How The Boston Bruins And St. Louis Blues Matchup

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand defends against St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko (91) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Dilip Vishwanat)

(AP Photo/Dilip Vishwanat)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

With Game One just hours away, I thought it would be an intriguing idea to compare the lineups between the two teams in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues have been among the hottest teams in the NHL since the start of 2019 and play a similar physical style of hockey, so seeing how the lineups look against each other should be interesting.

1st Line Edge: Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Jaden Schwartz – Brayden Schenn – Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz has been an animal all playoffs long. He’s second to just Logan Couture in playoff goals with 12. After a shaky start to the playoffs, Vladimir Tarasenko has really elevated his play as of late, scoring three goals and adding five assists in six games against the San Jose Sharks. Couple these two players with a formidable 200-foot player like Brayden Schenn makes this one of the better 1st lines in the league, but not the best.

That award may well go to the Bruins top line, who have combined for 46 points in 51 games these playoffs. Brad Marchand is second in playoff scoring with 18 points, and after a mediocre first round, just like Tarasenko, Pastrnak has elevated his play as these playoffs have gone on. Last but not least, we have Patrice Bergeron, who has been solid offensively, but just incredible defensively. The defensive capability just pushes this line over the Blues’.

(Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

2nd Line Edge: Bruins

Jake Debrusk- David Krejci- David Backes

Sammy Blais- Ryan O’Reilly- David Perron

Getting Sammy Blais back from injury provided a jump this second line needed for the Blues. The 2014 6th rounder (who was the pick the Blues acquired from the Bruins for Wade Redden actually) has been a +5 in eight games since returning to the lineup. David Perron is following up on two great regular seasons with six goals and 13 points in these playoffs, and Ryan O’Reilly is St. Louis’ version of Patrice Bergeron.

On the other side, we have three players, all with playoff success. David Krejci is a bonafide star in the playoffs, leading the league twice in scoring.  As captain of the Blues, David Backes went through many playoff runs and always produced when needed, whether that was through his offense, through his physicality or through his leadership. Similar to Blais, since Backes has been in the lineup, it’s provided a real spark, adding five points in the 11 games he’s played.  Jake Debrusk had a great playoff run last season, and while he hasn’t been quite as good this year, he’s still playing really solid hockey. I’d say experience just barely gives the Bruins the advantage in this regard.

( Joe Puetz – USA TODAY Sports)

3rd Line Edge: Bruins

Marcus Johansson- Charlie Coyle- Danton Heinen

Patrick Maroon- Tyler Bozak- Robert Thomas

Both of these are exceptional 3rd lines and have striking similarities. The two have an influx of speed, size, and skill with all three players on each line having great two-way abilities. St. Louis’ trio has combined for 23 points and most importantly, four game-winning goals in 19 games. Despite how good that line has been, the Bruins’ third line has simply been better. Danton Heinen leads all forwards in +/- in the playoffs and Johansson, and Coyle have developed some great chemistry, combining for nine goals and 21 points in the 15 games they’ve played together.

Bruins and Blues share many qualities, which might make Stanley Cup Final epic

(Dilip Vishwanat / Associated Press)

4th Line Edge: Blues

Joakim Nordstrom- Sean Kuraly- Noel Acciari

Ivan Barbashev- Oskar Sundqvist- Alex Steen

I’m not sure two fourth lines in the NHL get more ice time than these two. The injury to Chris Wagner will certainly hurt the Bruins, but Noel Acciari has played well when he’s been in the lineup so the line shouldn’t fall off too much. Sean Kuraly is basically a playoff legend to Bruins fans at this point, and Joakim Nordstrom has proven to be worth every penny of his contract with his play in the playoffs. The Bruins may have the second best fourth line in the league, but it’s second to the Blues’.

To have a guy like Alex Steen on your fourth line shows that you have some serious depth. While age has caught up with the veteran a bit, he continues to be a force on both ends of the ice. He’s scored double-digit goals for ten straight seasons (aside from the lockout year) and continues to be a leader on and off the ice. Oskar Sundqvist has come out of nowhere and been a great depth piece for the Blues. He notched a career high in goals, assists, and points (with 14, 17, and 31 respectively) and has eight points in limited minutes in these playoffs. The last piece of that line is the youngster Ivan Barbashev, who similar to Sundqvist, has broken out this season, notching 14 goals and 26 points in the regular season and put up a respectable five points in these playoffs.

Nov 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) clears the puck away from St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

1st Pair Edge: Bruins

Zdeno Chara- Charlie Mcavoy

Joel Edmundson- Alex Pietrangelo

The Blues have a bit of a theme to their defense, and that theme would be the size. The shortest player on the Blues D is 6’2, and the average size is almost 6’4. This duo features the Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo (6’3) who has continued, year in and year out, to be a great leader and an even better player. He’s third in playoffs scoring from blue-liners and continues to eat up ice time, averaging almost 26 minutes a game. His partner is Joel Edmundson, who is another young player for the Blues that is blossoming in these playoffs.

The Bruins first pairing is basically take your son to work day with the age difference between Zdeno Chara (42) and Charlie Mcavoy (21). All jokes aside, this pairing has been excellent all season long for the Bruins. They continue to shut down stars every series they are in. Guys like John Tavares (two goals, -5 rating), Artemi Panarin (-3 against the Bruins) and Sebastian Aho (one goal, -1 rating) were all looking for more production after their series against the Bruins, largely in part to the job that Mcavoy and Chara were doing.

ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 23: Brandon Carlo #25 of the Boston Bruins defends against Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on February 23, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

2nd Pair Edge: Bruins

Torey Krug- Brandon Carlo

Jay Bouwmeester- Colton Parayko

Jay Bouwmeester still has it. Following a rough start to the regular season, becoming a healthy scratch for the first time in his 17 year career, the 6’5 defenseman has turned it up a notch, sporting a +5 rating and five assists throughout these playoffs. While his name may not ring much of a bell, Colton Parayko is turning into a stud. The 6’6 Alberta native is in his fourth year in the league and just continues to impress. As a defenseman, he already has a goal and ten assists to pair with a +6 rating in these playoffs. This massive pairing is a huge reason why St. Louis has been so successful.

It’s hard to have one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. It’s just as hard to have one of the best defensive blueliners in the league. The Bruins are lucky to have both on the same pairing. Similar to Parayko, people are starting to recognize how good Brandon Carlo really is. There isn’t much offense in his game, but he has been so good in his own end and just seems to never get beat when he’s on. Torey Krug has been in the top ten in points per game the past three seasons and with 12 points in 17 games, hasn’t skipped a beat in the playoffs.

( Photo Credit: Youtube )

3rd Pair Edge: Wash

Matt Grzelcyk- Connor Clifton

Carl Gunnarsson- Robert Bortuzzo

This matchup was honestly the hardest to decide. They are two very good, but very different types of third pairings. The Bruins have a young and mobile pairing. Matt Grzelcyk is one of the most underrated defensemen in the league, and Connor Clifton can mix his speed with his physicality and looks nothing like a rookie in these playoffs.

On the other side, the Blues have a pair of veterans. Again, it’s a big pairing with Gunnarsson being 6’2 and Bortuzzo being 6’4. Neither of the two has all too much offense in their game, (although Bortuzzo had a gem of a goal in the series against the San Jose Sharks) but the pair is as good as you can get from a shutdown third pair.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask makes a save against

(AP/Dilip Vishwanat)

Goaltending: Bruins

Tuukka Rask

Jordan Binnington

Here are Rask’s numbers thus far in these postseason games 12-5, 1.84 GAA, .942 Sv%.

Binnington has been an incredible story and has played great the entire season and throughout the playoffs but man, you just can’t beat what Tuukka Rask has done, the numbers just speak for themselves.

So I have the Bruins winning all but two of these “matchups,” but that doesn’t give the Blues even close to enough credit. Aside from the first forward line and maybe goaltending, every other matchup could’ve honestly gone either way. Both of these teams have incredible depth up front, and on the back end. I think the Bruins are a better team but by just a hair. It’s going to be an awesome series to watch, I’m picking the Bruins in seven.

2019 Stanley Cup Finals Preview: Boston Bruins vs St. Louis Blues

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

On May 21st, the Boston Bruins finally knew which of the final two teams in the Western Conference will meet them in the Stanley Cup Finals. In Game Six of the West Finals, the St. Louis Blues ran through the injured San Jose Sharks in St. Louis with a 5-1 victory. The Blues had five different goal scorers (Perron, Tarasenko, Schenn, Bozak, Barbashev) while goaltender Jordan Binnington made 24 saves on 25 shots against.

On the television screens somewhere, the Bruins management were closely watching that game. Boston eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals five days before the Blues’ victory. Boston’s first line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand were responsible for all four goals scored (Bergeron scored twice), while Tuukka Rask stopped every single one of the 24 shots that he faced within the 60-minute contest.

The 2018-19 NHL season has been the type of season that all hockey fans will remember for a long time. The 62-win Tampa Bay Lightning were bounced in the opening round in a four-game sweep to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were defeated by the Bruins in six games in Round Two. The other three divisional winners were not anymore successful as the Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, and Washington Capitals all lost their first-round series.

Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins finished lower than the New York Islanders in the final standings, they had the experience that many fans predicted was going to be the deciding factor – however, the Islanders won four consecutive games and Pittsburgh was eliminated. Immediately after, the Islanders were swept themselves by the Hurricanes who were swept by the Bruins.

Regardless, there were many few insiders and analysts that successfully predicted a Stanley Cup Final that had both the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues in it, especially at the beginning of the year, but even after the 82-game campaign. All that said, we are here. In only a few days time, the two franchises will drop the puck in the Finals for the first time since the 1969-70 season. The same series were Bobby Orr flew through the air in what has now become one of the greatest, most memorable goals in NHL history.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Ray Lussier, Boston Record-American)

On January 2nd, 2019, the Blues were the 31st team in the league’s standings. St. Louis had issues with scoring, defense and goaltending and it made them the worst in the league. There was a moment in time where it was believed that the top superstars of the organization were possibly on the trading block for the approaching trade deadline. But, remarkably, St. Louis battled back in a big way. Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington stole the starting job from Jake Allen and the Blues finished the year with a 45-28-9 record – third in the Central division and 12th in the NHL.

The Boston Bruins did not have an easy road to the Stanley Cup Finals by any stretch of the imagination. The whole season was filled with struggles, question marks, and injuries – a lot of injuries. In fact, not one Bruin skater played all 82 games in 2018-19, with David Krejci leading the way with 81. Yet, the Bruins still had three players above a point-per-game (Marchand, Pastrnak, Bergeron) and the majority of Boston players set new career highs.

2018-19 Season Series

The way the NHL standings work today, opposite conference teams only play each other twice per season. The travel and the extra time it takes to get from one city to the other just doesn’t make sense for the teams to do it more often that just twice. The lack of games played between each other may skew the results, but here are some of the key statistics for the pair of games between Boston and St. Louis this year.

January 17/19 – STL @ BOS – Bruins def Blues 5-2 (BOS: Krug, Backes, Wagner, Marchand, Kuraly, Rask – 28 saves on 30 shots; STL: O’Reilly, Gunnarson, Allen – 22 saves on 26 shots)

February 23/19 – BOS @ STL – Blues def Bruins 2-1 SO (BOS: Wagner, Coyle (SO goal) Rask – 28 saves on 29 shots, 4-for-6 in shootout; STL: Steen, Blais (SO winner) Binnington – 31 saves on 32 shots, 5-for-6 in shootout)

Each team picked up a win on home ice, but the Bruins in fact won the season series with a 1-0-1 record (3 points). The big guns of either franchise, aside from Brad Marchand, failed to get a goal but I have a feeling that this best-of-seven series will be different. Tuukka Rask was excellent in both games, allowing a total of three goals in regulation on 59 shots against.

On the other side of the ice, Jake Allen lost the first game, allowing four goals against, but rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington took the big win on home ice in the second meeting, stopping 31 shots, allowing only one goal by Chris Wagner and one shootout tally by Charlie Coyle.

2018-19 Playoffs

Over seventeen games. Twelve wins. Three rounds. The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues have already been through some hard-fought wars and battles. All of that leads to this – how do they match up together in the postseason?

Boston Bruins (12-5)

def Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 – Round One 

No surprises came in the opening round. Heading into yet another installment of the Original Six rivalry, the Bruins and Maple Leafs were neck and neck in the divisional standings and were for almost the entirety of the season. After going down 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 in the series, the B’s came back to dominate Game Seven, advancing to the second round.

def Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 – Round Two 

Columbus entered the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals for the first time in franchise history following one of the biggest upsets in NHL history, sweeping the once-imagined unbeatable Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston came into the series, winning a close Game One in overtime, then lost in a double overtime session the next game. The Blue Jackets defeated Boston in another one-goal game, only to lose each of the next three and Boston advances once again.

def Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 – Round Three

Carolina was the underdogs of the entire playoffs. They had this Cinderella story surrounding them with the Storm Surge and the Bunch of Jerks comments from Don Cherry that truly built an incredible fan base in North Carolina. The Canes had beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Captials, in seven games, then swept the New York Islanders in Round Two. Boston, however, did not go easy on Carolina, winning four straight to win the Prince of Wales Trophy as Eastern Conference Champions.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

Leading Scorers:

Goals: Patrice Bergeron (8)

Assists: Torey Krug, Brad Marchand (11)

Points: Brad Marchand (18)

Goaltending: Tuukka Rask – 12-5 1.84 GAA .942 SV% 2 Shutouts

St. Louis Blues (12-7)

def Winnipeg Jets 4-2 – Round One

Winnipeg was one of the Cup favorites in not only the Western Conference, but the entire league. However, that did not scare the Blues who stormed out to a 2-0 series lead on the road. The Jets took back both games in St. Louis, only for the Blues to take the series lead once again in Game 5. Off of another 3-2 victory, the Blues eliminated the Jets in the first-round.

def Dallas Stars 4-3 – Round Two 

The Dallas Stars eliminated the Nashville Predators in an exciting first-round matchup, but were not able to handle the Blues in this seven-game series. St. Louis won Games One, Three, Six and finally, Seven to take the series four-games-to-three. St. Louis showed great resiliency to win the double overtime Game Seven, breaking the hearts of Stars fans everywhere.

def San Jose Sharks 4-2 – Round Three 

Once again, the Blues were forced to deal with some early adversity in order to capture the Western Conference Championship. The dangerous San Jose Sharks took the first game 6-3, only for the Blues to tie the series in Game Two. The Blues took a hard loss in overtime in Game Three before dominantly winning three consecutive contests including a 5-0 win in Game Five and a final score of 5-1 in their first attempt at elimination. 

Scoring Leaders:

Goals: Jaden Schwartz (12)

Assists: Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Pietrangelo (11)

Points: Jaden Schwartz (16)

Goaltending: Jordan Binnington – 12-7 2.36 GAA .914 SV% 1 Shutout

These two teams are here for a reason. Each of them have high-skilled forwards, solid defensemen on the back end, and stellar goaltenders between the pipes and play a hard, physical style of hockey night in and night out. Each of them will have sufficient rest and relaxation before this game and will both be relatively healthy on the injury front as well.

Bruins forward David Backes will make his Stanley Cup Finals debut on Monday against the team that not only drafted him 62nd overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, but the team where he once wore the “C” on his chest as the captain of the organization. The Blues and their fans loved Backes, but the now 35-year-old decided to test out the free agent market back in the 2016 offseason, when he signed a five-year, $30 million contact with Boston to have a chance to win the Cup – and now he finally does.

Jordan Binnington has a connection with the Bruins organization as well, as he once played 28 games with the Providence Bruins back in the 2017-18 campaign, finishing the year with a 17-9-0 record along with a 2.05 GAA and a .926 save percentage. His time with Providence may be a strength for Boston as the coaching staff has experience with his tendencies and any possible weaknesses that he may or may not have.

Aside from all of that, this should be one hell of a series. The team to win four games first will hoist Lord Stanley above their heads. Game One from Boston takes place Monday, May 27th at 8:00pm EST. Welcome to the Stanley Cup Finals. May the best team win.

Heinen Shinin’ For Bruins Through Playoffs

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( Photo Credit: Kim Klement/ USA TODAY Sports )

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

If you were to poll the entirety of those who share a passion for Bruins fandom about which current Bruin they would choose as their favorite, some names would almost certainly stand out above the rest. As the Bruins are a notably deep team who owe much of their success to their admirable implementation and execution of the “next man up” (I just made that up, definitely not an overused cliché) mentality and system, there would likely be a few mentions of depth forwards and defensemen.

But it is likely that names like Bergeron, Rask, Chara, and Marchand would be offered as an answer to this childish hypothetical more so than the rest. Make no mistake, this should absolutely be the case.

However, when it comes to impactful players on the Boston roster who have embraced their role and outperformed their expectations, it would be tough to argue that many (or any) have surpassed Danton Heinen when it comes to consistency and efficiency.

Offensive Potential

Heinen, throughout the course of the regular season, demonstrated his value (shoutout to Dennis Reynolds) in a variety of ways. His 34 regular season points made him the sixth-highest scoring Bruins forward, and solidified even further his role as a forward with middle-six capabilities. However, as a stalwart on an injury-ridden Bruins’ roster throughout the season, the absence of David Pastrnak saw not only Heinen’s status on the lineup elevated to the first line but saw his performance elevated as well. In his time playing with Bergeron and Marchand during the regular season, Danton Heinen scored at nearly a point-per-game pace and allowed the Bruins to maintain their offensive effectiveness despite the absence of one of their most prolific scorers.

While most might offer that just about anyone would be successful offensively while playing with Bergeron and Marchand, the following will bring to light just how valuable Heinen has been in other ways.

Versatility

Throughout the regular season, Heinen saw time playing with each of Boston’s top three lines. In fact, he was rumored to have singlehandedly kept Boston-area LIDS stores in business because of the many hats he wore throughout the season (you’re welcome for that one).

As a younger player, it would have been reasonable to think that the consistent movement throughout the lineup might impact Heinen’s effectiveness on the ice and hinder his abilities to string together consistent performances. However, in the face of the instability of the Bruins’ forward units (for the better part of the season), Heinen managed to, on top of his respectable offensive production, amass the third-highest +/- rating among Boston forwards, behind just Bergeron and Marchand.

While some might predictably point to +/- like an outdated statistic, being included in the same category as Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron is nothing to write off. Even more so, the fact that Heinen put together such an impressive performance over the course of the entire season proves that the result was no fluke. Even amidst a variety of lineup moves that hindered his ability to get comfortable with certain linemates for extended periods of time, Heinen proved his commitment to a balanced style of production and defensive commitment.

Playoff Improvements

The NHL Playoffs are a grueling time. While the regular season is longer, the intensity of postseason competition is unmatched, not just in hockey, but in the entire realm of professional sports. Simply put, the playoffs create a unique demand for staying healthy, while also producing and playing consistent hockey during situations of the highest intensity.   Younger players with relatively less experience with such big moments might often fall victim to the effects of “the moment.” Danton Heinen appears to have received his “the moment” vaccination, and as such, is immune to its harmful effects that other younger players find themselves struggling with. Heinen has not only maintained his effectiveness but has improved in important areas of the game.

Heinen’s 34 regular season points saw him produce at a .44 points/game clip. In the playoffs, Heinen’s 7 points through 17 games have him producing at .41 points/game. When considering the magnitude of some of his points, and the skill/determination required to create them, this stat becomes all the more impressive. Most notably among Heinen’s playoff production is his overtime assist in Game 1 of the second round against Columbus. Did someone order a master class in body control, awareness, vision, and touch?

Heinen has not been able to maintain his status as the Bruins forward with the third-highest +/- rating in the playoffs. Instead, he now sits 1st (Pronounced “FIRST”) among Bruins forwards with a +10 rating in just 17 games. This comes despite Heinen averaging just 13:33 in ice-time throughout the playoffs, which sits among the lowest of Bruins forwards. Heinen’s utility in his shortened allotment of ice-time speaks to how effective he has been when he has graced the ice.

Moving Forward

Heinen has shown that his game is much more mature than he will get credit for. While he is a far cry from being compared to the likes of Patrice Bergeron, his defensive commitment coupled with his respectable offensive capabilities make him incredibly valuable to a Bruins team that has benefitted from enhanced depth throughout the playoffs.

Heinen has gelled with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson in his time on their unit, and I would expect to see that chemistry continue to grow and positively affect the outcomes of Boston’s upcoming games.

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( Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/ AP )

And thus ends my ode to Danton “Grindin’ and Shinin,’ Third Linin’” Heinen.

Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes: In-Depth Series Preview

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

Following Monday’s Game Six shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Boston Bruins officially move on to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since their Stanley Cup Finals run in the 2012-13 season. Boston now has a combined 8-6 record in the 2019 postseason and they prepare for a third-round match-up with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes entered the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second wild-card team, but courtesy of a Brock McGinn overtime winner in Game Seven, the Canes eliminated the Washington Captials who were the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Carolina then faced the New York Islanders in the second round, a team who had swept the experienced Pittsburgh Penguins in their first round match-up. The ‘Bunch of Jerks’ dominated the Islanders, winning four straight – sweeping New York to meet at that time, either the Bruins or Blue Jackets.

For the second consecutive series, the Bruins will have to face a team who has had plenty of time to rest after their previous round ended while they have to deal with minimal rest in comparison to Carolina. However, the Bruins do have a few more days than they had between the Toronto and Columbus series which should be a great break for the team to regroup with only two rounds left to go.

Skaters To Look Out For

Boston Bruins:

  • F Brad Marchand: 13GP – 5G – 8A – 13P
  • F David Pastrnak: 13GP – 6G – 5A – 11P
  • F David Krejci: 13GP – 4G – 6A – 10P
  • F Charlie Coyle: 13GP – 5G – 3A – 8P
  • F Patrice Bergeron: 13GP – 5G – 3A – 8P
  • D Torey Krug: 13GP – 1G – 7A – 8P – 21:25 TOI
  • D Charlie McAvoy: 13GP – 1G – 5A – 6P – 24:46 TOI

The first-line trio of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron had some early struggles in the 2019 postseason, but near the end of the best-of-seven series against the Blue Jackets, the top line started to heat up. In the crazy Game Five, Pastrnak tallied a pair of goals and his linemates of Bergeron and Marchand have been on the scoresheet numerous times as well.

David Krejci and Charlie Coyle have been the two best point-producing forwards aside from that line and Coyle himself has had some big goals including the game-winner in Game One’s first overtime session. Marcus Johansson and Sean Kuraly (not listed above) are also having themselves a big postseason. Both of them scored the insurance goal in each of the first series (Kuraly vs TOR in Game 7, Johansson vs CBJ in Game 6) and have been finding their game all over the ice.

On defense, Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy have arguably been the names seen the most, with them both having large time-on-ice numbers throughout the 13 games thus far, but players such as Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk have also been huge for Boston on the back-end. Going back to Game Five against Columbus, Carlo shut down Artemi Panarin in the defensive zone before passing it up to Marchand and then to Pastrnak for the game-winning goal in the dying minutes of the third period.

The experience of the Bruins roster is something to watch out for as they have been able to battle through a lot of adversity throughout their years together as a core group, especially in 2018-19.

Carolina Hurricanes:

  • D Jaccob Slavin: 11GP – 0G – 11A – 11P – +8 Rating – 26:36 TOI
  • F Teuvo Teravainen: 11GP – 6G – 3A – 9P – +8 Rating – 20:20 TOI
  • F Warren Foegele: 11GP – 5G – 4A – 9P
  • F Jordan Staal: 11GP – 4G – 5A – 9P
  • F Sebastian Aho: 11GP – 4G – 5A – 9P 21:25 TOI
  • D Dougie Hamilton: 11GP – 3G – 4A – 7P 20:11 TOI
  • F Justin Williams: 11GP – 3G – 3A – 6P

Surprisingly, Jaccob Slavin leads the Hurricanes in points during the post-season with 11 assists in the same number of games. Three of those assists came in the Game Seven win over the Capitals. The 25-year-old defenceman averages the most minutes-per-game on the entire Hurricanes roster, with D Justin Faulk behind him, averaging 25:54 on the ice per game.

Behind Slavin, four Carolina forwards have nine points, putting their display of depth scoring on the max setting. Teuvo Teravainen led the team with 3-2-5 numbers in the four-game sweep of the Islanders. Seven players had three or more points in that same time span,

If the series goes to the do-or-die seventh game, then the Hurricanes will have a strong asset in captain Justin Williams. Williams holds the NHL record for most points in Game 7 with 15 throughout his career and boasts an 8-1 record in those crucial games. Williams was named the captain of Carolina in September 2018 and he has been the embodiment of leadership for the young locker room, having won the Stanley Cup on three occasions (’06 with CAR, ’12 & ’14 with LAK).

Goaltenders in the Between the Posts

BOS: Tuukka Rask – 8-5 .938 SV% – 2.02 GAA

Before the second-round battle with the Columbus Blue Jackets even started, one of the biggest concerns was how good Sergei Bobrovsky is and was most likely going to be for the duration of the series. Bobrovsky was good, but Tuukka Rask was outstanding for the Bruins for all six games, especially in the final three wins for the B’s.

In Game 4, Rask made 39 saves on 40 shots with the only goal going in creating controversy after the puck clearly hit the netting above the end boards. In Game Five, Rask was solid for the majority of the game, before allowing three third period goals in what was an insane final frame. Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella claimed Rask was “dented” after Game Five, but Tuukka came back even stronger with a 39-save shutout to eliminate Columbus.

One could very well argue that the reason that the Boston Bruins are prepping for Conference Finals, is Tuukka Rask’s elite play in net.

CAR: Curtis McElhinney – 3-0 .947 SV% 1.56 GAA OR

Petr Mrazek – 5-3 .913 SV% 2.22 GAA

Petr Mrazek was the starting goaltender throughout the regular season and was to begin the playoffs as well, eliminating the Washington Capitals and taking Game One against the Islanders. However, in Game Two, Mrazek suffered a lower-body injury that is being listed as a groin injury and did not play for the remainder of the series. Former Maple Leafs goalie, Curtis McElhinney, stepped in and won three straight to complete the sweep.

The eight-day break for Carolina allowed Mrazek to improve with his injury and it seems like he will be the goaltender that starts in Game One, but as of 1:00pm EST, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour would not directly release who that starting goaltender is. If it is McElhinney, the Bruins can expect Mrazek to be back in the lineup maybe as soon as Game Two on Sunday.

Either way, both netminders in the red and black sweaters for the Canes will be at the top of their game as they have shown throughout the postseason so far. Boston is used to playing against a hot goaltender, dealing with both Frederik Andersen and Sergei Bobrovsky in the opening two rounds.

Season Series

The Bruins and Hurricanes played in three games during the 2018-19 campaign, with Boston finishing the season series with a 2-1-0 record.

  • October 30th/18: Bruins 3 – Hurricanes 2
  • December 23rd/18: Hurricanes 5 – Bruins 3
  • March 5th/19: Bruins 4 – Hurricanes 3 OT

Both of Boston’s wins over Carolina this season were only by a lone goal when the final buzzer sounded, including an overtime win to close out the season series on March 5th. Carolina won their only game of the series by a final score of 5-3. Tuukka Rask allowed five goals on 37 shots against while Petr Mrazek stopped 27 of 30 shots that faced him.

Throughout the NHL history, both franchises have had some legendary playoff moments as well. That dates back to the days of the Hartford Whalers before the relocation to Raleigh, North Carolina for the 1997-1998 season. For more on that history, check out fellow BNG’s teammate Evan Michael’s article regarding the Bruins/Hurricanes before their 2019 clash.

Projected Lines for Game One

Boston Bruins:

Forwards:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Backes

Johansson-Coyle-Heinen

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Defence:

Chara-Clifton

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Kampfer

Goaltender:

Rask

Scratched: Noel Acciari (upper-body), Karson Kuhlman (healthy), Charlie McAvoy (suspended for an illegal hit to the head), Zane McIntyre (healthy), John Moore (healthy).

Carolina Hurricanes (per @NHLCanes on Twitter):

Forwards

Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen

Niederreiter-Staal-Williams

Foegele-Wallmark-McGinn

Ferland-McKegg-Martinook

Defence

Slavin-Hamilton

Pesce-Faulk

Fleury-de Haan

Goalies

A starting goaltender has not been announced.

Scratched: Bean (healthy), Brown (healthy), Maenalenen (upper body), van Riemsdyk (upper body).

Puck drop for Game One is scheduled for tonight, May 9th at 8:00pm EST in Boston, followed by the remaining possible six games:

*if required

Game Two: Sunday, May 12th – 3pm EST in Boston

Game Three: Tuesday, May 14th – 8pm EST in Carolina

Game Four: Thursday, May 16th – 8pm EST in Carolina

Game Five*: Saturday, May 18th – 7:15pm EST in Boston

Game Six*: Monday, May 20th – 8pm EST in Carolina

Game Seven*: Wednesday, May 22nd – 8pm EST in Boston

With that, let the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals begin!

Hypothetical: Losing McAvoy Might Shake Up Bruins’ Pairings Quite A Bit

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( Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/ Getty Images )

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

The Bruins, for the second time in the span of two weeks, closed out a hard-fought playoff series against a solid, skilled playoff opponent. The hard-earned victory did not come without its share of physicality, an aspect of the series in which Bruins’ defenseman Charlie McAvoy was more than involved.

Examining the series as a whole, McAvoy’s game has been elevated as the playoffs have progressed. McAvoy’s one outlier (performance-wise) came in Game 2, in which some questionable pinches and late-game defense by McAvoy found Boston relying on Tuukka Rask to make some saves that were not only large but were also in charge (I am hilarious, big credit to me). Aside from that one game, McAvoy has made a consistent case to be considered as the Bruins’ top defenseman…and if Brandon Carlo had chosen to be a basketball player as a young man, McAvoy would indeed be the Black and Gold’s top blue-liner. Fortunately for the Bruins, Carlo stuck with hockey.

At any rate, McAvoy’s aforementioned physicality led to him taking a brief dip in some hot water. McAvoy’s hit on Josh Anderson at the end the second period of Monday’s Game 6 against Columbus warranted a penalty, and many a Jackets fan (and hockey fan) thought warranted even more of a response.   Regardless of McAvoy’s meeting with the Department of Player Safety on Tuesday afternoon, the scenario that McAvoy misses some time is a difficult one that the Bruins need to be ready for (regardless of how his absence comes about). While the Bruins have used defensemen Steven Kampfer, John Moore, and Connor Clifton at different times as members of the team’s third D-pairing, the absence of McAvoy might shake up the lineup much more than a fluctuating third-pair.

 

For instance, McAvoy has been crucial to the lineup as a partner for Zdeno Chara, who (as much as it pains me to say) has begun to look more and more his age as the playoffs have progressed. Having McAvoy’s athleticism, skating ability, hockey sense, and physicality on the back end provide a much larger safety net for Chara than, say, Steven Kampfer might. I’m not bashing Kampfer, and I’m not bashing Chara. But it’s important to recognize the limits and capabilities of each defenseman in order to adequately address any potential lineup shifts.

Changes

With that being said, what would a potential Chuck-less lineup look like?

Certainly, Bruce Cassidy would be wiser than to put a seventh or eighth defenseman alongside Zdeno Chara. It is likely that this means Brandon Carlo or Connor Clifton see themselves flanking the big man in the event that McAvoy is sidelined (press-boxed).   While Kevan Miller would be a more than serviceable replacement for any right-handed defenseman in the lineup currently, his health remains an issue. This leaves Cassidy taking his pick of potential insertion into the lineup from Steven Kampfer or John Moore. While Kampfer might be the logical choice to fill the void of a missing right defenseman, I am of the camp that the best players should play, regardless of their handedness (a reason why I was baffled that Chara remained on the ice for the final minutes of Game 5… which is neither here nor there).

 

Unfortunately, I don’t think John Moore has separated himself as a better replacement than Steven Kampfer. For as much depth as the Bruins have in terms of actual bodies, the depth of their ability on the back-end is somewhat limited. And, while the Bruins have a considerable amount of Black Aces ready to play from Providence, the fact remains that Kampfer’s playoff experience, though limited, trumps that of any potential young prospect fresh out of Providence.

In the event that McAvoy does come out of the lineup for any reason (suspension, injury, etc.) I think it’s fair to expect Cassidy to go with the following pairings on the back end:

Krug-Carlo
Chara-Clifton
Grzelcyk-Kampfer

These pairings, while limited in their offensive capabilities, bring about the least amount of change to the lineup (Carlo pairing remains untouched) while balancing the amount of skating ability, defensive commitment, and experience to field an effective defensive corps.

 

As much as I’d like to be positive about the hypothetical pairings I just created in response to a potentially negative scenario, there’s no getting around that Charlie McAvoy’s removal from the B’s lineup hurts.

A lot.

Bruins Hope Rest Will Re-Awaken Top Dogs

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( Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images )

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

The Boston Bruins are in absolutely no position to panic or feel worried about the state of their team, and as such, neither are the fans. The unexpected truth of the series is objectively more encouraging than worrisome, and this truth is that the Bruins have outplayed the Columbus Blue Jackets, despite Boston’s best players being somewhat invisible through two games.

Ideally, the Black and Gold’s entire roster should be firing on all cylinders at this point in the spring. However, to find themselves in an even series with a second-round opponent despite getting subpar play from almost every single one of their leaders (aside from Tuukka Rask, who has been stellar), is a testament to just how good this Bruins team is and will be when they can put together a full effort.

Picking Up Slack/Depth

There are several things to smile about (from a Bruins’ perspective) when examining the facts of how the B’s have gotten to this point in the series. The first and foremost of which is the aforementioned notion that they have objectively been successful despite being without the “A-games” of their best players. Not only does this allow the mind to wander when imagining how much more effective Boston will be when things start to click, but it affords observers an opportunity to appreciate the depth that the Bruins are employing on the ice.

As depth—particularly at the forward positions—had been a prominent issue identified by management (and many a Bruins fan), it is enthralling to see that when deadline acquisitions and bottom-six forwards are playing to their capabilities, they are able to carry the load when their leaders are sluggish.

With this being said, anticipating a resurgence among the Bruins leading scorers—Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, DeBrusk—might indeed be a justified line of thinking. While most players are prone to periods of quiet play and ineffectiveness from time to time, very seldom have Bruins fans come to see the play of their leaders falter so simultaneously. As troublesome as the decline in their effectiveness has been, to expect it to continue for much longer would truly be hoping for a longshot, especially given the pedigrees of the respective Bruins’ leaders.

 

If the series has been even with the Bruins top-six forwards playing some of their worst hockey, then it would be well within reason to expect the Bruins to take control of the series with just a small improvement in the efforts of their top-scorers.

Defensively

The Bruins’ efforts defensively have somewhat mirrored the play of their forwards, though in perhaps a less salient manner. Simply, they have been unable to put together a game in which all members of their D-core are playing to their capabilities.

Aside from Brandon Carlo. He has been flat out impressive.

Game 2 saw a decent performance from most members of the Bruin’s defensive units, yet individually there are, in most cases, things to point to that highlight inconsistency. Defensively, Carlo, Clifton, and Krug played relatively mistake-free hockey.

Krug, however, “quarterbacked” a first powerplay unit that was at best underwhelming. In moments where the prowess of the powerplay (Prowerplay?! I’m so sorry…) was needed most—specifically a three-minute advantage following the surrendering of an absolute giveaway of a goal—they failed to piece together any sustained pressure or scoring opportunities. As such, an energized and motivated Columbus team seized the momentum of the man-advantage.

Zdeno Chara’s failed clear on a second-period penalty kill was costly, and (like the laughable Charlie Coyle turnover that would come later in that same period) provided Columbus with both a goal and a surge of energy they would ride throughout the rest of the game.   Charlie McAvoy’s play featured significant lapses in judgment in some of the most important moments of the game, specifically in the overtime periods. The most notable of these blunders were an ill-advised pinch which led to a high-percentage scoring chance by Jackets captain Nick Foligno, and another play in which McAvoy got WALKED (dangled, breezed, torched, take your pick) by Foligno on his way to another grade-A scoring chance. Fortunately for McAvoy, in both instances Tuukka was equal to the task*, robbing Foligno of both would-be game-winners.   *Big credit to me for not rhyming “Rask” with “task” there.

 

Albeit concerning, these faults in the performances of key members of the Bruins point to an evident truth: with some tightening of the screws, and a commitment to playing the style of hockey that made them successful all year, the Bruins should be right back in the driver’s seat of this series.

With the AUX cord. In complete control.

Rest

Columbus came into the series with much more than a week of rest. The Bruin’s entered the series with barely over one day of rest. The Bruins have outperformed a well-rested and relatively healthy Columbus team despite Boston’s tired and beaten up roster, whose best players have yet to shine in the postseason. While many might point to the idea that perhaps Columbus had “too much rest,” the effects of being out of competitive situations for so long likely wouldn’t last longer than a period or two. Quite simply, the Bruins have outplayed Columbus without once having more than a day in between games to recharge…until now.

 

The Jackets are about to get a rested Bruins team in Columbus, something they haven’t seen since Game 80 of the regular season. The Bruins won that one 6-2, by the way.

 

I’m not sure if the Columbus players or fans wear boots. But if they do, then now might be a good time to start shaking in them.

Round 2 | Game One: Boston Bruins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

By: Liz Rizzo  | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

It’s been a wild first round that saw the early exit of big heavy-hitting teams and the Bruins are one of those teams still standing. After a nerve wrecking victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7  this past Tuesday, the Bruins are now gearing up to face a new foe in Round 2.  For the first time in either teams history, the wild card team Columbus Blue Jackets and the league’s second-place Boston Bruins will face each other.

Boston has had little rest from Tuesday’s bout with the Leafs while the Blue Jackets had 10 days off after a stunning sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the first time in their history Columbus has advanced to the second round. Surpassing all Vegas odds and, pretty much anyone that watches hockey, the Blue Jackets will be looking to strong arm Boston at the TD Garden. The last time these two teams met on April 2nd, Boston defeated the Blue Jackets 6-2. Columbus  has won 11 out of 12 games in the regular season and swept the Lighting in four games.

Image result for BOSTON BRUINS VS BLUE JACKETS(Photo Credits: WCVB Boston)

For Boston, the continued emergence of the fourth line will hopefully once again show up tonight as they face a heavy, tough Columbus team. Sometimes rest isn’t always the best thing and that can bode well for the B’s. They’ll be looking to carry over their momentum from their Game 7 win to tonight’s game. If you look back to last postseason, the Bruins defeated Toronto and were able to defeat the Lightning in Game 1 of the second round, winning 6-2. But as history has it, the Bruins were unable to carry that energy over to the rest of the series.

“I hope we’re ready. I can’t guarantee how it is. Eight or nine days off, I think we can say all the right things as I’m trying to do right now, but it comes down to the players being mentally ready. To me, its not a physical ready, its a mental readiness as far as ready to elevate your compete to start a series.”-Columbus Coach John Tortorella

Both Boston and Columbus had the best power play in the league postseason, with the Jackets in first and Boston in second. The Bruins power-play was instrumental in key victories over the Maple Leafs. For the Blue Jackets, their power-play was a huge factor in their winning sweep over Tampa Bay.  If you wanna talk stats, the Bruins were shorthanded 16 times in seven games, while Columbus was shorthanded six times in four games.

Image result for BOSTON BRUINS VS BLUE JACKETS(Photo Credits: NESN.com)

The Bruins will need to be mindful of the heavy forechecking by Columbus’s Josh Anderson, Nick Foglino and rookie Alexandre Texier.  Boston’s secondary scoring issues was hot topic during the regular season, however come postseason, has been a different story. In the pivotal Game 7, it was Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Marcus Johansson that got the Bruins on board. Although the first line has been quiet (aside from Marchand who’s been steadily producing), the team will  need all lines on deck for this series. Columbus’s Matt Duchene leads the team in points, goals and assists, while Brad Marchand leads in points, goals and assists.

Boston’s Chris Wagner and Connor Clifton will be back in the lineup tonight.

For Columbus, here are the projected lines for tonight:

Artemi Panarin – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Oliver Bjokstrand

Ryan Dzingel – Matt Duchene – Cam Atkinson

Alexandre Texier – Nick Foligno – Josh Anderson

Riley Nash – Booner Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky

Zach Werenski – Seth Jones

Markus Nutivaara – David Savard

Scott Harrington – Adam Clendening

Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo

Expect Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky in their respected nets.

WHEN TO WATCH: Tonight at TD Garden with puck drop at 7:00 PM

WHERE TO WATCH: NBCSN

 

7 Factors That Will Decide Game 7 Between the Bruins and Maple Leafs

Illustration for article titled Tuukka Rask Ruined The Maple Leafs' Best And Maybe Last Chance

(Claus Andersen-Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

Goaltending

I mean, of course this was going to be on the list. We’ve seen really strong, and really weak goaltending from both Tuukka Rask and Frederik Anderson over the past two series. Outside of a softy or two from both guys, the two have been really solid throughout the first six games of this series. Rask has a .921 save percentage with a 2.54 GAA and Anderson has a .925 SV% and a 2.70 GAA. With the potency of both offenses and some questionable defense by both teams, I can’t see this being a 1-0 game. There will be goals, it’s just a matter of who can make the saves when it matters.

Can the Offensive Stars Produce?

The superstars on both sides have been very on and off all series. Austin Matthews has lead the way for Toronto, scoring five goals in the six games (but in all honesty, hasn’t really dominated at any point). The Bruins top defensive pair of Charlie Mcavoy and Zdeno Chara have done an excellent job shutting down the John Tavares and Mitch Marner line, but with all of that talent, how long can that last?

The trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have been very streaky throughout the series for the Bruins. We all know how dangerous they can be when they’re on their game (they all absolutely torched the Leafs last series) but something has been off with them this series and for the Bruins sake, that better change.

Leafs vs Bruins

(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Special Teams

We’ve seen how important special teams have been in this series and throughout the entire playoffs. The Nashville Predators just fell to the Dallas Stars, largely in part to their horrendous powerplay (going 0-15 in the series). Boston and Toronto both have very good powerplays, with Toronto converting on 21.4% of their PP chances and the Bruins scoring on a staggering 43.8% of their chances. There’s no question the game will be a chippy one and I’d assume the referees arms will stay down for most of the game, but when a penalty is called, converting on that opportunity will be huge.

Forechecking

In Game 7 last year, the Bruins hard-nosed forechecking was a big reason why they were able to come back and take the lead late. In the games the Bruins have lost this series, they haven’t been able to maintain consistent pressure in the Leafs zone. The Maple Leafs defense is very susceptible to making mistakes with the puck when pressured so that needs to be the Bruins #1 priority throughout this game.

Forechecking obviously isn’t just a component of the Bruins game, it’s just as important for the Leafs to keep the pressure on the Bs. Putting pressure on smaller guys like Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk will be huge for the Maple Leafs, they’re easier to out-muscle compared to the rest of the d-core and getting them to cough up the puck will lead to big-time chances for Toronto. Isolating Zdeno Chara is also just as key, as he certainly doesn’t have the legs to keep up with Toronto’s speedy forwards.

Depth Scoring

Depth scoring is a key component of every single game and it’s just magnified in the playoffs. Guys like Charlie Coyle and Andreas Johnsson (who both have had very strong series) have key roles with their respective clubs. If the big names aren’t able to step up, look for these middle-six guys to pick up the slack.

(Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Maintaining a Lead

Scoring the first goal is massive, but keeping that lead is even more important. The team that has been ahead going into the third period has won every game this series and with every player fighting for their playoff lives, there’s sure to be a lot of pressure on both sides of the bench. Looking at the history between these two teams, the Maple Leafs have held the lead going in to the 3rd period in the past two game 7s, but have lost both after outstanding comebacks by the Bruins. If the Maple Leafs or the Bruins want to get to the next round, maintaining a lead will be the reason they get there.

Matchups

Despite having a combined -10 rating in the series, Nikita Zaitzev and Jake Muzzin have done a pretty good job at keeping the Bruins top line in check. Unlike last series, the Bruins top line hasn’t been nearly as good. They haven’t been able to maintain possession of the puck quite as much and their cycling game, which leads to the majority of their chances, is nothing like it has been all season long. If Toronto wants to keep this line at bay, trying to keep this matchup will be their best bet.

As I said before, Mcavoy and Chara have done an excellent job holding Tavares and Marner to minimal offense in this series. With last change and home ice advantage, coach Bruce Cassidy will have to be on his game to keep the matchups in he wants throughout his lineup.

Regardless of the outcome, this should be a great game as it always is. I’ve had Bruins in seven from the start and I’m sticking with that pick. Go Bs.

Bruins Look to Kuraly & Kuhlman to KO Leafs

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Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/Getty Images

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

In a playoff series that features an excess of star-power and offensive prowess, an appreciation for roster depth can often go by the wayside. The Boston Bruins, despite boasting arguably the best forward line in hockey, have proven to fall short of the Toronto Maple Leafs when considering world-class skill at the forward position. The collection of Marner, Matthews, and Tavares, when supplemented by several players that could slot in as top-6 forwards on most teams (Johnsson, Kapanen, Nylander, Marleau, Hyman), has outshined the forward units of the Black and Gold for the better part of the series.

The Bruins have been able to string together enough bounce-back wins to even the series at three games apiece, and have been lucky to do so, as they have struggled to find a lineup that provides them with their best matchup against a high-skilled Toronto squad. However, Game 6 on Sunday might have sparked some hope for the Boston faithful as the series concludes after Tuesday’s Game 7 in Boston.

For the vast majority of Sunday’s Game 6, the Bruins maintained almost complete control. They out-chanced the Leafs. They out-worked the Leafs. They killed penalties. They rallied for three unanswered goals after surrendering the game’s first tally. They created their own energy with their backs against the wall in a game on the road. To say the least (apart from the final 10 minutes of the game), Sunday’s effort was largely encouraging for the Bruins and their fans. It showcased the team’s most complete effort throughout the course of a 60-minute battle, and did so in the face of adversity and immense pressure.

Why?

Here’s a fun fact for hockey fans everywhere: The Boston Bruins have, in their entire history as an organization, never lost a playoff game in which both Sean Kuraly and Karson Kuhlman were in the lineup for Boston.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why this is the case. Is it because their last names begin with ‘K’? Is it because they both come from the Midwest? Is it because they both bring a workman style approach to each game?

These are all fair questions. Quite simply, the Bruins have never lost when both players take the ice in the playoffs (1-0-0, 1.00 Win %) because of the completeness of their game, and the versatility that each player provides.

While Kuhlman and Kuraly play somewhat different styles and have suited up among mostly different linemates during the 2018-2019 campaign, they both possess the necessary speed to compete with Toronto’s forward units. Their ability to get behind Toronto’s defensemen on the forecheck is invaluable in a series that, for the first four or five games, featured a Toronto defensive unit that broke the puck out of their zone with relative ease. While David Backes and Chris Wagner (the two Bruins relegated to the press box in lieu of Kuhlman and Kuraly) play a somewhat physical game, their deficiencies as skaters proved to be too much for Bruce Cassidy to continue to put them on the ice.

Kuraly’s game is mostly devoted to North/South trajectories and an ability to lug the puck from zone to zone, and Kuhlman’s game can also feature similar attributes. In a “grind it out” style of game, Kuhlman can use his legs and grit to be effective and keep things simple. However, in a more skill and creativity-centric game, Kuhlman also possesses the necessary skill set to make plays, and pass the puck well. The combination of puck possession and play-making ability between Kuraly and Kuhlman prove to bring much more to the table than the one-dimensional styles of both Backes and Wagner.

The Bruins’ lineup is deeper throughout with both Kuhlman and Kuraly on the ice. Cassidy has shown that he trusts both players in the later minutes of games, when he has shortened his bench during crucial minutes. The Bruins, especially in a Game 7, cannot afford to suit up forwards who can’t be trusted in crucial minutes and high-pressured situations. Wagner and Backes’s minutes in the late stages of their most recent playoff games reveal just how little Cassidy can trust their play, at least in this particular series. Having more bodies that can be effective on Cassidy’s bench is paramount in the latter stages of playoff games, as they will be able to provide Cassidy’s top players with adequate rest, so that they can continue to play at their highest level when the Bruins need them most.

 

It’s been said before, but it’s worth restating: The Bruins have never lost a playoff game in which both Kuraly and Kuhlman have been in the lineup for Boston.

I’m no rocket scientist (yet), but I don’t need to be in order to know that I wouldn’t bet against that combination of K’s as they look to KO Toronto in Game 7.

Kuhlman and Kuraly? That’s deep.

Boston Bruins Playoff Preview: Round 1 – Game 3

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

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

After a pair of games in Boston, the first-round matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs officially makes its way to Toronto, Canada for Game Three. The Bruins tied the series on Saturday with a 4-1 victory after losing Game One by the same score on Thursday.

Game Three Information:

Arena: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Home: Toronto Maple Leafs

Away: Boston Bruins

Series: 1-1

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Tuukka Rask 1-1-0 .937 SV% 2.02 GAA Last Game: 30 Saves in 4-1 win vs TOR

TOR: Frederik Andersen 1-1-0 .937 SV% 2.50 GAA Last Game: 37 Saves in 4-1 loss vs TOR

Projected Bruins Lineup:

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

Heinen – Coyle – Backes

Nordstrom – Acciari – Wagner

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Kampfer

Per reports from Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, forward Jake DeBrusk and defenceman Torey Krug will be in the lineup for Game Three. DeBrusk took a cross-check to the head by Nazem Kadri, who is facing an in-person hearing today and left the game while Krug left Game Two after taking a massive hit from Jake Muzzin. Connor Clifton (upper-body) is out, Kampfer to replace him and Marcus Johansson remains out with an illness.

Who’s Hot

Charlie Coyle scored the game’s first goal on Saturday, ultimately giving the Bruins the confidence to continue out the game, but his play has been consistent throughout the series so far. Even in the loss in Game One, Coyle had numerous chances and opportunities to score but just could not bury one and he continued that in the second game. With the loss of Leafs’ third line centre, Nazem Kadri, Coyle’s role could be all the more important.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Frederik Andersen may have allowed four goals on Saturday night, but he was one of the only good things that came from Toronto in their Game Two loss. Andersen stopped 37 of the 41 shots Boston threw at him, making some big saves throughout the entire game in order to keep it within reach for the Maple Leafs. If Andersen can continue to be hot in the net at home in the Scotiabank Arena, then the Leafs could have the momentum moving forward.

Jake DeBrusk does not have a point in either of the two games, but his usual work-horse attitude and play were present in both games, but especially in Game Two. DeBrusk managed to get under the skin of Kadri, resulting in the terrible cross-check by the Leafs forward. Jake had four hits on the night and was a beast on the forecheck, as he often is during gametime. It is only a matter of time for when that first goal comes.

Mitch Marner was held to zero points in Game Two, but in Game One, it was all him, scoring a pair of goals including a short-handed penalty shot past Tuukka Rask. Marner played 20:28 on Saturday night with over six minutes of speciality team time as well. Mitch could arguably be the biggest threat for the Bruins defence for the entirety of the series.

Who’s Not

William Nylander has had a rough 2018-19 season in general, with all the contract issues and then the lack of production once he started to play again, but that was only amplified on Saturday night in Boston, as he found himself on the wrong end of too many negative plays, including a terrible mishap that led to Heinen’s 3-0 goal for the B’s. The young forward also had a team-high three giveaways during his 13:56 TOI. Nylander was skating down the middle on the Leafs’ third line, replacing Kadri.

For all of the players that were struggling on the Bruins after the first game, did much better for the second. Every single player on the Bruins roster played their part and did their job to ultimately get the win and tie the series at one apiece. Boston will look to continue that ideology moving forward into Game Three.

Jake Muzzin had a terrible night on the Leafs blue line and only had one good play – a huge hit that injured Torey Krug. Other than that, Muzzin turned the puck over twice (on the statsheet), and made a crucial error that led to Marchand’s first-period tally. When Torey Krug lofted a puck up the ice, Muzzin tried to grab it with his hand, missing, leading to a 2-on-1 for Pastrnak and Marchand, leading to one of the best goals so far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Muzzin is supposed to be the best defenceman on the roster for Toronto and he needs to be better.

Bruins vs Leafs – Game Three Outlook

The script was flipped on Saturday when the Bruins came back from a dismal Game One to dominate for a 4-1 final score. A change from Game One, the Bruins were aggressive on the forecheck and made a successful hit on every Leafs player that moved at any place on the ice. Even players like David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk were throwing the body.

The physical play of Boston kept the Leafs weary and afraid to push into the zone further, as a lot of their shots on goal came from the point and far along the boards. Their only goal came off of a deflection from one of these point shots and that strategy could be evident in Game Three.

Boston’s shots came right around the net of Frederik Andersen, mainly due to the turnovers on breakout passes by the Maple Leafs defenseman. One of the best chances that did not cross the red line came off of a turnover in the slot, leading to a David Krejci shot and a rebound from Heinen that was robbed by Andersen.

Regardless, the goaltenders of both teams will need to be on fire once again and the defence will need to prevent chances. No matter how far this series goes, that narrative will be the case for both franchises. Toronto will also have the home-ice for the first time this postseason, so expect an energetic Toronto crowd.

Game Three puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pm EST from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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