Bruin’s Offseason: All Quiet On The Eastern Front (1 of 2)

(Photo Credit: AP / Nam Y. Huh)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

The start of free agency saw the Bruins come out of the gate quickly, signing or extending seven players. Forwards: Brendan Gaunce, Par Lindholm, Brett Ritchie, Ryan Fitzgerald…Defensemen: Connor Clifton and Josiah Didier…Goalie: Max Lagace. While none of these players were big-name signings, which was to be expected given the Bruin’s limited cap space and restricted free agents, it was an encouraging sign for the fans of the team.

Over the next three weeks, forward Peter Cehlarik signed a one year deal, forward Danton Heinen inked a two-year extension, and center prospect Pavel Shen signed his ELC. Since then, all has been quiet on Causeway Street, with very little being said about restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. This is not unusual for the Bruins. Since Sweeney was named GM, they like to keep everything internal and very little leaks out. The only comments on the subject came from Bruin’s President Cam Neely via Joe Haggerty two weeks ago.

That brings us to the present, and where the Bruins go from here. With the Backes’ contract still on the books, the team does not have the Cap space to acquire any more help at this juncture. So, what you see is what you get as training camp looms.

The only thing that appears certain at this point is that Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak are the B’s two netminders. In this two-part series, we will take a look at the openings and question marks the Bruins have at forward and on defense heading into the 2019-20 regular season. Part One will deal with the forwards and Part Two the defense.

The Bruins return a Top 4 that was as good as any in the NHL. Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, and Krejci combined for 333 points. Jake DeBrusk had a “decent” sophomore season, and will likely be attached to Krejci’s left side, as he has been for the first two seasons of his career. His 27 goals in 2018-19 were more than acceptable, but it would be nice to see him up his assist and overall point totals, particularly as he was a staple on the PP most of the season.

The only real question mark in the Top 6 is who is going to play to the right of David Krejci. It seems that this has been an issue headed into every season since Nathan Horton left following the 2012-13 season. My first choice to fill one of the Top 6 right-wing positions would be Danton Heinen. I have been a proponent of putting Heinen with Bergeron and Marchand on a more permanent basis for a while now. He showed last season over a 16 game stretch when Pastrnak was injured that he can play and more importantly, produce, in that role, putting up 13 points during that span. This would allow the B’s to put Pastrnak on Krejci’s right-wing, giving him his first legit scoring threat there in years.

The Bottom 6 would appear to have four spots already locked up with Coyle, Kuraly, Wagner, and Nordstrom filling those positions unless something unforeseen happens. That leaves only two openings for a wide variety of candidates.

They include incumbents Karson Kuhlman, Petr Cehlarik, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Anders Bjork. Newcomers Par Lindholm, Brett Ritchie, Oskar Steen, and possibly Jack Studnicka (although the B’s have consistently maintained they want to keep him at center) round out the group. These players represent a wide variety of styles and experience levels and while all have question marks of one type or another, they give the Bruins the ability to go in a number of different directions.

Three of the contenders, Cehlarik, Lindholm and Ritchie are not waiver exempt, meaning the Bruins risk losing them if they don’t make the team out of camp. Every year this plays a factor around the league in who makes teams initially. Many times more talented players who are waiver exempt end up getting sent down to the AHL, at least to begin the season.

Bruins fans are well acquainted with Cehlarik. The 24-year-old former third-round pick has appeared in 37 NHL games over the last three seasons with mixed results. He has tended to start off quickly and then become less visible as his appearances mount. He’s a big body that uses his size for puck possession but is a below-average skater. The left-shot wing does have the flexibility to play both sides.

Lindholm was a point per game scorer for Skellefteå of the SHL, but it didn’t translate to the NHL with Toronto last season, where he had only 12 points in 61 games. He turns 28 in October and is primarily a center (51% in the dot with 400 attempts). His advanced stats were not great, but in his defense, he had only 30% offensive zone starts.

That brings us to the newly-signed Brett Ritchie. A big, physical scoring wing in his OHL days, who scored 41 for Niagara one year. The offensive side of his game has never manifested itself in the NHL, where he only has 33 career goals in 241 games. If I had to guess, I would say that the B’s see Ritchie as a cheap replacement for what Backes brings (on ice), if they can find a way to move 42.

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(Photo Credit:  Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The next group of guys: Bjork, Kuhlman, Senyshyn, Fitzgerald, Steen, and Studnicka contain my two favorites to get the remaining spots and also my “long shot” candidate. All of these guys are waiver exempt, so they will be susceptible to being “stashed” in Providence to start the season. For that reason, I am going to rule out both Fitzgerald and Studnicka. I would much rather see them playing big minutes in all situations with Providence than watching from the press box in Boston.

My favorite to take the first open spot in the Bruin’s forward lineup this season is Anders Bjork. The 23-year-old graduate of the University of Notre Dame already has 50 NHL games under his belt but has yet to have any tangible impact because of a variety of injuries. Shoulder surgeries have cut short Bjork’s seasons in consecutive years, but perhaps the third time is the charm? Bjork has an NHL-caliber shot, a quick release, excellent skating skills and is a good three-zone player. The only thing he needs to stick in my opinion is a bit of luck and some good health. As a rookie, Bjork put up 3g/6a in his first 16 games (playing with Marchand and Bergeron) before suffering a concussion after a collision with Toronto’s Matt Martin. The Bruin’s staff seems to really like Bjork, so he’s a possibility for Top Six duty again, but personally, I would start him on the third line at left-wing and see what happens.

The other player I see cracking the lineup in October is Minnesota-Duluth’s, Karson Kuhlman. Bruin’s fans are already familiar with him due to his strong play down the stretch and into the playoffs, where he compiled eight points in 19 games. Kuhlman is another player (like Bjork) that possesses plus speed and skating ability and a strong defensive game. I believe he would be a strong complement to Bjork and Coyle at right-wing on the third line. Bruce Cassidy could use a line like that in a variety of situations, including up against the top two lines of opposing teams. Combine that with the confidence he already has in the “fourth line” and it would provide him a great deal of flexibility when matching lines.

A player I’m sure the Bruin’s brass would love to see grab a spot is former first-round pick Zach Senyshyn. Bruin’s fans would likely be relieved as well if he became an NHL regular so they did not have to hear about the 2015 draft any longer. Senyshyn has the size/speed ratio needed to roam the right-wing on the third line. The only issue is that the scoring touch the 6’2″, 200 pound Ottawa product displayed in the OHL (114 goals in 195 games) has yet to manifest itself as a pro in the AHL. His supporters point to his deployment as a third liner and the desire to develop his three-zone game as reasons why he has not scored more. His critics say that a lack of consistency and hockey IQ’s are the culprits. I would love to see Boston start him off in a fourth-line role and let him play his way higher into the lineup. However, it may be a case of musical chairs, where there are too many bodies and not enough seats to go around?

My dark horse candidate for the third-line right-wing position is Swede Oskar Steen. He was a 6th Round Pick (165 overall) in the 2016 draft. He got off to a slow start in his first two seasons with Farjestäd of the SHL. In 2018-19, Steen was given a larger role and ran with it. He finished the season with 17 goals and 20 assists in 46 games. It was good for 10th in scoring in the SHL and he was the only player in the Top 10 under the age of 26 (20 at the time). He also finished with 49 PIM’s (18th) which is impressive for a guy of Steen’s small stature (5’9″, 187-pounds). I had the pleasure of watching him at several of the Bruin’s Development Camps, and in my opinion, he was easily the most skilled forward I saw. He’s quick, explosive, and strong on his skates. Given that skill set and his build, he will definitely garner some comparisons to Marchand. Obviously, he has a long way to go before he ever reaches that level.

Bruins development camp

(Photo Credit:  Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

I wouldn’t put money on it, but if someone twisted my arm and forced me to put in in writing, this is what my starting lineup would look like for Opening Night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Thursday, October 3rd:

Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Bjork-Coyle-Kuhlman

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Ritchie

There are definitely some question marks in the Bruin’s top nine, but there are also a number of candidates that could fill those holes. The options, competition, and differing styles of the players involved should make for an interesting Camp where roster spots will be on the line.

 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!

Report: Bruins, Cassidy Begin Contract Extension Talks

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

According to Joe McDonald of The Athletic, the Boston Bruins have started to talk to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy regarding an extension on his contract that expires at the end of this upcoming 2019-20 NHL season.

Bruce Cassidy has been in the Bruins organization since 2008-09 when he was the assistant coach for the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins. Cassidy, who turned 54 on May 20th, was the assistant in Providence for three seasons before being named Head Coach in the 2011-12 season, operating in that role up until the 2015-16 campaign. With the P-Bruins, Bruce led his team to the playoffs in four of the five seasons, only missing the postseason in his first year.

To begin the 2016-17 season, the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada native was the assistant coach to then-Head Coach Claude Julien. However, the Bruins would announce that they had fired Julien after the team boasted a 26-23-6 record. From February 7th on, Cassidy was the Interim Head Coach, leading Boston to an 18-8-1 record with him and managed to make it to the postseason in a losing effort to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals.

On April 26th, 2017, General Manager Don Sweeney formally announced that Bruce Cassidy would become the 28th Head Coach of the Boston Bruins, starting his Head Coach role in the 2017-18 season. Once again, the B’s were a dominant team in the Eastern Conference, finishing the regular season with a 50-20-12 record, earning a berth in the playoffs for a second consecutive season. After defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round, the Bruins lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round Two.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Steve Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty)

With the success of his first full season behind him, Bruce Cassidy still had a few doubters on his case, but yet again, he proved them all wrong, leading the club to a 49-24-9 record at the end of the regular season and helped keep the Bruins fighting strong all the way through to the Stanley Cup Finals, where he and his team fell one game short to the St. Louis Blues in Game Seven.

As of right now, Cassidy has a 117-52-22 record in the three regular seasons that he has coached in – a .612 winning percentage as the Head Coach. As Joe McDonald states, the organization does not release the salary of the bench boss but without a doubt in anyone’s mind, he will receive a raise in comparison to his previous contracts.

Keeping Cassidy is the best decision for the Bruins. Bruce has shown confidence in his players and has no problems benching players or moving players up and down the lineup when they are in a slump scoring-wise. In 2018-19, Boston dealt with injuries upon injuries to almost every single player on the NHL roster. However, Bruce managed to keep the wins coming, leading Boston to the Eastern Conference Championship.

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.

Mark Your ’19-’20 Bruins Calendar: Part IV

Image result for bruins 2020 season(Photo Credit: Calendars.com)

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

Happy New Year, Bruins fans!  Well, not yet. But it COULD be a “Happy New Year” in 2020 if the B’s take advantage of their lightest load of games on the season in a month’s time — 11 in total, six on the road and five at home (sorry, April, your two contests in week one don’t count as a “month”).

And there’s considerably less fanfare for the B’s to start the “hindsight year” (2020 aka 20/20… get it?) compared to playing in the historic Winter Classic at Notre Dame against their Original Six rivals the Chicago Blackhawks in 2019. Now, that was a memorable game:

 

Speaking of hindsight, a laid-back January may be EXACTLY what next season’s Bruins need in order to set themselves up for a Spring playoff push. As you may recall from Parts I, II & III of this spirited Black N’ Gold series, the B’s begin 2019 with three months of heavy hockey that will almost feel like an entire season in and of itself — multiple home stretches followed by road trips, back-to-backs against Stanley Cup contenders (perhaps even favorites for ’19-’20) and few “rest weeks.” In fact, three days off is the LONGEST amount of downtime the team will have until this early Winter stretch. They’ll also, “ain’t no lie,” have their Bye Bye Bye! week and All-Star break vacation to add to this less busy bundle of games.

So, let’s take a look at the key match-ups in January that deserve a mark on your Bruins calendar. To make it easy for you, it’s three spread out home-and-home contests versus tough teams the B’s could very well see come April, May and hopefully even June:

January 2nd & 14th: Columbus Connections

Unless the B’s want to end up cannon fodder, it would behoove them to silence Columbus first at TD Garden on the 2nd and then take the sting out of the Blue Jackets on the road on the 14th, just like their riveting Game 6 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series which featured a Tuukka Rask shutout (oh, the memories) and timely goals from the non top-liners (perhaps we should’ve seen this coming).  Either way, the BOS & CBJ head-to-head battle has truly been abuzz for the past year+ so it will undoubtedly make for some entertaining early ’20 hockey!

Image result for bruins blue jackets(Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated)

January 9th & 31st: Winnipegged

If only this Manitoban team played like the New York JETS, then you could already chalk up two easy wins for the B’s (actually… maybe not as Bruce Cassidy could’ve found out from Bill Belichick recently)! All similar sporting names aside, the 99-point Western Conference pucksters from the ‘PEG have been used to WINNIng lately — and in ’18-’19 they beat the Bruins both times they faced off, fittingly once at home and once on the road. So, the 9th (TD Garden) & 31st (Bell MTS Place) would be the perfect time for the B’s to take off with a few victories against a talented team that will once again contend in the opposing conference.

Image result for bruins jets(Photo Credit: WBUR)

January 16th & 19th: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Hey, at least these two games against Pittsburgh will be more entertaining than that truly flightless movie (still love ya Jim Carrey — not to be confused with your once Bruin’ netminding namesake…yes, I know he spelled it differently)! However, if the B’s don’t want to end up face-planting on the ice against a team that can skate & score circles around most opponents, then they best lace up their HAPPY FEET and come ready to play next level hockey versus Pittsburgh. Going all the way back to the “Super Mario” years where the B’s got bested by the Pens almost every regular season and playoff series (2011 exceptions to be celebrated), this true-to-form home-and-home series will be a back-to-back must-watch and perhaps even a playoff preview if both teams are lucky…and healthy…and consistent(ly lucky and healthy)!

Image result for bruins penguins(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

 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.

AND…

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!

 

European Tour: Bruins Edition

Screenshot_20190817-175154-01 (1)(Photo Credits: NHL Twitter)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

As the NHL looks to expand its outreach to the European markets, many players were welcomed back to the third annual NHL/NHLPA European Player Media Tour. Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (Czech Republic) was invited once again to participate in the event. Bruins own Joakim Nordstrom (Sweden) also represented the Black and Gold during the Media Tour for another edition of Bruins #BearTracks.

SWEDEN

Since its inception in 2017, the tour is held in Stockholm, Sweden at the headquarters of Viasat- where the NHL’s international media rights are held. The tour features 23 European-born players being interviewed by dozens of media outlets as a means of promoting  NHL Games. To help the leagues effort to appeal to the growing European fanbase, the NHL purposely changed start times of many weekend games, so that fans will get to enjoy watching them at a more reasonable time (prior to the change, games with start times of 7:30 PM in the U.S. would be aired at 1:30 AM in Sweden). With new earlier start times in the U.S., games would fall into prime evening hours for Europe.

(Photo Credits: NHLPA)

With the NHL continuing to grow the game through Europe and in China, their efforts have garnered much buzz, especially if you consider that this year will the mark the third time professional teams will travel to Europe to play regular season games. On October 4th, the Chicago Blackhawks play the Philadelphia Flyers in the Czech Republic, while on November 9th,  the Buffalo Sabres face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Stockholm, Sweden.

Joakim Nordstrom served as “tour guide” as he hosted Pastrnak in his native Sweden. Both players participated in photo shoots and interviews for the event. Not one to shy away,  the 22-year-old Pastrnak was all smiles in front of the camera-there’s also that video showing off his “dance” skills… Please enjoy:

SLOVAKIA

In his hometown of Trencin, Slovakia Bruins Captain and age-less wonder Zdeno Chara continued with his charitable contributions. In a partnership with New Balance, the 42-year-old defenseman has collected and donated shoes that help benefit those in need throughout  Boston and Slovakia. Chara first partnered up with organization this past March along with Soles4Souls-a Nashville-based non-profit organization that aims to give those in need a pair of shoes. To date, Soles4Souls have donated over 35 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries. Fans were able to donate new or used shoes to New Balance stores or at the Warrior Ice rink. The Bruins also held a shoe drive this past March at the Garden.

(Photo Credits: Sole4Souls.org)

The Bruins #BeartTracks followed Chara as he headed back to Slovakia, bringing a portion of the donated shoes that were collected at the TD Garden.  The 42-year-old Slovak-native was seen delivering shoes to many children in his hometown:

And while Bruins fans eagerly await for the puck to drop officially in October, rest assured the guys are gearing up and getting back into fighting shape. Not to be outdone from last year’s  insane workout session in Slovakia, this time Chara did not skip a beat while hanging out in his native country. In case you’re wondering, he’s still a beast:

Khokhlachev And His Bruins Comeback

( Photo Credit: Richard Wolowicz )

By: Michael Robert   Follow me on Twitter: @b_blackandgold

 

Heeeellloooooooo everybody. A little nod to the Spittin’ Chiclets crew to start my first article with Black N Gold Hockey. Let’s not waste any time before we dig into a bit of a hot topic, even though it’s been thrown into the shadows for years now. Along with it, lies the question that’s plagued the Bruins since the days of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton stinging like bees, but not necessarily floating like butterflies while flanking Krejci on the wings.

The question: Who can play in that second line right wing spot and be a steady winger with Krejci and Debrusk?
The answer: Enter the Julien era Russian cast away, Alexander Khokhlachev.

With that, let’s take a look at a bit about him and his consistent point producing at every level he has ever played at. First, his days in the OHL of putting up points. Secondly, his journey heading into the Bruins system with Providence. Third, his journey back to his motherland. And lastly, why the Bruins need him back more than ever.

Khokhlachev was taken with the 40th pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft. Touted as a good skating offensive juggernaut, with creative playmaking and even better finishing, he came into the Bruins with high hopes for himself, from the Bruins brass, and from the fan base as well. This is all with good reason when we dig into the numbers.

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His first real entrance onto the scene came at the 2009-10 U17 tournament. He posted a stat line of 5-8-13 in six games to lead his team in scoring. Granted, an early tournament for projections, but a pretty good one for seeing raw talent, especially when it stands out. His 13 points there put him in the mix with players such as Toews, MacKinnon, Keller, Tavares, and Caufield. This piqued some interest, and once his OHL career started, this kid took off. Playing his major junior career with the Windsor Spitfires, in 2010-11 as a rookie, he posted 34-42-76 in 67 games.

He continued on with 25-44-69 in 56 games the following season. He also appeared at the World Juniors that year for Russia posting a respectable 4-1-5 in seven games. In 2012-13, he split time with KHL Moskva, OHL Spitfires, and AHL Bruins. In his 29 games with Windsor, he cranked it up, posting a scorching 22-26-48. His first glimpse in the AHL saw him with three points in 11 games. At that point, it’s fine. A big step up from juniors, and to this point in his hockey journey, he has been everything the Bruins knew him to be when they picked him.

Now, as he starts into the Bruins system, there are two pieces we will pay attention to the most, neither of them a secret. Cassidy running the bench with Providence and his knack for developing good working relationships with young players. Also, how he was ok with letting them go out and do what they do, while still playing in the very two-way offensive and defensive systems in Providence. The other side of the organization is with the big boys club in Boston. It’s no secret at all that Julien steered heavily to defense first play.  He was also no slouch when it came to giving the ice time to veterans while the young guns got stashed away in the corner and subdued. Add to it, a distaste for players across the pond.

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Onto this part of the adventures of Koko. In 2013-14 he barely got a sniff, playing one game with Boston basically riding the pine. He heads to Providence where he does his thing, 21-36-57 in 65 games. That gets him some attention again from the big club. In 2014-15, he got a three-game look if you can call it that. His total ice time way under 10 minutes through all the games, and playing on the fourth line. Again, back to Providence where he goes 15-28-43 in 61 games. The 2015-16 season starts with another leftovers offering of 5 games and limited minutes in Boston again. Back to Providence where he gets pinned an assistant captain and has something to prove now, putting up a blistering 23-45-68 in 60 games. Under Cassidy, he was let off the leash and absolutely dominated. Julien didn’t give him the time of day. A younger player with offensive instincts. Julien’s nemesis.

His frustrations peaked publicly many times, where he stated the obvious. He was producing and not getting a chance at the NHL level. And when he does get his crumb tossed to him, he is thrown on the fourth line, and his skates barely touch the ice. This has him pack his bags and head back to the motherland. His first season back in the KHL with Petersburg isn’t his norm. 5-5-10 in 25 games. His 2017-18 season, he lands with Moskva and piles up 50 points in 52 games. The next season again with Moskva, 37 points in 52 games.

With all these numbers and history, we can establish that he can not only play at the best levels in his age groups, but he can produce points and be an offensive threat anytime he is on the ice. In the Bruins organization, he flourished under Cassidy, and a good relationship was built there. He utilized Koko in the right way, and it turned him into the leading scorer in Providence for two seasons.

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Of course, it is another big step up to the NHL, but his talent and skill don’t vanish. With some more time under his belt playing with men, and more prospects out of the way in Boston, the time is now to bring him back. He can play center and wing, a multi-positional player, a Boston plus. Boston desperately needs a steady wingmate with Krejci and some more scoring threats in their lineup. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Blues were able to contain the top line, and that was their demise. The league fits his style now more than ever, and with Cassidy behind the bench, the Bruins are more about speed and skill than ever before.   The second line of DeBrusk – Krejci – Khokhlachev would round out a very impressive top-six forward group. Adding him to the second power-play unit would also put a real scoring threat there too.

It has floated around the rumor mill that there is still contact between him and the Bruins, and Cassidy is in that mix, and that’s a huge help. His rights are there until he turns 27, so long as qualifying offers are made to him each year. The Bruins need him back. The revolving door of nothing working on that second line wing spot is over. The time is now. Get him there for a real look and turn him loose. Shout it from your social media mountains folks. It’s time, and I’ll start it… #bringkokoback

Some Koko highlights to enjoy.

Bruins Renew Affiliation With The Atlanta Gladiators

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(Photo Credit: Amanda Bingham / gwinettdailypost.com)

By: Ian Frazier | Follow me on Twitter @ifrazier95

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced today that the organization has renewed its affiliation with the Atlanta Gladiators for the 2019-20 season. The Bruins originally made the first affiliation agreement back in the 2015-16 season and now enter their third affiliation after 2017-18’s renewal with this announcement.

Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle states that “this affiliation with Boston and Providence has provided great support for all clubs involved, and we look forward to developing the relationship and providing good young players for depth from our side that can help all of us be successful as well as bring more Gladiators and Bruins fans together at matches.” Gladiators team president Jerry James states that the club is “excited to share great hockey history with Boston and be able to extend the fanbase in the Atlanta metro area and surrounding communities.”

The Gladiators first began as the Mobile Mystics located in Mobile, Alabama from 1995-2002. In 2003 the franchise relocated to Georgia where they played in Gwinnett County and therefore were renamed the Gwinnett Gladiators. That name might sound familiar to some as they were the ECHL affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers back in the day. When the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets, the club changed their name to the Atlanta Gladiators to give Atlanta a hockey team that supports the growing community. They also served as the ECHL affiliate of the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Sabres, and Coyotes at one point. Also, both the South Carolina Stingrays and the Reading Royals served as the Bruin’s affiliates in the past

Because of this renewed affiliation, the Bruins can continue to designate players in their development system to the Gladiators. This should provide some much-needed development time for any prospects the Bruins feel they need to see more growth out of before they are ready to be called up to Providence. Keep in mind that the Bruins are not allowed to send down players from the NHL directly to the ECHL. They would have to choose which prospects in their development system to send to the ECHL. The prospects chosen are mostly ones that the Bruins don’t see being ready for the NHL, but they would like to keep them in their system. Therefore they can send them down to the ECHL to get some playing time. Many goalies in the system can be sent to the ECHL to develop “pro-like” skills and give the club something to keep an eye on down the road. Many goalies that have played in the NHL today have started their careers in the ECHL.
Sweeney says he “thanks the Gladiators franchise for the renewed affiliation and we like to extend our gratitude to the many associates of the ECHL club and we would like to thank the community of Duluth, Georgia for its unwavering support of the Gladiators and the Bruins.”

The Bruins should have some prospects in the system that don’t fit right now that would benefit spending a couple of seasons in the ECHL before they get a crack at Providence. One thing for sure is that the renewed Bruins/Gladiators affiliation should bring some more fans who live near Atlanta together as well as attract some new ones.

Bruins Fan Fest Begins August 16 in Maine

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(Photo Credit: NHL.com/Brian Fluharty)

By Carrie Salls | Find Me on Twitter @nittgrl73

Summer, and the National Hockey League offseason, is winding down as we enter mid-August. That means it won’t be long until Bruins players and coaches begin returning to Boston to get ready for camp and gear up for the 2019-2020 season. It also means it is time for the Bruins’ Third Annual Fan Fest Tour to hit the road to several locations throughout New England.

This year, Fan Fest will travel to seven locations, kicking off on Aug. 16 in Portland, Maine, and making stops through Aug. 25 in Manchester, N.H., Burlington, Vt., Leominster, Mass., Springfield, Mass., Hartford, Conn., and Providence, R.I. The full 2019 Fan Fest Tour schedule can be found at the end of this article.

According to the Bruins, one extra location was added to this year’s tour after Leominster, Mass.’s George Marchetti was selected as the winner of a children’s Spoked-B logo drawing contest. In addition to the honor of bringing the tour to his hometown, Marchetti won tickets to watch the Bruins play at TD Garden at one game in the upcoming season.

Each stop is scheduled to feature current Bruins, coaches, executives and NESN personalities. They will “play games and mingle with fans, sign autographs, take photos, participate in Q&A sessions and much more,” the team announced on July 23. Details on which specific players, coaches and television personalities will be scheduled to appear on the tour had not been released by the team as of Aug. 15.

In addition to the ever-popular player autograph and photo sessions, Fan Fest offers a variety of other Bruins-themed activities for attendees. The tour, which was first held in 2017, includes events and activities for children and adults.

“Fans will be able to participate in skills and drills on synthetic ice rinks, pose for photos in a mock Bruins locker room and have the opportunity to partake in NESN virtual reality experiences,” the team said.

For younger Bruins fans in attendance, Boston Bruins BFit will lead kid-friendly fitness activities at each city. Also, the Bruins Academy Zone will offer face painting, poster making and Bruins trivia for kids.

To help keep fans cool in the August heat while raising money for the Boston Bruins Foundation, Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream will be selling its Power Play Fudge ice cream at Fan Fest. Attendees can cool down with the sweet treat in exchange for a $1 donation to the foundation.

There is no cost for admission to any of the tour stops, although the team is encouraging attendees to pre-register to avoid delays in getting into the event. More information on attending Fan Fest and registration forms can be found at BostonBruins.com/FanFest.

The full schedule for the Third Annual Bruins Fan Fest, which is subject to change, is as follows:

Friday, August 16

Edward Payson Park, Catafalque Drive, Portland, Maine, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday, August 17

Arms Park, 10 Arms St., Manchester, N.H., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunday, August 18

Jeffords Hall Lot, 63 Carrigan Dr., Burlington, Vt., 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursday, August 22

Doyle Field, 100 Priest St., Leominster, Mass., noon to 4 p.m.

Friday, August 23

Forest Park, 200 Trafton Rd., Springfield, Mass., noon to 4 p.m.

Saturday, August 24

Connecticut State Capitol, 210 Capitol Ave., Hartford, Conn., noon to 4 p.m.

Sunday, August 25

Alex and Ani Center, 2 Kennedy Plaza, Providence, R.I., noon to 4 p.m.

Where Does Lindholm Fit in Bruins Lineup?

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals

(Image Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

Not much has been said about Par Lindholm since the Bruins signed the 27-year-old Swedish forward to a two-year deal on July 1. Understandably, Bruins fans’ attention has been focused on whether, and how, the team can manage to sign restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and/or Brandon Carlo to new contracts and less so on depth signings.

Lindholm, who can play both center and wing, was one of two unrestricted free agents signed by Boston general manager Don Sweeney when free agency began at the beginning of July. Fellow signee Brett Ritchie has been mentioned as a good candidate to fill a vacant bottom-six forward role, depending on how the Boston coaching staff elects to construct the lines. But, what about Lindholm’s potential role on the team?

Last season, Lindholm played 61 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, contributing 11 assists and one goal and a plus-five rating in that time. He also played in four games for the Winnipeg Jets. He had one assist in his brief stint in Winnipeg.

From 2007 through the 2017-2018 season, Lindholm played in Sweden. His time there included time with junior teams, international play and the Swedish Hockey League. Lindholm’s career high in points came in his last season in Europe, when he potted 18 goals and 29 assists for a combined 47 points for Skelleftee AIK.

After just one season playing hockey in North America, it is fair to say Lindholm is still trying to translate his success in Europe to the National Hockey League. The Bruins will be his third team in an NHL career that is just over one-year long.

The $825,000 contract he signed with Boston indicates that Lindholm and the Bruins recognize that he is still a work in progress. The cap-friendly deal and scoring potential make him a good investment for the Bruins, if they can find a role for him.

It’s no secret that the Bruins already have one of the best fourth lines in the NHL. Sean Kuraly and Joakim Nordstrom are virtual locks to see regular playing time on that line. Unfortunately for Lindholm, there is already a healthy slate of veterans lining up to take a crack at the third slot on the energy line.

Chris Wagner, who played much of the 2018-2019 season on the fourth line, is the odds-on-favorite to reclaim the spot he shared with Noel Acciari, who signed with the Florida Panthers in July. Sweeney has indicated that David Backes may also see playing time on the fourth line, and, depending on the make-up of the third line, Ritchie could be in the mix as well. These projections do not even take into account the prospects looking to impress in the preseason and stick with the big club.

With so many options in Boston, Lindholm will likely face his fair share of competition in camp if he hopes to show the front office that he is worth of regular playing time. He does bring a few valuable weapons to the fight, as he is a left-shot center who is known for his penalty killing and defensive prowess and success at the face-off dot.

Despite the stiff competition, Lindholm seems to relish the chance to contribute. Whether he has what it takes to stand out above the rest in the competition to replace Acciari and Marcus Johannson remains to be seen.

Providence Bruins AHLTV Home Broadcasts To Feature New Voice

Image result for dunkin donuts center providence bruins(Photo Credit: Dunkin’ Donuts Center)

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

It appears the Providence Bruins may have a new voice for their home game broadcasts on AHLTV for the 2019-2020 season. According to RinkSide Rhode Island correspondent and regular P-Bruins insider/Twitter reporter Mark Divver, Austin Rooke will soon be the man behind the mic at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center:

As Divver mentions, Rooke is the son of long-time Providence College basketball broadcaster John Rooke, something the Providence Journal proudly points out in this featured story about both talented announcers.

The younger Rooke, 24, is a communications graduate of Marquette and previously worked as the public address announcer for the New England Patriots and Revolution at Gillette Stadium, according to the ProJo. He will now have the chance to sit in the same broadcast booth as his Dad, a seat filled by many great announcer voices over the years — some of whom even went on to do play-by-play in Boston for the Bruins (as featured here on the Black N’ Gold Hockey Blog last Summer).

This is not only a win for Rooke, his family and the entire Providence Bruins family, but also AHLTV fans & aficionados who have been clamoring for more access to their local teams via streaming or internet platforms.

Make sure to stay updated on all your P-Bruins news, prospects and developments right here with the talented BNG writing team, and also check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 140 that we recorded on 8-11-19 below!

You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Sticher.

AND…

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!

 

 

Coach’s Corner: B’s Cassidy & Pat’s Belichick Bond

Image(Photo Credit: Mike Reiss – ESPNBoston.com)

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

Cassidy and Belichick. Not a bad Coach’s Corner to be in, no disrespect to B’s alum Don Cherry and his North-of-the-border broadcast bud Ron MacLean.

And as many members of the Boston media reported Monday, the Bruins’ bench boss attended his second consecutive #PatsCamp and took it all in with his family by his side.

Now, Cassidy’s son Cole may have a career in football on his hands (hands that Kraftly caught this pigskin on camera earlier)…

…but if there’s any football career to be clamoring about in Foxboro it’s that of Cassidy’s cross-town coach Bill Belichick — a coach that he hopes to learn from even more ahead of his team’s Stanley Cup runner-up follow-up season. As Cassidy mentioned back in May to our friends at NESN before his black n’ gold squad suited up for the Cup Finals, he reached out to Belichick for advice on how to handle not only the long layoff between the ECF and SCF, but also the pressure of playing for it all in Boston:

“[The Patriots] share whatever they can — very supportive. It’s been great for me. I’ve gotta tell you — [Belichick’s a] terrific guy. Very insightful, and it was great. I really appreciate it.” — Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, May 2019

Well, as we all know by now (and perhaps are still trying to forget), the B’s came up short while playing for it all this Spring & early Summer. One game short. One shift short. Perhaps even one play short if you like to factor in momentum in do-or-die postseason games — all scenarios Coach Belichick has been through, learned from and overcame while leading the Super Bowl Champion Patriots to two dynastic runs over the last 19 New England years. And as we learned from NESN again, Cassidy couldn’t resist checking back in with Belichick on Monday — this time about how to bounce back when your team comes oh so close to winning it all:

“A little bit about his team, a little bit about situational stuff that happens. For example, coming off a loss at the end of the season, [the Pats] did it two years ago to Philly, rebounded to win a championship last year. So, what kind of preparation goes into that, or do you just put it all behind you and move on? So, try to steal a few things here and there in that area [from Belichick].” — Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, August 2019

Sage advice from a man who’s become a legend in our sports-crazed community. Can we also get Tom Brady & Patrice Bergeron together to talk championship fodder & folderol? Kidding aside, Cassidy’s comments definitely create good karma & buzz ahead of a B’s season bound to be under the microscope from September to hopefully May and June again. And if his team can rebound a la the Patriots after a championship loss, then I think this Cassidy/Belichick bond blossoming before our eyes could become the new Coach’s Corner!

 Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 140 that we recorded on 8-11-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Sticher.

AND…

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!