Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 6 Boston at Toronto

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( Photo Credit: NBC Sports )

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

On Sunday afternoon, the Bruins and the Leafs battled in the first elimination game of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Boston Bruins forced a game seven back in Boston with the 4-2 victory and will face the Maple Leafs on TD Garden ice in a do-or-die game seven for the third straight time these two teams have met in the postseason. Here’s how it all went down:

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Home: Toronto Maple Leafs (3-2)

Away: Boston Bruins (2-3)

Game 5 Result: Toronto Maple Leafs (2) – Boston Bruins (1)

Bruins Lineup:

Bruce Cassidy announced at his pre-game press conference that Joakim Nordstrom and Karson Kuhlman would draw back into the lineup and Chris Wagner and David Backes would be the scratches.

First Period:

The first period started off much quicker and with more energy than Game 5 in Boston. The first penalty call was a controversial one as it initially appeared Zdeno Chara sent the puck out of play. The on-ice referees conferenced and sent the Bruins captain to the penalty box but Marcus Johansson and Bruce Cassidy showed the referees the puck that had, in fact, landed in the Boston bench. Nonetheless, the Bruins went on the penalty kill and survived it.

With 10:18 left in the first, the Bruins failed to get the puck out of the zone a number of times and Morgan Reilly rifled a shot from the point that beat Rask, giving the Maple Leafs a quick 1-0 lead.

Right after Toronto struck first, Sean Kuraly drew a holding penalty and the Bruins had a chance to tie the game on their first powerplay of the game. Right off the face off to the right of Andersen and about halfway through the powerplay, Brad Marchand ripped a shot that deflected off a Toronto leg and through the five-hole of the Leafs netminder. The Bruins PP answer tied the game 1-1 — something the team failed to do three times in game five.

After the Bruins tied the game, Joakim Nordstrom was battling Travis Dermott in the Leafs corner but was called for high-sticking (another controversial call after replays showed Dermott slew-footing Nordstrom). The Leafs would go on their second powerplay of the game and the period but the Bruins would again make the kill.

Right after the successful PK, you guessed it, the Bruins went back to the powerplay when Dermott tripped Jake DeBrusk behind Frederick Andersen. The Bruins looked to take the lead in the game on their second PP of the period. After good zone time, David Pastrnak threw one off Andersen and Krug buried the rebound, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead late in the first. The B’s looked to be playing some of their best hockey in the series at this point after giving up the first goal early.

With just a minute left in the first, Andersen robbed Patrice Bergeron on the doorstep after Marchand wrapped the puck around the net. Bergeron did not get everything on the shot but Andersen nevertheless made the big glove stop.

Shots on Goal: Boston 14 – Toronto 6

Score: Bruins 2 – Toronto 1

Second Period:

The Bruins came out strong in the second period and were the faster, more physical team in the beginning of the middle period. At 7:53 of the second, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk brought the puck into the attacking zone and in a give and go play, Krejci found DeBrusk who deflected the pass past Andersen, extending the B’s lead with an insurance goal to make it 3-1.

Right after the Bruins goal, yet another questionable call sent the B’s to the penalty kill when Charlie Coyle was whistled for tripping. However, like the previous two times, the Bruins made the kill and kept the lead by two.

The Leafs responded (after coming up empty handed on the PP for the third time in a row) with a few strong shifts of their own. After getting some looks on Rask and a scramble in front, David Krejci gathered the puck and sent it down the ice for icing to alleviate some of the Toronto pressure. Auston Matthews won the ensuing draw and the Leafs hemmed the tired Bruins in their own zone. The puck was worked around to the right side to Morgan Reilly who sidestepped a Bruin defender and rifled a shot that was answered by the glove of Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins would respond after the good shift by Toronto with two strong, cycle-the-puck and physical shifts by the third and fourth lines – something that was much needed for Bruce Cassidy’s bench as it wore down the Maple Leafs’ defense.

After a few more chances for both teams, the period ended with two “almosts” for the Bruins, but the Black N’ Gold still took a 3-1 lead to the dressing room heading into the last period of regulation.

Shots on Goal: Boston 30 – Toronto 15

Score: Boston 3 – Toronto 1

Third Period:

Clinging to a two-goal lead entering the third period of play north of the border in Toronto, the Bruins needed to keep their foot on the gas in order to force a game 7 back in Boston at the Garden.

After a slow start to the period for both teams, the Leafs began to put some pressure on the Bruins. John Tavares had a point-blank chance in front after a great pass from behind the cage and Rask pushed over to rob him. Right after the ensuing draw, a passing play for the Leafs found Auston Matthews wide open on the right wing side. He fired a wrist shot off the pipe and in that beat Tuukka Rask to the blocker side and the Leafs cut the deficit to one, 3-2.

The Leafs then continued the pressure all period long, hemming the Bruins in deep almost the whole period. The Bruins held on with Rask having his best game of the series. The defense also stood tall with Brandon Carlo in particular playing like he did in the regular season, shutting down the Leafs and making fantastic plays in his own zone. Charlie McAvoy also had an incredible game as he played 9:19 of the third period, with Zdeno Chara logging 8:49 of ice-time himself.

The Leafs pulled Andersen late in the third but Brad Marchand sealed the game for the Bruins with an empty-netter at 18:06 of the final frame, giving the B’s a 4-2 lead.

With the big win, the Bruins have now forced a game seven back at TD Garden on Tuesday night for the third straight time in the playoffs against Toronto.

Shots on Goal: Boston 41 – Toronto 24

Final Score: Boston Bruins 4 – Toronto Maple Leafs 2

 

Coyle Proving The Doubters Wrong In Bruins Postseason

Coyle

( Photo Credit: The Athletic )

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

The Bruins received a major piece to their forward lineup ahead of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Charlie Coyle. The centerman, who played 47 playoff games for the Wild brings playoff experience and depth to Cassidy’s forward group. Many fans and media had questioned his effectiveness and fit in a Bruins uniform but, in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Toronto, he has raised some eyebrows.

The Weymouth, MA native was shipped up to Boston on February 20, 2019, in a trade that sent Ryan Donato and a fifth-round draft pick to the Minnesota Wild. Bruins fans and media were split in their reactions to the trade by Don Sweeney and did not know how well he would contribute to the Bruins offensive depth. In 21 games with his favorite childhood team, he put up two goals and 4 assists for six points along with a plus/minus rating of minus two.

Throughout the last few weeks of the regular season, Cassidy tried Coyle up and down the lineup on the center and the wing and was not able to really find a firm position in the lineup. In the playoffs, Cassidy started Coyle on the third line with Marcus Johansson and Danton Heinen on the wings in game one.

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After a disappointing loss in game one, Bruce Cassidy was looking to add more grit and intensity to the Bruins lineup. With Johansson out with an illness, David Backes drew back into the lineup and was slotted on the right wing of the Heinen and Coyle line. That line started off the game with intense hits and forechecking and began to go after the Leafs which the Bruins did not do much of in game one. At just about the five-minute mark of the first, David Backes finished a great forecheck behind the Toronto goal and knocked the puck loose and sent a pass in front to Coyle who buried his first of the playoffs and got the Bruins the much needed first goal of the game. Coyle logged 15:16 time on ice with a plus-two rating and had a strong performance.

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Similarly, on Monday night in game three North of the border, the Bruins found themselves in a 3-1 hole late in the second period. As the Bruins went on the powerplay, Coyle parked himself in front, and after a scramble from a Grzelcyk shot and a rebound from Heinen, Coyle rifled a shot past Andersen and got a huge goal for the Bruins heading into the dressing room. Along with that big goal, Coyle logged 17:17 time on ice and was named the games third star.

Coyle and Heinen have found great chemistry in this first-round series against Toronto. Charlie Coyle has arguably been the Bruins best player in this series which is both good and bad. Although consistency and scoring from Coyle on the third line are key for the Bruins, the team also needs its top two lines to get going and tie the series up in game 4 in Toronto. (Wednesday, April 17 7:00pm Scotiabank Arena on NBCSN and NESN)

Coyle’s size, strength, and skill fit right into the Bruins lineup, and it seems as though he has found his spot and confidence in a Bruins uniform. His chemistry with Heinen is developing before our eyes, and the veteran centerman has stepped up on the biggest stage for the Black and Gold. It is essential for the third line depth to contribute for Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins in this series against Toronto. With the matchup game for both coaches imminent in this series, Boston and Toronto’s top two lines are battling for every inch of ice which increases the need for bottom six contribution for both teams and especially Boston.

Charlie Coyle is beginning to prove his worth to fans and media with his strong play of late, but it needs to continue in order for the Bruins to take this best of seven series from the rivals in Toronto. However, although it is a great sign that Coyle is beginning to find his game with Boston, the Bruins are seeking contributions from the other top players on the team in their effort to get back into this series.

David Krejci’s Success is Key for Bruins Stanley Cup Run

Krejci

( Photo Credit: BostonSportsExtra.com )

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

The Bruins are set to begin their quest for the team’s seventh Stanley Cup when they meet the Maple Leafs in round 1 for the second straight season. They have been one of the leagues best teams and a favorite of many to hoist Lord Stanley in June. In the middle of the Bruins’ success has been David Krejci – who had one of the most consistent and dominant seasons of his career.

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Since coming into the league in the 2007-08 season, Krejci has become an incredible offensive force and leader in the locker room for the Bruins. In his second season, Krejci put him 73 points in 82 games played. In his 12th year in the league this season, Krejci tied his career high with 73 points in 81 games played and has managed to stay healthy all year. And oh, by the way, he is about to turn 33 on April 28th.

Krejci has battled numerous injuries in the regular season and playoffs that have made fans overlook his contributions to the Bruins in the recent regular season and playoff campaigns. This season he has managed to stay healthy and only sat out one of the last regular season games to rest for the upcoming playoffs.

In 2011, Krejci began the playoffs having played 75 games that season and accumulating 62 points (13G 49A). He was healthy heading into the playoffs and was centering a line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. That line was killer to the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, and Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoff run. Krejci’s line scored huge goals in the playoffs that season including the game-winner in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the Conference Final. Nathan Horton scored the lone goal on a great feed from David Krejci that would ultimately send the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals with the 1-0 win.

Krejci led the entire playoffs that year in scoring with 12 goals (4 game-winning goals) 11 assists for 23 points in 25 games. Of course, the Bruins won the Stanely Cup against Vancouver that season and it’s no coincidence that David Krejci leading the playoffs in scoring was a huge part of that Stanley Cup.

In 2013, the Bruins returned to the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago. Again, David Krejci led the NHL in points during the playoffs by scoring 9 goals 17 assists for 26 points in 22 games. Along with Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, the playmaking of Krejci was instrumental in bringing the Bruins back to the Cup Finals.

When it comes down to crunch time in the playoffs where big faceoffs in the offensive or defensive zones can be crucial ones, the Bruins have the luxury of throwing Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci out there just in case one of them gets thrown out of the draw. If Bergeron is waved out, Krejci can step in and be a reliable faceoff guy who has a 50.8% career faceoff percentage, which is a great luxury that often gets overlooked in the fan-base.

In the past few years, the Bruins have struggled to find winger’s for David Krejci after the departures of Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. Last year, Jake DeBrusk came into the league and put up impressive rookie numbers in the regular season and even came up huge in the playoffs for the Bruins. Much of that success has to do with Krejci taking DeBrusk under his wing. They have brewed up nice chemistry, and both are having career years. It looks as though Karson Kuhlman will step in on the other wing with Krejci and Debrusk for Game 1 against Toronto. Kuhlman has played well with Krejci and DeBrusk in 11 games this season and could be the recipe for success on the second line that the Bruins have been looking for since 2014.

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According to Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney, #46 has been a quiet MVP for the Bruins: “I think David is an underlying MVP to our season, to be honest with you, really a catalyst for our group this year,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday. “Might not have gotten the prime attention that several other players deserved and merited, but it was a very consistent year for David, start-to-finish. You’re seeing the development of Jake DeBrusk, and the year that he had, and David, a lot can be attributed to that” (via Yahoo Sports).

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It is evident that if the Bruins want to get to the Stanley Cup Finals, David Krejci is an essential part of the team’s success. Krejci enters the 2019 playoffs with 87 points in 108 playoff games and has led the NHL in playoff scoring twice. Krejci is healthy and has an energetic Jake DeBrusk on his left along with a promising young Karson Kuhlman on his right and is gearing up for another successful playoff run. If Krejci stays healthy and continues his consistent play from the regular season, the Bruins will make some noise in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Bruins – Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One Matchup

bsleafs

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday, April 10th with five games slated for the postseason to kick off. The Bruins and Leafs have to wait to get their series started on Thursday at TD Garden. This will be the second straight season that the Bruins will face Toronto in the first round series and it certainly will not disappoint.

The Leafs come into the series with one of the league’s most potent offense. With former first overall picks Auston Matthews and John Tavares and a supporting cast of incredible young talent in Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Kasperi Kapanen, the Leafs were the second top scoring team in the league with 3.5 goals per game. The Bruins offense has been stellar this season as well led by the best line in the NHL with Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak but ranked 10th in the league with 3.1 goals per game.

Boston’s second line has seemed to find a jump this season compared to last year with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk putting up career numbers. Along with them, Karson Kuhlman will join them for at least game 1 and has earned his spot on that line putting up three goals and two assists for five points in 11 games this season.

On the back-end, the Bruins have arguably one of the best defensive cores in the postseason this year with a healthy Brandon Carlo at the forefront. Carlo is finally healthy to begin the playoffs after missing the past two post-seasons with late March and early April devastating injuries. Carlo has been one of the most consistent players this season and has really broken out to become a shut-down, high hockey IQ defenseman for the B’s. Along with Chara’s leadership, the quarterbacking of Torey Krug on the powerplay, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk, the Bruins are pretty deep in the defensive end.

Across the sheet, Toronto’s defense is not their strong suit. Last year’s playoffs were not good for Jake Gardiner who posted a -6 rating and got torched at times by the Bruins in the 2017-2018 first round seven-game series. With Ron Hainsey, Jake Muzzin, Travis Dermott, and Nikita Zaitsev, the defense should not scare the Bruins. However, Morgan Reilly has emerged as a Norris Trophy candidate this season thanks in part to his 20 goals 52 assists for 72 points in 82 games played, Reilly has become an incredible offensive defenseman but is really the only force on the blueline for the Leafs. The Bruins ranked third in goals against this year with 212 while Toronto ranked 20th with 249. For this series, I would give the defensive edge to Boston although they will have to be sharp against the Leafs offense.

In goal, the Bruins have arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league. Rask and Halak have helped the Bruins to the aforementioned third place in goals against and third in goals-against average. Rask has had a lesser workload thanks to Halak being able to step in and split time and do it well. Rask this season has posted a 27-13-5 record with a 2.48 goals against average and a .912 save percentage along with 4 shutouts. Rask had a rocky start to the year and even had to take a leave of absence but upon his return, has returned to form and even became the all-time Bruins winningest goalie after a 1-0 shutout of the Washington Capitals on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Leafs goaltending is also a position that they have struggled with this season. Just last week, the Leafs sent backup Garrett Sparks down to the AHL and called up Michael Hutchinson because of Sparks’ recent struggling play. Frederik Anderson is the number one in Toronto and has posted a 36-16-7 record with a .917 save percentage, a 2.77 goals against average and one shutout. However, he is not the most consistent goalie and has struggled at times against Boston. In last years playoffs, he posted a 3.76 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. Leafs fans had a scare when in the final game of this season, Andrew Shaw of the Canadiens bumped into Anderson’s head and many Leafs fans feared that he was injured although he finished the game in Montreal. I would again give the edge to Boston in the goaltending department but Tuukka Rask has got to stay on top of his game against the Leafs offense and make the necessary saves that the Bruins need.

Home-ice advantage is big for Boston and they were rewarded with that luxury this season in the opening round against Toronto. The Bruins went 29-9-3 on TD Garden ice this season and have taken the two previous series from the Leafs in game seven on home ice. In 2013, the Bruins came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to win the game 5-4 in overtime in all-time great game Bruins and NHL game seven. Last spring, the Bruins came back again on home ice and eliminated Toronto 7-4 in another home game 7 for Boston.

This series is going to be yet another great matchup. The Bruins need to continue their season-long shutdown defense, strong goaltending, and creative offense in order to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs. For the second straight year, this original six rivalry will heat up for a playoff series and it all starts April 11th at TD Garden.

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston at Detroit 3/30/19

bswings

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: Little Caesars Arena

Home: Detroit Red Wings (30-38-10)

Away: Boston Bruins (47-22-9)

Boston Starting Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Acciari – Backes

Defense

Krug – Carlo

Chara – McAvoy

Grzelcyk – Miller

Goaltenders

Halak

Rask

Detroit Starting Lineup

Forwards

Bertuzzi – Larkin – Mantha

Hirose – Athanasiou – Helm

Kuffner – Ehn – Frk

Puempel – Turgeon

Defense

Dekeyser – Bowey

Kronwall – Hronek

Chelios – McIlrath

Witkowski

Goaltenders

Howard

Fulcher

First Period

The Bruins were without Chris Wagner who did not take warmups. He was listed as out for the game with a lower-body injury and also listed as day-to-day. Karson Kuhlman stepped in and slotted on the right side with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on the second line.

Halfway through the first period, the play is beginning to pick up as the B’s and Wings traded chances. Detroit would take a 1-0 lead at the 10:26 mark when Dylan Larkin completed a perfect behind the back pass to wide-open Anthony Mantha who buried a top-shelf shot past Jaroslav Halak.

The Bruins headed to the power play when Andreas Athanasiou slashed David Krejci with 6:22 to go in the first. The Bruins third-ranked powerplay got to work with the top line, but the Bruins could not get anything going on the man advantage as the Red Wings killed it off.

After a commercial break, the Bruins had a little puck luck in the neutral zone. As Acciari carried the puck in the zone, he slid it over to David Backes who got slashed as he fired a shot wide to the glove side of Jimmy Howard. Chelios would head off for the Bruins second power play of the period with just under three minutes to play.

As the power play was expiring, Marchand tries to keep a bouncing puck in the zone, but it got by him. Darren Helm had a partial breakaway which was stopped by Halak, but Matt Grzelcyk was called for a slash. With one second to go, Anthony Mantha buried a slapper to the glove side of Halak, and the Red Wings took a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Score: 2-0 Detroit

Shots: Detroit-9 Boston-8

Second Period

Justs 2:01 into the period, David Krejci finds a streaking Jake DeBrusk down the slot in the Red Wings zone and wristed it over the blocker of Jimmy Howard for his 25th of the season and to get the Black and Gold on the board.

The Bruins began tilting the ice a little as they started connecting on some of their passes and creating chances in the offensive zone.

Anthony Mantha got a breakaway at the 8:12 mark looking for the hat-trick but Halak stood tall and made the save. Soon after, the Bruins were whistled for delay of game when Charlie McAvoy flipped the puck over the low glass. On the penalty, Bergeron and Marchand come in two-on-one. Bergeron sidesteps the sliding Mantha and slips a backhand feed to Marchand who one-timed it over the outstretched Jimmy Howard for the game-tying goal. With the goal, Brad Marchand became the Bruins all-time leading shorthanded goal scorer with 26.

The Bruins continued finding open space as Johansson and Marchand both had opportunities in down the left wing side with shots that were denied by Howard. However, Bertuzzi got a good chance in front of the Bruins net that Halak made a good pad save on.

Just seconds later, Luke Witkowski laid out Joakim Nordstrom at the Bruins blue line. The clean hard hit sent Nordstrom awkwardly into the boards after the nasty-looking, but clean body check. Noel Acciari came to the aid of his teammate and engaged with Witkowski in a fight. Acciari was assessed the instigator penalty which granted him 17 minutes in penalties with a two-minute penalty for instigating, five minutes for fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct.

In the final two minutes, David Krejci streaking up the left wing side gets a shot on Howard that ends up behind the net, Krejci then pokes the puck up to Kevan Miller at the point who wrists it and gets the deflection from David Backes for the Bruins lead with exactly one minute remaining.

The Bruins woke up in the second and began playing for one another again and took a 3-2 lead over Detroit into the second intermission

Score: Bruins 3 Detroit 2

Shots: Boston 17 Detroit 17

Third Period

As Jake DeBrusk sat for interference just a minute into the third, the Wings tied it up with a goal from you guessed it: Anthony Mantha. His first career hat-trick evened the game with 18:43 to go in the third.

Then, eight seconds later, Taro Hirose scored his first NHL goal as he snapped a one-timer after a fantastic feed by Andreas Athanasiou past Halak and just like that, the Bruins were playing from behind again.

The top line for Detroit continues to give the Bruins trouble in the defensive zone as another close call in front when Dylan Larkin tipped a shot that was handled by Halak. Bruins still trailing by one with half of the third period gone.

With 7:57 to go in the period, the Red Wings again hammered a one-timer by Halak. This time Filip Hronek buried one and Detroit took a two-goal lead with time dwindling for the Bruins.

Bruce Cassidy pulls Jaroslav Halak with four minutes remaining in the third as the Bruins need a pair to tie the game.

With 58 seconds left, Dylan Larkin virtually ends the game for the Red Wings with the empty-netter to make it 6-3 Detroit.

Final Score: Detroit 6 Boston 3

The Bruins will be in action next on Tuesday, April 2 in Columbus as they take on the Blue Jackets.

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My Pick for Bruins’ 7th Player Award

carlo

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

The NESN’s 7th Player award is presented annually to a player on the Bruins roster who has performed above and beyond expectations this season. The award has been given out since the 1968-69 season when Ed Westfall won the award that season according to Fandom.com.

The award has been given out to Bruins players who have turned into legends. To name a few: Terry O’Reilly, Cam Neely, Barry Pederson, and Rick Middleton. Recently, the award has been given to Bruins players like Tim Thomas, Milan Lucic, David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy.

This year, the Bruins have been one of the best teams in the league and one of the most dominant at times. Their dominance has been in part from incredible performances from up and down the lineup. Of course, the Bruins top line made up of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak is a constant threat night-in-night-out. But, part of the Bruins success comes from unlikely heroes in the forward group, the defensive core, and both goaltenders. Also, a plethora of injuries this year has caused many different players to be called upon through the “next man up” mentality.

 

With the Bruins so successful, we can easily make a case for 4 or 5 players who deserve the 7th Player Award. Jaroslav Halak has been a huge surprise as a strong backup sharing the net with Tuukka Rask. David Krejci has not missed a game this season and is having his second best season based on points with 65 through 76 games. Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly could also be in the conversation who have both become fan favorites in the bottom 6.

My pick, however, is Brandon Carlo. In his third season, he has been a big part of the Bruins success this season. He has not done it in a flashy way though. He has been doing the right things in the defensive zone and neutral zone and at times jumped in the offense. He might not be the clear-cut frontrunner for the player who has gone above and beyond this season because his numbers are not outstanding. But, if you watch Brandon Carlo play on a nightly basis, his shutdown play can’t be missed. There have been so many times this year where I have said to myself “wow, Brandon Carlo has really stepped it up this season.”

Carlo has had a couple of good seasons before this one but nothing too incredible. He hit a couple bumps in the road towards the ends of the last two seasons. On April 8, 2017, Carlo suffered a concussion after a collision with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. This knocked him out for the playoffs as he missed all 6 games against the Senators in the 2017 post-season. Right before the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Carlo suffered a broken fibula in the third period of a game against the Florida Panthers. For the second straight season, Carlo would miss the entire playoffs.

These injuries have definitely hurt the Bruins defense in the playoffs and have set back Carlo’s development into a top-tier defenseman. This season, he has come back from the injuries stronger, better, and more confident. He is making the right plays and using his size to eliminate opponent scoring chances. But it’s not just his defensive abilities. He also has the awareness and confidence to jump into the offensive rush at the right times and contribute to scoring chances in the attacking zone.

 

Carlo is averaging just about 21 minutes of ice time this season. He has scored two goals and six assists for eight points this season while also compiling a +18 rating. His hockey IQ and his defensive awareness has made him into a top shut down defenseman for the Bruins who is really growing into his top-four role for the B’s. He has been arguably the most consistent Bruin this season. He did miss a few games earlier this season but has not let it hinder his play or his confidence.

If Brandon Carlo stays healthy for the Bruins throughout the playoffs, it will be huge for the team defense in their quest for the Stanley Cup. Whether Carlo wins the 7th Player award or not, he is still a huge force for the Bruins this season and is vital for the Bruins defense to combat the high-flying Maple Leaf offense that the Bruins will almost certainly face in the first round. Either way, the Bruins have multiple candidates for the 7th Player Award which is a great thing, and any of those candidates can take home the hardware.

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A Look At Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara On His 42nd Birthday

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

The Bruins team is full of wise, experienced veterans in their lineup and Zdeno Chara is probably the wisest and most experienced of them. On Monday, March 18, Chara turned 42 and continues to lead the Bruins with no end in sight to his outstanding career in the NHL.

At Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, the team brought Chara a birthday cake and sang him Happy Birthday. Although he might not have eaten it, the gesture was fun and thoughtful of the Bruins coaches, players, and management for one of the greatest Bruin of all time.

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Zdeno Chara was born on March 18, 1977, in Trencin, Czechoslovakia. He was originally persuaded by many in his home country to play basketball because of his height. However, he continued playing hockey and was drafted in the third round 56th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft in St. Louis.

Chara spent his first year in North America in the WHL with the Prince George Cougars playing close to 50 games. The following season he split time between the Islanders squad and the then Kentucky Thoroughblades of the American Hockey League. Then, ironically, before he came to the Bruins, he spent time in Lowell, Massachusetts playing for the Lowell Lock Monsters, who was the New York Islanders AHL affiliate at the time during the 1998-1999 season.

After 4 seasons on Long Island and 4 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Chara signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Bruins on July 1, 2006, and was also named the team captain.

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Standing at 6 foot 9 inches tall, Chara is the tallest player to ever play in the National Hockey League and has yet to give up that title. Much like his body type, his play on the ice is monstrous. Throughout his career with the Bruins, he has been a strong, shut-down defenseman that can occasionally put the puck in the net with his record-breaking 108.8 mph slap shot. His dominant play has always given his coaches the confidence to play him against the league’s top lines and top players. He averages 24:20 time-on-ice for his career and even this season, at age 42, he is averaging 21:02 time-on-ice for the Bruins defense. From his shutdown play to versatility on the ice, Chara achieved the leagues highest defenseman honor with the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best d-man in 2008-2009. Chara also was an integral part of the Bruins bringing Boston its first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years when Chara lifted the Cup the highest it had ever been lifted in 2011.

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Zdeno Chara has just turned 42 years old, and many fans have criticized him for his play in the past three years or more. Although he will never be as dominant as he was earlier in his career, he is still a force on the Bruins blue-line. Just one part of his importance with the Bruins for the rest of his career will be his mentorship for young Bruins defenseman. When Brandon Carlo stepped into the league in the 2016-2017 season, he was paired up with Chara for most of his rookie year, and now we have seen Carlo be one of the Bruins best defenseman this year. We have also seen Chara paired up with Charlie McAvoy as he was transitioning from College hockey to the big leagues and both have learned valuable on and off ice lessons from Big Zee. He knows what it takes to win mentally and physically and how to keep his body healthy to continue to perform at a high-level night in night out in which he can teach young defenseman valuable lessons.

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No doubt that Chara is headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame when he does decide to hang them up, and we could even see #33 hanging from the rafters at TD Garden. Chara is one of the most influential pieces for the Bruins this season and postseason both on and off the ice and has proven to be a fierce competitor who has put his blood, sweat, and tears into the spoked B for over a decade. Happy Birthday, Zdeno!

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How The NHL Playoff Format Affects The Bruins

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

We are about a month away from the best time of the year. The weather begins to get warmer, daylight savings, the return of Red Sox baseball, and of course, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the playoffs started today, the Bruins are the second seed in the NHL’s overall standings as well as the Atlantic Division. That means they get to play the Toronto Maple Leafs who are third in the Atlantic and fourth in the overall standings. Here is how that works and why it needs to be changed.

The Bruins continue to be one of the best teams in the NHL and have been soaring to the top of the NHL standings. Boston has become a top Stanley Cup contender from the East thanks in part to their 17-game point streak that they extended with a come-from-behind overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on March fifth.

Before the 2013-2014 NHL season got underway, the NHL realigned to four divisions that moved the Blue Jackets and the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference and the Winnipeg Jets to the Western Conference and created the Pacific, Central, Metropolitan, and Atlantic, divisions. With this realignment, the NHL also changed the playoff format from Conference-based to division-based.

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With the NHL’s new playoff format, the thinking was to create more division matchups and result in more rivalries because teams are playing through their division until the Conference Finals. The top teams in each division will matchup with the wild card teams with the division leader with the most points playing the second wild card team and the other division leader playing the first wild-card team.

Then, the second seed will play the third seed in each division. If that wasn’t confusing enough for you, the point system and tie-breakers are a whole other story for another time.

If the playoffs were to start today, the matchups would be as follows:

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lightning – Montreal Canadiens

Boston Bruins – Toronto Maple Leafs

Washington Capitals – Pittsburgh Penguins

New York Islanders – Carolina Hurricanes

Western Conference:

Calgary Flames – Minnesota Wild

Nashville Predators – Dallas Stars

San Jose Sharks – Vegas Golden Knights

Winnipeg Jets – St. Louis Blues

That being said, the Bruins, who are having an incredible season, sitting at the second seed in the whole entire NHL would play the fourth seed in the whole entire league in the first round of the playoffs in the Toronto Maple Leafs. If the Bruins were to beat the Leafs again and the Tampa Bay Lightning advance past the Montreal Canadiens, the Bruins would meet the Lightning again in the second round. This would mean the Bruins would play the Eastern Conference third seed Maple Leafs in the first round and the first seed Lightning in the second round. This is extremely tough for the first two rounds of the playoffs for such a successful regular season team like the Bruins.

If the league still had the conference playoff format rather than their current divisional and wild-card format, The Bruins would be playing the seventh seed Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. Now, you could be saying that what is the difference in playing the Penguins or the Leafs? They are both talented teams with some of the best players in the world. But, the Penguins are not as strong as they have been in recent years and the Bruins have historically matched up well against Crosby and the Penguins in the playoffs. This would also mean that the three of the NHL’s top five teams would be eliminated by the second round – and that is no fun at all.

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I understand the NHL’s thinking in the divisional playoff system, but it has quickly become controversial because of the exact situation that the Bruins are in this season. Instead of the Bruins being rewarded for their strong play in the regular season, they are given arguably one of the toughest playoff matchups in the opening round of the postseason. Not to mention, this is the second year in a row that the Bruins and Leafs are set to play in the first round which can realistically happen for a few more years which would make it incredibly boring and repetitive if you ask me.

The NHL has responded to the criticism and call for change from many members of the media as well as hockey fans across North America. The general managers, commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly all agree that the playoff format is working for the league and generating more rivalries as well as higher ratings and have no intention of changing the playoff format in the near future.

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There is no guarantee in any playoff format that the Bruins will win it all, but it certainly is not right for the Bruins, and other teams, to have such tough playoff matchups after fighting for higher seeding during the regular season. We will just have to settle with this playoff format for the foreseeable future.

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Why Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy Should Be In Conversation For Coach of the Year

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

The Boston Bruins have been on a roll lately and are currently on a 14 game point streak as of their February 28th matchup with the NHL’s best Tampa Bay Lightning. This team is feeling it right now, and season-long confidence from Bruce Cassidy and coaching staff has fueled this team to a top team in the league. Bruce Cassidy should be in the conversation with NHL’s elite coaches.

Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins have skyrocketed to the top of the Eastern Conference and the NHL’s overall standings. As of Thursday, they sit at 83 points which is second in the Atlantic Division, second in the Eastern Conference and Third place in the overall league standings. They even came in second in the NHL’s weekly power rankings. Just one point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, every point down the stretch is still critical for Boston and their playoff positioning.

At the forefront of every good hockey team is obviously good players. But, accompanying high-end talent on the ice, is high-end talent behind the bench. The Bruins have that in Bruce Cassidy. Bruce Cassidy was hired as interim head coach on February 07, 2017 after the firing of Claude Julien who coached the Bruins for 10 seasons and is the winningest coach in Boston Bruins franchise history. He then became the 28th head coach on April 26, 2017.

Bruce Cassidy undoubtedly has big shoes to fill. Throughout extensive injuries last year and this year, the Bruins under Bruce Cassidy have the second best record in the league since he was hired in February of 2017. Bruce Cassidy is currently 105-44-22 in parts of 3 seasons in Boston. He just recently became the second fastest Bruins coach to reach 100 wins when his team defeated Chicago 6-3 on February 12, 2019. With 100 wins in 166 games, only Tom Johnson was quicker in the 1971-1972 season when it took him 138 games to get to 100.

It is evident that Bruce Cassidy’s system is working in Boston and in my opinion, has to be in the conversation for the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s Coach of the Year. They continue to win games, and his voice in the locker room is strong. Bruce Cassidy has lost many players for parts of this season to injuries like David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and many others. As a result, he has shown a lot of confidence in the young players stepping into the lineup or into new line roles like Heinen, DeBrusk, Cehlarik, Kuhlman, Frederic, Vaakanainen and others. But despite these man-games lost, the Bruins are still climbing the NHL standings and solidifying their spot in the 2019 playoffs.

As the Bruins have battled their injuries this season, Cassidy has had to balance a lineup that has seen a lot of youngsters from Providence fill in for the injured B’s and has taken a lot of criticism for his line pairs. However, I think Cassidy has done his best with the lineup, and his system has worked. Thanks to their second-best powerplay percentage at 26.4%, strong leadership, experience, trade deadline help and consistent contribution up and down the lineup, the Bruins have emerged as a strong Stanley Cup contender from the East.

Wins speak volumes with whoever is in the lineup for the Bruins. Regardless of who has stepped in for Boston this season, the Bruins continue to win under Bruce Cassidy. Along with the likes of Bill Peters in Calgary, Barry Trotz with the Islanders and John Cooper with the Lightning, Bruce Cassidy has to be in the conversation for the Jack Adams Trophy as Coach of the Year.

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Bruins Assign Forward Peter Cehlarik to Providence

( Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images )

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

On Wednesday, February 20, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced that Peter Cehlarik would be assigned to the American Hockey League affiliate Providence Bruins.

This move is to clear a roster spot for the newly acquired Weymouth, MA native Charlie Coyle. Just before the Bruins took on the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night, the Bruins announced the trade that sent Bruins Forward Ryan Donato and a conditional 5th round pick to the Minnesota Wild for Charlie Coyle.

Peter Cehlarik has also been battling a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for the Bruins annual meeting at the Shark Tank in San Jose on Monday, February 18 that proved to be a thrilling 6-5 overtime win. Bruce Cassidy announced that Cehlarik was battling the injury and could have returned Wednesday in Las Vegas but targeted Saturday as a more realistic return date. This, however, all came before the Bruins made a move to acquire Charlie Coyle and could change the timing of Cehlarik’s return.

The Bruins needed to make a roster spot for Charlie Coyle, and with the recent injury to Cehlarik, it made sense to send Cehlarik down to Providence. It is likely that once Cehlarik is able to return to the lineup that he will be recalled again and another player such as Karson Kuhlman or Trent Frederic will be assigned to the AHL. Although, Kuhlman is making it hard for the Bruins to send him down as we get a glimpse of another young prospects bright future in the NHL. So, will we see more of Kuhlman in the future over Cehlarik? It is a tough decision that Cassidy will have to make.

Peter Cehlarik has played in 13 games for the Bruins this season since his call up in January. He has buried 4 goals and 2 assists for 6 points this season. He was slotted in nicely with David Pastrnak and David Krejci until Pastrnak injured his thumb and was replaced on the left wing with Jake DeBrusk.

Coyle should be available for the Bruins on Saturday when they take on the flaming hot Blues (32-22-5) who have won 11 straight games to propel them into 3rd place in the Central Division. It will be interesting to see what Bruce Cassidy decides if Peter Cehlarik is healthy for that game. Will he recall Cehlarik again and assign Kuhlman or Trent Frederic to the P-Bruins? If it were up to me, I would keep Kuhlman for the near future and send Frederic down to Providence. Kuhlman has shown a lot of speed and skill on the second line filling in for Cehlarik. He also buried a goal against the Sharks on Monday night.

If Peter Cehlarik comes back for the game against the Blues, and Charlie Coyle makes his Bruins debut, it will be interesting to see if Bruce Cassidy puts Cehlarik on the wing with Krejci and DeBrusk and puts Coyle on the 3rd line center position or Coyle on the 2nd line wing and Cehlarik on the 3rd line wing.

Overall, the Bruins are on a roll and are getting contributions up and down the lineup and have been rattling off 7 straight wins and look to continue the streak on Saturday.

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