Bruins Goalie Tuukka Rask Cracks NHL Network’s Top 10 Goalies List

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( Photo Credit: USA Today )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

Every summer, the NHL Network narrows down the best players from throughout the league at each position. As part of the series, producers, hosts, and analysts prepared a top-10 list of the current best goaltenders in the National Hockey League and revealed it Sunday night. Tuukka Rask made the top ten list again and made a significant move up from his position last year. 

Last year, Rask was named to the top-10 goalies list at number-eight while this year the Bruins netminder cracked the list and came in at number five. Rask was one ahead of Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at number six and one behind rival Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price who came in at number four. Jordan Binnington who out-dueled Tuukka Rask in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals made the list at number eight. Rask posted a 27-13-5 record in 46 games played in the 2018-2019 campaign with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage along with four shutouts.

The Bruins had a strong goaltending tandem this season and Bruce Cassidy wanted a rather equal workload for both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak as he felt they could use a more rested Rask for the playoffs and boy did that pay off for the Black ’N Gold. Tuukka Rask had one of the best goaltending performances in the playoffs this season and was one of the biggest reasons why the Bruins were able to make it to game seven of the Cup Finals. In the 2019 playoffs, Rask recorded a 15-9 record with a 2.02 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. 

Throughout the whole playoffs, Rask was strong for the Bruins but there were a few performances in particular in which Rask absolutely stole the show. In the opening-round series against Toronto, the teams met again at TD Garden for a deciding game seven. Rask turned away 32 Toronto shots en route to a 5-1 victory and another second-round appearance for the B’s. In round two against the Columbus Blue Jackets, two of the best goaltenders went head to head as Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky battled all series long. In game six in Columbus, Rask had one of his best games of the playoffs as he shut the door on the Blue Jackets’ season with a 39-save shut out to blank the Blue Jackets and propel the Bruins into the Conference Finals. In another series-clinching game in the Conference Finals against the Hurricanes, Rask again stood tall with a 24-save shut out for the B’s and sent them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Rask also became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history after a Super Bowl Sunday shutout over the Washington Capitals. This was Rask’s 253rd win with the Bruins and passed Tiny Thompson who played for the Bruins from 1928-1939 and racked up a 252-153-63 record.

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Other notables who made the list are division rivals down in Florida with Sergei Bobrovsky of the Panthers coming in at number two and Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay who came in as the best goaltender right now.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 8-25-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Bruins’ Krug And McAvoy Named To NHL Network’s Top-20 Defensemen List

( Photo Credit:  AP / Ben Margot )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

Every summer, the NHL Network narrows down the best players from throughout the league at each position. As part of the series, producers, hosts, and analysts prepared a top-20 list of the current best defensemen in the National Hockey League. This year, the Bruins had two of their own crack the top-20 list as Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug made appearances on the board.

Torey Krug came on the list at number 16 ahead of Zach Werenski, Colton Parayko, Ryan Suter, and rookie Miro Heiskanen. Krug had six goals and 47 assists for 53 points in 64 games which ranked him 12th most in points among defenseman in the NHL. The Bruins power-play quarterback had 30 power-play points which ranked him 16th in the league. This was Krug’s third straight season with 51 or more points and his second-best year in points since he scored 59 points in  76 games during the 2017-2018 campaign. The 28-year-old Michigan native has 62 playoff games under his belt with 11 goals and 35 assists for 46 points and 27 of those on the powerplay. He was second among defensemen in points these past playoffs with 18 points behind Alex Pietrangelo’s 19 points. This past season was Krug’s sixth full season in the NHL and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2020.

Charlie McAvoy cracked the list two spots ahead of Krug at #14 and one spot behind New Jersey Devil P.K. Subban. The 21-year-old Long Island, NY native was selected 14 overall by the Bruins in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft out of Boston University and has played in two full seasons after beginning his NHL career in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. In his rookie campaign, #73 in Black ‘N Gold put up seven goals and 25 assists for 32 points along with a plus-20 rating. In his sophomore season, McAvoy only appeared in 54 regular season games posting seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points and a plus-14 rating. Playing with Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara has accelerated McAvoy’s growth as a young hockey player in the NHL and has quickly become a dominating defenseman in both his own zone and has an offensive upside. McAvoy is still not signed by the Bruins as he is a restricted free agent. He is joined by Brandon Carlo as the Bruins unsigned RFA’s and it is unclear if both defensemen will be on the ice for the beginning of training camp before the 2019-2020 campaign.

Other notables on the list include a number of division rivals such as Maple Leafs d-man Morgan Reilly at number seven and Tampa’s Victor Hedman at number two. Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Bruins’ second-opponent in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, came in on the list at number five.

However, the NHL Network does know that some fans will disagree with their picks and allow the fans to choose their own top-20. According to the fans, Charlie McAvoy rose up to number 11 while Torey Krug fell one spot to number 17.

Although there was not much of a disagreement from the fans regarding Krug’s and McAvoy’s placements on the list, we can all agree that the Bruins have a couple of gems on the blueline.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 141 that we recorded on 8-18-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel!  We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel! 

Latzanakis: Ideal Bruins Lineup on Opening Night: Version One

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( Photo Credit: The Hockey News )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen

Ever since Marchand and Bergeron began playing together, they have been inseparable. The duo has played together on the same line five on five, on the powerplay, and even the penalty kill and have shined together. While at times the line with Pastrnak on the right side was arguably the best line in the league, they also struggled to put the puck in the net. Also, the top line had so much pressure on them to score that they were gripping their sticks a little to tight and not producing like they can. I would like to see some balance in the Bruins lineup by moving Pastrnak to the second line and Danton Heinen getting a shot on the first line. When Pastrnak went down with a thumb injury and Heinen filled in on the right-wing, the line continued dominance without missing a beat and it was Heinen’s best stretch of hockey last season. When playing with Bergeron and Marchand, they produced 11 goals and gave up four against. Heinen is becoming a skilled two-way forward before our eyes and his development can take off if he plays with Marchand and Bergeron in the 2019-2020 season.

 

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak

The second line has been a mystery, especially at the right-wing position all of last season and this offseason. With players like David Backes, Karson Kuhlman, David Pastrnak, Danton Heinen, and Peter Cehlarik just some of the right-wingers who were tried on Krejci’s right for Bruce Cassidy last year. My ideal lineup would include Pastrnak on the right side of Krejci. The two countrymen have been shown to have chemistry in the past and the balance throughout the lineup would be felt quickly, especially if that second line can produce goals at even strength.

 

Third Line: Bjork – Coyle – Ritchie

Charlie Coyle was a hometown playoff hero for the Bruins putting up nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 24 playoff games this past spring. He built great chemistry with winger’s Marcus Johansson, who left as an unrestricted free agent and signed with division rival Buffalo Sabres, and Danton Heinen. The third line center position was in question all season until GM of the Year Don Sweeney made the deal for third-line center depth in Coyle. If Anders Bjork can make a comeback after a shoulder injury that required surgery and ended his whole 2018-2019 campaign he can add some spark on the third line. Bjork played 30 regular-season games in 2017-2018 for the Bruins scoring four goals and eight assists while appearing in 20 games in 2018-2019 posting a goal and two helpers. Bjork has always been looked at as a skilled prospect and if he can stay healthy, he might be able to provide some offense with Charlie Coyle and new free agent signing Brett Ritchie. Brett Ritchie played 53 games last season with the Dallas Stars and racked up four goals and two assists. Ritchie has an empty score sheet in three career playoff games. The Orangeville, Ontario native signed a one-year $1 million contract on July first and we will have to see how he fits in the Bruins lineup this upcoming season.

 

Fourth Line: Wagner – Kuraly – Nordstrom

With the departure of Noel Acciari to the Florida Panthers, the Bruins lost some grit and depth for their fourth line. However, they still have Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, and Joakim Nordstrom as an ideal checking line. Wagner, the Walpole, MA native, won the Seventh Player award as the player who went above and beyond expectations last season. Kuraly and Nordstrom also had strong years as depth, physical, and reliable players for Bruce Cassidy’s B’s. For the fourth line, I would not tinker much with these three for opening night.

Extra Forwards: David Backes, Par Lindholm, Karson Kuhlman

Defense:

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Moore

Extra Defense: Connor Clifton, Kevan Miller, Steven Kampfer, Urho Vaakanainen

The defense was strong this past season as well as into the playoffs and it is safe to say the Bruins have plenty of depth on the back end. Assuming Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy are signed to contracts before opening night, this is how I would line it up on the back end for the Black ‘N Gold. Moore did not have the strongest start to his campaign with the Bruins but towards the end of the season and in the playoffs, particularly the Stanley Cup Finals, Moore showed off his smooth skating and hockey IQ. With either Moor or Clifton in the last defense position, there is no doubt the Bruins have all bases covered on the back end.

Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak

As the offseason is flying by, it will be interesting to see if the Bruins make any trades or moves to their roster as they gear up for hopefully another Stanley Cup run next Spring.

Stay tuned to blackngoldhockey.com for more analysis and breaking news from our team!

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Report: Former Bruin Noel Acciari to sign with Florida Panthers

acciari

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

According to hockey insider Elliotte Friedman of TSN, now former Boston Bruins forward Noel Acciari is signing with the Florida Panthers for a three-year deal worth five million dollars.

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The tough forward for the Bruins was signed to a two-year entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2015 after three seasons at Providence College. The 27-year-old from Johnston, Rhode Island played 180 regular season games posting 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points and a -10 rating. While racking up 80 penalty minutes, Acciari was never afraid to throw his body around and occasionally drop the gloves.

In 35 playoff games, he posted four goals and three assists with a plus-two rating and four penalty minutes.

 

Check out last weeks Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 133 below!

Report: Johansson Not In Talks With Bruins Ahead Of Free Agency

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

At the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was optimistic that he would come to terms with Marcus Johansson and his representation on a deal. Up until late last week, the Bruins were still in the mix along with a handful of other teams. However, it is now being reported by Darren Dreger of TSN that 10 or more teams are in contact with the 28-year-old forward from Sweden and the Bruins are not one of those teams.

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Johansson will become an unrestricted free agent on July first as the NHL Free Agency frenzy begins after the Bruins acquired Johansson from the New Jersey Devils on trade deadline day for a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 fourth-round pick.

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He will likely get a raise on his $4.6 million that he received last season and with the Bruins cap situation they just simply cannot afford to pay Johansson. Johansson praised the city of Boston and the Bruins organization and expressed interest in re-signing but will likely be wearing another sweater in the 2019-2020 season.

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His tenure with Boston got off to a rough start. On March 5, 2019, Johansson was injured in just his fourth game with the Bruins. He was hospitalized after a collision with Carolina Hurricanes forward Michael Ferland and later diagnosed with a lung contusion. He went on to miss 10 games in March for the Bruins after the injury.

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During his brief time in Boston, Johansson put up one goal and two assists in 10 regular season games played. But, his impact was really felt in the postseason. Johansson quickly built chemistry with B’s forward Charlie Coyle on the third line for Bruce Cassidy. In 22 playoff games, Johansson scored four goals to go along with seven helpers and 11 points and scored some huge goals for Boston like his insurance marker in the first period of game seven against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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He also connected with Charlie Coyle with incredible passes on the tying and overtime game-winning goals in game one of the second round series against Columbus. The line of Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle, and Marcus Johansson were often the Bruins most effective line during the long Stanley Cup run. With the “perfection-line” and the David Krejci line often struggling to find the back of the net, the Johansson line was productive in their forecheck and goal-scoring and he will definitely be missed by the Bruins next season.

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As a result, Don Sweeney’s search for wingers continues heading into Free Agency on Monday and the rest of the offseason. Sweeney will certainly be busy as the Bruins have a number of UFA’s and RFA’s that they will try to come to terms with before the start of next season.

Sweeney has extending qualifying offers to restricted free agents Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Peter Cehlarik, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson as well as extending offers to pending unrestricted free agent Noel Acciari and a 2-year extension for defenseman Steven Kampfer.

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July first is always an interesting and exciting day in the NHL so follow along with our Black ‘N Gold Hockey team for all the latest free agency news.

Check out last weeks Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 133 below!

Next Man Up: Zdeno Chara Status Uncertain for Bruins in SCF Game 5

charainjury

( Photo Credit: wcvb.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

As the Bruins and Blues prepare for a pivotal game five in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins could be without their captain. In game four at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Zdeno Chara took a puck to the face in the second period that prevented him from returning to the game. Now, Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins might have to adjust to missing their leader for a big game of a tied Stanley Cup Final series.

Just three minutes into the second period of game four, the Bruins lost their captain after Brayden Schenn rifled a shot that ramped off of Chara’s defending stick and into his mouth area. Chara would leave for the second period, and the Bruins were again down to five defensemen much like game two in which they lost in overtime. At the start of the third period, Chara was on the Bruins bench with a full shield on, leading many to believe that the monster defenseman would play. However, he did not touch the ice besides in between TV timeouts to rally up his troops. It was later revealed by Cassidy that Chara was advised not to play as he was “very uncomfortable” but wanted to sit on the bench to be there for his teammates.

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After Ryan O’Reilly buried a late third-period game-winning goal that would ultimately tie the Stanley Cup Finals series at two games apiece, worry crept into Bruins fans’ minds about the status of the Bruins captain. On Tuesday, it was reported that Zdeno Chara broke his jaw as a result and he ultimately missed practice on Wednesday at TD Garden. At the conclusion of Bruins practice, Cassidy spoke about Chara’s facial injury and that it was not a good sign that Zee was not on the ice on Wednesday.

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So, all signs are pointing to Big Zee potentially being out for at least game five in this series. That leaves Bruce Cassidy with some very tough decisions heading into arguably the biggest game of the series and the season for both the Bruins and the Blues. With Grzelcyk going down after a hard hit from Oskar Sundqvist in game two, John Moore was called on to step in and replace Grzelcyk on the blue line. The next man up that we have seen step up in these playoffs would be Steven Kampfer. However, Cassidy has second-guessed the insertion of Kampfer because he is a right-handed shot and would throw off the right-left balance between Kampfer and Connor Clifton – a balance that is consistent with the rest of the defense.

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Another option would be for Cassidy to insert Bruins rookie standout Urho Vaakanainen into the lineup. Urho would solve the right-left shot balance as he is a left-handed shooting defenseman. However, this could be a risky move as Vaakanainen has only played two regular season games in the NHL.

The third option for Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff is to roll eleven forwards and seven defensemen. This, of course, would mean that a forward would be scratched in order to make room for the seventh defenseman which would likely be David Backes as he was often the odd forward out in the earlier rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Karson Kuhlman was with Krejci and DeBrusk on the second line. The Blues have beaten the Bruins twice this series, and both times the Bruins have lost defenseman for a big chunk of the game when they lost Grzelcyk in the first period of game two and Chara at the beginning of the second period of game four.

On Wednesday, the practice lines looked like this:

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes
Johansson – Coyle – Heinen
Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari
Moore – McAvoy
Krug – Carlo
Kampfer – Clifton
Grzelcyk – Vaakanainen
Rask
Halak

As of Wednesday, Cassidy stated that Grzelcyk still needs to be cleared which he is possible to get cleared tomorrow. It appears that Kampfer would play with Clifton in game five, but that will ultimately depend on if Cassidy wants to remove a forward and go with the seven defensemen, if Grzelcyk is cleared, or if Vaakanainen gets the call over Kampfer. Good news is that Grzelcyk looked well on the ice and that he skated with the second powerplay unit indicating that he is close but still needs to be cleared.

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All in all, Cassidy is in for a series of crucial tough decisions for the all-important game five at TD Garden on Thursday night. If Chara is unable to go for game five, the Bruins will undoubtedly miss his leadership on and off the ice.

Bruins’ Grzelcyk Injured After Hard Hit In SCF Game Two

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

( Photo Credit: NESN.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

On Wednesday night the Boston Bruins looked to take a two-nothing series lead in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals after a comeback victory over the St. Louis Blues in game one. One of the bigger stories from game one was Torey Krug leveling Blues’ forward Robert Thomas. After game two, another big hit is in the headlines, and that is the hit that injured B’s d-man Matt Grzelcyk.

Nearing the end of a thrilling four-goal first period, the Blues dumped the puck into the left corner where Grzelcyk went to retrieve. As he gathered the puck and sent it around the boards behind Tuukka Rask, he was hit from behind and was sent into the glass hard by Blues’ forward Oskar Sundqvist.

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Grzelcyk was immediately down on the ice holding his head as Bruins trainer Don DelNegro made his way to check on the injured defenseman. Grzelcyk left the ice with help from teammates Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci and did not return. It was later reported that he was sent to the hospital for further testing.

The hit by Sundqvist earned him a minor penalty for boarding and was a clear hit from behind. Although it looked like a nasty hit, Grzelcyk was in an awkward position and was warranted of only a two minute minor instead of a five-minute major penalty.

On Thursday morning, the National Hockey League Department of Player Safety announced that Sundqvist will have a hearing for the hit. It was not specified as a phone hearing or an in-person hearing for Sundqvist.

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Bruce Cassidy confirmed to the media Thursday that Grzelcyk did indeed leave the arena to go to the hospital for further testing after the hit and is now considered “day-to-day” as he is in the concussion protocol and will update on his condition as he receives more information. It was also noted that Grzelcyk will not make the flight to St. Louis with the team Thursday afternoon and that a decision on who will replace Matt Grzelyck in the lineup for game three will be made closer to game time.

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For the rest of the game, the Bruins were forced to use only five defensemen which certainly tired the defense core for the Bruins, and it was a factor in the 3-2 overtime loss as the Bruins failed to exit the zone numerous times before Carl Gunnarsson won the game for the Blues.

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When Charlie McAvoy was suspended for the first game of the Eastern Conference finals, Bruce Cassidy decided to pencil in Steven Kampfer in which he scored a goal in the 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. In Carolina for game four, Zdeno Chara missed the game, and John Moore drew into the lineup for the injured captain. It will be interesting to see who will step in for Grzelcyk at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis for game three on Saturday night.

Stay tuned to blackngoldhockey.com for more information when the NHL Player Safety’s decision is announced.

Bruins’ Tuukka Rask Having MVP Caliber Postseason

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes

( Photo Credit: CBSSports.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

The Bruins are going on an absolute tear this postseason and are getting contributions from up and down the lineup. On Thursday night, the Bruins advanced to their third Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2011, and Tuukka Rask is a big reason why.

A lot has been said about Tuukka Rask and his inconsistency in the playoffs throughout his career in Boston (and I’ll admit, I was one of those people). It seemed as though he could not break through and become the performer that the Bruins needed to get past strong teams like the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018. That perception has all been changed this season, and Tuukka Rask has emerged as the clear Conn Smyth trophy winner as the MVP of the playoffs.

The Bruins this offseason went out and signed Jaroslav Halak, a veteran starting goaltender to split the time in the regular season with Tuukka Rask. The two goaltenders split the regular season virtually equally with Halak getting 37 starts and Rask with 45 in order to keep Rask fresh for a deep playoff run – and boy has that worked out well. A lot of folks also think the signing was to have a solid Plan B if Tuukka struggled at all during the postseason.

In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuukka Rask and Frederik Anderson went head to head which was a great goaltending battle. Despite the Leafs taking the Bruins to a game seven again, Tuukka Rask stood on his head in the final game of the first round and defeated the Maple Leafs with 32 saves on 33 shots for a .970 save percentage and a 5-1 victory.

In the Eastern Conference second-round series, Tuukka and the Black ‘N Gold saw the Columbus Blue Jackets and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Another monster goaltending matchup and Tuukka stole the show. After game five, Blue Jackets coach stated that his team “dented” Tuukka Rask with three late third period goals. However, when game six came around, Tuukka Rask was clearly unfazed by the coaches comments and posted a 39 save shutout that propelled the Bruins into the Eastern Conference Finals.

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In Tuukka Rask’s career Conference Finals, he has not lost a single game in his career. In 2013, Rask and the Bruins swept Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East Finals to move on to the Stanley Cup Finals. On Thursday night, Rask would continue his Eastern Conference Finals dominance and remains a perfect 8-0 and becomes just the seventh goaltender in NHL history to win at least eight straight games in the conference finals.

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In Game three against Carolina in Raleigh, the Hurricanes came out buzzing, and Tuukka stood on his head once again for the Bruins as the Hurricanes peppered Rask with 20 shots in the first period but did not beat number 40 in Black ‘N Gold. Rask gave the Bruins a chance to take a three nothing series lead, and they might be playing a game five on Saturday night if it wasn’t for Tuukka’s performance in game three.

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In series-clinching games in these playoffs, Rask stopped 90 of 91 shots with a 5-1 win against Toronto in game seven, a 3-0 shutout against Columbus in game six, and a 4-0 shutout in game four against Carolina.

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Rask’s play has been nothing short of amazing this postseason and who better to compare this year’s Tuukka Rask to 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff MVP Tim Thomas.

Through the 2011 Conference Finals, Tim Thomas posted a 12-6 record with a 2.29 goals against average and a .929 save percentage along with two shutouts. Through the 2019 Conference Finals, Tuukka Rask has posted a 12-5 record with a 1.84 (!!) goals against average and a .942 save percentage with two shutouts. Rask also passed Gerry Cheevers and Tim Thomas with three series-clinching shutouts that are the most in Boston Bruins history.

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Tuukka Rask has by far been nothing short of incredible this season and has shown up all the Rask haters and doubters in which I will admit, I had doubted him before. But, I am so proud to admit that I was wrong and happy for Tuukka and the Bruins. He is the clear-cut favorite for the Conn Smyth trophy thus far, and it really isn’t even close. Whoever the Bruins face in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, it will be a tough matchup for the Bruins, but if Tuukka Rask plays like he has been this postseason, the Bruins have a very good chance of hoisting Lord Stanley.

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Bruins McAvoy To Have Hearing With Department Of Player Safety

Boston Bruins v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Six

( Photo Credit: CBS Boston )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

On Monday night, the Boston Bruins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets in game six of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series by a score of 3-0 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2013. However, the Black ‘N Gold might be without Charlie McAvoy to begin the series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

With 20 seconds to go in the second period, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy illegally laid out Blue Jackets’ forward Josh Anderson. McAvoy leaned into Anderson and finished the hit upwards in which McAvoy’s shoulder made contact with Anderson’s head and leaving the Columbus forward on the ice in pain.

After a lengthy discussion between the referees, McAvoy was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal hit to the head. As a result, McAvoy will have a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Tuesday and could be suspended for the hit.

Fans and members of the media believed that the hit was worthy of a major penalty but instead was only called a minor. Many believe that because it was the playoffs and the recent controversial major penalty call on Cody Eakin in Game Seven between the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights that the referees refrained from calling a five-minute major on Charlie McAvoy.

Stay tuned for the Department of Player Safety’s ruling on the Charlie McAvoy hit.

Bruins Should Not Overlook Series Against Columbus

bruins_blue_jackets

( Photo Credit: NECN.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

The Boston Bruins are set to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Thursday night at TD Garden. After a thrilling game seven win over the Toronto Maple Leafs just two days ago, the Bruins hope the momentum will carry over into the second round against the Blue Jackets who stunned the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning with a first-round sweep.

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The road to the Stanley Cup Finals will go through Boston as the Black ‘N Gold are the highest remaining seed in the postseason. For the first time in NHL postseason history, all four division winners were eliminated in the first round with all four Wild Card teams advancing.

In the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the playoffs in a stunning turn of events and similarly the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the President’s Trophy and record-setting Tampa Bay Lightning out of the first round. On Wednesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals in double-overtime to move on.

In the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks defeated the defending Western Conference Champion Vegas Golden Knights in overtime of game seven to move onto face Colorado who also completed a stunning upset when they beat the Western Conference top seed Calgary Flames in only five games. In recent seasons, the Nashville Predators have been a large favorite to come out of the west. However, this season was different when the Dallas Stars defeated the Preds in six games to propel Dallas into the West Semifinals.

In January, the St. Louis Blues were dead last in the NHL but stormed back to make a playoff appearance in the Central Division. They handled the Winnipeg Jets in six games and have moved onto the second round to face the Dallas Stars.

The Stanley Cup Playoff first round has been incredibly fun to watch with the upsets and storylines in each series. With these upsets, the Bruins remain as the highest seed in the playoffs and means that they will have home-ice advantage for the rest of the playoffs. This bodes well for the Bruins as the B’s went 29-9-3 at the TD Garden in the regular season and won a pivotal game seven at home on Tuesday night 5-1 over the Maple Leafs.

With the results around the league, it can be easy for the Bruins to look ahead to the Conference Finals and even the Stanley Cup finals because of some of the favorites being out of the race in the first round. However, it is essential that the Bruins do not look past Columbus in the second round series.

The Blue Jackets finished as the second Wild Card team in the East and nearly missed the postseason after a fairly strong but inconsistent season. After making the dance, they faced the heavy cup favorite in Tampa who tied the single-season record for most wins with 62. A lot of people picked Tampa to sweep Columbus but instead, John Tortorella and his team shocked the sports world and swept them instead. With strong goaltending, team defense, and production from their superstar forwards including deadline acquisition Matt Duchene who leads the team with three goals and four assists for seven points, the Blue Jackets are a strong team that should not be overlooked just because of their seeding. Sergei Bobrovsky has played like his Vezina self posting a .932% save percentage this playoff and shut down the superstars for the Lightning in Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

It was said by fans and some media members in Boston that after the slow start against the Toronto Maple Leafs, that the Bruins might have overlooked the Leafs and were already thinking about facing Tampa Bay in the second round. Both the team and the fans should not take Tortorella’s squad lightly. The Blue Jackets have proven to the hockey world that they belong in the playoffs and are a strong team and the Bruins should not take them lightly. The Bruins powerplay helped them out in their series against Toronto and went seven for sixteen on powerplay chances in the series which was second in powerplay percentage during the first round only behind the Blue Jackets who buried five PP goals on 10 opportunities against Tampa Bay. Alternatively, the Blue Jackets were tied for the top penalty kill percentage in the regular season and killed off 83% of the Lightning PP opportunities in round number one. 

It is exciting to look at the remaining Eastern Conference teams and to realize that the road to the Finals goes through TD Garden, but the Bruins and the Bruins faithful must focus on the Blue Jackets should not think that this will be an easy series — because it wont. However, as it is encouraging and exciting to see an “easier” road to the finals but as we all know there is no easy route to the championship especially in hockey with every team deserving to be here.

This is another tough matchup for the Bruins who will be battling a very good team in a best of seven series and will be another fantastic coaching matchup between Bruce Cassidy and John Tortorella. The Bruins must come out strong against Columbus who haven’t played in nine days and set the tone for the series and continue their strong play that emerged in game six and seven against Toronto.