The Bruins Should Win The Series.


( Above Photo Credit:   Real Sport .com )

By Spencer Lindsay

Follow me on Twitter @suspenceful9

The Boston Bruins took Game 1 in Ottawa on Wednesday night Vs. The Senators by a score of 2-1. In a game where the Bruins went close to 25 minutes without a shot on goal, that’s pretty fortunate, to say the least. But as we’ve seen all season, it doesn’t matter how it just matters how many.

The Bruins now only need to win three more games to take this series against Ottawa, something they are completely capable of doing. I’ll go so far as to say that they will do it. Do you want to know why? The 1-3-1 system that stymied the Bruins the entire regular season (0-3-1 season series against Ottawa this season), is going to end up being the downfall of the Sens in this series.

In the regular season, the reason Ottawa was able to have such success against the Bruins was because the 1-3-1 system was so radically different than any other team the Bruins faced, that it was difficult to focus on how to beat it. Couple that with the fact that the Bruins roster is not nearly as talented as the Washington Capitals roster (sorry to burst your bubble) and that will most likely lead to a loss.

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Teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus, etc. are able to beat the 1-3-1 system because they have the talent capable of doing so. The reason the Bruins will be able to beat it in the playoffs is that they have an extended look at it. In practice, they are specifically focusing on plays designed to limit the effect of the neutral zone trap, the minds of the team are all focused on beating the trap. Whereas in the regular season, it’s hard to change your style all of the sudden, for just one game.

Also, it’s important to remember that the team the Bruins beat in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, was the Tampa Bay Lightning (coached by Ottawa’s current coach, Guy Boucher). And that Lightning team was drastically more skilled than this Ottawa team.

The key to beating the system is to not allow Ottawa to get into their trap. This is done by quick passes through the neutral zone, or speed carrying the puck through the neutral zone, two things the Bruins possess. The Bruins were the second-best possession team in the regular season, behind only the Los Angeles Kings, and therefore are perfectly capable of beating this system. Add in the fact that Charlie McAvoy seems to have lived up to his hype (at least through one game), things look pretty good for the Bruins.

I mean, we saw Wednesday night! Once you get into Ottawa’s defensive zone, they’re not that good… take a look at both goals the Bruins scored and the sequences that lead to them.

Here you see multiple instances of Ottawa being unable to clear the puck, and then getting caught puck watching.

Then take a look at Marchand’s goal…

Granted, both teams had been on the ice for a long time and were certainly gassed, but again, the Bruins took advantage of Ottawa’s inability to clear the zone and to have consistent pressure defensively.

Ottawa is a team that scores most of their goals off of mistakes made by the other team while trying to navigate through the neutral zone trap. As long as the Bruins play their game, and don’t fall into the trap Ottawa has set, we should be looking at a second-round date with either the Rangers or the Canadiens.

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Boston Bruins: Why Stop at Six?


BOSTON, MA – APRIL 4: The Boston Bruins celebrate a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Garden on April 4, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)


By Spencer Lindsay                    Follow me on Twitter @suspenceful9

Last night, the Bruins crushed the Tampa Bay Lightning. Not only on the scoreboard, but they also made it near impossible for the Lightning to qualify for the postseason. For fans of other teams in the Eastern Conference, this should be a relief. We’ve seen Tampa Bay in the playoffs the last few years, and we know what they can do.

Not only did the Bruins knock off a legitimate playoff threat, but they also won their sixth game in a row, and perhaps most importantly, qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Something they had not done in the last two seasons. The regular season is not over yet though. The Bruins still have two very winnable games at home to close out the remainder of the 2016-17 season.

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On Thursday the Senators roll into town coming off a home and home with Detroit where they picked up three of a possible four points. Don’t let those results fool you though, this team is hurting and should be easy pickings for a Bruins team that is really feeling it right now. Ottawa is missing two of their top four defenders in Cody Ceci and Mark Methot. Ceci suffered a lower body injury during a 4-2 loss vs. the Winnipeg Jets, and Methot nearly had his finger chopped off by Sidney Crosby. Who incidentally did not receive a penalty on the play, or a phone call from the league. But that’s none of my business. The point is, Ottawa is hurt, the Bruins need to take advantage.

If the Bruins beat Ottawa that will give them 96 points on the season with one game left, and leave Ottawa with 94 points with 2 games left. Those two games being back to back against the Rangers and the Islanders, where I find it hard to believe that Ottawa will win one or both, putting the Bruins in a good position to take at least the third division spot.

That is assuming the Bruins take care of business against the Washington Capitals, which I think is completely possible. Not only will this game mean practically nothing to Washington as they will most likely clinch the president’s trophy in the next couple days (Pittsburg’s tragic number is down to 1), but Washington will also likely be resting some of their star players, in preparation for the playoffs.

So why stop at six? You have an injured Senators team and a Capitals team that’s probably not going to care about the game on Saturday. The Bruins absolutely need to take advantage of that fact. Especially when you think of standings. If the Bruins were to beat Ottawa Thursday, that would mean that the maximum amount of points Ottawa can finish the season with is 98. If both Ottawa and Boston finish with 98 points that guarantee Boston at least the third division spot and avoids a first round date with the Washington Capitals. So while the Bruins may have clinched a spot, the work is not completely done yet, they need to finish strong. And hey, eight wins in a row heading into the playoffs has a nice ring to it anyway, right?

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Bruins Path To The Playoffs

BOSTON, MA – MARCH 28: Players of the Boston Bruins celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators at the TD Garden on March 28, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Spencer Lindsay     Follow me on Twitter @suspenceful9

With five games left in the regular season, it’s going to come down the wire once again for the Boston Bruins. Currently, the Bruins hold the final wild card spot, with a three-point cushion on between them and Tampa Bay. Tampa does, however, have one game in hand. It’s also beginning to look as though Carolina is attempting a late season sprint for the playoffs, as they have gone 7-0-3 in their last 10 games. This ties a franchise record 13 game point streak and has also vaulted them into playoff contention in the quickly closing playoff window.

The Bruins are also only one point back of Toronto for third in the division. However, the Leafs do still have a game in hand. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that the Senators could slip from their second place spot in the division to third, or even to the wild card spot the Bruins currently hold. Ottawa has gone 3-4-3 in their last 10 games, and they have not looked sharp. They also had to play their first game without Erik Karlsson in the lineup since the 2013 season, ending 342 consecutive games played streak from the Ottawa Captain and perennial Norris Trophy Candidate. If the Bruins manage to win the last matchup between the two teams on April 6th, that scenario is even more likely.

The remaining schedule for the Black and Gold features games that are going to be tough contests, but if the Bruins continue to play the way they have these last few games, there is no reason to believe that the Bruins will be golfing in April instead of playing hockey. And while there is still a chance the Bruins miss the playoffs, I’ll go out on a limb here and say I don’t think that is happening this year.

The Bruins next matchup is Saturday against the Florida Panthers, a team that the Bruins have not lost to this season, and have outscored 13-5 in the season series. Bruce Cassidy also confirmed today after practice that Tuukka Rask will be in net Saturday against the Panthers.

Assuming the Bruins take care of business Saturday they will have four games left, Chicago on Sunday, Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Ottawa on Thursday, and Washington on Saturday to close out the season. The only games in there that are not easily winnable are the Chicago and Washington games. But even the Washington game could be winnable for the Bruins as the Caps are likely to be resting their starters in preparation for the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Bruins do have to play Chicago on the second leg of back to back, with the Hawks fighting for the President’s trophy. Keep in mind this is not a bad route to the playoffs by any means. This remaining schedule is exactly the reason I stated I believe the Bruins will be back in the playoffs after a two-year drought.

For comparison, Tampa Bay has two sets of back to back games, two games against the division-leading Canadiens, with one of those matches being in the second half of back to back. Not to mention the first half being up against the Maple Leafs who are also fighting for a playoff position. This is an incredibly grueling schedule to go through, especially at this point in the season, and I find it difficult to see Tampa Bay winning too many more of these games.

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Carolina has it a little easier than Tampa Bay, though they still have two sets of back to back games as well as six games in nine days. These games include Pittsburgh on one back to back and Philadelphia on the other, as well as an away matchup against the Minnesota Wild.

Possibly the toughest schedule remaining for any playoff fringe team is had by the Toronto Maple Leafs, though. Toronto also has six games in nine days, including Washington on the second leg of back to back, Tampa Bay, and back to back with Pittsburgh and Columbus. Ouch. That is a tough stretch for a young Maple Leafs team and could possibly be too much to handle.

Finally, we have Ottawa. Their schedule is not as bad as Toronto’s, but given the way Ottawa has been playing lately, it could also spell trouble. Ottawa has a home and home against a Detroit team simply playing for pride, and to spoil other teams seasons, they have the Bruins in Boston, and they finish the season with back to back games against the Rangers and Islanders, in that order. Also let’s not forget, Erik Karlsson is still injured and that could play a huge factor in how Ottawa plays.

Due to the condensed schedule this season from the World Cup, the remaining week and a half of the regular season is incredibly compacted for every team. Of the five teams I’ve listed, the Bruins have fewer games to play, as well as easier opponents. So although this may just be my opinion, fear not Bruins fans. I do not think there will be a third consecutive late-season collapse. As the saying goes, “third time’s the charm.”

The Race is On


(Above Photo Credit:  cbc .com)

By Spencer Lindsay

Follow me on Twitter @suspenceful9

With 12 wins in their last 16 games, the Bruins are cruising toward a playoff berth. Following a 6-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks, the Bruins traveled to Calgary and faced a team that is currently even hotter than they are. Heading into that game Calgary was 10-0-0, but the Bruins prevented the 11th win by playing a solid 60-minute game. Unfortunately, the Bruins couldn’t keep the good times rolling on the back end of a back to back set of games against a fast Edmonton team, and dropped that with a score of 7-4. With 11 games left in the regular season, and 3 teams hot on their heels, the margin of error is slim for the Black and Gold. Every point will matter. Soon stats like ROW are going to become relevant again, as games played is no longer an adequate tie breaker once every team in the league has played 82. So, let’s take a look at those three teams chasing the Bruins, and see how they can potentially affect the B’s.

Toronto is the team that has been either right behind, tied with, or barely ahead of the Bruins all season. Their appearance on this list shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. The other two, however, may come as a surprise to anyone not closely following this playoff race. Tampa Bay has somehow clawed their way back into playoff contention, despite injuries to key players and movement of others to different teams in the league at the deadline. In the last two years, Tampa has been a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference. Appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015 where they lost to Chicago, and in the Eastern Conference Finals against the eventual Stanley Cup winner, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The feeling in Tampa is if they can just make it into the playoffs, they could really do some damage.

The last team on my list is the New York Islanders. For most of the season, the Islanders were seemingly irrelevant. They were basement dwellers in a strong Metropolitan division until they fired their head coach and went on a bit of a tear to turn their season around. Sound familiar?

Coincidentally, the Bruins happen to play each of these teams at least once more, with two home dates against Tampa Bay that could likely decide one team’s playoff fate. The best-case scenario for the Bruins obviously would be to win all four of these games. Though it is a nice thought, it isn’t realistic. That isn’t because I don’t have faith in the Bruins, but because at this point in the season, teams just on the outside tend to play a much more desperate game. I would say that the most reasonable outcome to expect from the Bruins in these four games is five points. It doesn’t matter how they come, but five points in these four games would keep the Bruins’ heads above water. The more important games to win in that set of four, are the Tampa and Toronto games, as those teams are in the Atlantic Division. New York is less important to win because of the way the NHL does playoff seeding, there is actually only one playoff spot the Islanders can realistically have, and that is the second wild card spot.

The way the playoff seeding works is still relatively new, and can still be a bit confusing. Using today’s current standings as an example, the first-round matchups would be as follows; Montreal would play the New York Rangers, Ottawa would play Boston, Washington would play Toronto, and Pittsburgh would play Columbus. Washington, as the division leader with the most points, plays the wild card team with the least points, in this case, it would be Toronto. Montreal, as the division leader with fewer points, would play the first wild card team, the New York Rangers. The other matchups are the number two and three teams in each division going head to head. The reason the NHL installed this new system a couple of seasons ago was to be able to showcase division rivalries. Say what you want, but I liked the old system better, but I digress.

Currently, there are four teams (Boston, Tampa, Toronto, New York Islanders) fighting for two playoff spots. It seems unlikely that Ottawa will cool off (though they did just lose Craig Anderson to a lower body injury), Montreal appears poised to take the division, and don’t hold your breath on any of the other four Metro teams falling out of the race. Right now, the Bruins control their own destiny. Meaning as long as they keep winning, they don’t need to worry themselves at all about the teams behind them.

The jury is still out on which teams will make it and which teams won’t, but one thing is for sure… it’s going to be a wild two and a half weeks until the end of the season. Stay tuned Bruins fans.

Boston Bruins: This Isn’t Just A Spark


NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Boston Bruins

Nov 19, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner (51) skates with the puck during the 3rd period at TD Garden. The Bruins won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

By Spencer Lindsay     Follow Me On Twitter  @suspenceful9

In the (13) games since Bruce Cassidy has taken over as interim head coach, the Boston Bruins have soared upward. They have become one of the hottest teams in the NHL and have played to the tune of a 10-3-0 record in the era of Bruce Cassidy. In those 13 games, there have been noticeably good changes in the way the team is playing. The structure hasn’t changed much, most of the defensive zone play, neutral zone play, powerplay, and penalty kill structure has remained largely the same. The structure that did change? The way they attacked the net.

Bruce Cassidy told reporters in his first press conference as interim head coach that he wanted his players to use their skill more in the offensive zone to create better scoring chances. So far the team has reaped the rewards of that philosophy. Outscoring opponents 47 to 27 in that time and only dropping three games. They tallied wins against three division leaders, two of them being the San Jose Sharks, and the third being a 4-0 beat-down against the Bruins most hated rival, the Montreal Canadiens. Perhaps the most satisfying win of them all. With this recent improvement of play, the Bruins have soared back into a playoff spot, and appear poised to once again be playing hockey in April, rather than golf.

However, besides just winning and the hope of playoffs, there are other reasons to be excited as a Bruins fan right now. First of all, the Bruins have quite a few decent to potential star players in their farm system. Names like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and Jeremy Lauzon,  have the organization looking primed for the future. The Bruins also have arguably two of the better younger players in the NHL as well in David Pastrnak and Brandon Carlo. They even have the second overall point scorer in the NHL, in Brad Marchand, who has emerged as an elite talent in the league within the last two seasons.

All of these positives signs aside, there is one sign getting overlooked, and that is that the Bruins finally seem to have decided on a direction for the team, and even more re-assuring is that it happens to be the same direction the league is going.

Within the last 3 years, NHL fans have seen the size of the nets increased, the depth of the nets decreased to encourage plays behind the goal line, and rule changes regarding the size of the equipment that goalies can use. All of these changes were made with one purpose, and that was to increase scoring league wide. NHL executives realized that a 6-4 game is much more exciting to most fans than a 1-0 or a 2-1 overtime game, and took action to make the former results more plausible. It’s with these rule changes in mind that my reasoning comes for the Bruins finally moving with the league, instead of against it.

Under Claude Julien, the Bruins were continuing to play a more defensively minded game, and we saw what kind of results that brought. It seemed the Bruins were bound to come just short of a playoff spot again, and a rebuild would be almost certain. However, the roster that General Manager Don Sweeney was putting together the last two years did not have the proper players to play this defensive structure. That’s why more often than not, you saw players like Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano being underutilized because they weren’t responsible enough defensively, to fit with Claude Julien’s system. However league wide, players like Spooner and Vatrano seem to shine. Why is this? Coaches know their player’s strengths and weaknesses and put them in situations to shine, rather than fail.

Now, this is not saying that Claude Julien is a bad coach. Julien brought a cup back to Boston, something I and other Bruins fans are eternally grateful for. But he also was a big part of the reason the Bruins didn’t make the playoffs the last two seasons, and why they were close to not making the cut again this season. The NHL is going to get what they want, regardless of whether or not your team is on board with it. Playing a defensively minded game when the league has explicitly said and acted on the fact that they want more scoring seems redundant. If this team was going to continue with a defensive coach but an offensive roster, mediocrity would be its destiny until one of those things changed. With all these new rule changes to increase scoring, and Julien coaching his style, the Bruins would manage to be not the worst team in the league, but not the best either.

Thankfully, it seems as though with Bruce Cassidy at the helm, the Bruins are finally getting on board the offensive train. Albeit later than most teams, but not too late. In his time as coach, we’ve seen players like Adam Mcquaid suddenly activate offensively, going on a three-game point streak (the longest in his career) which included a beautiful backdoor goal against Carey Price. Other defensemen have also gotten involved more offensively as well with Kevan Miller scoring here and there, Colin Miller finally playing like the player we traded for, Brandon Carlo with a couple goals, you get the picture. The fact is, this is the way the league is going. Defenseman jumping in on the play instead of posting up at the blue line, teams having lines of just offensive forwards who rarely take defensive zone faceoffs, and forwards using their skating to create time and space.

So rest easy Bruins fans. The Bruins did not miss the offensive style train, they may have been late getting on, but the point is that they did get on.