Bruins, Chara Answer The Bell

Image result for bruins islanders chara fight(Photo Credit: NBS Sports)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

“For Whom The Bell Tolls…”

Well, according to heady British poet & author John Donne, “it tolls for thee.” But if you ask punched-in-the-head(y) pugilist & Islander Matt Martin, it tolls for Zee. As in Big Z. As in Bruins Captain and former NYI wunderkind Zdeno Chara. And boy did he, and the Bruins, ever answer the bell — in a BIG way — against their 1st-place pals in the Metro Division to kickoff their Spring season.

As the B’s fearless leader recapped in his post-game interview, “we made some strong plays… and our specialty teams were also strong.” Very well said for arguably the strongest guy on the ice on a nightly basis (definitely, at least, this knuckled-up night). However, putting brute physicality & force aside, it’s a different kind of strength displayed by both Chara and his teammates that I found impressive. One that even the aforementioned Mr. Donne would equally tip his cornered hat to, hence why I’ll be waxing poetic with his eponymous words about it for the remainder of this postured post of puck prose.

“No Man Is An Island…”

Definitely not on this Bruins team. And definitely not against the Islanders (even though they were playing for an “island”). Because Boston’s strength, as I just alluded to, is truly in their numbers — i.e. EVERYONE is buying into what B’s management and the coaching staff, particularly head coach Bruce Cassidy, have been preaching since key players went down with untimely injuries earlier in the season: “be the next man up.”

And even as the injury bug piled up over the last month and a half, the next man did step up — individual statistics aside. Sometimes that came in the form of versatile veterans spelling some struggling youngsters for a game or two (namely Lee Stempniak and Paul Carey, like them or hate them). Other times it was the exact opposite, with eager Baby B’s jumping back into the mix (your Trent Frederics and Connor Cliftons) to relieve the pressure of the recognizable names still needing recovery time. Thankfully, as we’re finding out, almost all are ready to return to the line-up soon, with an order of Pasta finally seen on the Bruins’ menu (with a side of splint)!

No matter who was wearing the Black N’ Gold proudly over that injury-riddled time span, though, the result was the same: the Bruins were always competing, always fighting, always exhibiting a team strength & unity where no man truly felt like “an island” having to do it all (unless of course you were Matt Martin and you had fisticuffs with Zdeno Chara).

“Each Is… A Part Of The Main”

Mainly, I can’t think of a better way to accurately describe how the B’s are accomplishing all that they are right now. To quote NESN’s Jack Edwards, who ever-so-eloquently performs a form of poetic lyricism every time he calls a game, “if you would have told me the Bruins would be where they are in the standings [after Patrice Bergeron & Zdeno Chara went down on back to back days earlier this season]… I’d have been dead wrong!” Wouldn’t we all have been.

Yet, thanks to the every part is a valuable part mentality with which the B’s operate, there’s more than enough room on Edwards’ bandwagon for new friends & old returnees, as he likes to tweet, to get behind what’s currently (and Kuraly) happening in Boston. One needs to look no further than No. 52’s constructive comments following his 2-goal performance on Long Island, in particular: “I think we just try to stick to our game… our leadership, we just wanted to keep comin’ and keep playing hard.” Wise words, indeed!

“It Tolls For Thee.”

In conclusion, it all comes full circle back to that leadership Kuraly talked about. Be it Big Z’s big fight or Bergy’s big goal or the big shift from the Backes/Acciari/Nordstrom line that showcased not only toughness & talent, but also skill & skate savvy — aspects of every players’ game, in fact, that featured in this statement victory.

Speaking of statements, the whole point of Donne’s poem was to illustrate the interconnectedness of mankind — that if we’re all in it together, it doesn’t matter in the end who answers the proverbial bell, because (in the end) it will eventually toll for all of us. If we apply that same prescient & poetic philosophy to the 2018-2019 Bruins–a team very much interconnected in all the right ways–then here’s what you can expect: an exTOLLing of praise come playoff time.

That’s one bell well worth answering!

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Bruins A Successful “Social” Bunch

Image result for nhl bruins 2019 team photo(Photo Credit: Fansided)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

You could call it a “Cult of Personality” — especially if you’re a fan of 80’s rock band Living Colourthat’s successfully surrounding the Boston Bruins right now. And it’s not just how the team is playing on the ice, 19-game point streak records aside. It’s how the players are interacting off the ice (indeed, Behind The B if you will) that’s proof this team is perhaps a bit more socially connected with each other than in year’s past. As a result, it’s very easy to cheer on, root for & enjoy the B’s no matter how you watch or cover them (writer/blogger/fan), especially with the type of special season they’re putting together game after game.

There is just something about this team, indeed. Long gone are the days where the B’s locker room or bench was the only place you’d find teammates complimenting or commiserating with each other. Now, players can keep the playful chirping & chiding going all off-day long thanks to their social media savvy… something we all know can have a devastating impact to team sports if not approached or handled correctly. Thankfully, this current Black N’ Gold group does it just as entertainingly as their on-ice play as of late… and you can best “B”-lieve it’s one of those intangibles bringing the team, the fans & the region together.

Of course, Brad Marchand & Torey Krug have been using Twitter to tease each other mercilessly all season long with truly trolling take-down threads that have caught the eye of ALL hockey fans these past few weeks. In the GenZ/Millennial age of communication, this is camaraderie at its fun-centric finest. But, they’re also recognizing just how impactful a “tweet” or social media message can be to the people who follow them — and what a world of difference a simple response can make, as in the recent case of big B’s fan Jillian Murphy who enjoys throwing shade just like Marchy does:

As NESN recently featured, the B’s social presence is now spilling over onto Instagram, where Marchand and other teammates are making the most of their positive outreach, a move that will undoubtedly lead to comments (and commenters) a-plenty as the playoffs approach and EVERY move the Bruins make will be under the microscope, no matter the platform or platitude. Yet, I like it. I support it. I hope it becomes an insta-hit!

When did many of us realize this B’s team was going to be a “hit”? — and in a way much more meaningful than any inefficient enforcer types? I’d say when we got a peak at the Peaky Blinders from the Winter Classic. There was just something different (in a good way) about how these guys were approaching big games, big moments & big opportunities to showcase their togetherness and team pride.

Image result for boston bruins peaky blinders(Photo Credit: TD Bank)

I don’t think it will, or should, stop for the remainder of the season either. Because as we all have witnessed over the past two decades of Boston sports dominance, there are just some teams that are more magical than others; there are just some fits within a lineup that achieve remarkable results, no matter the level of pressure or passion. And the 2018-2019 Boston Bruins, as successful of a social bunch as their ever was one, are on the verge of being one of those personality-driven teams where the results, like the spotlight, will follow.

And we should all feel pretty good about getting to see it up-close and personal in living (Black N’ Gold) color!

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Would Bruins Consider A “Playoff Split” for Rask, Halak?

Image result for bruce cassidy tuukka rask halak(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

The “Playoff Split.”

It could easily be a bowling term for leaving the 7-10 on the lane during the PBA Open. And as you may remember from FOX NHL Saturday, “bowling would be better if it were hockey”–or vice versa for those bunch of jerks in Carolina (just kidding).

However, in the recent words of Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, it’s more like 10-7–at least from here on out for No.’s 40 & 41 for the Black N’ Gold:

But, what does all this mean for mid-April, when the real NHL season starts up and your starting goaltender needs to be penciled in for the playoffs? Should the B’s take advantage of Tuukka Rask’s “lightest [number of games played] total since 2012-13” as intrepid BSJ reporter Conor Ryan referenced? Or, should the team & management hearken back to the days of yore (not to be confused w/ another B’s blogger the Days of Y’Orr) when BOTH goalies shared the second season workload aka the “Playoff Split” ala Andy Moog & Réjean “Reggie” Lemelin…two of the finest crease keepers to ever wear the spoked-B (and IMHHO my lifetime’s best B’s tandem until this year’s performances of monsieurs Rask & Halak, respectively)?

It would be hard to argue against the numbers, which certainly do indicate and project that the Bruins would be best served to play both goalies–as they have been all season long–throughout what we all hope & expect is a long playoff run. Sure, there’s a lot of evidence supporting the “You Go With Your Number One” argument in the playoffs no matter what, and even a bit of recent B’s history where that worked out quite nicely. But, how ’bout if you have TWO Number Ones, just like the B’s do now and did back then when Mooger & Reggie literally owned the Jennings Trophy?

If you think about it (or just look it up–although I prefer using my puck head), between the time the Lemelin/Moog tandem was between the pipes and the current Rask/Halak pairing of now, the Bruins really haven’t had two goalies that were capable of, or that they trusted, to split a season’s worth of games so evenly & so successfully. Yes, Tim Thomas & Manny Fernandez joined the prestigious Jennings company of Lemelin & Moog during the epic 2008-09 B’s season, but in all fairness to Fernandez, he really didn’t play that much compared to TT. Heck, for about decade, the B’s had a revolving door in the crease where 4, 5, even 6 goalies got starts (I’m talking about YOU Bill Ranford, Rob Tallas, Jim Carey, Scott Bailey, Tim Cheveldae & Paxton Schafer of the league-worst ’96-’97 season)!

So, knowing the numbers & knowing the history, doesn’t it make sense for Cassidy to take advantage of the rarefied air–I mean ice–surrounding his dynamic duo in net and perhaps plan for a duality of options when it comes to who starts for the playoffs? I mean, outside of the aforementioned Thomas standing on his head in 2011 in every round, especially the Cup Finals, the B’s haven’t fared the best in recent playoff play when they’ve tried to rely on “just the starter.”

Related image(Photo Credit: Boston Sports Journal)

Of course, I remember how Rask nearly accomplished the same in 2013 (were it not for :78 seconds of ‘Hawky’ hell in Game 6). And yes, I also realize my favorite B’s tandem of all-time lost both of the Stanley Cup series they shared games in (but let’s be honest… NO ONE was beating the Oilers in those days, Boston Garden electricity bills included).

But, hardly any NHL team or franchise ever gets the chance to prep for the post season with two elite goaltenders simultaneously boosting each other’s play while inspiring the offense in front of them to score & find ways to win. And your 16-game point streak Boston Bruins have that chance — Tampa be damned (with Lightning!) — this year. It’s now up to the B’s to decide how to make the most of it. Sure, a lot can happen between now and April 15th. But if all goes according to plan, then I sure hope to see both Rask & Halak making playoff appearances this year.

I’d settle for 10-7. Heck, make it a 7-10… as long they’re wins! After all, since sixteen is the magic number, this is a “Playoff Split” well worth picking up.

Check out the available tickets from our advertising partner SeatGiant for your next Boston Bruins game. Click the link below, and when purchasing any event ticket, from the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL to concerts and shows, please use discount code BNGP to save a little money. Thank You!  

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A “Nifty” Accomplishment For Bruins’ Marchand!

Image result for brad marchand san jose sharks(Photo Credit: The Mercury News)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

When shorthanded, one pesky player on the Boston Bruins is now as sure-handed as ever. In fact, you could say no one’s “niftier” now than Brad Marchand:

With his 25th career shorthanded goal, which came against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on Tuesday, February 26th, Marchand tied recently retired-number honoree & Bruins HOF’er Rick “Nifty” Middleton for the all-time team lead in goals while a man down. It’s a record you don’t always think about when it comes to “points” in the game of hockey because of just how rare, and how hard, shorthanded goals are to come by. But in era where penalty killing is a top priority, there’s none better than No. 63 in Black N’ Gold.

As you can see from the tweet above, Marchand is not only in prestigious company when it comes to Bruins history, but also hockey history. His so-called “decade of dominance” (as just described) has put him among the most dangerous players on the ice no matter the time of game. But, as we’ve come to learn in Beantown, it’s especially true when the B’s are on the PK. To wit:

 

I remember sitting in section 303 in the top row for Game 3 of the Cup Finals back in ’11 when Marchand set the building ablaze with what could be the “niftiest” shorty in team history. Even then you knew that his ability with the puck shorthanded could put the fear in any opposing PP unit or goalie because if they weren’t careful, he was lighting the lamp at the other end of the ice for a 4-man celebratory scrum! The fact he continues to do that on a nightly basis–even if the numbers this year don’t quite match the highs of year’s previous–only proves that the pest joked about as being “a rat” may have a lot more of these highlight-reel goals in his nest.

Image result for brad marchand san jose sharks(Photo Credit: The Edwardsville Intelligencer)

To quote the highly-skilled and highly-respected B’s alumnus with whom he’ll soon pass for most shorthanded goals in team history, Mr. Middleton himself:

“When I got to Boston, I didn’t really understand the defensive side of the game… had to thank my coaches for that.

Then by the 80’s, I was the ‘go-to’ guy, playing 20-25 minutes a game — double shifts, the power play AND penalty killing.

Really, the only way I could have put up numbers like that was by getting the ice time.” — Rick Middleton on WAAF Radio, 8/6/18

So, if ice-time is any indicator of where Marchand could end up when all is said and done for his Bruins playing career–literally, a top line talent who plays in ALL game situations for the B’s just like Middleton did–then eclipsing No. 16 may not be the only accolade No. 63 will be remembered for.

For a guy his teammates call “Marchy,” that sure seems like a pretty “Nifty” accomplishment to me!

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Hooray For Hollywood… And The Bruins!

Related image(Photo Credit: NESN)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

In the entertainment capital of the world, the Bruins put on quite a show (twice if you count Anaheim as Los Angeles like the Angels do). I was lucky enough to see it up close at the Staples Center in downtown La La Land, where the crowd was a near even split of Black N’ Gold versus Black N’ Gray — something Kings’ fans have gotten used to with a visiting team’s fanbase, especially one as well-traveled and passionate as Boston’s.

Speaking of travels, one new Bruin made it all the way to the Left Coast from Providence for his NHL debut against the sons of Gretzky. And that (young) man was Karson Kuhlman, proudly sporting No. 83 for the B’s. He looked right at home in his bespoked road sweater, and even in limited ice time, showed a lot of speed & puck-carrying skill when given any on-ice opportunity.

As for the rest of his teammates, who were coming off a boringly productive 3-0 win against the deftless Ducks just the night before, they took advantage of every bounce & break in a game that featured many maladies when it came to defense, puck possession and scoring chances — all aspects of play that are visibly more striking (and obvious) to witness when you’re in person observing it. Nevertheless, capitalizing on your first shot of the game and turning the home crowd into YOUR crowd were exactly what the Bruins needed to do in what was undoubtedly a less than regal effort for both teams.

Oh, and while on the subject of saves, all 18,000+ people in attendance — and probably a few dozen more if you count concessions in Premium Seating — were vocally in awe after what had to be the best two-pad stack ever seen in a Boston jersey since the Andy Moog years. And it came from the likes of Two U’s, Two K’s (and now Two Pads) Tuukka Rask, who truly bailed the B’s out a few times in this one and lived up to his then-trending hashtag #TuukkaTime!

To say folks were atwitter after the brilliantly flashy and timely athleticism of that crease creativity from Tuuks… well, that would be both accurate to the pun & point! Accuracy was also on full display in the waning moments of the game when, after some ill-advised puck movement behind the B’s net led to LA’s tying goal, Charlie McAvoy & Patrice Bergeron sealed the deal in dethroning the Kings with two lightning-quick strikes that kept everyone sporting B’s gear standing for the rest of the game, including this guy (and the nice couple from Connecticut next to him traveling to ALL the road-trip games in Cali then to Vegas).

There’s an old lyrical expression that perfectly sums up the B’s start to this important stretch of almost-Spring hockey: “Hollywood… Hooray for Hollywood! Where you’re terrific, if you’re even good.” And that’s all the Bruins needed to be–GOOD–against two Hollywood local opponents whose stars have faded and are closer to winning The Razzie than The Oscar this year. To end on another Tinseltown tune: “Do you know the way to San Jose?” The B’s sure do. Puck drops at the Shark Tank at 7pm PST!

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Boston Bruins!

(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

Will you “B” my Valentine?

That’s what many are asking on this heart-filled February 14th. And for the Boston Bruins and their Black N’ Gold fans, there’s a lot of love to go around right now. From the team’s 3-game winning streak, to its 8-game point streak, to Tuukka Rask’s very own personal point streak…

…it seems everyone’s buying in — and pitching in — to what Bruce Cassidy and management want to see from this team (as currently constituted): more speed, more toughness & more scoring, especially from the young guns. And considering how everyone responded versus the Blackhawks in a secondary goal-filled 6-3 win on TD Garden ice this week, it’s probably safe to say the B’s, like their Valentine’s Day cards, are all smiles right now:

But you know what else would “Tuukka my breath away” for the B’s? Making the most of this weekend’s West Coast schedule, in particular the two back-to-back (“I love you to the moon and Backes?”) games against the cellar dwellers of the Pacific, the Ducks (no longer Mighty in any way, shape or form) and Kings (quite dethroned if you ask me). Those are 4 points screaming to be won!

And with Montreal hot on the Bruins’ heels and Toronto less than a five-for-fighting glove hand away in the standings, “these points are at a premium” to quote one of the B’s best analysts Mr. Andy “Brick” Brickley (who, alongside his play-by-play partner Jack Edwards was featured over the Summer in a special “Men Behind the Mic” article on this very blog).

If the Bruins are to make the most of their match-ups against Anaheim & Los Angeles, they’ll need to continue getting contributions from not only the Bergy’s and Marchy’s and Big Z’s of the team, but also the likes of *Jake Debrusk, *Danton Heinen and perhaps even the newly called-up *Karson Kuhlman (can we get the nickname “Special K” started already?), who’s been quite the site for sore scoring eyes in Providence lately.

***[If you click on the hyperlinks above, you can catch up on some great profile pieces from fellow BN’G writers on how these players could be hitting their strides at just the right time for the Bruins]

No matter who steps up, though, the B’s will be in a good place if they spread out the contributions and talent — be them winning 6-3 with prolific scoring or 2-1 with prolific defense & stout goaltending. It will also be a picture-perfect way to gauge just how needed a trade is ahead of the February 25th deadline and what type of player, be it an elite center/winger or a more established role-player, the B’s should bring in.

Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot to love about your Boston Bruins this Valentine’s Day. Or, in the wily whimsical words of Brad Marchand:

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Timely Tuukka Tops Tiny, Huge Accomplishment For B’s Netminder!

PNG image(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

What a wonderful, wacky, wild, whimsical, & whirlwind start to 2019 for Tuukka Rask. First, the beloved/beleaguered B’s netminder surpassed team legend and HHOF’er Tiny Thompson for the “Most Games Played” for a goalie in a Bruins uniform on January 1st during the Winter Classic.

Then, he tied Thompson’s record for team wins two weeks later with a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues, entering into elite Bruins crease company.

But, before he even had a chance to enjoy the accomplishment and set his mind on record-setting victory number 253, he nearly lost his mind in a concussed collision with Rangers player Filip Chyta.

I don’t even like watching it after the fact because it’s about as worse as it gets for a goalie (unless of course you’re Clint Malarchuk). However, with a bye-week and All-Star break fortunately scheduled for right after that painful game, Rask had time to heal from his concussion and get back into game shape — no easy feat when returning from any type of head injury/contact. And an even more challenging feat when you’ve ALREADY returned from a mental health break earlier in the season to get your head right.

Then, he literally stands on his head against the flightless Flyers to end the month of January (all but a GUARANTEED win to break the record, right?)

Wrong. Rask got absolutely no help from his D-core or any teammate not on the 1st line–especially Danton “Empty Net” Heinen–yet Tuuuuuuuk still maintained his poise, confidence & resolve after the fact, even when head coach Bruce Cassidy nearly lost it during the post-game presser.

So, who better to straighten it out? The Fin with finish who’s now finished in the No. 1 position on the Mt. Rushmore of Bruins goalies. This, after literally & figuratively climbing back up a mountain to be the best goalie he can be–for his teammates, the entire B’s organization and all of Boston fandom (yes, even the crazy ones from the THC… “Tuukka Haters Club”). And there was no better way to do it than by taking down the team that’s owned him, and the entire B’s organization, for the past 5 seasons: The Washington Capitals.

This was no doubt an important game for Rask, and the roster, on many levels–both personally & professionally. For the forwards & D, it was their chance to respond after being called out by Cassidy for an unwillingness to “buy into the system” of Bruins hockey. And for Rask, it was his chance to not only silence any critics of his game coming off the concussion, but also to achieve a milestone moment in a B’s sweater that NO OTHER goalie in Boston history had ever accomplished (and against a team he hadn’t beaten since the Obama Administration). Needless to say, everyone stepped up, especially Mr. 253, who made history in the most memorable way possible… with a 1-0 shutout and more timely saves than he’s gloved, blockered & sticked away all season!

Moving forward for both Rask and his teammates, everyone wearing the Black N’Gold “Spoked-B” needs to build on this oh-so-important win and keep the momentum going down the stretch. The season/going-to-the-playoffs will most likely come down to a few points, with the B’s having a pretty good chance at matching-up against the Caps for either a first or second round series (if they can make it that far). With the rally monkey now literally & figuratively off their back against Washington, hopefully the B’s can use this victory as a catalyst and start a strong stretch of hockey between now and April. And if Rask can continue his impressively strong & clutch play between the pipes, also using his history-making “W” as a motivator, then come playoff time, I think we’ll all be rooting for #TuukkaTime!

Check out the available tickets from our advertising partner SeatGiant for your next Boston Bruins game. Click the link below, and when purchasing any event ticket — from the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL to concerts and shows — please use discount code BNGP to save a little money. Thank You!

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It’s Groundhog Day & Bruins Keep Repeating Mistakes Over & Over

Enlight610(Photo Credit: Enlight)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

BING! If Ned Ryerson is everyone on the Bruins who can’t score right now (or practically all season for lines 2-4), then Phil Connors is the coaching staff, management & fan base reacting appropriately:

 

And it keeps happening over… and over… AND OVER, just like the aptly-named comedic classic Groundhog Day. But there’s nothing to laugh at this February 2nd for the Boston Bruins. Their on-ice business isn’t funny at the moment and, furthermore, everyone’s fed up with the funny business happening on the ice right now. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy ain’t pleased with his D-core. The D ain’t pleased with the fruitless forwards. And the goalies, well, they ain’t pleased with anything (excuse the vernacular)!

This is what happens when you lose three in a row after having leads in all three games; when you lose 5 out of 6 after having scored the first goal in every game; when you constantly let important points slip away in a playoff race where EVERY. SINGLE. POINT. MATTERS!

I’m kind of wishing Blades the Bear pulls a Groundhog Day and goes back into hibernation after seeing his shadow. Because if we have to bear 6 more weeks of Winter hockey like this, then it truly is “pitiful” to quote Weatherman Phil (and then some):

 

Yet, for all the moping & groping and whining & pining that Bruins fans do (and rightfully so considering the current climate surrounding the team’s dispirited play… heck, I know I’m guilty of it), the solution is right there for all to see. In fact, Jack Edwards has been screaming it from the booth–and on Twitter–as loud as he can over the past two weeks: EXTEND THE LEAD.

As we’ve seen in the most recent games against Montreal, Philly (twice), New York & Winnipeg, the B’s have had a 1-goal lead with glorious chances to make it a 2-goal lead, be it on the PP, a quick clean breakout, a cycle-pressure turnover or a breakaway. Yet, every player has come up empty when given the chance “to bury it.” Yes, even the only-thing-keeping-the-Bruins-afloat first liners have missed on extension goals, to playfully paraphrase Edwards. As a result, the B’s have gone an abysmal 0-2-3 in those games. That’s right, ZERO WINS in games where they’ve not only had a lead, but a lead in the third period that should’ve been closed out, especially this late in the season (and against teams with inferior records). It’s about as maddening as a cold shower during the Polar Vortex:

So, what’s the solution to this ever-repetitive, ever-repulsive puck performance the B’s are putting us through right now, outside of “extending the lead”? Maybe it’s a trade… a shake-up… a big, bold move from up above!?!? I know a lot of folks on social media are all for this course of action — be it a Panarin-type, a Dzingel-type, or ANY TYPE THAT CAN ACTUALLY SCORE.

No matter what happens on the trade front for the B’s this month, first and foremost they need to survive the Groundhog Day curse. This all-too-familiar trend of repeating the same day/game again and again and again MUST STOP. If Phil Connors can do it, so can the likes of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask & Bruce Cassidy. Be it checking or Chekov, the Boston Bruins have to turn things around starting February 3rd.

 

Do I sure as heckfire want that to happen? BING!

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Kevin Stevens, One-Time Bruin, Overcame Big Time Addictions

kevin stevens bruins(Photo Credit: YouTube)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

“It was almost like livin’ in a Normal Rockwell.”

That’s how Kevin Stevens and his family, poignantly and painfully profiled in a recent SportsNet documentary entitled *Shattered, described growing up in Massachusetts and loving sports, especially hockey for the hometown kid who rooted for the Bruins from his Pembroke neighborhood and later wowed on the ice playing for Boston College.

And when Stevens, then a Stanley Cup Champion Penguin, was traded from Pittsburgh to Boston in 1995 — seemingly at the top of his career — it felt like the perfect story line: local kid returns to his roots where he learned to love the game.

Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to many in his life (fellow players, coaches, friends, even his family), Stevens also had a love for something else: drugs. It was an addiction, and secret, that began even before he made it back to Boston–one that proved almost as fatal as the epic injury he sustained in the ’93 playoffs:

To quote SportsNet Writer Dan Robson, who interviewed Stevens in Boston for a tragically insightful “What It Takes” article, it was the hit from the video above that forever changed the course of Stevens’ career and life:

But all of that ended after a horrific on-ice injury in which the bones of his forehead were crushed like potato chips, causing permanent damage to the frontal lobe of his brain. He was never the same player again, and the end of his NHL career was accompanied by a descent into addiction — both to party drugs, like cocaine, and opioids. For more than two decades, Stevens lived with a disease that took everything from him.

After that, Stevens (like another Bruins alumni who battled personal problems and was profiled right here on the Black N’ Gold Hockey Blog — Joe Murphy) just couldn’t find a way to help himself, let alone get help from anyone else. Although he admirably tried to make a post-injury comeback, using his excitement about playing for the Bruins as a big motivator, Stevens the player and Stevens the man were just never the same. He retired from the NHL in 2002 after unsuccessful stints with not only the Flyers & Penguins (again), but also the NHL/NHLPA’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.

And unlike anything the aforementioned Normal Rockwell could have painted, Stevens post-hockey life was anything but picturesque. He was hired as a professional NHL scout, but instead scouted for pills & Percocet, per Robson’s remarks:

Stevens took opioids in any form he could get them. He bounced from doctor to doctor lying about injuries, trying to find one who would write him a prescription. When he did, he’d stick with that doctor until the well dried up. If he couldn’t access the pills legally, he’d resort to street dealers. Stevens says that during this period he needed about $500 worth of drugs a day just to get by. He believes he spent millions paying for his drug use. And he pawned everything of value he had, including both of his Stanley Cup rings.

On March 18, 2010, Stevens was invited to [then Pittsburgh GM Ray] Shero’s suite at Boston’s TD Garden before the Penguins took the ice against the Bruins. Stevens wasn’t sure why Shero wanted to see him, but as soon as he walked in the door, it was clear. Along with the GM were two familiar faces — Dan Cronin and Dr. Brian Shaw from the NHL and NHLPA substance abuse program.

Stevens second attempt at rehabilitation also didn’t take, nor did any of his addiction counseling. He soon found himself at the center of a federal drug case and the subject of a conspiracy and possession (with intent to distribute) charge. In May of 2017, Stevens entered the courthouse in Boston, only a short drive from where he grew up, and entered a “Guilty” plea to the charge against him. The scene at the courthouse was described in detail by Robson:

Judge O’Toole gave Stevens a $10,000 fine and three years’ probation, with the condition that he be involved in public speaking and anti-drug educational efforts. The courtroom broke out in muffled cheers. That afternoon, Stevens walked out of the courthouse a free man. If this last arrest had finally been rock bottom, he thought, he’d been given another chance to pull himself back up. This time, he wasn’t going to let it slip away.

Stevens certainly hasn’t let his release slip away–a release not just from prison, but from addiction; a release even more impressive (and important to him now) than the one he had during his 1991-92 NHL season when he outscored “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky himself!

In fact, in January of this year, Stevens continued his commitment to public speaking and speaking out on his struggles at his high school alma mater Silver Lake Regional in Kingston, Mass.

To quote Mr. Norman Rockwell himself: “The secret… is looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back.” Thankfully for Kevin Stevens, a one-time Bruin who overcame big time addictions, that’s a secret he no longer has to keep.

*(You can watch the entire Shattered documentary below and learn more about Stevens’ longtime battle with addiction by clicking on the links provided earlier in this article):

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Gimme A “Break”–B’s Got One, Could Use Another

Image result for boston bruins(Photo Credit: Fox News)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

What have the Boston Bruins been up to lately? Just goofing around on social media?

Gimme a break! Well, that’s exactly what the NHL did, in fact, give the Bruins from January 20th through All-Star Game weekend, right up until the team takes on the wily & winning Winnipeg Jets at home on the 29th. That’s a full week+ off with plenty of time to have fun, connect with friends & family, make nickname/lookalike videos as shown above, and truly take a break from the mental & physical grind of the game — a grind that EVERYONE who pays attention to this team could plainly see was wearing (and tearing) on them, from the players to the coaches to even “must-make-a-move-management,” as the internet declared.

And if the B’s are to come roaring out of their bye-week break–hot on the heels of a Pasta-filled All-Star soiree in San Jose–then they’ll actually need to catch a break. What I mean by this is the B’s will need to get healthy and STAY healthy (sending lots of good vibes to Tuukka Rask for a quick recovery), something that hasn’t happened at all during the first half of the season; they’ll need to make the most of their now games-in-hand and see other playoff-bubble teams in the East lose some ground; and they’ll need to actually have a goal and/or goalie challenge call go in their favor for the first time in hockey history (yes, I know this is a hyperbolic jest but the Bruins MUST own the record for most goals disallowed/overturned/challenges screwed in the last few years, am I right?).

So, how do the B’s accomplish all of the above? By putting themselves in the best position to get that break they so desperately deserve. And that starts with playing UP to the competition on the ice and focusing on the style of hockey which makes the B’s, at their buzzing best, so very hard to play against. To quote Head Coach Bruce Cassidy after the team’s recent losses to Montreal, Philly & New York (all teams the B’s were ahead of in the standings at the time those games were played):

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“Are we playing down to the level of competition or are we going to play to our standard… The message from us as a coaching staff over the last two, three years is we need to play to our standard. So, I guess that’s the message we have to get back to.”

(Photo Credit: Trifecta Sports)

The B’s will also need to “take care of their own” and NO, that doesn’t mean bring in an enforcer to light up another player after a big hit or take down. It means giving the appropriate and timely response to an important sequence of play during a game — i.e. not giving up a goal after immediately scoring one; taking advantage of the man advantage and putting opponents away or stretching the lead when given the opportunity (too many blown 2-goal leads and against non-playoff teams); being aggressive, and when necessary, getting in the face / dropping the gloves to assert your dominance and liven up the bench; and making the tough & timely save.

The schedule isn’t getting any easier, especially with two difficult road trips lined up and three more games against the we-never-lose/light-up-the-league Lightning. Literally, the B’s season & playoff hopes could come down to one or two games and two or fewer points. How do you ensure you’re on the right side of the standings when everything shakes out in April? You play hard, you play to win every night and you hope your veterans and youthful skill players all hit their strides at the same time.

Oh, and speaking of JFK:

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