Bruins Announce Return To Play Roster; Kampfer Opts Out

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

On Saturday evening, the Boston Bruins announced their training camp roster as the National Hockey League prepares to conclude the 2019-20 season. 29 skaters and four goaltenders comprise the 33-man squad.

Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Anders Bjork, Anton Blidh, Paul Carey, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic, Ondrej Kase, David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Karson Kuhlman, Par Lindholm, Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom, David Pastrnak, Nick Ritchie, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Chris Wagner

Defensemen: Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara, Connor Clifton, Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug, Jeremy Lauzon, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril

Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Max Lagace, Tuukka Rask, Dan Vladar

One notable absence is that of right-shot defenseman Steven Kampfer, who has opted out of the NHL’s Return to Play. In a post on Twitter, Kampfer, 31, explained that, while it was a difficult decision, he must put his family first as his wife and son have a congenital heart defect that can pose complications if infected with COVID-19.

Kampfer joins Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mike Green, Calgary Flames d-man Travis Hamonic, Dallas Stars defenseman Roman Polak, and Vancouver Canucks forward Sven Baertschi among players who have opted out. The deadline to opt out without penalty is Monday, which is when training camps officially begin.

Among call-ups from the Providence Bruins, Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate are Anton Blidh, Paul Carey, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka,  Connor Cliffton, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakob Zboril, Max Lagace, and Dan Vladar. Blidh had been practicing with the barsity club in Boston, and Clifton had been injured throughout most of the season.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers – An Underrated Rivalry

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Boston Bruins’ Charlie Coyle shields the puck from Philadelphia Flyers’ Connor Bunnaman. PHOTO CREDITS: (nbcsports.com)

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

As one of the first franchises in the National Hockey League, the Boston Bruins have had their fair share of time to stir the pot with essentially every other team. Typically, when the word “rivalry” combines with the name “Boston Bruins”, the other five Original Six teams come to mind. The rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, as fellow Black n’ Gold Hockey Podcast writer Joe Chrzanowski wrote about in a recent article, is widely regarded as the greatest rivalry in the history of the NHL.

As well, rivalries with the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, and even the Detroit Red Wings are fairly well-known. These teams are rivals with the Bruins more-so because of the fact they were the only teams in the league at the time and played each other in high-stakes games often, thus creating hatred for one another on the ice.

However, in the 1967-68 season, the National Hockey League introduced six new organizations to the league – the California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, and the Philadelphia Flyers, bringing the size of the league to twelve teams instead of six. With more competition and more opponents, winning a Stanley Cup became even more challenging and opened the door for more rivalries.

As an expansion team, the Philadelphia Flyers had losing records in each of their first five seasons, making the postseason three times and losing in the quarter-finals each time – twice to the St. Louis Blues and once to the Chicago Blackhawks. It wasn’t until the 1972-73 season where the Flyers, led by captain Bobby Clarke, finished with a winning record of 37-30-11. Philly knocked out the Minnesota North Stars in six games but fell short in five games to the Montreal Canadiens in the next round.

In the very next season, the Bobby Clarke scored a team-leading 87 points to help lead the Flyers to a 50-16-12 record and the 1st place position in the NHL West Division. After sweeping the Atlanta Flames in the opening round and bouncing the New York Rangers in seven games, the Flyers were in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history – against the powerhouse Boston Bruins.

The Start of a Rivalry: 1974 – 1978

Led by Bobby Orr and company, the Boston Bruins were one of the strongest teams in the National Hockey League. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in the 1969-70 season, won 57 games before losing in the first round in the ’70/’71 season, won a second Stanley Cup in 71-72, won another 51 games in 72-73, and were coming off a 52-17-9 record in the 1973-74 campaign.

Boston eliminated both the Toronto Maple Leafs (4-0) and Chicago Blackhawks (4-2) in the previous two rounds which led to the Finals against Philadelphia. During the regular season, the B’s won the season series 3-1-1, out-scoring Philly 20-to-16 in those five games. Boston was arguably the favorites to win their third Stanley Cup in five seasons.

The 1974 Stanley Cup Finals was also a series between two of the scariest NHL teams at the time and quite possibly of all-time. The Bruins were known as the ‘Big Bad Bruins’ with the likes of Terry O’Reilly and Wayne Cashman and truly paved the way for the physical, hard-hitting teams like the Broad Street Bullies to even exist. Now, with the likes of Dave Schultz and Don Saleski, these two tough teams were going toe-to-toe with Lord Stanley on the line.

Boston took the first game, but the Flyers won Game Two in overtime followed by wins in Games Three and Four to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. In Game Five, the Bruins scored more than three goals for the first (and only) time in the series, winning the game 5-1. However, Hall-of-Fame goaltender Bernie Parent stopped every shot in Game Six as the Philadelphia Flyers won their first franchise Stanley Cup with a 1-0 victory. Parent was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.

The Broad Street Bullies did not stop there. In the very next season, they dominated once again all the way to their second-consecutive Stanley Cup, defeating the Buffalo Sabres in six games. The Bruins, on the other hand, lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-three preliminary round.

In 1975-76, both the Bruins and Flyers were top-three in the final league standings and found success early on in the postseason. Thus led to a semi-finals matchup between the two, a rematch from the Finals two years prior. The Flyers dominated the Bruins, winning four-straight games after losing Game One, sending them to the Stanley Cup Finals again. However, the Montreal Canadiens proved to be too good and swept Philly in four games.

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Boston Bruins’ Bobby Orr (right) passes the puck as Philadelphia Flyers Rick MacLeish looks on in Boston on February 9, 1974. PHOTO CREDITS: (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP)

For the next two seasons, these hard-hitting franchises played against one another in the semi-finals with Boston winning both matchups before going on to lose to the Montreal Canadiens – as most teams did back in this era of the NHL. During those five years, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers played in four playoff series with each team winning twice. Although, only the Broad Street Bullies managed to go on and win the Stanley Cup (1974) after their series.

The 1970s went down as arguably the most entertaining decades for each of these teams. Philadelphia and Boston had seemingly the perfect blend of scoring talent, solid goaltending, and the willingness to drop the gloves and pound your body into the glass. Ruthless, intense, physically-demanding are the best ways to describe the Big Bad Bruins and the Broad Street Bullies back in the day.

A Recent Resurgence: 2007 – Present

This rivalry appeared to die down a little during the 1980s, 1990s, and beginning stages to the 2000s. We did not see another playoff series between the two organizations and neither team won another Stanley Cup in that period. While they played each other in the scheduled regular-season games, there just was not as much intensity as a best-of-seven elimination series.

However, the bad blood between Boston and Philadelphia started to amp up more recently. On October 27th, 2007, defenceman Randy Jones brutally hit 22-year-old Patrice Bergeron on the numbers into the glass. Bergeron laid unconscious on the ice before being stretchered out of the arena. He was later diagnosed with a broken nose and a concussion and was forced to miss the remainder of the 2007-08 season. Jones received a two-game suspension for his hit.

Two seasons later, in 2009-2010, the Bruins and the Flyers each made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after finishing third in their respective Eastern Conference divisions. Boston dispatched of the Buffalo Sabres in six games while Philadelphia knocked out the New Jersey Devils in five games. This subsequently led to a Bruins-Flyers playoff series for the first time since 1977-78 – 32 years prior.

Following a 5-4 overtime win in Game One, the B’s would win the next two meetings to have a dominating 3-0 series lead over the Black and Orange. Most hockey fans expected Boston to come out victorious, but the Flyers were not done yet. Simon Gagne, who missed the first three games due to injury, scored the game-winning goal in overtime to avoid the four-game sweep.

Philly shutout the Bruins 4-0 in Game Five and stole Game Six by a final score of 2-1 to somehow, someway force a pivotal Game Seven in Boston, Massachusetts. With goals from Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic (2), the Bruins exploded to a 3-0 lead in the first period of play. However, James van Riemsdyk buried one with less than three minutes to go in the opening frame to cut the lead down to two.

Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere each potted one of their own to equal the score after forty minutes. Then, the Boston Bruins took a too-many-men penalty (a Déjà vu moment from the 1979 Semi-Finals against Montreal) which lead to a power-play goal by Simon Gagne with just around seven minutes remaining in the final regulation period.

Philadelphia held on to win Game Seven, 4-3, and became just the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and win the series (Maple Leafs over Red Wings in 1942, Islanders over Penguins in 1975). This series loss remains to be one of the most heartbreaking moments for many Boston Bruins fans as an almost certain series win came crashing down. The Flyers would go on to win the Conference Finals but lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

During the 2010-2011 campaign, both Boston and Philadelphia finished with 100-plus-point records and were considered to be two of the favorites to make it to the Finals coming out of the East. The Bruins defeated the Canadiens in seven at the same time the Flyers eliminated the Sabres in seven – setting up an immediate rematch of the year prior.

Once again, Boston came out strong, winning Game One 7-3, Game Two 3-2 in overtime, and Game Three 5-1. With another 3-0 series lead over Philly, the Black and Gold were looking to finish the job successfully this time. In a masterful game of offensive and defensive success, the Bruins won Game Four by a score of 5-to-1 and eliminated Philadelphia to move onto the Eastern Conference Finals.

As we know, the Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games and the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win their sixth Stanley Cup and first since 1972. The 2011 Bruins went down as one of the toughest teams in NHL history as their defense and hard-hitting style helped lead them to victory. It was shades of the old-school 1970s Big Bad Bruins – the team that as we discussed, started the rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers.

In 201 regular-season games dating back to 1967-68, the Boston Bruins have a combined 107-61-21-12 record over the Philadelphia Flyers, outscoring them 659-to-583. In addition to that, these two teams have played six playoff series against one another with each winning three times. The Bruins have outscored the Flyers in the postseason 100-to-86.

Now, in 2019-20, this rivalry has the potential to gain new ground. On March 10th, 2020, the Bruins defeated the Flyers 2-0 in what ended up being the final game of the regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the NHL’s Return-to-Play format, the Bruins and Flyers will each play in a Round Robin to determine seeding for the remainder of the playoffs.  This means that there is the potential for another high-stakes game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers and to be quite frank, I am ready for it.

To a lot of Bruins and Flyers fans alike, this rivalry is heated, intense, and quite historic. However, with other more high-profile rivals for each respective franchise, this one often goes unnoticed. For that reason, the rivalry between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers is one of the most underrated ones in NHL history.

Information and statistics are courtesy of hockeyreference.com, nhl.com, records.nhl.com, thehockeywriters.com, and bleacherreport.com.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

What The Bruins Defensive Pairs Could Look Like In The 2020 Playoffs

( Photo Credit: Getty Images )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Bruins have arguably the deepest defensive core in the entire league, and that can never be a bad thing. It’s going to be very intriguing to see how each defenseman comes back from all the time off and will be very telling on who gets the nod when playoffs begin. I just recently gave my opinion on the Bruins forward group, and here are my thoughts on the defense.

1st Pairing: Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy

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

Starting out with a bit of a surprise, I really think the Bruins should keep the former Boston University pairing together. I talked a bit about it in my last article about how important speed is going to be in the upcoming playoffs, and here is exhibit A. Taking nothing away from the future first-ballot Hall of Famer that is Zdeno Chara, but he doesn’t have the legs he used to and I’m not sure how the time off will affect his game. Matt Grzelcyk should get a bulk of shifts with Charlie McAvoy.

He’s undersized, not very physical, and doesn’t put up crazy offensive numbers, but Matt Grzelyck may be the most underrated defensemen in the league. His importance to the Bruins is wildly understated, he just does everything right. The mobile defenseman always makes a good first pass and is excellent at the transition game.

The Charlestown native is an analytical darling. Among NHL defensemen with 40+ games, Gryz ranks third in even-strength goals per 60 minutes. He has a very solid 52.8 Corsi and 54.6 Fenwick. And did all of Grzelyck’s success halt in the playoffs? Nope. In last year’s playoff run, the 26-year-old totaled four goals and eight points. Despite being put in tough positions and starting in the Bruins’ end 53.4% of the time, Grzelyck still managed to post a 54.4 Corsi. It’s going to suck seeing him in Seattle…

Boston media was all over Charlie McAvoy at the beginning of the season. Pekka Rinne (yes the goalie) scored a goal before Chucky Mac did, but he was still playing good hockey. He’s constantly paired against his opponent’s top lines and has proven time and time again that he can take any task he’s assigned. McAvoy came to Boston as a teenager and averaged 26 MINUTES a game in the playoffs without a lick of NHL experience. He’s done a remarkable job against the likes of Steven Stamkos, Auston Matthews, and Nikita Kucherov in the playoffs and deserves to eat up as many minutes as Bruce Cassidy gives him.

2nd Pairing: Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Yin and Yang. The pairing just works. On the left, you have one of the most dynamic offensive defensemen in the league. On the right, you have a 6’5 defensive specialist who’s grown into an incredibly reliable player on the back end for the Bruins. 

When I think of playoff Torey Krug I think of two things. The first being his 2013 run where he was plucked out of Providence and lit it up for the Bruins. Watching him against the Rangers was special. He displayed a crazy amount of poise and skill, scoring FOUR goals in five games. The subtle things are what stood out. Getting into open space, a little footwork before scoring are just a few examples. The second thing is this.

Brandon Carlo is a defenseman every team wishes they had. He reminds me of Niklas Hjalmarsson. He’s not a player that will light up the scoresheet (although his offensive output has been far more impressive as of late) but he’s so hard to beat one on one, he blocks everything that comes his way and is the type of guy you need to win a cup (see Hjalmarsson’s three Stanley Cups). The 2015 2nd rounder has become a great skater, and he’s finally using his size against opponents. And the craziest thing is he’s still just 23. 

3rd Pairing: Zdeno Chara – Jeremy Lauzon

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 31: Jeremy Lauzon #79 of the Boston Bruins waits for a face off during an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils on December 31, 2019 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Devils won 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

I need to retcon a bit on having Grzelcyk on the first pairing. Maybe it’s a 30%-70% split, maybe it’s a 50%-50% split, but there are still circumstances where Chara needs to be with McAvoy because they are so effective in so many situations. In last year’s postseason, he had six times the amount of giveaways as takeaways and had a tough 46 Corsi, but he led the entire playoffs with a plus-11 rating and you can’t argue with the captain of a team that was a game (or a penalty call) away from winning the cup. He’s the ultimate competitor, not many people can break their jaw and play the next game. 

I had to deliberate a lot with the sixth man at the backend. Bruce Cassidy could go for experience and play John Moore (who I thought played very solid in the Cup), he could elect for someone to play on their strong side like Connor Clifton, or go with the “hot” hand (if you could call it that after all the time off) with Jeremy Lauzon, who I think should get the nod. 

Lauzon doesn’t have any playoff experience, but like we’ve seen with some of the aforementioned players, that may not be an issue. The French-Canadian has a whole lot of grit to his game, he already has two fights under his belt, one against the tough bastard that is Matthew Tkachuk, which is something you love to see from a young player. His style of play should mesh perfectly with the pace of typical playoff hockey.

Having John Moore, Connor Clifton, and even Steven Kampfer are huge luxuries to have and will all be big assets if Lauzon (or any others) look out of place. And of course, Tuukka Rask will be the starter, don’t need anyone to say otherwise.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Three Bruins To Watch In The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara / USA Today Sports)

By Carrie Young | Follow me on Twitter @carrieyoung512

The National Hockey League is planning to hold the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at some point this summer, though the exact dates are yet to be determined. The Boston Bruins hold the number one seed in the playoff bracket, having finished the shortened regular season as the President’s Trophy winners with a 44-14-12 record and 100 points. Finishing the season strong is no guarantee of success, however, especially with the new playoff format that the league has instituted this year. The Bruins will need both their stars and depth players to perform well in their quest for the Stanley Cup.

Which players should fans keep an eye on when the playoffs begin? There are the obvious choices: David Pastrnak, who shared this year’s Rocket Richard Trophy alongside Alex Ovechkin for the most goals scored in the regular season (48); Tuukka Rask, who has been one of the best goalies in the league for years but has yet to win the Stanley Cup as a starter; and dependable veterans like Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. For this list, I chose players who are not quite so obvious but could still impact any potential playoff series.

Torey Krug

Torey Krug has been a mainstay on the Boston blue-line for years and is a top offensive defenseman in the league. He performed well during the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2019, leading all players in playoff assists with 16. He scored 49 points 2019-20 regular season including 28 power play points.

This year, Krug is an unrestricted free agent. The Bruins are certainly interested in keeping him, but he could demand big bucks on the free agent market and there are other teams that would love to coax him away from Boston. A strong performance in the playoffs would be a cherry on top of an already impressive resume for the 5’9″ defenseman.

I think that Krug will be one to watch when the playoffs get underway. He is the power play quarterback for a Bruins team that was second in the league in power play goals and power play percentage this year. A strong man advantage is crucial to a deep playoff run, so Krug will need to keep it running smoothly (and get the puck to Pastrnak!) if the Bruins want redemption for last year’s Finals loss. A few big hits like the one on Robert Thomas in game one wouldn’t hurt, either.

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Ondrej Kase

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As a trade deadline acquisition meant to aid the team in the playoffs, Ondrej Kase is a player looking to turn heads. Unfortunately, he was never able to settle into his role on the team because the season was paused so soon after the trade deadline. If he can stay healthy and remain on David Krejci’s right wing, he could be an impact player when the playoffs begin.

The Bruins traded a 2020 first-round pick, David Backes (25% of salary retained), and prospect Axel Andersson to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Kase.

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Though Kase scored just 24 points in 55 games this season, he is only 24 years old and has the chance to play with a highly skilled center in David Krejci. If the Bruins’ second line can score consistently and take some of the pressure off the Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand top line, it would mean better chances for a deep playoff run.

One of the players that impressed me the most during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was Marcus Johansson, who fit right in on the Bruins third line with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen. That third line scored some huge goals and were definitely a factor in propelling the Bruins to the finals. This year, I think Ondrej Kase has similar potential. Fans of analytics already know that Kase is an impact player when given the opportunity. This is why I consider him to be a player to watch.

Brandon Carlo

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Brandon Carlo has been one of my favorite unsung heroes on the Bruins roster for a few years now. Beginning in his rookie year, his shutdown style and ability to move past mistakes have been impressive to watch. Bad luck and timing meant that Carlo was unable to participate in the playoffs for his first two years in the league: first he was concussed in the last game of the 2016-17 season, then he suffered a leg injury late in the 2017-18 season. 2019 was finally his chance to contribute in the playoffs. He played a strong defensive game and was second among all players in plus/minus (trailing only Zdeno Chara). I would argue that Carlo was a huge part of the Bruins’ success.

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This year, Carlo has the chance to do the same. 2019-20 was his best season yet in regards to points production, recording 19 points in 67 games. His game has matured and he has become a stronger and more physical player, which will translate well into playoff hockey. His shorthanded play is another asset. The Bruins were third in the league this year in penalty kill percentage (84.2). Carlo was ranked 13th in the entire league in shorthanded time on ice per game (second on the team behind Chara). As important as the power play is in the playoffs, so is the penalty kill. The combination of Chara and Carlo should help to keep the puck out of the net.

Boston is a well-rounded team, boasting superstar scorers, underrated analytics darlings, puck-moving defensemen, and shutdown blue-liners. They also have an elite goaltender as the last line of defense. This team should be fun to watch when the playoffs begin.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 178 that we recorded below on 5-10-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

What The Bruins Forward Lines Could Look Like In The 2020 Playoffs

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

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

I think we all need hockey back in our lives ASAP. Thankfully the return is getting closer and closer by the day. But as hockey comes back, a lot of questions come back as well. The Bruins, especially after a pretty busy trade deadline, have one of the deepest and most interesting forward cores in the league. With such a competitive group and only a limited number of spots, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Bs forwards lines shake up. Here’s my best guess at what we see. 

1st Line: Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

It’s going to be reeeeally fun to see these guys dominate again. Obviously if the rest of the lines stall and aren’t able to generate offense, we’d likely see Pasta on the 2nd line to spread the wealth a bit, but there just isn’t a better line in hockey. To have a line that sports an 100 point player, Selke winner, and now Rocket Richard winner is something no other line in the league can do. 

Over the past three years, the trio has combined for 312 goals and 726 points in 625 games. Their success has been unparalleled by the rest of the league and man, I haven’t even started to talk about what they do in the playoffs. Obviously Marchand and Bergeron have a cup to their name and with the way Pastrnak has played in the postseason, I don’t think he’s too far behind. And for all of the advanced analytics guys, how does a combined 56.1 corsi sound? There’s not much more to say about the excellence of the three, so I’ll just move onto the more interesting lines of the Bruins. 

2nd Line: Jake Debrusk – David Krejci – Ondrej Kase

(Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

The age old question. Who the hell is playing on David Krejci’s wing? Well I think the Bruins may have found that answer in Ondrej Kase. The young Czech native does a lot well, but the most important thing for him (and the Bruins) is that he puts up points AT EVEN STRENGTH. Two seasons ago, Kase potted 20 goals and 38 points in 66 games and guess what, 19 even strength goals, 35 even strength points and five game winners. The next year he scored just one PP goal out of his 11 in total and didn’t score a single goal this season with a man up. If Kase can stay healthy, I think Krejci may have a permanent resident to his right. 

The other two members on the 2nd line aren’t too much of a surprise in David Krejci and Jake Debrusk. The veteran and the young winger have built some solid chemistry over the past couple years, and while they’ve been a bit streaky at times, when the two are on their game, it’s a major asset for the Bruins 2nd line. 

Everybody knows how lights out playoff David Krejci is. He’s led the league in playoff scoring twice, including in the Bruins’ cup victory in 2011. When intensity is at its peak, Krejci always seems to step to the plate and his winger Debrusk has started to follow in his footsteps. We saw Debrusk’s flair for the dramatic in the playoffs of his rookie year. He lit it up against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, scoring five goals (including this beauty) and seven points in seven games. 

3rd Line: Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork

(Photo Credit: Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Outside of Charlie Coyle slotting in at 3C, the bottom six is basically all up for grabs. The Bruins and coach Bruce Cassidy have a lot of options. They could go young and fast, they could go with a more defensive outlook, they could try and out-muscle, or (like I have) a mix of all three: grit, size and speed. 

Nick Ritchie is a big dude. At 6’2, 234 pounds, the former Duck knows how to throw his body around. He averages over 200 hits a season and we saw pretty quickly that he knows how to drop the mitts. The winger has a surprisingly good set of hands in tight, and is not forgein to dishing out some A+ passes. Ritchie spent a lot of minutes in Anaheim centered by Ryan Getzlaf, and his new center in Charlie Coyle, has a lot of similarities to Getzlaf. He’s a big, strong center, just maybe with a bit more hair.

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Last year’s acquisition of Charlie Coyle may have been the best move Don Sweeney has made in his tenure as GM of the Bruins. After a slow start to his career in Boston, the Boston University product was a major part of the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals. With Coyle anchoring the 3rd line, it gave Cassidy the option to simply roll four lines. On a line that was money all playoffs, Coyle put up nine goals and 16 points to go along with great 200 foot play. 

And then that leaves Anders Bjork. He’s got skill, he’s got speed, he’s got high hockey IQ and he finally began to put it all together this season. After a couple injury riddled years bouncing between the NHL and AHL, the Notre Dame grad finally found some consistency to his game. He’s looked stronger, more confident with the puck and most importantly, has been able to drive a play by himself. His 19 points in 58 games aren’t going to blow you away, but he’s got all the little things down, the points will start to come. 

4th Line: Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Karson Kuhlman

(Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Aside from Sean Kuraly, the usual members of the 4th line have not had the same success as they had last season. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom have been far from bad, but they haven’t been as effective. So instead of the veteran Wagner on this line, I think Karson Kuhlman should get the nod. My reasoning? Speed. The entire league is going to have fresh legs, so having a guy who’s as tenacious as it gets on the forecheck with wheels is going to be key. We saw what Kuhlman can bring to the table in a handful of the regular season and playoff games and, he never looked out of place. In the playoffs, the waterbug ripped a goal (which was unreal) and had two assists in eight games. 

Like I said before, I think Kuraly is a shoo-in for a spot in the lineup when the Bruins return. He’s been as clutch as you can get when the playoffs begin. We saw it against Ottawa, we saw it against Toronto (a lot) and into the finals against St. Louis. He’s got a lot of skill for a bottom-six forward and has the perfect mix of size and speed. 

Stanley Cup winner Joakim Nordstrom (yeah, he won a cup) was awesome in the playoffs last season. After we curiously saw the speedster to the left of David Krejci a few times in the regular season, Nordstrom took off as a fourth-liner. He just works incredibly hard, winning puck battles and cutting off passing and shooting lanes. In 23 postseason games, the Swede had three goals, eight points and was second among Bruins forwards in blocked shots. 

As for the rest, we’ll certainly see Chris Wagner and Par Lindholm as defensive, able bodies. But I also think we get to take a look at some prospects from the AHL in the playoffs, you can take a look at who I think will have a shot here

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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The Boston Bruins And The New Stanley Cup Playoff Format.

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

By Jack Cinquegrana | Follow me on Twitter @bruinschewy

Hockey fans everywhere have been blessed by the grace of Gary Bettman and the quickly drying pockets of the NHL owners. Hockey is coming back and the Boston Bruins have a great opportunity to put another banner in the rafters. Some fans are not stoked about the return to play news and I am unsure as to why that is the case. By coming back the NHL owners get to kickstart their revenue stream which makes them happy, the players get to finish a season that had many storylines and so many teams in the hunt, plus more teams than usual, and us, the fans, we get to watch it all unfold. Potentially two and a half months of playoff hockey and fans are unhappy because there is no one allowed at the games? Can we not just be happy that the best sport in the world and the best team is going to be playing in a 24-team tournament for the Stanley Cup?

THE STRUCTURE OF THE 2019-2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

The way that is tournament is structured is that teams seeded five through twelve based off of points percentage at the time of the season stopping will be playing in a best-of-five series to move on to the Conference Quarter-Finals and re-seeding will take place. So, five will play twelve, and six will play eleven and so on and so forth. While that is happening, the NHL felt it would be fair to let the top seeds which avoided the qualifying round play in a round-robin tournament to determine seeding. That means Philadelphia, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Washington will play one another, and St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas, and Las Vegas will play on another. After the qualifying round, the regular Stanley Cup Playoffs will continue with 16 teams playing in best-of-seven series’, leaving eight eliminated in the qualifying round.

The Coronavirus took many lives all over the world, it is not to be celebrated but when life deals you a bad hand, you have to turn it around and try to make something of it. The NHL cares enough about the games and the playoffs and who wins the trophy, the new format is what we can take out of this situation as a positive thought. As a hockey fan, nothing pleases me more than knowing there will be more teams in the playoffs, they will be longer. We are going to get to see Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid and so many more superstars compete for the Stanley Cup, this new format is a great opportunity for the NHL to adopt this as their format going forward.

( Photo Credit: AP Photo | Julie Jacobson )

SERIES’ TO LOOK OUT FOR

For most of the teams in the league that is going to have a shot at at least the qualifying round, there are fair matchups all over the place. The Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the Montreal Canadiens, a tighter matchup than one would think to be a five seed versus a twelve seed. The Habs can get hot at any moment and being that they haven’t made the playoffs since 2016-2017, Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher are hungry to make some noise in the playoffs again.

Another matchup to look out for would be the other five verses twelve seeds in the Western Conference facing off. That would be the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks. Connor McDavid versus Jonathan Toews, Leon Draisaitl versus Patrick Kane. This series is going to have a lot of skill and scoring that you will not want to miss and in my opinion the two most skilled players in the world on the ice for potentially five games.

WHAT THE NEW FORMAT MEANS FOR BOSTON

The Bruins will be playing a round-robin to determine seeding for the playoffs. Now, Bruins fans will be complaining about that, but I always remember the saying, “if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best”, and if beating Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Washington proves we are the top seed then we should beat them. In games against those three teams this season, the Bruins have a record of 3-3-4 and a -1 goal differential. That is definitely not the kind of record we are shooting for but we are right in every one of those games, and when we beat those teams we are winning by two or three goals.

Boston was one game away from two Stanley Cups in the same decade. We have the skill, the defense and the goaltending to do it again. We can potentially see any Eastern Conference team in any round, and you know there will be upsets. With the Boston Bruins squad that we put on the ice today, I think we have enough firepower and defense to win the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup and go through the best teams doing it.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 182 that we recorded below on 6-7-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

The Bruin Who Needs To Have A Stellar Playoff Performance

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(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Last week, the NHL announced its Return to Play action.  The plan allows teams to return to NHL activity based on individual states’ reopening laws and a proposal to begin the NHL playoffs in July.  The Bruins finished the year with the highest point total in the NHL, which awards them the President’s Trophy.  They have also secured a place in the top-4 seed round-robin playoff to determine the seed they’ll occupy for the upcoming playoff.  They can place no lower than fourth and will have a bye for the preliminary round.

Full disclosure, it is quite unfortunate they have to play in a round-robin to determine seed when they finished the year as the best regular-season squad.  Alas, the Bruins, and every other team will play by the rules, and we’ll hopefully see the Bruins occupy the top seed.

The year they won in 2011, the Bruins were the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.  During that year, every player on the team had a significant moment and played their best hockey.  The top two lines will always be relied on and are obvious choices to bring their A-game every night.  We’ve seen teams’ third-lines become even more impactful throughout the years and are heavily relied on.  Charlie Coyle has filled that void nicely since his trade from Minnesota.  There are a few other players who need to be an X-factor to bring the Bruins their seventh Stanley Cup.  Enter: Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly is in the midst of his fourth professional hockey career.  He has always dawned the black and gold, even though he was not initially drafted by the Bruins.  Kuraly was part of the Martin Jones deal with San Jose.  The Bruins originally received Martin Jones from the Los Angeles Kings, along with Colin Miller and a 2015 first-round draft selection (Jakub Zboril) for Milan Lucic.  Tuukka Rask was still at the helm when the Bruins acquired Jones, so they flipped Jones to the Sharks for a 2016 first-round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly.

Since then, Kuraly has always called Boston home.  He was drafted 133rd overall in the 2011 NHL draft.  He played all four years at Miami University (Ohio), where he amassed 93 points in 154 games.  In his final year at Miami, Kuraly added another accolade to his resume that fits the Bruin mold.

He played three quarters’ of a year with the Providence Bruins in 2016, where he scored 26 points in 54 games and a plus 10 rating.  He joined the Bruins for eight games when the Providence Bruins’ playoffs ended, and never looked back.  He notched his first NHL career assist in and his first NHL career playoff goal in the subsequent playoffs.  Along with his first NHL career goal, he also completed his first multi-goal game.

Kuraly has played almost every position the Bruins have needed him.  He is their Swiss Army knife and has been extremely flexible and adaptable.  Recently, he’s spent most of his time between the third and fourth lines.  The Bruins have been trying out many of their draft prospects throughout the past couple years, and Kuraly has been a byproduct of that.  He’s been able to move throughout the lineup as the Bruins give players like Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman opportunities.  Kuraly has spent most of his 2019-2020 5v5 time with Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom, which means he’s been used primarily on the fourth line.  

Before the season’s suspension in March, Kuraly had been playing alongside Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk on the Bruins’ third-line.  The move seemed to help Kuraly immensely because he scored his fourth goal of the year on the first night he was united with Coyle and DeBrusk in Tampa.  Kuraly’s game caught Head Coach Bruce Cassidy’s eye because in the final game before the suspension, Kuraly logged 17:47 minutes on ice.

His four goals in 69 games are something he will undoubtedly have to fix come playoff time.  Thankfully, if history repeats itself, Kuraly has been known to show up on the NHL’s biggest stage, regardless of his season’s contribution.  He scored 10 points in 20 playoff games last year.  One of his most memorable playoff goals came in another game seven with the Toronto Maple Leafs leaving Bruins fans with even more examples as to why Kuraly is a vital playoff player.

Fourth-line players generally tend to hover around 10-12 minutes on ice per game.  Kuraly should play at least 12 minutes a game during the playoffs, regardless of his line placement.  He is not featured on either powerplay (unless there’s an injury), but he is featured on the penalty kill.  His 112 minutes of penalty kill time this year leads the Bruins’ forward group, according to Natural Stat Trick, making him a crucial piece of their special teams.  The Bruins rank third in the league in penalty kill percentage at 84.3.  The San Jose Sharks hold the top spot at 85.7%.

Kuraly’s adaptability gives him a unique edge on most players.  He can play with any Bruins forward on any given night, and he has.  Kuraly is a left-shot center, which is his natural position.  However, when he played on Coyle’s line, he was placed at left-wing.  He has the incredible ability to play his game and his style on any side of the lineup.  This gives Cassidy the flexibility to plug-and-play Kuraly depending on the lineup he wants to use on any given night.  If Kuraly can replicate or even improve on his 2019 playoffs, the Bruins may end up on the right side of a game seven Cup final.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 181 that we recorded below on 5-31-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

What Will Boston’s Goaltending Look Like When The NHL Returns?

td garden 2

Image Credit/Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The NHL announced the Return To Play plan yesterday, which included a plethora of new scenarios the NHL has never seen before.  Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, announced 24 teams would return, along with some exciting playoff and draft lottery scenarios.  Among these changes, the NHL has authorized the eligible playoff teams to carry 28 skaters and as many goalies as they’d prefer.

Allowing teams to carry an infinite amount of goalies seems to be reminiscent of the goalie situation in Carolina on February 22, 2020.  The Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes had begun their hockey game like any other night.  However, the Hurricanes’ two rostered goaltenders were injured during the game and unable to return to the game.  David Ayers was the Carolina Hurricanes’ emergency goalie, who just so happens to be the Zamboni driver for the Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate team.  Ayers allowed two goals on 10 shots and helped Carolina to a 6-3 win.

The NHL and its fans suddenly realized carrying an extra goaltender may be a necessary change in next years’ board meetings.  Since the NHL cannot change the rules mid-season, they have allowed teams to carry as many goaltenders as they’d like heading into the upcoming playoffs.

The NHL has yet to announce the official statistics to end the 2019-2020 regular season.  David Pastrnak and Alexander Ovechkin are in line to share the Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the player(s) who lead the league in goals.  Just as important, Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are in line to share the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals against.  Rask and Halak are locked in for the first two goalie roster spots.  How many goalies do the Bruins carry, and who sits behind The Bruins’ tandem?

The American Hockey League canceled its season on May 11, 2020, which means the talent in the Bruins’ system is waiting for an opportunity to play competitive hockey again.  The Bruins have four goaltenders in Providence, all of whom have a contract with Boston: Dan Vladar, Maxime Legace, Kyle Keyser, and Jeremy Swayman.

Jeremy Swayman had an impeccable year in the Hockey East, earning him a final spot for the Hobey Baker Award as Division I’s best collegiate hockey player. Scott Perunovich ended up taking home that award, but Swayman did win the Mike Richter Award, an award given annually to Division I’s best goaltender.  He has chosen to forgo his senior year at the University of Maine and join the Providence Bruins for the upcoming season.  It is unlikely the Bruins select him to man the bench for the upcoming playoffs, considering he doesn’t have any professional experience yet.  However, his future is bright, and Bruins fans will hear his name quite soon.

Kyle Keyser split his 2019-2020 seasons between the Providence Bruins and the East Coast Hockey League Atlanta Gladiators.  The Gladiators are an affiliate of the Boston and Providence Bruins.  The 21-year-old Florida native appeared in six games for the Providence Bruins, sporting an unfortunate 1-4-1 record and a 3.21 goals-against average and only one game in Atlanta.  Before coming to the AHL and ECHL, Keyser was a stud in the Ontario Hockey League.  He improved his goals-against and save percentage in each of his three years.  He’s been highly touted by scouts and those who follow the OHL closely.

Similar to Swayman, it is unlikely the Bruins bring Keyser up for the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup playoffs given his lack of professional experience.  This leaves the last two goalies in their system, both of whom played for the Providence Bruins in 2019-2020.

Daniel Vladar was selected 75th overall in the 2015 NHL draft out of the United States Hockey League.  The 22-year-old Czech native has since spent his time between the Providence Bruins and the Atlanta Gladiators, which is a similar path to Keyser.  Vladar took a giant leap forward this past season with the Providence Bruins.  He led the entire American Hockey Leauge in goals-against and save percentage: 1.79 and .936, respectively.  He played in seven fewer games than Legace and sported a 14-7-1 record before the canceled season announcement.  When Tuukka injured himself this season, Vladar was the first goalie to be pulled up on an emergency basis.  He didn’t play an NHL game yet, but the call up shows the Bruins are comfortable with his ability to perform.  He would almost certainly be given the third goalie spot for the upcoming playoffs.  A little added bonus to Vladar is his impending contract negotiations this off-season.  He is entering this off-season as a restricted free agent.  If he received any playoff time (god forbid both Rask and Halak go down), he would be playing to show the Bruins he is capable of handling a more significant load.

Maxime Legace signed a 1-year, $700K deal last off-season with Boston.  He spent the previous six years between the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights, only appearing in 17 NHL games for the Knights.  Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins, seemed to sign Legace as a filler while Keyser and Swayman play another year in their respective leagues.  Legace appeared in 33 games for the Bruins affiliate, ending the year with a 22-7-3 record as well as 2.37 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.  Legace has NHL experience and is a likely option for the Bruins to carry in the event they want to carry four goalies on their roster.

The Bruins have a tough road to the Stanley Cup this year, given the new playoff structure.  Rask will be leaned on to replicate a similar performance to last year’s playoff.  If Halak is needed, he can hopefully replicate his regular-season performance as well.  If in the unfortunate event neither can play, the Bruins will have possibly two formidable backups ready to step in and further their professional careers.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 180 that we recorded below on 5-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

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.

bobby-orr-winning-goal-1970-stanley-cup.jpg

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.