Bruins Extend Affiliation With Providence, So Is ECHL Deal Next?

( Photo Credit: Commercial Construction & Renovation )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins came to an agreement last week on a ten-year extension with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. This agreement with the top minor-pro affiliate of the B’s was one that just made sense from both sides. One, geographically having prospects and others so close to areas of operations is never a bad idea for emergency purposes, and two you can’t beat the fan support and the consistently high attendance numbers when the team is playing at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

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The Providence Bruins have been one of the most successful franchises when it comes to minor-pro development and has been a pipeline of the NHL B’s since the 1992-93 season. Previous to last weeks agreement the Providence club has amassed a record of  1030W-782L-96T-84OTL-60SOL in 2,053 games played over 26 years as an affiliate of the parent Boston Bruins team.  Providence has seen it’s a fair share of current Boston Bruins players such as Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and Tuukka Rask. Since the teams, inaugural season (1992-93) the Bruins have seen three regular-season titles, five division championships, one conference championship, and of course the franchise’s only Calder Cup Championship that the club captured after the 1998-99 regular season campaign.

This is not the first time a successful minor league franchise called the city of Providence home. The NHL Bruins also housed developing players of interest with a team called the Providence Reds who per HockeyDB.com had affiliations in the AHL’s inaugural campaign in 1936 to 1938 and making returns in 1958 to 1962, and for the final time from 1963-64  to the 1968-59 season. The Reds were no joke back in the day as the organization saw nine regular-season titles, 13 division championships, and four Calder Cups. Hockey Hall of Famers such as goaltender Frank Brimsek (1937 to 1939), forwards Milt Schmidt (1936-37), and Ed Westfall (1963-64).

The 2018-19 regular season for the Providence team is quickly coming to a close with six games remaining. The B’s have a 35-24-8-3 record after 70 games and sit in the fourth position in the Atlantic Division and currently occupy the seventh position when you look at the Eastern Conference and the Calder Cup Playoff outlook. The Providence club looks to secure a postseason birth for the seventh straight season after being knocked out for three consecutive years prior to the current postseason streak.

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This season has certainly been a challenging one for second-year Head Coach Jay Leach, and the AHL Bruins from key developing players departing via emergency recalls to player injuries and finding suitable replacements to fill the roster. I believe in the current path of development from an organizational standpoint, but if you ask me how deep this Providence club can go in the postseason I’d love to think they can go all the way but with the up and down the regular season I’s be certainly happy with a Conference Final. Providence visited the third round briefly during the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs losing to the eventual Conference Champions Syracuse Crunch who beat the B’s in a best of seven series 4-1.

Regardless of my personal prediction or hope for a conference final appearance the Jekyll and Hyde home vs. road playoff schedule has to get better with the regular season records on either side of the coin. As mentioned the B’s have six games remaining and have done a fantastic job on home ice thus far with a record of 27-7-4-1 but have been sub-par away from the Dunk compiling a 13-17-4-2 record. Aside from the home and road rollercoaster this season the Bruins are going to have to figure out what’s not working on the road and figure it out quickly. The Checkers have a home record of 23-6-5-0 and the way things are lined up with travel the Checkers could easily get the first two games at home with an elimination contest back at the Dunk for game three. Lets’ hope that doesn’t happen.

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Above is a playoff primer courtesy of theahl.com website. As you can see a postseason appearance for the seventh straight time is not going to be easy especially against the leagues best Charlotte Checkers who already clinched a playoff spot with a regular season record of 46-16-7-1 good for 100 points thus far. These two teams have a 2018-19 regular season series of  4-3-1 with Providence winning only twice at Bojangles Coliseum and needing more than 60 minutes to get it done. The Bruins record at home against the Checkers is actually not bad if the B’s can extend the first round series and play another home game.  Home cooking at the Dunk this season against the Charlotte club has produced a record of 2-1-1.

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What’s next for the Boston Bruins and the future plans for an ECHL affiliation?

This is a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot and trying to crack the code of what’s going on with the decision of where this Bruins organization could place prospect if needed at the ECHL level? First and foremost I believe the Atlanta Gladiators have a fantastic franchise and a return to the state of Georgia is always a good possibility. Another option is to find a location closer to areas of operation particularly with the above mentioned Providence club and the need for a constant pipeline of players that are able to participate quickly and play at the AHL level in emergency situations.

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One area of New England that I’m paying close attention to is the city of Manchester, New Hampshire and the current dumpster fire that’s going on with the ECHL Manchester Monarchs franchise. This metro area once was one of the Northeasts best-attended venues when the AHL Monarchs were in the Queen city before the NHL’s LA Kings came and took the AHL club and ECHL club and swapped them around making the trip for prospects in a matter of hours instead of lengthy cross country travel. Since the AHL moved westward it seems like the fan base walked out with it as season ticket numbers and overall fan attendance has dwindled to what seems like 500 fans.

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As a former season ticket holder of the AHL Monarchs and personal experience gathered from a fun place to enjoy a hockey game, it’s disturbing to hear that the ECHL is just not the product for this area and if something can’t be done soon they might miss their window to gain popularity again in the New Hampshire city with so much tradition in the sport. Purely speculating here but news in January of 2019 had the ECHL Manchester Monarchs seeking for new ownership and later reports of the organization ceasing operations for the 2019-20  season.

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I know that the current agreement with the Monarchs and their affiliation with the Lod Angles kings is ongoing and seems to be in good order regardless of the ownership news but minor-pro deals are pretty much fly by night operations and walk away from deals as seen in the past from a franchise like the AHL’s Portland Pirate and their agreement with the Cross Insurance Arena. If the Kings would like to place another minor-pro franchise closer to California, this would be a tremendous time to revitalize the Manchester hockey fandom with representation from one of New England’s most popular and respected professional franchises.

Now just spitballing here but if the Bruins were to in fact be affiliated with an ECHL franchise in Manchester I’d have to believe the numbers would be better than the current product just knowing that the Bruins label would be involved. Also, a key factor is how many actual prospects would be involved as the current number of Bruins property playing with the Atlanta club is zero. This season B’s prospects Jesse Gabrielle and Joona Koppanen were the only ones to play in Atlanta as they spent a few games there at the start of the season. Gabrielle was later reassigned to play with the Wichita Thunder halfway through this season.

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With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming up with the players and owners going toe to toe again soon, I believe it would be wise for both to come to common ground and agree on adding 10 more contracts to the max contracts allowable which are currently set at 50 contracts. What an increased number of contracts could do in my opinion is add more spots to develop and make better use of the ECHL and the availability that NHL teams have with their Premier “AA”  affiliations. This will certainly increase development at the middle levels and could accelerate the progression of deserving players for looks and evaluating purposes. Ten extra contracts to play with would be a fantastic way to sign undrafted players worldwide and ones that just finished college and available to be signed as free agents.

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Bruins Look Good For Contract Negotiations Thanks To Bergeron, Others

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( Photo Credit: Robert Mayer/ USA TODAY Sports )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Professional hockey is absolutely a business. Money is connected to every move that is made, and labor laws stipulate that each player must be compensated for their work for each organization. The balance between spending money and maintaining a deep, effective roster, is a very delicate one.

Such is the reason that often times, teams that sign multiple superstars to lucrative contracts are often left vulnerable to weaknesses in other areas. You know, the areas that they’re not rapidly throwing dollar bills at (or for Canadian teams, the areas that they’re not rapidly throwing dollar bills at, eh).

In this area, General Manager Don Sweeney is at a pretty significant advantage when it comes to negotiating chips in contract discussions with players entertaining the idea of playing in Boston. These negotiating chips are the team-friendly contracts of his three most prolific point scorers in Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand. And, in light of the most recent contract extension reached by the Bruins front office, Zdeno Chara’s contract might be one to point to as well.

If the Bruins’ four most valuable (debatable in a couple cases) players are willingly getting paid less than what they would make if they hit the open market, then any future contract negotiations essentially boil down to whether or not the players in question value playing and winning in Boston more than money.   If I’m Don Sweeney, and any player attempts to negotiate for a contract north of $7 million per year, then I’m asking one question.

“Okay, so how much better do you think you are than Patrice Bergeron? You know, Patrice Bergeron? Our point-per-game first line center who has won four Selke Trophies and brought this team a Stanley Cup? The guy who has consistently been regarded as a top-5 player in the entire league? Yeah. He makes a little over $6 million per year. How much better than him do you think you are again?”

Okay, a few questions.

Now, is that an oversimplification? Absolutely. Did I get a little carried away? Maybe. Do I have great hair? You’re damn right I do.

But that’s neither hair nor there.

The point is that any player that requests more money out of an organization whose top players have already proven that they care more about succeeding and winning in Boston than a few (million) extra bucks… well, they might not be a great fit. If the culture is built around winning and paying players fairly provided that they all buy into a winning philosophy and style of play, then there simply is no room for prima donnas, who are out to make more money than they will ever need at the expense of the team’s success.

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( Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/ Getty Images )

Patrice Bergeron is the Bruins’ best hockey player and has been for quite some time now. He might be as highly regarded as any one player in the National Hockey League. And year after year, he affirms through his contract that he does not presume to be better, or more important than the Bruins’ organization or the success that they strive for.

So how would any player on the Bruins feel entitled to more than Bergeron? David Pastrnak, the Bruins leading goal scorer for much of the year and most lethal powerplay threat is attached to a similar contract, despite being much more valuable on the open market. When asked if he was disappointed about his contract and having potentially left money on the table, Pastrnak responded without a moment’s hesitation that he was not. He’s just living his dream.

When Torey Krug’s contract is up, there is certainly a possibility that he heads elsewhere to make as much cash as he can. If he does, then good for him. But it would be a mistake for all parties involved for him to stay and out-earn the Bruins most valuable players. Krug is exceptionally gifted offensively, and as such is a valuable member of the Bruins. But he is, by no standard, more valuable than any of the aforementioned players who have attached themselves to contracts that make the Bruins a better team.

Fair play, fair pay.

The contracts of the B’s first line, in addition to Zdeno Chara’s contract extension, set the bar for the young talent that are approaching their next contract negotiations. If each decides to get paid for what they are worth to the team, then the next man in line will get paid fairly as well. But my guess is that anyone that tries to squeeze the Bruins for as many pennies as possible might not get what they’re hoping for. And we might not see too much of them in the future.

If you’re looking for proof that this type of business model can be successful for a professional sports team, then may I interest you in a serving of the New England Patriots? Every year, they pay players fairly to do a good job, they have immense success, and then the same players leave to get paid more than they are worth to never win another Super Bowl. Or something to that effect.

Either way, if I’m Don Sweeney, then I’m feeling pretty good about contract negotiations, thanks to my top dogs.

Playing for Boston might not make any one player the richest in the league, but it will certainly give them a chance to be part of a winning culture.

And after all, it’s very seldom that you hear of a child beginning to play hockey due to his burning desire for money. You play hockey for the love of the game, and the desire to compete and win alongside like-mind teammates.

That sounds better, anyway.

 

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What Do The Bruins Gain With Carey/Frederic Over Cehlarik?

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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter: @CSthinks

I will not sit here and pretend to be some kind of savant who has superior knowledge over NHL GMs when it comes to the business side of hockey. The extent of my knowledge on the business side of an NHL team could be summed up by the phrase, “pay the better guys more money.”

With that out of the way, my focus shifts to the prolonged influx of Providence Bruins that have been gracing the lineup of their older brother (or sister) team over the course of this season. Names like Vaakanainen, Clifton, Frederic, Lauzon, Kuhlman, Forsbacka-Karlsson, Zboril, Bjork, Smith, Stempniak, and now Carey, have all found shelter from the AHL storm for at least a few nights this season. Some have shown more promise than others. Some have demonstrated that they are not yet ready for the NHL. Some showed the raw talent that has yet to be harnessed into an effective system within the confines of a team.

And almost all of them have demonstrated that their names are difficult to pronounce. Kudos to Gemel Smith, Connor Clifton, and Paul Carey for making it easy on me.

Importance

With the Bruins settled fairly squarely in a playoff spot barring any sort of colossal blunder to finish the season, the quest for home ice is one that cannot, in my opinion, be under-emphasized. Currently, the Bruins are the meat in the Tampa/Toronto sandwich (there are so many better ways to say that, but I’m very hungry). This group of three teams (TB, BOS, TOR) currently sits as three of the top five teams in the entire league.

With the notion that Toronto will almost certainly be the first-round matchup for the Black and Gold, a rational hockey observer will take note of how things have changed since last season’s matchup with the Leafs. Matthews and Marner are both having career years, and John Tavares has brought even more offensive punch to the lineup. With Morgan Reilly gaining another year’s experience, Toronto is a better team than they were last year. This makes home ice all the more important for the Bruins to secure.

This doesn’t happen without a strong finish—something that will require a lineup that is most conducive to effective and sustained play. As things look now, the influx of players from Providence– most recently Trent Frederic and Paul Carey (along with Connor Clifton)– constantly joining then leaving the Bruins does not seem most conducive to success down the stretch for the team.

 

Win Now.

The Bruins have a team that is good enough to pursue a “win now” approach. While many might rightfully slot Tampa as a stronger team entering the playoffs, it is well within the realm of possibilities that Boston squeaks out a win in a seven-game series against the Bolts. I mean, this is sports. Don’t be ignorant.

For a team that needs to place significant importance on maintained success heading into the postseason, their lineup is changing far too much. Spotty, three-game stints for more than half a dozen AHL-ers might be something that is more fathomable when the playoffs and home ice is so close within reach. If the Bruins were out of playoff contention, then, by all means, I might say “go nuts” and maybe even support a scenario where the P-Bruins and the big club even switch jerseys and have a fun little time! But that’s not the case. Also sounds like a decent idea for a screenplay. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

Consistency.

Anyone who has played hockey at a high level understands that chemistry, consistency, and familiarity with those around you are all conducive to enhanced on-ice performance. With the exception of Karson Kuhlman and Cehlarik, no call-up from Providence has been able to quickly gel with the line-mates with whom they are placed. This speaks volumes about the versatility of each of these two.

The events of the past few days have defied logic in the sense that the Bruins are now relying on players unfamiliar with the Bruins personnel and style of play to join the squad and move things forward. Chemistry is fostered through players being given sufficient time to learn one another’s play styles. Sure, it would be awesome if everyone knew one another’s tendencies on the ice after just shaking hands. But to my knowledge, we don’t have the technology to make that happen yet. And thus, that is not how things work.

Peter Cehlarik got sent down to Providence after Bruce Cassidy made him put on his seatbelt, securing him to the bench, for the third time in less than two weeks. Cehlarik was afforded a bafflingly short leash, and by all accounts actually played a strong style of hockey when he was allowed to be on the ice. He found early chemistry with David Krejci, and more recently proved to be a compatible linemate for newcomer Charlie Coyle amidst an absolute jumble of forwards thanks to injuries. Coyle and Cehlarik strung together shifts that consisted of sustained possessions, offensive zone time, and that resulted in offensive zone face-offs. While not a whole lot of scoring resulted from the play of these two, it’s difficult to produce when you are secured to the bench.

While the handling of Cehlarik is a touch bothersome, it has been clear that of the AHL call-ups this season, he has been far and away the most effective. Which makes it even more frustrating that he has been sent to Providence in favor of Paul Carey and Trent Frederic. Frederic had around 10 games with the Bruins earlier in the season. He showed toughness, strong skating, and a good compete level. But what shone through even more than these things was that he was both raw, and not ready to join Bruins regularly.

Carey is new to the Bruins organization, and has shown consistent production and reliability at the AHL level. However, he has seen time in just five NHL games this season, amassing zero points with zero goals, and zero assists. There is a lot more to hockey than point production. But Cehlarik has proven that he brings more than scoring, so the decision to go with an untested call-up inserted into the lineup when consistency and chemistry are at a premium is a real kick in the shin.

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Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/ AP

Moving forward.

I hope I’m wrong about the drawbacks of the recent activity between Providence and Boston. If I’m wrong, then we win.

Here’ the thing, though: I don’t think I’m wrong. I will be absolutely shocked if suddenly Trent Frederic and Paul Carey outshine Peter Cehlarik’s 200-foot game in their time with the Bruins.

If I’m right, then not only will the Bruins suffer, but they will have thrust more young prospects (Carey is not all that young) into the fire before they were ready. Confidence is a real thing that coaches and GM’s should be expected to manage, and if these prospects are treated with the same zero-tolerance policy that Cehlarik was, then we might see a tucking of tails among them.

In any case, it’s unreasonable to expect a player to find their groove in their first game or two. Unless that player is Dean Youngblood.

But even he was given a short leash by his coach.

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

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Four Boston Bruins Players That Could Win The 7th Player Award

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

Every year, the New England Sports Network, better known as NESN, releases a fan vote where fans of the Boston Bruins can vote for who they think should be awarded with the annual 7th Player Award. The 7th Player Award is awarded to the Boston Bruin who “has performed above and beyond expectations”. In years past, the team honour is handed out at the end of March, so the countdown is on for the winner.

Before we get into who should win the award for the 2018-19 season, let’s take a quick look at the past winners of the last decade. Information regarding this is courtesy of Ice Hockey Fandom.com. 

  • 2008-09 David Krejci
  • 2009-10 Tuukka Rask
  • 2010-11 Brad Marchand
  • 2011-12 Tyler Seguin
  • 2012-13 Dougie Hamilton
  • 2013-14 Reilly Smith
  • 2014-15 David Pastrnak
  • 2015-16 Brad Marchand
  • 2016-17 David Pastrnak
  • 2017-18 Charlie McAvoy

Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Charlie McAvoy are the most recent winners of the award and for good reason. Marchand exploded three years ago with a 37 goals and a new career-high in points with 61. David Pastrnak also had a great year when he won it back in 2016-17, scoring 34-36-70 numbers from his 26 the year prior. Finally, last year, Charlie McAvoy scored 32 points in his debut NHL season and truly came out as one of the best young offensive d-men in the league.

In the past, the award has been handed out at the end of March, just ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April. We are already over a week into the third month of the new calendar year, so now is the perfect time to take a look at some of the players who can with the 2018-19 7th Player Award.

Jaroslav Halak -> 18-10-4, 2.33 GAA, .924 SV%, 4 Shutouts

When Anton Khudobin did not agree to a new contract with the Boston Bruins following the 2017-18 season, the concern came as to who the Bruins were going to fall on for the role of the backup goaltender position. Ideas of younger, prospect goaltenders from either the Providence Bruins or other affiliate teams were thrown around, but it was the free-agent market that would provide the solution for this new-found problem.

Boston signed journeyman goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a two-year contract with an annual average salary of $2.75 million. Last season, Halak finished up his fourth season with the New York Islanders, the fourth NHL team of his 13-year career. Halak finished last season with a 20-26-6 record, a 3.19 GAA, and a .908 save percentage – not great numbers.

Lucky for Bruins fans and himself, Halak turned a new leaf while wearing the Spoked-B sweater and is showing glimpses of top-level play, the type of play that we saw from him during his time with the Montreal Canadiens. Early on this season, starting goaltender Tuukka Rask was not on his game. He was struggling in net and was losing more often than he was winning. However, Jaro Halak made an appearance and took over the show in the meantime, keeping the Bruins afloat in the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoff race.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NBC Sports)

Head Coach Bruce Cassidy mentioned the fact that he may look to split the number of games that Rask and Halak play down the final stretch and that shows that Halak has done enough to earn starts when it matters. When the original signing was made, many people, including myself was not a fan mainly due to his performance in the previous season but he has exceeded everyone’s expectations and should be a favourite for the 7th Player Award because, without him, Boston may not be second in the Atlantic division.

Chris Wagner -> 66GP, 12G – 6A – 18P, 4th Liner

Chris Wagner never once scored ten goals in his five-year NHL career. In fact, he never scored more than 15 points in a single season, a mark he once hit in 64 games with the Anaheim Ducks last year in 2017-18.

When the Bruins signed Wagner, the Walpole, Massachusetts native to a two-year deal on the opening day of free agency, the signing of Joakim Nordstrom and the hope that the young, up-and-coming players within the Bruins organization will get more NHL minutes, it seemed like Wagner was going to be a spare tire – a depth piece for injuries or for a replacement for a player who is struggling but no, Wagner has become a near-permanent member of the 2018-19 Bruins.

Part of the reason for his success is the help of his linemates, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari, who have helped bolster the game of Wagner to a level never seen before in the NHL. The trio has brought a high level of intensity and energy to the bottom-six while being able to add in a few goals here and there. Additionally, Wagner leads the Bruins with 226 hits, a stat that ties him for 6th most in the National Hockey League.

In today’s NHL, all four lines of any team need to have the ability to score goals when they are so required to do so, yet provide a level of physicality and defence that can keep them in the thick of things. Chris Wagner has been a big reason for the success of that line and he deserves to be in the conversation for the 7th Player Award. No one expected the performance of Wagner to be this solid and a brief stroll in past Twitter comments will highlight that.

David Krejci -> 69GP, 19G – 41A – 60P, +3 Rating

Without a doubt, David Krejci is one of the best second-line centres in the NHL and is one of the best playmakers in the league for the past few seasons. It may seem hard for a player of that stature to win an award that presents the player that has exceeded expectations, but he needs to be in the conversation.

Since putting up 17-46-63 numbers in the 2015-2016 campaign, Krejci seemed to be on a decline for point production. In 2016-17, Krejci scored 54 points in a full 82-game season followed by a 44-point year last year in only 64 games played. However, with the growing chemistry with left-winger Jake DeBrusk, Krejci is on pace for just over 71 points this season. That total would be the second-highest single-season point total for Krejci since his 22-51-73 effort back in 2008-09 – ten seasons ago.

In that 2008-09 season, Krejci averaged 0.89 points-per-game. In comparison, Krejci is averaging 0.87 points-per-game, the third-highest PPG average in his 13-year NHL career. Krejci has found 15 of his points on the man-advantage, meaning the bulk of his numbers have come from five-on-five play, a huge attribute to take into consideration.

Throughout the past few seasons, the Sternberk, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) native has been on the receiving end of hard criticism but quite clearly, he has used that as motivation for his success this season. The 32-year-old has three game-winning goals this season, including the overtime goal in the 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on March 5th. Linemate Jake DeBrusk said the following about his chemistry with Krejci right after the game versus Carolina.

“I think when you play with a guy for almost 2 years now, you generate that w just games played & different things like that. He’s been playing great all year. He’s the biggest reason why I’ve had success personally as well. To have a guy like that in my corner is something that I don’t take for granted.” – Quote from Shawn Hutcheon (@ShawnHutcheon on Twitter)

David Krejci exceeded the expectations that were placed on him back in September before the puck dropped to begin the regular season. His name is back in the minds of teams across the league if they so happened to forget about him and he has been a factor for the success of the Bruins.

Sean Kuraly -> 66GP, 6G – 11A – 17P, 4th Liner

Sean Kuraly joins linemate Chris Wagner on this four-player list because, in a way, they have to be. Kuraly and Wagner, with the inclusion of Acciari, have surprised most Bruins fans and hockey fans throughout the league with their energy, tenacity, and offensive capabilities while throwing in the occasional hit or fight.

Sean Kuraly came to Boston on June 30th, 2015 in a trade with the San Jose Sharks that sent goaltender Martin Jones off to California and Kuraly with a 2016 1st Rounder (Trent Frederic) to Boston. Martin Jones was acquired by the B’s from the L.A. Kings in exchange for beloved Bruin, Milan Lucic only a few days prior.

Kuraly didn’t play with Boston until 2016-17, skating in eight games, scoring a single point. Kuraly was given an opportunity in the 2017 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals against the Ottawa Senators and he earned his way into the hearts of Bruins fans all over with two massive goals, one of which in the second overtime session in Game 5 of that series, forcing a Game 6.

After that remarkable game for Kuraly, he ended up playing 75 games during the 2017-18 season, scoring six goals and eight assists for a total of 14 points. In the offseason of this past year, Kuraly signed on the dotted line to a three-year, $3,825,000 contract extension, securing himself a position on the NHL roster for the time being.

Kuraly has done that and more. The Dublin, Ohio, USA native has matched his career-high in goals (6) and set a new career-high in points (17) and has played in twelve less games than in last year’s season. The threat of the fourth-line could be courtesy of the always hard-working Sean Kuraly. Kuraly still possesses that clutch goal-scoring talent, scoring two game-winning goals so far in 2018-19 – both coming in back-to-back games against the Sabres on December 29th and the Blackhawks in the Winter Classic on January 1st.

Kuraly has been one of those quite but deadly pieces to the puzzle that is the 2018-19 Boston Bruins – which can come across as a pleasant surprise for him, the management, and the fanbase.

My Winner: Chris Wagner

It seems like when the Bruins are down a goal late in the hockey game, scrambling to find their legs and score the tying goal or even the winning goal, Chris Wagner is inadvertently in the thick of things when the goal eventually crosses the red line. Wagner has scored the game-tying goal on three different occasions, two of which in the third and final period. Also, in each of those games where he scored the tying marker, the Bruins went on to either win the game or lose in a shootout.

I’ll be 110% honest here – I was fully anticipating Chris Wagner to be scratched for more games than he played and to see limited ice time when he is indeed in the lineup. Losing out on Tavares and Kovalchuk in free agency, at the time, it appeared as though Sweeney and the rest of the B’s management staff had no one else and wanted to go for depth. Tim Schaller, the now Vancouver Canuck, did not re-sign, but it looked like Nordstrom would replace him. Instead, the Bruins have a physical, gritty fourth-liner that has been big when scoring meaningful goals this season.

Chris Wagner is my personal pick to win this year’s 7th Player Award, who do you think wins the annual accolade? Was it one of the players I listed or does another player come to mind? Let me know via Twitter (@tkdmaxbjj) or on FaceBook comments!

Side Note: In the poll above, I listed D Brandon Carlo as an option, yet he is not on my list. I personally expected Carlo to be good this year, so he did not necessarily ‘exceed’ my expectations, but he has been great.

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

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Grading The Bruins’ 2019 Trade Deadline

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

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the Bruins made three additions in total, trading for Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle in addition to signing Lee Stempniak. Here are my grades for each of the Bruins’ Trade Deadline moves:

Bruins acquire Marcus Johansson for a 2019 2nd-rounder and a 2020 4th-rounder

Grade: B+

Just as it looked like the Bruins were going to let the deadline pass them by without adding another player, news of this trade broke. Johansson brings skill and versatility to the Bruins’ top-nine (likely the second or third line) as he can play center and both wings. Although not the big name Bruins fans were clamoring for, he can still be an effective player for the Bruins down the stretch.

This season, Johansson has 12-15-27 numbers in 48 games played, on pace for 17-21-38 totals in 68 games played. However, if Johansson were healthy all season, the 28-year-old would be on pace for 21-26-47 totals in 82 games played, for what it’s worth. Johansson also has 6-6-12 numbers in his last 13 games played.

Over his nine-year career between Washington and New Jersey, Johansson has scored at least 20 goals twice and has totaled at least 40 points five times to go along with one 50-point year. Just two years ago, the Swede had 24-34-58 in a career season, his final with the Capitals.

New Jersey will retain 40% of Johansson’s salary too (he now has a cap hit of $2.75-millions), which helps the Bruins avoid overages that could eat up cap space for next season. These overages could have been a possibility given the number of players the Bruins have on entry-level deals who are eligible for bonuses based off individual and team performance.

As for what the Bruins gave up, the second-rounder is the key piece for the Devils while losing the fourth-rounder doesn’t hurt too much, considering the prospect pool is still pretty well-stocked. What’s important here is that Sweeney was able to hold on to the first-round pick this year without surrendering significant prospects, so that’s a win.

Bruins sign Lee Stempniak

Grade: C+

On Sunday, the Bruins signed Stempniak to a one-year, $650,000 contract; the 36-year-old had been skating with the Bruins all season during practices before recently joining Providence on a PTO. Shortly after signing, the Dartmouth College product was placed on waivers with the purpose of being assigned to Providence.

Stempniak suited up in a few preseason games with the Bruins and had a goal and two assists (his power-play goal is at 1:43 of the video below). In Providence this year, Stempniak has 2-2-4 in four games played. The winger is also two seasons removed from 16-24-40 totals with Carolina after a year in which he had 19-32-51 between New Jersey and Boston (three goals and 10 points with the Bruins in 19 games played). So, he might even be able to chip in a few goals like Brian Gionta last year.

This move isn’t much at all, really. Think of Stempniak as last year’s Gionta; he’s a cheap, depth insurance policy, who costs nothing but cash and may step in for a few games in a pinch. Stempniak gets another shot to live his dream, and the Bruins add to their depth; a status quo move–no issues to be had here.

Bruins acquire Charlie Coyle for Ryan Donato and a 2019 conditional 5th-round pick

Grade: B

The first domino to fall for the Bruins, Coyle has already played a game for the Bruins while Johansson will play tomorrow. The 26-year-old always seemed to leave something to be desired in Minnesota, in spite of flashes he’s shown here and there.

The Boston University product has 10-18-28 totals this season in 61 games played and is on pace for 13 goals and 37 points. Like Johansson, Coyle brings versatility to the Bruins’ lineup as he can play anywhere in the middle-six at either wing or center, but in a different way as Coyle is a bigger, heavier player. The East Weymouth, MA native, had a decent outing in his Bruins debut, including this slick shootout goal:

Coyle has previously scored at least 15 goals twice, including one twenty-goal year, and has totaled at least 40 points twice, including one fifty-point season. So, he’s shown flashes of what he can do. The forward has a cap hit of $3.2-million through the end of next season, so he adds flexibility to the Bruins’ salary structure for next season as well.

In terms of what the Bruins surrendered, it sucks to see Donato go, honestly. The Harvard product is still a fine prospect with an elite, accurate shot. The 22-year-old isn’t necessarily the fastest skater, and is a one-dimensional player as of right now, though; however, the Bruins did not really do much to develop his weaknesses and defensive inefficiencies. Also, Donato was never really in a position to thrive with the Bruins as he was merely utilized on either the third or fourth lines and the power play, really.

As for the pick, it can become a fourth-rounder in 2019 (NYR) if the Bruins advance to the second round of the playoffs. I won’t lose sleep over giving up a fifth or fourth-round pick, but what is annoying is the condition put on it since the Bruins had a solid chance of winning a round in the first place.

Overall Trade Deadline Grade: B

While the Bruins did address there two most glaring issues this season, you can’t help but feel a little disappointed after the Bruins reportedly lost out on Gustav Nyquist and did not acquire a big fish, like Mark Stone, who they were reportedly very interested in. However, adding Coyle, Johansson, and Stempniak only adds to the depth of the team as Coyle and Johansson could be very impactful players for the Bruins with Stempniak as insurance.

All in all, not a bad Trade Deadline for Don Sweeney and the Bruins, but not a great one either–just solid. With the Bruins hitting their stride lately with a 13-game point streak, adding to this rolling team just makes it that much more formidable going forward, We’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out down the stretch and into the playoffs for this year’s Bruins team.

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Bruins Game 63 Preview: San Jose Sharks

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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

The Trade Deadline has officially past and the road to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is upon us. The Bruins’ seven-game winning streak game to an end on Saturday in a loss to the St. Louis Blues – a shootout loss, to conclude the five-game western road trip. Finally, the Bruins are back at home after earning nine-out-of-ten points on the road swing. The Bruins are narrowly holding onto the second Atlantic division spot, a mere point ahead of Toronto.

The San Jose Sharks lost to the Bruins last week in a controversial, but entertaining 6-5 overtime game. Since then, San Jose shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0, then lost two nights later 4-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, followed by a 5-3 win over Detroit on Sunday. The Sharks are three points behind the Calgary Flames for first in the Pacific division and hold a 13-point lead over the Golden Knights.

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Jaroslav Halak 16-9-4 2.33 GAA .924 SV% Last Game: 31 Saves in 3-2 win vs VGK

SJS: Martin Jones 29-12-5 2.92 GAA .897 SV% Last Game: 19 Saves in 4-0 loss vs CBJ

Who’s Hot

Jaroslav Halak had a tough time to begin 2019, going 1-3-1 in the opening month of January, but since, the 33-year-old goaltender now has three straight wins in net for the Bruins, including a thirty-save shutout over the Anaheim Ducks on February 15th. In those three starts, Halak has not had a save percentage below .939, solidifying his hot stretch. This season, Jaro has a 2.33 goals-against-average along with a .924 save percentage.

Brent Burns is on pace for another Norris-contending season as one of the best defencemen in the entire league. The Barrie, Ontario, Canada native has 2-5-7 numbers in his last five games including a three-point game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Burns leads the Sharks for most points this year with thirteen goals and fifty-seven assists for seventy points in sixty-three games.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Marcus Johansson, the lone player acquired by the Bruins on deadline day has had a solid last five games for his old team, the New Jersey Devils. The 28-year-old forward has five points in those five games including a two-point outing against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 19th. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced that the newest addition to the roster will play alongside David Krejci in his Boston Bruins debut tonight.

Joe Pavelski has had two, three-point nights in the past four games. On February 15th, Pavelski scored a goal and two assists against the Bruins in the 6-5 defeat and more recently, scored a hat-trick in Sunday’s victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Pavelski has the most points by a forward on San Jose this year with 35-24-59 numbers in 63 games.

Who’s Not

Marcus Sorensen is one of the younger pieces to this San Jose Sharks team, but the 26-year-old forward has only a single assist in his last six games, coming against Boston. Sorensen’s ice-time has been decreasing over the last few games due to the lack of production and the Sharks are hoping that he can somehow turn it around for them.

Joakim Nordstrom is back in the lineup for Peter Cehlarik tonight, but the Swedish forward has not found success in a longtime for this Bruins club still searching for more consistency when trailing down the forward core. Nordstrom has not scored a point in his last seventeen games played, keeping his season totals at 5-2-10. While not known for putting up high numbers, he is getting third-line minutes on most nights and he should be producing more than he has been.

Gustav Nyquist was recently traded to the San Jose Sharks in one of the first trades of the Trade Deadline, coming to the Sharks from the Red Wings. Nyquist, who was on the struggling Wings, has only two points in his last five contests, even when averaging close to twenty minutes per game on that stretch. His lack of scoring as of late may change with a new environment like the Sharks, but that is to be seen when he makes his debut with the Teal and Black tonight.

Milestone Watch

Boston Bruins:

  • D Zdeno Chara is one goal away (199) from 200 career NHL goals
  • D Charlie McAvoy will be playing in his 99th career NHL regular season game
  • F Patrice Bergeron is three points away (790) from tying Wayne Cashman (793) for 6th most points in Bruins history
  • F Patrice Bergeron is one even-strength goal away (203) from passing Peter McNab (203) for sole possession of 8th most even-strength goals in Bruins history
  • F Brad Marchand is one short-handed goal away (24) from tying Rick Middleton (25) for most SHG in Bruins history
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PHOTO CREDITS: (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images North America)

San Jose Sharks:

  • F Melker Karlsson is three points away (97) from 100 career NHL points
  • F Kevin Lebanc is two points away (98) from 100 career NHL points
  • D Brendan Dillion is four points (96) from 100 career NHL points
  • F Tomas Hertl is one even-strength goal away (81) from tying Marco Sturm (82) for most even-strength goals in Sharks history
  • D Brent Burns is one power-play goal away (42) from tying Jeff Friesen (43) for 7th most PPG in Sharks history

Bruins vs Sharks Outlook

The Boston Bruins are finally back in the walls of the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts for a home game after the successful five-game road trip through the Western Conference. The Bruins faced the Sharks last week and walked away with a 6-5 win on the road. Boston once held a 3-0 lead in the opening period, but with a late first-period goal, the Sharks managed to claw their way back to eventually take a 5-4 lead. A tying goal by Chris Wagner led to the game-winning goal in overtime by Charlie McAvoy gave the Bruins a hard-fought “W” in the win column.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Neville E. Guard/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Boston still has the second-best power-play in the NHL (26.4%), while San Jose has the 5th-best at 25.0% on the man-advantage. On the PK, the B’s have the eleventh-best, killing off 81.0% of the penalties against compared to the Sharks who have the seventh-best penalty-kill percentage in the league at 81.9%.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm EST in the TD Garden. Boston will look to earn at least a  point for the fourteenth consecutive game. Below are the lines for the Bruins tonight. Forward Charlie Coyle makes his TD Garden home debut while Marcus Johansson makes his debut with the Spoked-B sweater on. Defenceman Kevan Miller is out day-to-day with an upper-body injury, John Moore will replace him. David Pastrnak remains out for at least another two weeks (thumb). Also, Joakim Nordstrom replaces Peter Cehlarik.

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Five Depth Forwards The Bruins Could Consider At The Trade Deadline

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(Image: Perry Nelson / USA Today Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

With all the talk of the Bruins going out and acquiring a big-name trade chip in a blockbuster move, we seem to be overlooking the possibility of Don Sweeney simply making a depth acquisition. In recent seasons, we’ve seen Sweeney go out and acquire a cheap depth player that was completely off of everyone’s radar–like the Tommy Wingels and Drew Stafford trades, or the Brian Gionta signing.

While everyone seems to unanimously agree that the Bruins should avoid expensive rentals wherever necessary, some of the players below who are on expiring contracts likely won’t cost a whole lot–as in mid-to-late round draft picks and middle or lower tier prospects. Some of the skaters listed have not necessarily been linked to the Bruins, so this list is pure speculation on my part, based off what we’ve seen Sweeney do in the past:

Richard Panik

A pending UFA this summer, Panik seems like the most likely Coyote to be moved heading into the deadline. The 28-year-old winger makes $2.8-million and has scored 11 goals and 24 points, on pace for 34 points. Panik has been a bottom-six role player for most of his career, in spite of his offensive outburst for the Blackhawks a few seasons ago and decent output this season.

Although he is unrestricted this summer and likely a “rental,” Panik probably wouldn’t cost an insane amount to pick up. The Czech would be a nice way to shore up the third line and bottom-six.

Magnus Paajarvi

The 27-year-old Swede has been a decent role player for the Senators over the last two seasons with seven goals and nine assists this year. Paajarvi is only making $900,000 this year before he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.

The former 10th-overall pick has not panned out to be anything more than just a depth player for the vast majority of his career thus far. Although he would probably be a rental, Paajarvi would likely be very inexpensive to acquire and can bolster the depth for a playoff run that will presumably see injuries mount.

Alex Chiasson

With the Oilers seemingly having no end in sight for their struggles, it would be wise for the organization to sell off parts for this season with an eye for next year. One of those parts is the 28-year-old Chiasson, who is making $650,000 until the end of the season when he hits free agency.

The Boston University product has 17 goals and 10 assists for 27 points on the year and could be a fine piece to either experiment as a second line right wing, or to plug in on the third unit. It would be interesting to see what Edmonton’s ask would be, though. It probably would not be outrageous, but Chiasson does have a nice contract considering his production.

Artem Anisimov

Anisimov would certainly cost more than the players above, but he isn’t a rental. With the Chicago team that has been looking to get younger, he may be available, according to a report from Pierre LeBrun.

Anisimov carries a cap hit of $4.55-million for this season, and the next two. So, it would be interesting to see the cost the Blackhawks ask for if he is even made available. The Russian center has had three-straight 20-goal seasons playing alongside talented players, like Patrick Kane, but has regressed to a smaller role this season to go along with less production (nine goals and 27 points in 56 games).

While the 30-year-old is certainly a bigger name than the other players mentioned in this article, he would still fill a depth role for the Bruins as a potential third-line center. With that contract, the Hawks would presumably have to eat some cash in order to move it off their books and to entice other teams. While he seems like the Blackhawk that is most likely to be moved, Anisimov has a 10-team no-trade list as well. Making a move like this might not even make sense for the Bruins’ long-term plans passed this year, so Anisimov might just be some food for thought.

Carl Hagelin

Man, has Hagelin lost a ton of value in recent seasons. At 30 years of age and making $3.75-million until the end of the season, the Swede would be a very cheap rental to acquire from the Kings, seeing as the organization likely just wants to get anything it can for the winger.

He only has three goals and eight points this season but is a speedy guy with a decent playoff resume (47 points in 121 games to go along with two Stanley Cups). If Hagelin would be able to find some semblance of the offensive upside he has shown in the past, and continue his speedy, defensively-sound game, he could be a worthwhile addition for the Bruins.

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Five Non-Rental Players The Bruins Can Target At The Trade Deadline

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(Image: Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

The NHL Trade Deadline is nearly upon us, and with it comes the rumor mill that has been running rampant all over Twitter. Whether it be about a big fish like Artemi Panarin or a lesser-known commodity like Ryan Dzingel, fans and analysts have shared opinions while insiders have provided reports that have sent Twitter into shambles.

There has been plenty to discuss about the Bruins, given the team’s scoring struggles and the recent loss of David Pastrnak–you can read about the injury in Garrett Haydon’s article breaking the news.

With plenty of concern about trading for a rental player given the Bruins’ recent history with those types of moves in mind (see Nash, Rick), here are five non-rental forwards that the Bruins can target to help the team for now and in the future:

Tyler Toffoli

Toffoli’s name came up in Mike Cratty’s recent article, detailing five scorers the Bruins could target outside of Artemi Panarin. Toffoli has had a down year while playing on the Kings–one of the league’s worst teams–with only 12 goals and 15 assists. The 26-year-old is only on pace for 18 goals and 40 points, compared to last year’s clip of 24 goals and the 31 goals he scored in 2015-16.

However, if given the right situation (alongside a gifted playmaker, like David Krejci), Toffoli could return to that form; he’s currently slotted in on the King’s third line alongside Mike Amadio and Brendan Leipsic–not exactly a combination that sets Toffoli up for success.

Toffoli is locked up for this year and next at a $4.6-million cap hit, and trading him would allow the rebuilding Kings to recoup some assets; it’s just a matter of what the Bruins might have to give up to get the winger.

Kyle Palmieri

The Devils have regressed quite a bit since their playoff birth last season, largely due to Taylor Hall’s inability to stay healthy, the team being ahead of schedule with its performance last year, and not being able to get a save from either goaltender. This gives reason to believe that the Devils may not be totally out of the woods yet with their rebuild.

Since arriving in New Jersey in 2015-16 after a trade from the Anaheim Ducks, Palmieri has been a perennial 20-30 goal-scorer. The 28-year-old has 24 goals and 42 points on a putrid Devils team this season and is on pace for 35 goals and 63 points.

With a cap hit of $4.65-million for this year and the next two seasons with a modified no-trade clause, Palmieri would be a fantastic addition to the Bruins’ top-six as he is not only capable of providing more-than-adequate offense, but he is also an excellent all-around player and leader. The Smithtown, New York, native also lives and trains in Boston over the off-season.

With that being said, we are left with three burning questions. First, would the Devils even be willing to move Palmieri? Second, would Palmieri waive his NTC? Then number three, if they are willing to move Palmieri, what would the asking price be? Presumably, I would guess the price would be high,  considering Palmieri’s age, production, importance to the Devils, and term remaining on his deal–but man, would he look great on the Bruins.

Brayden Schenn

Schenn’s name has been tossed around a bit this season, especially given the St. Louis Blues’ early struggles. The 27-year-old center has had an “okay” season with 10 goals, 25 assists, and 35 points, and is on pace for 16 goals and 51 points.

Schenn had a career season with 28 goals, 42 assists, and 70 points in his first campaign with St. Louis last season; before that, he scored at least 25-goals in two-straight years with the Flyers. Luke Schenn’s younger brother can also play both wing and center, bringing a complete 200-foot game, and doesn’t shy away from throwing his body around.

So, Schenn could be a potential solution at wing in the top-six, as he was featured on his off-side (right wing) during his days in Philadelphia, or he could also play third-line center if the Bruins were to choose to load up down the middle.

Schenn carries a cap hit of $5.125-million until the end of next season. Again, it’s just a matter of what the asking price would be.

Chris Kreider

Much like Schenn, Kreider’s name has been tossed about frequently in the same breath as the Bruins. The Rangers forward and Boxford, Massachusetts, native is signed through next season with a $4.625-million cap hit.

The 27-year-old currently has 24 goals and 43 points for a middling Rangers team and is on pace for 36 goals, 27 assists, and 63 points, all career-highs. The Boston College product is a prototypical power forward for today’s NHL; he can skate like the wind, makes a living in front of the net, uses his body, and can rifle the puck off the rush.

On the Bruins, Kreider would slot in to aid the top-six. Yet again, the predicament arises when considering New York’s willingness to move him, and the potential asking price.

Charlie Coyle

It seems like the Weymouth, MA, native has been linked to the Bruins in trade rumors for nearly his entire career. The Boston University product has 10 goals and 18 assists this season, on track for 15 goals, 26 assists, and 41 points.

At 26-years-old, a 15-20 goal-scorer and 40-50 point-getter is by and large what Coyle likely is at this point in his career. He has scored at least 15 goals twice previously in his career with 18 in 2016-17 and 21 in 2015-16. This season would also mark the third time Coyle has surpassed the 40-point plateau in his career as he had 42 in 2015-16, and 56 in 2016-17.

Like Kreider, Coyle can play a heavy, powerful game at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, and has the ability to answer the bell if he has to.

Coyle is locked up at $3.2-million through the end of next season and is capable of slotting anywhere in the top-nine, whether it be at wing or center. The Wild’s lines have been shuffled around nearly all season as Coyle has been featured at center and right-wing on the first, second, and third lines; a firm role alongside David Krejci or as third line center could provide certainty and do him a world of good.

Bonus/Wildcard: Adam Henrique

After spending the first six-and-a-half seasons of his career with New Jersey, Henrique finished with 20 goals and 36 points last season after being traded to the Ducks. The 29-year-old center has the exact same numbers as Coyle this year with 10 goals and 28 points–on pace for 15 goals and 41 points.

Including last season, Henrique has totaled at least 20 goals three times while reaching the 30-goal mark once. As for as points go, Henrique has had at least 40 points on three occasions to go along with one 50-point campaign.

A center who is defensively responsible and has a solid ability to put the puck in the net, Henrique has a $4-million contract that runs out after this season before a five-year, $5.825-million extension with a modified-NTC kick in. That contract extension alone makes it unlikely that Henrique is part of the “major surgery” general manager Bob Murray is considering that Elliotte Friedman talked about in his weekly 31 Thoughts column. Even with that being said, Henrique is just some food for thought, hence the “wildcard” label.

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

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Bruins Cannot Afford To Make A Panic Move At The Deadline

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( Photo Credit: Aram Boghosian / Boston Globe )

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

We’re now just about two long weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline, and after a bit of a turbulent week on the ice for the Bruins, the airwaves of Twitter and radio have been calling for some action on the trade front.

Hypothetical packages for the be-all-end-all trade target, Artemi Panarin, and “#WeWantWayne [Simmonds]” have been strewn all about the internet. Heck, names like Ryan Dzingel have been tossed out there as well. We’re even back to talking about Jeff Carter for some reason (take a look at that contract, woof).

The issue with all three players mentioned above is that they are all unrestricted free agents come July 1 along with the believed asking prices, that’s not even mentioning Kevin Hayes, Mark Stone, or Matt Duchene.

Look, don’t get me wrong, if the Bruins could snag a top-six winger or third line center who would be here for more than a few months without giving up a ridiculous package, then go make that deal. Even Bruce Cassidy daydreams about acquiring a scorer:

However, let’s not go around here ready to mortgage the farm to maybe be marginally good enough to take on Tampa Bay in a playoff series.

On the other hand, I understand that Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and especially Zdeno Chara are not getting any younger, and you don’t get continuous kicks at the can–age could catch up to someone, and there’s the possibility of retirement (Chara).

Looking at the Bruins as a whole, one minute, this team plays as good as any other team in hockey. The next? It looks a lot like the same mediocre, bang-your-head-off -the-wall type of play that caused them to miss the playoffs two-straight seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The footage from Saturday’s win over the lowly Los Angeles Kings is exactly what comes to mind after giving that description of the team’s performance of late:

If you’re Don Sweeney and the rest of the Bruins’ brass in the front office, you’re in a sticky situation. Like I said, you have one side of the argument that looks at the Bruins’ situation with the mindset that Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, and Chara are all on the wrong side of the age bracket, and that they deserve one more shot at Lord Stanley.

On the other hand, the Bruins have plenty of young talent–Ryan Donato, Trent Frederic, Danton Heinen, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, to name a few–that makes the future seem bright, disappointing seasons aside.

For the Bruins in both the short-term and long-term, Don Sweeney cannot afford to make a deal in haste. A “panic” move that could mortgage the future for a rental or player who does not put the team over the top would be devastating to the team’s long-term plans and short-term success.

Not to mention the fact that selling low on struggling young talent (Heinen, JFK, and Donato) is as risky as it gets. While it may not be clicking right now for those three, it does not automatically mean that they’re “done” or “never going to make it.” We’ve watched it happen before where a seemingly lost young player gets dealt then pans out (see Seguin, Tyler–not to say either of those guys is the next Seguin).

Also, it was well-documented that Don Sweeney was not thrilled at all about being without his first round pick at least year’s draft, and he would be wise to keep it under lock and key.

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Giving up a plethora of young players or picks for a rental only to watch the Bruins fail to make it deep in the playoffs while the prospects that were traded away pan out would be a horrific look for management. A move like that would leave the Bruins with an outlook on the future that is much less favorable than it is now.

If the right deal presents itself, then I trust Don Sweeney to make that move. I say “right deal” as in a move that can give the Bruins a solid chance at actually contending this year when the playoffs roll around without giving up an outrageous amount to acquire said player.

Careful thought and patience from Sweeney (yes, more of it) is going to have to be the key when considering potential trades come February 25th.

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Bruins Cassidy Is Here To Stay As He Nears Two Full Seasons

Boston Bruins vs New Jersey Devils

PHOTO CREDITS: (Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)

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

On Saturday, February 9th, Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will be the main man on the B’s bench for his 164th game – exactly two full 82-game seasons. Recently, individuals around the fan base have been questioning the work of Cassidy and whether or not he is the right head coach for the team moving forward in the years and seasons to come. In the shootout loss to the New York Rangers, Cassidy chose not to put forward Patrice Bergeron in the player-vs-goalie period, once again bringing up the judgement on his decisions.

Then there is the David Pastrnak situation. The Bruins are very much a front-loaded roster when it comes to the offence. Aside from the first line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak, the Bruins do not have much to fall back on when we are talking bottom-nine scoring forwards. David Krejci can put up numbers but always seems to be lacking good wingers at all times. Jake DeBrusk has more recently brought some life to the second line, but a hole remains on the right wing.

During the fast-paced action of a game, Cassidy may put Pastrnak with his fellow countryman, David Krejci and Canadian Jake DeBrusk to “spread out” the offensive firepower. However, not before long, the trio that is a true threat to any team in the NHL is back together and a large pool of centres and wingers are placed alongside Krejci to try and find that seemingly-rare chemistry.

We have yet to see multiple games of consistent Krejci-Pastrnak action unless it is on the power-play which, coincidence or not, is one of Boston’s strongest weapons of scoring opportunities. Krejci and Pastrnak have proven in the past that they can find that chemistry that has been discussed before on many occasions and build some good chances to put the puck past the goal line and into the back of the net.

Although, once they are on together, it brings along a weaker first line, where Marchand and Bergeron lose a highly-skilled scoring player who can make things happen on the ice. Recently in an interview prior to the Kings game on Saturday, Cassidy said that they are going to try out Danton Heinen on that top line. Heinen is not Pastrnak by any stretch of the imagination and has struggled this season after a strong rookie campaign in 2017-18. Cassidy did go on to say that Heinen is more a defensive player and the three of them will not have to worry too much about the top lines of other teams because all of them, especially Patrice Bergeron, are for the most part, responsible defensively.

The lack of depth scoring on the Boston Bruins in February 2019 can also be attributed to the lack of trades by General Manager Don Sweeney and with only a few more weeks until the NHL Trade Deadline at the end of the month, the clock is ticking to make that deal for another scoring player to play on the front end and bring some help to the top-six.

Either way, Bruce Cassidy has done well and continues to do well. In the past few games, the only line that has been reliable offensively has been that first line. In the three games of February so far, Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak have a combined eleven points. After them, David Krejci has two points, Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, and Peter Cehlarik have one, and the rest of the forwards are yet to score a single point in three games.

Dating back to January 1st, the dangerous first line has fifty-three points combined (22 Goals, 31 Assists) with Brad Marchand (7-13-20) leading the way in those 15 games. Only David Krejci has double-digits in points for 2019 and Jake DeBrusk is the next highest with only five points in fifteen games. It does not make the job of Cassidy any easier when they do not have a high quantity of quality players.

Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Tampa Bay Lightning for examples. Both teams have many interchangeable parts on all four lines. Almost every forward on the roster can play on the first line with success and the team will most likely still win games. Do goaltending and defence play a large factor in that as well? One-hundred percent. But the flexibility of those four forward lines makes the job of Mike Babcock on Toronto or Jon Cooper on Tampa Bay a lot easier.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

 

Just like the blame cannot be placed on individuals for a team effort, the blame cannot be solely placed on Cassidy for the position the Bruins are in. On April 26th, 2017, the Bruins named Cassidy head coach of the team – replacing long-time coach, Claude Julien who was fired earlier in the year.

Cassidy coached twenty-seven games for the Bruins, finishing with an 18-8-1 record and leading them to a first-round playoff matchup with the Ottawa Senators in the 2016-17 season, a series that they lost in six games. This led into last season, where Cassidy implemented his faith and passion for the young players of this league, helping lead the B’s to a 50-win season. Bruce was right behind the team for their first-round win over Toronto and stuck by them in the five-game loss to the Lightning. The year for Bruce led to him being one of the three nominees for the Jack Adams Award – awarding the best coach in the NHL for that season. While he didn’t take the award home, the honour of being nominated for it is a great accomplishment.

Again this year, Cassidy has done a great job. It has been a difficult road to manage the struggling youth that once succeeded for him not only in Providence but in Boston during 2017-18 as well, the goaltending challenges of Rask and Halak, and the whole offensive situation that I’ve discussed over.

With the older players such as Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, and Backes, being surrounded by the younger players such as Pastrnak, DeBrusk, McAvoy, Carlo, and Heinen, Cassidy has had a challenge of who to play with who at what time and when. For a team that seems to have rough nights, still battles back and is able to fight their way to earn a point or at the very least, remain competitive in the ever-so-difficult Eastern Conference.

Bruce Cassidy has a 97-45-21 record with the Boston Bruins since 2016-17. According to BostonGlobe.com’s Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD on Twitter), Claude Julien, the man who won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, had a 94-48-22 in his first 164 career games with the Black N’ Gold.

Julien and Cassidy are almost identical in their wins/losses and they have started almost a decade apart from each other (’07/’08 debut for CJ, ’16/’17 debut for BC). Bruce Cassidy is not only a good coach, but he should remain a coach for the Boston Bruins. He has had success and will continue to have success if the right players are on his lineup. Does he make mistakes time in and time out? Of course, not many coaches in any sport are perfect, (unless you’re Bill Belichick on New England) and it is how he can rally behind the team after a loss and turn it into a win. Bruce Cassidy can do that with the best of them.

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

-> Click Here For The Boston Bruins 2018-19 Regular Season Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com <-