooner (2013-2018)

I know Spooner hasn’t been tremendous in his career, but literally, nobody of note wore #51.

52) Sean Kuraly (2017-present)

See above. At least Kuraly has had some clutch moments.

53) Derek Morris (2010)

54) Adam McQuaid (2010-2018)

Quaider was THE heavyweight in his era. He is literally terrifying on the ice.

Bruins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who had a goal and an assist, stepped out with Montreal's Steve Begin after they collided in the third period.

Photo Credit: Jim Davis

55) Sergei Gonchar (2004)

If only Gonchar had stuck with the B’s longer than a season.

56) Petteri Nokelainen (2008)

57) PJ Axelsson (1998)

Axelsson wore a different number?

58) Urho Vaakanainen (2018-present)

Your options are Vaakanainen, Kevin Dallman, and Carter Camper. Yeah, I think this one is obvious.

59) Tim Schaller (2017-2018)

The only other player here is some guy named Rich Brennan, who played all of 7 games with Boston and tallied a single assist.

60) Vladimir Sobotka (2008-2010)

Sobotka, Kirk Nielsen, or Brian Finley? Obvious choice.

61) Rick Nash (2018)

To be honest, Nash’s competition here wasn’t tremendous. Shoutout to Craig Cunningham though.

62) Milan Lucic (2008)

Looch shows up again simply because the only other option here is Zach Trotman.

63) Brad Marchand (2010-present)

The NEWEST rat, Marchy has become one of the premier scorers in the league. But he might have his number retired simply based on his standing with the fans alone.

Image result for jarno kultanen

Photo Credit: J. Leary/ Getty Images

64) Jarno Kultanen (2001-2003)

Who? Well, Kultanen had the most offensive production out of the options. Sorry to Lane MacDermid, Bobby Robins, and Tyler Randell.

65) Andrew Bodnarchuk (2010)

Either Bodnarchuk or Brett Harkins. Not great options here.


67) Benoit Pouliot (2012)

The only other player to wear #67 has been Jakub Zboril, this is kind of by default.

68) Jaromir Jagr (2013)

Jagr is an all-timer, despite struggling in his time with Boston.


70) Tim Thomas (2003)

Timmy wore #70 during his first call-up with the B’s, and I think we can say he has had a better career than Malcolm Subban.

71) Marc Savard (2007)

Savvy wore 71? WHY? Better than Jiri Slegr or Terry Virtue though.

72) Peter Schaefer (2008)

A surprising number of players have worn #72, but Schaefer is the only one who was a reasonably decent offensive producer in his time with the team.

73) Charlie McAvoy (2017-present)

This is either McAvoy or Michael Ryder, and this may be controversial, but I thing McAvoy will have a better career.

Image result for paul coffey bruins

Photo Credit: NHL.com

74) Paul Coffey (2001)

OK, I will be honest. I never had any idea Paul Coffey played for Boston.

75) Hal Gill (1998)

76) Alexander Khokhlachev (2014-2016)

Khoko-bonanza. Just for Rob Tomlin.

*^77) Ray Bourque (1988-2000)


79) Jeremy Lauzon (2018-present)

Lauzon or David Warsofsky? Toss up, but I think Lauzon has more upside.


81) Phil Kessel (2007-2009)

Your options? Kessel, Miroslav Satan, or Anton Blidh. In the Kessel vs. Satan battle, I gotta give it to the hot dog master.


83) Peter Cehlarik (2017-present)

Who is Patrick Leahy? I have no clue either.



^86) Kevan Miller (2014-present)


^88) David Pastrnak (2015-present)

^89) Zdenek Blatney (2006)


^91) Marc Savard (2007-2011)

Image result for marc savard

Photo Credit: Graig Abel

92) Michael Nylander (2004)

The only other player to wear the number was Guillaume Lefebvre. He sounds like a guy who played in the mid-70s, but he played with the team in 2010. That should tell you why Nylander wins out.








Should the Bruins Invest in a Bubblewrap Company?

Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

No, but seriously, the injuries are getting ridiculous at this point. Although the Bruins regained Kevan Miller Wednesday night in Detroit, the Bruins’ Injured Reserve List is as follows:

C Patrice Bergeron – Sternoclavicular/Ribs – Minimum 4 Weeks

D Zdeno Chara – Medial Collateral Ligament – To Be Reevaluated after 4 Weeks

D Brandon Carlo – Upper Body Injury – No Timetable

D Charlie McAvoy – Concussion – No Timetable (Skating with Non-Contact Jersey)

D Urho Vaakanainen – Concussion – No Timetable

Photo Credit: Richard W. Rodriguez/Boston Globe

They also have been missing John Moore for the last week with a lower-body injury, but are expected to see him make his return to the lineup tonight. So, to recap, the Bruins have been without the majority of their NHL defense corps and will be without their number one centerman and number one defenseman for at least the next month.

Time to panic yet?

There is SOME good news. As previously mentioned, Charlie McAvoy has begun skating with the team at practices this week in a non-contact jersey. Concussions are a fickle injury, so patience is key in their recovery, but this is still an important step for him to eventually work his way back into the lineup. John Moore is supposed to return tonight. Kevan Miller came back on Wednesday. So there’s that.

Photo Credit: Cody McLachlan

On the other side of the coin, WE ARE GETTING EXCITED TO SEE BOTTOM PAIR DEFENSEMEN GET BACK INTO THE LINEUP. There have been rumblings the last week or two that there is a legitimate concern that Vaakanainen’s concussion may hold him out of the lineup for the remainder of the season. At 19 years old, that severe of a concussion has the potential to derail his previously impressive and encouraging upwards trajectory. At the very macro-level, it is concerning to see a teenager dealing with a serious traumatic brain injury that likely will impact his quality of life a few decades down the road. Chara is a MINIMUM of a month and based on what the injury looked like in Colorado, that’s a projection so optimistic that Hermie the Elf must be the source.

So, in the interim, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson will get an opportunity to ply his craft at the NHL level. The kid’s line with JFK, Danton Heinen, and Anders Bjork has looked good in the offensive zone so far. Joakim Nordstrom, a third line winger in the most optimal lineup composition, is now the second line center, despite having no experience playing in the middle in his entire professional career. The league’s most dominant line has been split up. David Krejci no longer has the benefit of playing behind one of the greatest two-way centers to ever lace up skates. OK I’M PANICKING NOW!

Photo Credit: John Wilcox

Jeremy Lauzon looks good as the veteran of 8 NHL games he is, potting a goal and three assists in those games. He has gained enough confidence from Bruce Cassidy to be deployed on the penalty kill with regularity and to be on the ice at the end of the game in Arizona protecting a one-goal lead. At the very least, he looks like a legitimate NHL defenseman at this point, despite the Top 4 upside not necessarily being there. Matt Grzelcyk (obligatory Grzelcyk mention) continues to be impressive, and force the front office to make a very difficult decision when (if) the roster is fully healthy. Gee, who could’ve foreseen that Matt Grzelcyk would be a tremendous transitional defenseman capable of logging 20-25 minutes a night? Also, LAUZON logged over 22 minutes against Arizona.

Connor Clifton has been OK, although I’m not sure the decision-making is 100% where it needs to be at this level. But if I’m being honest, he might be a better option than Steven Kampfer right now. Heck, Jakub Zboril (who did NOT look good whatsoever against Dallas, and I legitimately have concerns about whether or not he will be an impact NHL defenseman at this point) might actually be a better option than Kampfer, who looks like he is getting in this lineup simply because he has played some NHL games at this point. Kampfer looks entirely outmatched, and one can only hope that he sees his responsibilities pared down as some of these defensemen return.

Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

Oh, and that Tuukka Rask that we saw the first month of the season? Yeah, he’s gone. The real Tuukka Rask has stood up. HOWEVER, could we have predicted that Rask would have a bad first month and a half then turn into a Top 10 goaltender?


What year is it?

So, bubble wrap. Yes. All of it. I have a roll lying around here somewhere. You can have it. I WILL BUY YOU SOME. PLEASE. Can we chip in to buy Jeremy Jacobs some bubble wrap? It’s not like he has the disposable income to do so. And before someone asks, no. We do not need an enforcer. They don’t exist in this league. Fighting doesn’t do anything. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that there is a surge in momentum after a fight, and fights tend to simply be a constant trading of brain blows for no reason other than MASCULINITY *GRUNTING NOISES* I’M STRONGER THAN YOU

OK. That is all. Please stay healthy.

Bruins Recall Zboril, Miller Travels for Road Trip

Image result for jakub zboril

Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

It appears that the litany of injury issues that have plagued the Boston Bruins is not going away any time soon. With Brandon Carlo being felled in Saturday night’s win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins recalled defenseman Jeremy Lauzon on an emergency basis for the second time this season. Lauzon proceeded to then tally his first NHL goal in Sunday’s victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. The B’s have announced that Carlo will remain in Boston with his undisclosed injury for the duration of the upcoming road trip, leaving them with only 6 healthy defensemen on their NHL roster.

Image result for Brandon Carlo

Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

To remedy this, former 13th Overall Selection Jakub Zboril has been recalled to travel with the team. Zboril, 21, is in his second professional season with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. Through 13 games, he has 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points. His first season with the Baby B’s was rocky, to say the least, as he spent time both on the top defensive pairing and in the press box as a healthy scratch. His chances for breaking camp with the NHL team were slim, but he still looked reasonably comfortable in the games he played. This makes Zachary Senyshyn (15th Overall) the only player of the 6 the Bruins took in the first two rounds of the 2015 NHL Draft who has yet to see any time on the NHL roster. Zboril will not play this evening against Colorado, but could see action should Head Coach .Bruce Cassidy feel the lineup needs a shake-up or another injury occurs during the rest of the road trip.

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Photo Credit: Winslow Townsend/USA TODAY Sports

Should Zboril not be inserted into the lineup by the time the trip ends in Detroit on November 21st, he may not get a chance to this time around, as Kevan Miller is also traveling with the team. Miller has been out since early October with a hand injury that was expected to keep him sidelined until at least early December. The progression has come quickly enough for the B’s to take him with them, despite publicly stating that he will not play until the Detroit matchup at the earliest. If he were to play, one of Lauzon or Zboril would need to be returned to Providence in order to activate Miller off of the IR.

Both Charlie McAvoy (concussion) and Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) remain on the IR indefinitely.

PuckNerd’s Bruins Analysis: The Unpredictability of David Pastrnak


Photo Credit: The Hockey News/Getty Images

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

My most recent piece, which broke down a unique aspect of Patrice Bergeron’s offensive game, got some pretty positive early returns, so I thought I’d take a shot at analyzing the most dynamic player the Bruins have had in about half of a decade – David Pastrnak.

How this guy fell as far as he did in the 2014 draft is mind-boggling. The pure skill and creativity he possesses are unmatched in this lineup, and he really began turning a corner last year when he came into camp having spent an entire summer strengthening his base. His lower body is incredibly explosive. Check out one of his highlight reel goals from last year.

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Watch below as he accelerates to full speed in one move, going inside out on a forechecking forward in the neutral zone. It takes him two steps to go from a light cruise to full song. Then, he has the presence of mind not to jam the shot into the defender. Rather, he makes a quick move inside of Michael Del Zotto, and fools Jakob Markstrom.

In the goal below, he again reaches full speed quickly, but rather than doing so off of a quick move with the puck, watch his strides between the bluelines. He makes the change in speed as soon as the penalty killer activates to put pressure on the oncoming Torey Krug, so by the time he can recover, Krug now has an option to his right on the rush.

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He recognizes how to pick his spots too. Watch him identify the loose puck, and decide to win the race. He comes almost out of nowhere to beat a pivoting Ron Hainsey to the puck but doesn’t try to take the shot immediately upon picking it up or trying a wrap around.

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Instead, he carries the puck a step or two deeper than a goalie would typically expect a shot to come from and notices Frederik Andersen beginning to cheat across the crease in anticipation of what he thinks is a wrap-around attempt. Seeing this, Pastrnak deftly chips the puck over his shoulder short side for the tally.

His game is much more than his straight-line speed, however, and he isn’t an offense-only type of guy. I imagine this is the result of playing so much time alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Watch the defensive play he makes to create this important goal in the ridiculous comeback the B’s had against Carolina last year.

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He does his job at the blue line covering for a changing defenseman, holding the puck at the blue line not once, but twice using nothing but his stick. The second time, he creates a turnover and activates from that position on the blueline. The wrister he takes after that is just absurd. Scott Darling has lost his posts just a bit, and Pastrnak fits a cannon of a wrist shot into a tiny space short side. What makes this possible is the slight change of angle he creates for the shot with a small curl and drag release, incredibly deceptive for goaltenders to try and handle.

I’m not even going to analyze this next one, the hand-eye coordination he displays here is off the charts. Enjoy.

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Pastrnak’s vision has become a little underrated due to the highlight reel goals he has a propensity for producing. Watch this transition play.

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Rather than ripping off a one-timer, Pastrnak recognizes that David Krejci has found an open space in front of the net. He adjusts his release point to uncork a shot-pass instead of a big one-time shot. It is pinpoint, tape-to-tape, and just hard enough to keep its momentum once being tipped, but not too hard to prevent Krejci from controlling the tip.

Watch Pastrnak take the extra second of time in the goal below to create the perfect scoring chance.

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Instead of trying to surprise the goaltender by jamming the puck short side, Pastrnak has the presence of mind to hold onto the puck for an extra second or two with three Maple Leafs converging on him, and pull Andersen out of position. This allows him to chip the puck into the top corner short side.

No analysis on the last one either. This is just dirty. The guy is an absolute human cheat code.

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David Pastrnak represents much of the new-age NHL; he attacks you with speed, smarts, and a willingness to try something you normally would see in pond hockey on the biggest stage. It doesn’t always work, but he creates so much offense on his own that it doesn’t really matter. I seriously cannot figure out how he is only making $6.67 million against the salary cap for another 5 years.

Wait, Bergeron is getting paid HOW MUCH?

Never mind.

***All GIF images created by the author using GIPHY.com, utilizing videos from YouTube users Hatrickane and GoCanucksGo. Be sure to check out their content and subscribe if you haven’t.

Boston Bruins: The Bergeron Spot

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Photo Credit: Paul Sancya/AP Sports

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

You’d have to live under a rock in the hockey world not to know of “the Ovechkin Spot.” It has become his signature play, setting up at the top of the left circle and bombing one-timers in lightning-like fashion. You may, however, be surprised to know that Patrice Bergeron has his own signature play in the offensive zone.

Regardless of who is passing him the puck, Bergeron is excellent at getting lost in coverage, then finding a dead zone within the right circle for a quick-release one-timer. What am I talking about? Check out the play below.

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Marchand and Bergeron have been playing together for so long that this play is second nature to both. Watch in particular how Bergeron identifies the open area between four Leafs defenders, all of whom are focused on Marchand. He doesn’t set up for the one-timer until AFTER Marchand has started the process of passing the puck, and is in the right position, at the right time, in order to let the shot go.

Bergeron has also made a home for himself in the bumper position on the power-play, and has free reign to move around as he sees fit, as such:

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Watch in particular how he stays close to the penalty killing forward until Pastrnak starts looking to make a pass. As soon as he identifies that Pastrnak needs an option, he takes one hard stride that instantly puts him into that dead space between all four defenders, and the puck is on and off his stick in less than a second. Once again, he doesn’t get set until after Pastrnak has released the puck.

This time, the Bruins are on a 5-on-3. They do a good job of moving the puck around the perimeter quickly, and Bergeron has set himself up much lower in the slot than on the 5-on-4. This puts him flush with two of the three defenders until he sees an opening. As the puck gets moved from high to low, the penalty killers all shift their focus to Brad Marchand below the circle. As their eyes move towards the bottom of the zone, Bergeron moves against the grain, giving him just enough open space to be a viable passing option for Marchand. The defenseman is less than two inches from getting a stick on that shot, but Bergeron is able to get enough velocity and accuracy on the shot, despite shooting off of his back foot (and on one leg for that matter) to beat Cory Schneider.

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He does this at 5-on-5 just as often. Watch Marchand lose the defender with a sharp curl towards the boards, giving himself about a second or two of separation.

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Bergeron, who has moved with the play and is heading towards the net, pulls up and suddenly shifts backward. He is moving towards Jeff Skinner but has timed it perfectly so that his shot is not interrupted. Once again, his release is pinpoint, and lightning-quick. He is able to do this because he recognizes the Carolina centerman has drifted a touch too deep into the zone, likely puck-watching a little bit, allowing Bergeron to find the necessary separation.

This one is just brilliant. On the power-play again, but look at where the defender is as Bergeron releases the shot.

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He has sat directly next to Brooks Orpik while the puck is up high in the zone. As soon as Danton Heinen moves it down low to Marchand, Orpik moves to pressure him below the circle. As soon as he does so, Bergeron literally takes a step to the right, and, despite Alex Chiasson being in good position and recognizing what is about to happen, gets the shot off. The key here is how he has altered his release point. Instead of winding up for a full one-timer, Bergeron significantly shortens up his windup, only raising his stick to his knees. This gets the shot off much quick (and more accurately), but with a little less power. In this case, he does this in the timespan of about 3 seconds. Brilliance.

So, yes. While Patrice Bergeron is a perennial Selke Trophy candidate and has a legitimate argument for being the greatest defensive forward in the history of the NHL (certainly of this generation), he has become a true two-way force. Hopefully, other teams don’t see this though, I don’t want them getting clued into the gameplan for Bergeron to hit 30 goals again this year.

**All GIFs were created by the author, utilizing GIPHY.com, and a YouTube video from YouTube user Hatrickane. Please be sure to check out his other compilations, and like/subscribe to his channel!

What’s Bugging Me about the B’s Injuries?


Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

Another season and the Bruins are down to their 8th defenseman again-WAIT, I’m getting word that it’s now their 9th-AGAIN??-OK, their 10th defenseman. Why on Earth does this keep happening? Now we have 1st pairing defenseman John Moore, which is not an ideal situation for anybody. Steven Kampfer worries me nearly every time he gets near the puck. But, unlike in the past, where the Bruins have preferred to rely on replacement-level veterans, they are filling the holes with their young defensemen.


Photo Credit: Bill Wippert/Getty Images

Brandon Carlo has legitimately been the best defenseman on this roster this season (3-on-3 OT notwithstanding). I’ve been extremely impressed with his willingness to (finally) use his skating ability to his advantage. Yes, he’s big and strong, but if he isn’t moving his feet, that’s not really an asset. He’s jumping into the play offensively more, he is the rock he has always been on the penalty kill, and he is taking a leadership role with some of the young defensemen. This is the Brandon Carlo we have been waiting for.


Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

I have been on the Matt Grzelcyk train since before the Brian Colangelo debacle. He is not Torey Krug. Let’s reaffirm that right here, right now. He does not possess the dynamic, offensive creativity that Krug does, and will therefore not be a massive point producer in his career. But he makes one of the best first passes I’ve seen, his stickwork in the defensive end is already excellent, and he does a good job of understanding how to position himself to win 50/50 puck battles despite his smaller stature. Oh, and he still is one of the best shot suppression defensemen in the league, despite getting elevated minutes.


Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty – USA TODAY

The B’s have had two rookies make their NHL debuts in this deluge of pain, and both have looked like they are already NHL defensemen. Jeremy Lauzon (52nd Overall, 2015) is part of the less talked about the trio of 2015 picks by Boston (Lauzon, Carlo, and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, all of whom were taken in the 2nd Round), but looks like he is coming along nicely. He is an excellent skater, and he is not afraid to engage physically. However, he also is more than capable of jumping into the offense and has a rocket of a shot when he is able to get a clean look. It is quite telling that Bruce Cassidy felt comfortable enough with his play to put him out on the penalty kill in his second NHL game.


Photo Credit: Matt West

Urho Vaakanainen (18th Overall, 2017) was every bit the smooth-skating, calm presence he has been hyped as. He looked instantly comfortable in the lineup, and if it weren’t for a cheap right hook to the face by Mark Borowiecki and the ensuing concussion it caused, he might just have forced Don Sweeney to consider keeping him long-term.

So, yes. Torey Krug is expected back relatively soon. Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Miller were just placed on IR. So the kids are what we’ve got right now. I think Vaakanainen and Lauzon are both better options than Kampfer in the lineup, and I wouldn’t mind John Moore taking a seat (or at least a lesser role) either. He concerns me far too much in every aspect of play and is an absolute black hole in his own end. But the kids? The kids have given me hope. Now, if only they can stay health-WHAT DO YOU MEAN COLBY CAVE GOT AN EMERGENCY RECALL TOO?

Crap. Here we go again.

Is All Of This Rask Hate Warranted From Bruins’ Fans?


Photo Credit: Nancy Lane

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

Short answer?


Let’s be honest. It wouldn’t be a hockey season in New England without the constant “Tuukka Rask Sucks” hit pieces. I think this is due to a few different factors. For one, Boston, and, by extension, the New England region, is a spoiled sports fanbase. The Patriots have been the most successful NFL franchise in the history of the league. The Celtics have long been the envy of the NBA. And after the Curse of the Bambino was struck in 2004, the Red Sox have found their way to three World Series titles, and are gunning for a fourth this October. Mixed into all of that craziness is the Bruins, who had a run in the early 1970s, made the finals twice in 3 years at the end of the Oilers/Islanders decade of dominance, and added another Stanley Cup in 2011. But there has been plenty of futility mixed in.

The other reasons stem from this initial one. When the Bruins won the Cup in 2011, they did so with a historically atrocious powerplay and dominated teams with a combination of intimidating the opposition into submission and one of the greatest displays of goaltending in the history of the National Hockey League from Tim Thomas. So this new-fangled, high-octane offense is troubling to some in the area. It is why there is an uproar when a below-replacement-level, bruising depth defenseman making far too much money is traded.

It’s why there is a constant need to call players “soft.” We see it with David Krejci, who hadn’t actually missed a considerable amount of time in his career due to injury until last year, and who has missed less time than Patrice Bergeron in his career, or David Backes, who has struggled to stay healthy in his Boston tenure. But Bergeron is a god amongst men (deservedly so), and Backes is given praise for his play because he hits hard and is willing to drop the gloves. I will skip the innate yet subtle xenophobic undertones that are present in this scenario. But Rask is not Tim Thomas.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Boston Bruins

Photo Credit: Greg M. Smith/USA TODAY Sports

Might I remind everyone that while no goaltender is perfect, Tim Thomas did not have the superstar career we like to think he did in Boston? He LOST his starting job to Rask the year after the Cup victory, and his “throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks” style of goaltending led to plenty of unnecessary and bone-crushing goals. He also literally quit the team, forcing them to trade him away for pennies on the dollar. Rask has already lead the team to a President’s Trophy (Thomas never did that) and a Cup Final.

Speaking of that Cup Final, that is the other issue people have with Tuukka. “He can’t win the big games” is the favorite line of anyone trying to explain away his regular season success. But the breakdown in the final minute and a half in 2013 was not on Tuukka. A complete defensive implosion isn’t something that a goaltender can possibly be responsible for. Yet they like to berate him whenever they get the chance to.


Photo Credit: Matt Stone

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. Tuukka is not the greatest goaltender in the history of hockey. He has his moments of terror-inducing screw-ups. So does every goaltender. The facts don’t lie though. Rask has been a Top 5 goaltender in the league in the past half-decade. He has seen a slow decline over that timeframe, but it seems tied to the fact that he has been asked to start upwards of 65 games in recent years. That will wear down most goaltenders. So having a guy in Jaroslav Halak to eat 20-25 starts effectively and keep Rask fresh for the postseason is a positive. But that does not mean that Jaroslav Halak is better than Tuukka Rask. So, let’s take a deep breath, and calm the heck down. Please. Thank you.