Bruins D Matt Grzelcyk, Zdeno Chara Deemed Game-Time Decisions

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PHOTO CREDITS: Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

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

Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced earlier today, June 6th, that defensemen Zdeno Chara and Matt Grzelcyk are deemed game-time decisions for tonight’s pivotal Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston, Massachusetts.

The news comes today after many speculated on the numerous off days since the Game Four loss on Monday that Zdeno Chara was done for the remainder of the postseason with what was assumed to be a broken jaw. However, it was made clear that the 42-year-old captain did not need his jaw to be wired shut and he is not missing any teeth but he does indeed have a brace going along his bottom gum line according to Shawn Hutcheon.

Chara’s injury came from the second period in Game Four when he attempted to block a wrist shot from Blues forward Brayden Schenn with the Bruins down 2-1 on the scoreboard. As a result, Chara inadvertently deflected the shot off of his monstrous stick and directly into his face. A flow of blood immediately poured out of the giant as he skated off to the Bruins locker room. Chara did end up returning in the final regulation period with a full face mask, but did not play a shift as he felt “uncomfortable”.

As for Matt Grzelcyk, his injury came back during Game Two of the Finals, when he took a hard hit along the end boards by Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. The National Hockey League’s Player Safety took a look at the hit and following a hearing, was suspended for Game Three. After taking the hit hard, Grzelcyk appeared to stumble when he got up, sending him through concussion protocol.

The 25-year-old was forced to miss Game Four on Monday but was seen wearing a maroon-colored non-contact jersey in practice on Wednesday but Cassidy was not positive on his status for Thursday’s contest. Earlier today, Cassidy clarified that Grzelcyk is also a game-time decision like Chara and if he feels ready to go around 7:00pm, then he will be in the lineup.

During the talks of both injuries, Cassidy mentioned the fact that he may lean to running seven defensemen and eleven forwards for Game Five and according to the Head Coach on Thursday, that idea still remains a topic of discussion ahead of puck drop, even if both blueliners are feeling up to the task of playing in this crucial game.

In regard to the injury, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said this in a written response to the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association:

“You don’t think about that. You think about playing. You don’t go into a game thinking you might get hurt. At this time of the playoffs, everyone has injuries and there are challenges that you have to overcome to play. I’m no different than any player on either team.”

The 2019 Stanley Cup Finals is deadlocked at two games apiece with tonight’s game in Boston giving the winner a 3-2 series lead and a chance to win the Stanley Cup on Sunday in St. Louis. The current scheduled puck drop for the game is 8:00pm EST.

Bruins Joakim Nordstrom Taking Large Strides in Stanley Cup Finals

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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

Tonight, the Boston Bruins have a chance to lead the Stanley Cup Finals three-games-to-one over the St. Louis Blues. Following a brief look at the roster, many can attribute the success found in the 2018-19 season to many different sources. Goaltender Tuukka Rask and the first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak are four obvious choices while the defensemen of Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Zdeno Chara played equally important roles in not only getting to the postseason, but achieving the Prince of Wales Trophy.

Going back to October, one of the main topics of concern for the Bruins roster was the depth scoring, or lack thereof. Everyone was well aware of the powerhouse top line that dominated the previous playoff run, more specifically against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but after that, the consistent scoring was simply in question.

David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk had chemistry together but they had troubles gelling with a player on the right wing. Numerous players were tested with them, even Pastrnak at some points but the need for a top-six winger was on the Bruins’ radar. Further down the lineup, the third and fourth lines were decent, but they weren’t expected to produce numbers that are needed from your bottom-six in today’s NHL.

Fast forward to now and the Boston Bruins are being talked about for their resilient, hard-working depth that has carried them through the scoring droughts and struggles of the more well-known Bruin forwards. Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Noel Acciari had a fantastic fourth line throughout the season. The addition of both Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have been tremendous boosts for the team and Danton Heinen has found a success role on their wing.

When Chris Wagner fell out of the lineup this postseason due to an injury that resulted from a blocked shot, the Bruins turned to Joakim Nordstrom to help the bottom line with Kuraly and Acciari. Nordstrom had been bounced from the third line and fourth line all season long and was deemed a healthy scratch quite often during the regular season due to the poor play he had shown.

During those times of scratches and long (and I mean long) scoring droughts, many believed that the two-year signing of Nordstrom in the 2018 NHL Free Agency period was a waste of money. His lack of production and value to the team was mentioned everywhere and it was apparent that the coaching staff felt the same way. Yet, that did not and will not alter the mindset of the 27-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden native.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Nordstrom started off the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Toronto with one goal in the opening four games. In that span, he averaged only 11:33 of ice time and was a -2 rating. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy scratched Nordstrom for Game Five, a loss for Boston, then went back to Joakim with their backs against the wall in Game Six in Toronto. Nordstrom played less than nine minutes in the win, recording only one hit and sat in the box for two minutes.

Now on home ice, Nordstrom scored the first goal of the game in Game Seven and helped out later in the game with a secondary assist on Sean Kuraly’s third period goal. Joakim Nordstrom finished the series with 2-1-3 numbers – not fantastic, but a definte improvement from his sub-par season. Unfortunately, he failed to score a single point in the entire six-game series against the Blue Jackets and he ended the Eastern Conference Finals sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes with only one assist.

Then came the Stanley Cup Finals and a new Joakim Nordstrom. During his two-year stint with the Chicago Blackhawks, Nordstrom played in three games over the course of the entire playoff run, but did get to raise the Stanley Cup over his head with the 2015 Hawks. With the experience of hoisting the Cup in the past, 2019 became the first time that Nordstrom got the opportunity to play in the Finals and he has taken that chance and has ran with it.

In the opening three games of the best-of-seven series against the St. Louis Blues so far, Joakim Nordstrom has one goal and three assists for four points to go along with his six blocked shots and +5 rating. All of a sudden, Nordstrom is one of the biggest factors to Boston’s winning lineup. In Game Two, the forward recorded five blocks, including this remarkable effort on an extended penalty-kill late in the second period to keep the game tied.

Earlier in the same game, Nordstrom squeaked a clean shot five-hole past Jordan Binnington to restore Boston’s one-goal lead only forty seconds after Robert Bortuzzo tied the hockey game in the opening frame. While Boston lost the game in overtime later in the night, the quick goal from Nordstrom prevented the momentum from drastically being in St. Louis’ favor.

As mentioned previously, the Bruins are on the road for Game Four tonight. With a 2-1 series lead on the Blues, Boston can take a stranglehold on the series with a win – giving them a chance to win the Stanley Cup at home on Thursday. Coming off of a stellar 7-2 victory in St. Louis on Saturday night, the momentum appears to be in Boston’s favor now.

However, in order for the winning team on Monday night to be wearing Black and Gold, players such as Joakim Nordstrom need to continue the admirable efforts on the ice. Of course, the best of the best to wear the Spoked-B this season need to show up as well, but as the history has shown in 2018-19 – it all comes down to depth. Will Joakim Nordstrom continue to silence the doubters on this Stanley Cup run and help lead the B’s to another victory? Puck drop for Game Four is scheduled for 8:00pm EST from St. Louis, Missouri tonight.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 3: Boston at St. Louis

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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

With the series deadlocked at one apiece, the Stanley Cup Finals head to St. Louis, Missouri for Game Three of the best-of-seven series. The Bruins left Game Two with an overtime loss in an overtime session that had zero offensive chances whatsoever – resulting in the goal against on the penalty-kill.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: Enterprise Arena – St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Home: St. Louis Blues (13-8)

Away: Boston Bruins (13-6)

Last Game Result: Blues won 3-2 in OT

Bruins Lineup:

Bruins defenceman Matt Grzelcyk is out of the lineup after taking a hard hit from Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in Game Two. Sundqvist was handed a one-game suspension as a result of the injury, but regardless Boston will be without Grzelcyk tonight. In replace of him, John Moore enters the lineup.

First Period:

For the first time in 49 years, the Blues are hosting a home game in the Stanley Cup Finals and the atmosphere in St. Louis showed that. The crowd was explosive and deafening in the pre-game anthem and ceremonies. Once the puck dropped, the two teams exchanged some hard hits, including a massive one on David Backes by Sammy Blais. Right back the other way, Jake DeBrusk goes for a hit, but gets called on a knee-on-knee hit, Boston goes shorthanded just over a minute into the first.

The Blues had some solid chances early on the man-advantage, with the best one coming later on the power-play from David Perron, but Tuukka Rask stays strong with a big save.  Vladimir Tarasenko also had a chance with a short-side shot on Rask but gets stopped and this game returns to 5-on-5.

Even after the early power-play, the Blues controlled the game and it took until roughly the six-minute mark of the opening frame to record their first shot, a close one by Charlie Coyle that almost past Binnington who was all the way on his stomach. Bruins need to come out more aggressive on the offensive attacks.

Not long after that, the Bruins’ first line had some good puck movement and had some decent chances – good signs for Boston. In Boston’s zone, Tarasenko nearly strikes first but again, Rask stays big and strong and keeps this game tied 0-0. A high-paced game made even more exciting with the roaring St. Louis crowd in attendance.

That first line of Boston has their best shift of the series later on in the period. Fantastic passing and zone coverage leads to a David Pastrnak one-timer that somehow gets saved by a sprawling Binnington. Pastrnak has been throwing everything towards the Blues net, trying to get deflections and rebounds. Good start for Boston.

St. Louis has been sending their defensemen hard to the net to get some chances, but it is only allowing chances the other way. David Backes and Jake DeBrusk find themselves on a 2-on-1 chance, only for Alex Pietrangelo to break up the chance. In the neutral zone, though, David Perron clearly interferes with Brandon Carlo and the Bruins go to their first man-advantage of the hockey game with 9:34 remaining in the first period.

The power-play stays hot. Only twenty-one seconds into the man-advantage, Torey Krug rifles a shot off of a faceoff win that gets deflected by none other than Patrice Bergeron, beating Binnington glove high. Assists go to Krug and DeBrusk – Bruins lead 1-0.

With the intensity level rising even more than they already were, both Connor Clifton and Ivan Barbashev get matching minors during a battle between the two and the game heads to 4-on-4 action for the next two minutes of play. St. Louis ate up a good 30-45 seconds just passing the puck within their own zone. Not a whole lot of opportunities for either team in a very defensive 4-on-4 session.

With just around two minutes left in the frame, Charlie Coyle does a terrific job taking the puck up the ice, avoiding the defenders, and passing it off to Danton Heinen. Heinen drops the puck for Johansson who makes a beautiful pass off a slick fake shot right to Coyle, beating Binnington and extending the Bruins’ lead to two goals.

Only seconds are ticking away on the clock, Joakim Nordstrom gets tied up with the Blues defenceman, leaving the puck alone for Sean Kuraly. Kuraly just shoots the puck with a screen in front of Binnington and it goes past the red line. The play caught the young goaltender off guard and Boston makes it 3-0 with seven seconds to go.

Craig Berube challenged the play for offside, but the goal stands after the review and Blues are handed a bench minor. Boston will have 1:50 of power-play time to start the second.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 12 STL: 8

Score: 3-0 Bruins – Goals: Bergeron (8) PP Assists: Krug (12), DeBrusk (6); Coyle (8) Assists: Johansson (7), Heinen (6); Kuraly (4) Assists: Nordstrom (4)

Second Period:

Typically, a power-play at the very beginning of a period is a lot more difficult to score on, but not in this case. Only forty-one seconds into the second period, Torey Krug finds Pastrnak down low. Pastrnak makes a quick deke and roofs it past Jordan Binnington on the blocker side, extending Boston’s lead to four goals. The once loud crowd in attendance is silent and a pin drop could be heard. Momentum is all in Boston’s favour.

Boston controlled the first few minutes of this period after the goal as well, shooting the puck often, making wise defensive decisions and just looking good. Eight minutes into the middle period, Jaden Schwartz hits McAvoy behind the Bruins net. Only seconds later, McAvoy clears the puck but catches his stick on Brayden Schenn’s stick and he goes off. While McAvoy skates to the box, Pat Maroon and Zdeno Chara go off for unsportsmanlike conduct, leaving Boston without Chara and McAvoy on the PK. However, no issues as the B’s make their eighteenth straight successful penalty kill and we are back to even strength.

In need of serious momentum, the Blues get some great zone control when the Bruins are dead tired – needing a desperate line change. St. Louis knows this and makes sure they cannot go off, cycling the puck down low and eventually scoring past Tuukka Rask. Ivan Barbashev fires a shot from a Zach Sanford pass in front that takes a double deflection off of Charlie McAvoy, cutting the lead to three.

Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron get another good zone entry with some good passing before Brad Marchand draws a penalty on Colton Parayko. While Parayko sits in the box, the Bruins make it look easy. Clean, tape-to-tape passes by the Bruins eventually lead to a bullet shot from Torey Krug that deflects off of a Blues defenceman in front of the net and beats Binnington. Immediate response to St. Louis’ tally and Jordan Binnington is pulled as a result, Jake Allen enters the cage.

The Blues had some chances later in the period, including a post shot, but failed to strike again. David Perron ran into Tuukka Rask with about twenty seconds remaining, followed by a nose-to-nose staredown between the Bruins goaltender and the Blues forward. Rask had no intentions of touching him, a great show of self-control and calmness from the Finnish netminder. The second period ends not long after, 5-1 Bruins.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 20 STL: 18

Score: 5-1 Bruins – Goals: Pastrnak (8) PP Assists: Krug (13), Bergeron (6); Barbashev (3) Assists: Sanford (1), Steen (3); Krug (2) PP Assists: Marchand (12), Bergeron (7)

Third Period:

Less than a minute into the final regulation period, the game returns to 4-on-4 hockey. In the middle of a net-front battle, Clifton cross-checks Sammy Blais and the arm of the official goes in the air. After the whistle blows, David Perron also gets called on a minor penalty – two for roughing.

Not long into the pair of penalties, Brandon Carlo takes a careless interference penalty on Ryan O’Reilly right in front of Tuukka Rask, forcing the game to 4-on-3. St. Louis tried to make passes around the triangle formation of Boston’s defence, but they failed to get much through the bodies in front and both the 4-on-3 and the 5-on-4 afterwards conclude with no goals for the Blues.

Six minutes into the frame, captain Zdeno Chara takes another penalty for Boston. On the power-play, Colton Parayko fires a shot from the point, bounces off of Brandon Carlo and knuckles over the shoulder of Rask, making it a three-goal game once again. Blues end the 19-kill streak on the penalty-kill for Boston.

A careless third period for Boston continues when Jake DeBrusk goes to clear the puck out of the zone but clears it out of the rink in the meantime. Third consecutive power-play for St. Louis in the period, with a chance to make it 5-3 with over thirteen minutes remaining. Boston’s players shorthanded do a great job with a textbook PK, shutting St. Louis down fully – back to even strength.

Blues Head Coach Craig Berube pulled goaltender Jake Allen with 5:30 remaining in the game, trying to get a quick goal and make this one a little bit more interesting. The Bruins took until under two minutes left in the game, Joakim Nordstrom feeding it to Noel Acciari for the 6-2 goal. Just beforehand, McAvoy blocked a huge shot on the inside of the knee and was in some pain on the bench.

Somewhere in there, the Blues take another penalty and Boston does not go easy, Marcus Johansson strikes on a clean one-timer goal – Boston going 4-for-4 on the man-advantage and take a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 7-2 victory on the road.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 24 STL: 29

Final Score: 7-2 Bruins – 2-1 Series Lead

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 27 Saves on 28 Shots, .931 SV%

2nd Star: BOS D Torey Krug – 1 Goal, 3 Assists, 22:09 TOI

3rd Star: BOS F Patrice Bergeron – 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 58% Faceoffs, 15:58 TOI

Game Four goes down Monday, June 3rd at 8:00pm EST in St. Louis, Missouri.

Three Hometown Heroes Looking To Etch Permanent Place In Bruins History

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins

Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

By Carrie Salls | Look for me on Twitter @nittgrl73

If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year, Matt Grzelcyk, Chris Wagner and Charlie Coyle will be the first Massachusetts-born Bruins to have their names inscribed on the coveted hardware since Myles Lane did so in 1929.

Regardless of the outcome of this year’s Cup quest, the three current hometown heroes appear to have already cemented their spots in Boston sports lore. Charlestown, Mass.-native Grzelcyk has been a Bruin the longest of the three, having been drafted by Boston. Wagner, dubbed by teammates as “the Mayor of Walpole,” was signed by the Bruins as a free agent in the summer of 2018, and E. Weymouth’s Coyle was acquired just before the trade deadline in February in a deal that sent Bruins prospect, and another Boston native, Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild.

During the regular season, Wagner thrilled fans with his hard-nosed, tough play on a fourth-line that has come up big for the Bs time and again throughout the 2018-2019 campaign. He was rewarded for his efforts when the fans voted him as the recipient of the 7th Player Award at the end of the season.

Wagner was forced to leave game-three of the Eastern Conference Finals after suffering an apparent arm injury on a pivotal shot-block. He has yet to appear in a Cup finals game. His spot has been occupied by Noel Acciari, a native of Johnston, R.I.

During Wednesday’s game, Grzelcyk was hit from behind when retrieving a puck, sending his head into the boards, and he had to be helped off the ice by teammates. Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed Thursday that Grzelcyk has been placed in concussion protocol and is officially listed as day-to-day.

Grzelcyk has been lauded by fans and the coaching staff for his toughness and strong performance throughout the playoff run. His best game was highlighted by two goals scored in a Mother’s Day matinee during the ECF.

Coyle has made his presence known on the ice since the playoffs began, as well. His primary contribution has come with healthy points production throughout the post-season.

Although more National Hockey League players still hale from Canada than any other country on the planet, statistics provided by quanthockey.com show that America is closing the nationality gap long-dominated by its neighbor to the north. A total of 435 active players on NHL rosters are Canadian, according to those statistics, followed by 286 Americans.

The Boston Bruins’ current roster is no exception to that trend, as 14 active players are Americans. In fact, only four members of the current Bruins squad are Canadian-born.

In addition, five members of the so-called “Black Aces,” a small group of prospects and players who spent the majority of the season playing for the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence and have been practicing with the NHL club during the deep playoff run, also were born in the United States. Among the Black Aces, Paul Carey, Trent Frederic, Lee Stempniak, Kyle Keyser, and Zane McIntyre were born in the United States.

In addition to Grzelcyk, Wagner, Coyle, and Acciari, U.S.-born Bruins who have appeared in 2019 playoff games include David Backes, Karson Kuhlman, Sean Kuraly, Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton, Steven Kampfer, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and John Moore. Injured defenseman Kevan Miller, who played college hockey at the University of Vermont, is also American.

Miller and Acciari are not the only current Bruins to have played college hockey in New England. Coyle, Grzelcyk, and McAvoy all attended Boston University. Bruins assistant coaches Jay Pandolfo, and Joe Sacco also played at BU.

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.

Career Year for Bruins’ Chris Wagner

( Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

Boston Bruins forward Chris Wagner’s season seems to have ended last week, after he blocked a Justin Faulk slap shot, injuring his forearm in the process. If that is the case, the 27-year-old had himself a solid first season for the Black and Gold.

The Walpole, MA native signed a two year deal with the Bruins last summer, after spending most of his NHL career in Anaheim. The rugged forward was drafted by the Ducks in 2010 and remained part of the organization until he was traded to the New York Islanders in February 2018.

The Bruins had been criticized for lacking physicality after the 2017/18 season, and Wagner was bought in to address that. He’d been credited with 253 hits that season, the third-most in the NHL. Boston GM, Don Sweeney, cited the winger’s energy and physicality as the main reasons for adding him to the roster. Nicknamed the ‘Mayor of Walpole,’ Wagner certainly lived up to his side of the bargain, he led the Bruins with 247 hits during the regular season.

After showing some promise during his time with the Ducks, Wagner had been given an opportunity to shine for one of the best teams in the league, and boy did he take it. Not only was he the Bruins most active hitter, but the tireless fourth-liner bagged a career-high 12 regular season goals. He also added seven assists, taking his regular season points tally to 19, another career-high.

After being labeled a ‘depth signing’ by some, Wagner quickly won the fans over. Like most supporters, the Boston faithful appreciate hard work, something he displays every time he is on the ice. His energy, work rate, and physicality earned him NESN’s 7th Player Award, presented to the Bruin who exceeds fans expectations. Local players have not always worked out in Boston, but with the help of fellow New Englanders Charlie Coyle and Noel Acciari, Wagner is bucking that trend.

The 2018/19 regular season was undoubtedly Wagner’s best, but he didn’t stop there. He featured in 12 playoff games for the Bruins before his injury, scoring two goals, both in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. This was not Wagner’s first postseason rodeo, he had 21 playoff appearances for the Ducks, adding vital experience to the Bruins lineup. The B’s will certainly miss his tenacious presence and will look to the likes of David Backes, Zdeno Chara, and his replacement Noel Acciari to match his physicality. The fourth line has been a useful weapon for the Bruins all season, and Wagner was a key part of the ‘energy line.’

It looks almost certain that the injury to his forearm will end a fantastic season for Wagner. He will be very unlucky to miss out on the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Bruins are there, thanks in part to his efforts throughout the season. He is thriving in Boston and will be eager to return to the Bruins lineup as soon as he can. One thing is for sure, as first seasons with new teams go, they don’t get much better than this.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECF Game 4: Boston at Carolina

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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

A trip to the Stanley Cup Finals is on the line for the Boston Bruins tonight in Game Four of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Carolina Hurricanes. Due in part to the terrific play of Tuukka Rask, the Bruins possess a 3-0 series lead on Carolina and look to close the show here tonight.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: PNC Arena – Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

Home: Carolina Hurricanes (8-6)

Away: Boston Bruins: (11-5)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 2-1

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara is not in the lineup for Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Matt Grzelcyk moves up to replace him alongside Charlie McAvoy and John Moore comes into the lineup beside Connor Clifton on the third pairing. Tuukka Rask will be, without previous doubt, the starting goalie for Boston. For the second consecutive game, Curtis McElhinney will start for the Canes.

First Period:

Starting off right away, just over a minute into the game, Matt Grzelcyk gets his stick caught in the skates of a Hurricane forward, resulting in a two-minute minor. Boston’s penalty-kill, even without Chara, did a great job preventing zone entries and even got a shorthanded bid with a Joakim Nordstrom partial breakaway that gets stopped by McElhinney. Penalty killed off successfully.

Early on, Carolina’s shot attempts came often from the point. The Bruins were being fearless on a lot of these shots, getting their bodies in front of the puck and making sure Rask didn’t have to see anything. Good start defensively by the Black and Gold here.

Just around 12 minutes to go, the Bruins get the best chance of the game so far. Brad Marchand’s missed pass goes right to Charlie McAvoy who blasts one to the net. The shot creates a large rebound that goes to Bergeron and then to Marchand again. Marchand’s quick wrister gets gloved by an extended McElhinney.

In a tightly-contested opening frame, the Hurricanes go the penalty box for the first time in Game Four, a slashing call against Nino Niederreiter on Brad Marchand. Marchand may have helped the call by dropping his stick, but there was a clear slash on his hands. Regardless, Boston off to power-play for the first time tonight.

Boston had some really great chances to bury one on the power-play. The best chance came with less than a minute remaining on the man-advantage. Somehow, Patrice Bergeron is wide open in the slot with the puck. Instead of shooting, he fakes the shot and feeds it to Pastrnak who tried to pass him the puck right back but McElhinney’s diving stop prevents it from entering a gaping net.

Charlie Coyle gets whistled down on a weak “interference” call, ending the power-play and forcing the game to briefly go to 4-on-4, followed by a shorter man-advantage for the Canes. Thanks to some solid saves from none other than Tuukka Rask, Boston kills off that call and we return to 5-on-5.

Boston’s top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak get many opportunities to strike in the opening frame but all too often make an extra, unnecessary pass and the play is dissolved from there. More shots on net and the Bruins could very well be up 2-0 here. Nonetheless, we are scoreless after the first twenty minutes of action.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 10 CAR: 13

Score: 0-0

Second Period:

Five minutes into the middle period, the Hurricanes appear to be controlling the play more than Boston. The B’s failed to get the puck out of the zone on numerous attempts and the Canes returned with shots off the rush. However, the Hurricanes get caught with six skaters on the ice at the same time and now face a minor penalty for too-many-men.

On Boston’s second man-advantage of the night, Brad Marchand races into the zone with his head up the entire time, tossing a lead pass for a reaching David Pastrnak and the Bruins get on the board first. McElhinney was convinced that Marchand was going to rip the shot and that expectancy resulted in him being slightly out of position for Pastrnak’s deflection.

Carolina’s edge that they possessed early in the frame was not as evident after the Bruins tally. Boston has had a lot more zone entries and scoring threats on the ice compared to the Canes. The frustration of the Hurricanes may be rising too, as captain Justin Williams shows frustration on a close icing call that he lost. His frustration levels have been on display all series long and he has continually said that he needs to be better. That seems to still be a work in progress.

Late in the period, Carolina has the best zone control of the game by far, passing the puck around the offensive zone but not a single shot made it’s way to Tuukka Rask. The fourth line of Nordstrom, Kuraly and Acciari were on the ice for a really long time and Carolina had their best chance to equal the score. Torey Krug was on the ice for a remarkable 2:57 and Carlo for 2:48.

Greg McKegg takes a hard rush into the zone with the exhausted Krug still on the ice, but the mobile defenceman pokes the puck before it gets to Rask. The cut from McKegg leads to him colliding with Rask in the head and he gets penalized with goaltender interference. On the ensuing power-play, Pastrnak and Bergeron exchange a beautiful give-and-go passing play to strike again, 2-0 Boston. That goal is the 17th goal on the man-advantage throughout the 2018-19 postseason for the B’s.

With that, the second period ends and the Boston Bruins are twenty minutes away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 19 CAR: 18 (8-4 BOS in 2nd)

Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Pastrnak (7) PPG Assists: Marchand (11), Krug (11); Bergeron (7) PPG Assist: Pastrnak (7)

Third Period:

It is quite clear that with a two-goal lead in a possible elimination game for Boston, they are willing to play a defensive final regulation period to close this thing out. Nearly eight minutes in, neither team had a single shot on net. Carolina has taken numerous shots, although, all of their shots are coming from the point and are getting blocked or deflected wide by the bodies in front of Rask.

The best defensive forward in the National Hockey League, Patrice Bergeron creates a scramble in front of McElhinney off of a brilliant forechecking effort, stealing it from the Hurricanes defender and tossing the puck into the slot where Pastrnak hung around. The shot didn’t reach the Carolina goalie, but definitely causes frustration for Carolina.

Just past the halfway mark of the period, the Bruins know that another goal could spell the end of Carolina. With that said, the Bruins stay ferocious on the forecheck, forcing a Carolina turnover in their defensive zone, passing the puck directly to David Pastrnak who makes a clean pass over to Patrice Bergeron for his second of the game, extending Boston’s lead to three.

Justin Williams was visibly upset at the goal, as he felt that the Bruins had iced the puck just seconds before the turnover. However, the replay shows that the puck bounced off of Pastrnak’s stick after he crossed the red line meaning no icing would have been called. In addition, the linesman was right by Pastrnak and he waived off the icing. Just another case of Williams showing frustration after the goal.

Carolina’s Head Coach, Rod Brind’Amour pulled McElhinney with over five minutes left to go and following too many whistles for many different reasons, Brad Marchand races down the ice to bury the empty-net goal, 4-0 Bruins. The Boston Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2013.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 23 CAR: 24

Final Score: 4-2 Bruins

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 21 Saves, Shutout

2nd Star: BOS F Patrice Bergeron – 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 6 Shots, 16:42 TOI

3rd Star: BOS F David Pastrnak – 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 2 Shots

For the 20th time in franchise history, the Boston Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins are Eastern Conference Champions.

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!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: EQSF Game 5: Columbus at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (JAMIE SABAU/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES)

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

The Boston Bruins are once again in the middle of a tight, best-of-seven series for the second time in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tonight, the Bruins face the Jackets in Game Five in what is now a best-of-three series. A win on home ice for the Bruins gives them a chance to eliminate Columbus in Game Six.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (6-5)

Away: Columbus Blue Jackets (6-2)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 4-1

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Noel Acciari was not present at the morning practice or the pre-game warmup for the Boston Bruins. Replacing Acciari is forward Chris Wagner, who will make his way back into the lineup for the first time since Game Two in Boston.

First Period:

Due to the Kentucky Derby, the game was delayed slightly. Early on, both teams started off cautiously but the Bruins third-line had some quick shots on Bobrovsky with Danton Heinen getting a couple of them. David Backes also had some hard hits in the first few minutes of this pivotal Game 5.

The first-line of Boston, including Torey Krug blasted some shots and Bobrovsky allowed some large rebounds in the process. Bruins should look to take advantage of that idea and continue to fire shots on the net. One of Krug’s shots blasted Werenski in the ankle, causing him to fall on top of his own goaltender at the same time.

With 10:57 remaining in the opening period, the first penalty of the game gets called against the Blue Jackets. After some borderline hits from both teams, Marcus Johansson brings the puck up the ice 1-on-4, taking a slash on the hand by Cam Atkinson who heads to the box for two minutes. Boston’s power-play looked much better than the six they had on Thursday, allowing zero chances against, something that happened often in Game Six. Nonetheless, the penalty is killed off and back to 5-on-5.

Not long after the Columbus penalty-kill, Boone Jenner comes into the zone and as he goes to take a shot, Charlie McAvoy takes a slashing penalty as well. Boston gets their first chance on the penalty-kill with 8:25 left to go in period number one. Boston’s PK looked great, even taking the puck into Columbus’ zone to skate around a bit and kill off the clock. Only one true chance for Columbus on the penalty, back to even-strength.

Immediately after, the Blue Jackets are caught with six players on the ice. John Tortorella argued the call, but there was a time where six players were clearly on the ice for the Blue Jackets, tough break for them. Boston right back to the power-play with a chance to get on the board first.

The Bruins had some hard chances that either missed or were blocked, but the opportunities were indeed there. Definite improvement for Boston’s power-play going back to last game but we are back to 5-on-5.

In the concluding minutes of the period, the Blue Jackets started to get some chances to shoot off the rush into the zone, but the Bruins do a great job shutting down the extra passes, blocking shots, and when it does get to the net, Rask has been solid and calm to make the save. A solid defensive effort so far for the B’s as the first period ends.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 9 CBJ: 8

Score: 0-0

Second Period:

Only 1:39 into the second period, the Bruins strike first. David Backes picks off a Columbus turnover and heads down the ice. Backes drops the puck off for Jake DeBrusk who tosses it across the zone to Krejci. Krejci originally has issues handling the rolling puck and barely touches it, narrowly beating Bobrovsky under the pad. Boston takes a 1-0 lead early on in the middle frame.

Boston used that goal as some serious momentum to start controlling this hockey game. They are forcing turnovers in the neutral zone and are doing a great job limiting chances when Columbus finds themselves in the offensive zone. The Blue Jackets are just trying to dump the puck behind Rask, but the B’s are winning the board battles, proceeding to get the puck back up the ice.

Boston’s third-line gets in on the action as well when Marcus Johansson’s one-timer from the faceoff circle gets robbed by the left leg of Sergei Bobrovsky. Charlie Coyle was the one to get the pass through the middle of the zone across to Johansson, proving that the combination of those two are getting some serious chances to score. The athleticism and flexibility of Bobrovsky continue to be on display in this series.

After some more incredible chances by the Bruins by seemingly everyone, the Blue Jackets get their best chance of the hockey game when Brandon Carlo turns the puck over in his own zone, leading to Cam Atkinson on a partial breakaway. Tuukka Rask, however, follows Atkinson all the way and makes a large save. On the play, Torey Krug is called for a holding penalty but Rask looks great nonetheless.

Right off on the power-play, the Blue Jackets’ captain Nick Foligno somehow gets around Zdeno Chara in on Rask, but again, Rask stays strong with the pad save. He is looking great once again for the Bruins. On a clear attempt, Joakim Nordstrom falls twice and then holds his shoulder in some discomfort. Nordstrom heads down the tunnel as a result but manages to return not long after. Boston kills off the penalty though, 1-0 lead still in tact.

The Bruins did not record as many shots in the second half of the second period but they also didn’t give up many either. Great net-front battles right down to the final seconds of this frame helped the Bruins end the period with a one-goal advantage heading into the final twenty minutes. Another goaltender’s dual.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 21 CBJ: 23

Score: 1-0 Bruins – Goals: Krejci (3) Assists: DeBrusk (2), Backes (3)

Third Period:

Again, early in the period, the Bruins get some great zone time on Columbus. The Blue Jackets did get some offensive control of their own, but both shots were blocked. David Pastrnak and his linemates had some shots on goal and some that missed as well, however, the B’s start the third off well.

Less than three minutes in, David Krejci uses the stick in the neutral zone to hand it off to DeBrusk. DeBrusk keeps his legs moving and gets a contested backhand on Bobrovsky, following it by colliding into Bobrovsky’s pads, causing the net to come off. Great net drive by DeBrusk and that would be great to have more often in this game and the remainder of the postseason.

Columbus gets a chance of their own on a 2-on-1 scenario with Atkinson being the pass-receiver. Just as he is about to get the pass, Joakim Nordstrom hustles back and makes a great stick check to prevent what may have been a game-tying chance. Right back the other way, on an offensive zone faceoff win, Connor Clifton pushes up the zone, feeding Marchand who gets robbed again. However, the rebound goes right to his stick and he buries that one past Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky shows evident frustration after the goal against, knowing now the Bruins are up 2-0.

Just over halfway into the period, the Blue Jackets rip a shot tight on Rask who hugs the post immediately. The play seems normal, but the refs decide to look at the play. The puck looked to have crossed the line but the puck was not seen on any of the replay angles provided. Regardless, the officials, after a lengthy review process, rule it a good goal and it becomes a 2-1 hockey game.

Less than one minute after the goal, the Boston Bruins escape on a 3-on-1 play with David Pastrnak as the puck-holder. The defenceman allows Bobrovsky to take Pastrnak as he takes the passing options but Pastrnak just rips a Pastrnak-esque wrist shot past a standing Bobrovsky and it is right back to a two-goal Boston lead. Pastrnak with the patent hand-to-ear celebration afterwards and he is finally feeling himself these playoffs.

But, again, the goals somehow come everywhere. 51 seconds after the Pastrnak insurance goal, Matt Duchene makes a quick pivot that gets Chara out of position, then feeds it across to Ryan Dzingel who shoots it top shelf past Rask with just around seven minutes to go in the third period. Three goals in 1:23.

And it doesn’t stop there. Artemi Panarin gets the puck, almost fakes the shot and passes it to Dean Kukan in the high slot. Kukan’s bomb beats Rask high and the Blue Jackets tie this hectic hockey game with six minutes left to go in this game.

Boston gets a close chance when Bobrovsky is on his stomach when Krejci drives wide and throws it in front, but right back the other way Atkinson gets a contested breakaway that goes right into the chest of Tuukka Rask. Neither team is backing down.

With 1:28 remaining in the third period, Brandon Carlo shuts down Artemi Panarin, eventually forcing an odd-man rush going the other way. Brad Marchand makes a clean pass directly to the tape of David Pastrnak who just barely squeaks the puck past Bobrovsky and the Bruins once again take a one-goal lead. Pastrnak’s second of the game.

With the goalie pulled, Matt Duchene tips a puck that would have beat Tuukka Rask but bangs right off of the post. Then, with 14.6 seconds to go, Cam Atkinson gets yet another chance in tight but thanks to the sprawling Rask and pretty much every Bruin on the ice, the puck does not cross the red line.

After Columbus’ timeout, the Bruins cannot clear the puck and Panarin’s one-timer gets blocked hard by Charlie McAvoy but the Bruins hold on and win. Game-saving block by McAvoy.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 36 CBJ: 36

Final Score: 4-3 Bruins – 3-2 Series Lead

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: BOS F David Pastrnak – 2 Goals, 7 Shots, +3 Rating, 17:48 TOI

2nd Star: BOS F Brad Marchand – 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 2 Shots, 20:56 TOI

3rd Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 29 Saves, .917 SV%

The series now heads back to Columbus, Ohio and the Boston Bruins have a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals with a win in Game Six. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pm EST on Monday, May 6th.

Charlie McAvoy’s Game Three Is Exactly What He And The Bruins Want Moving Forward

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

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

The Boston Bruins now trail their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series with the Columbus Blue Jackets two-games-to-one and there are many different theories and ideas as to why the Bruins have lost two of the three games to the second wild-card team in the Eastern Conference.

Some suggest that the lack of production from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand is the reason while others may think that secret or unspecified injuries are the reason. After the loss in Game Three on the road, one player was one-hundred-percent not blamed (and he really shouldn’t be if he is), defenseman Charlie McAvoy.

Before Game Three, McAvoy has had a pretty solid 2019 postseason for the Bruins and he is truly showing that he can handle the big minutes that top-two defencemen in the NHL need to be able to handle. In the opening best-of-seven series against the Maple Leafs, the 21-year-old averaged 24:04 of ice-time, scoring one goal and adding two assists for three points in the seven games.

Between Games One and Two in the Second Round against Columbus, McAvoy averaged 27:33 minutes, highlighted by a 30:39-minute game in the double-overtime loss back in the second game. McAvoy trailed only Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo for the most minutes in that game, but his play was something to note heading into Tuesday’s contest in Columbus.

In Game Three, Charlie played in a team-high 24 minutes, led the team in recorded hits with five, and had the third-most shots on goal by defencemen on the Bruins roster. In addition to all of that, McAvoy’s skating and puck handling was on full display, often joining the rush as almost a fourth forward, setting up high-quality scoring chances because of it. During the third period of play with Boston down 2-1 on the scoreboard, McAvoy made a slick, no-look pass to Noel Acciari that beat Sergei Bobrovsky, but rang off of the post and went into the corner.

If Acciari buries that beautiful play, the game is tied and the two teams would have most likely made their way to a third-consecutive overtime session. It was a hard break for a Boston team that let the Blue Jackets come out on home ice with a two-goal lead, but made an effort near the end of the second period and the entirety of the third to even up the score and force that overtime period.

Regardless of the outcome of the game and regardless of how the series currently stands, Charlie McAvoy did everything in his power other than scoring goals to give Boston the lead in the series. Former Bruin Riley Nash has been on the wrong end of some heavy hits by the B’s and McAvoy was yet another contributor to that. In the dying seconds of the second period, not long after DeBrusk’s tally, the Long Beach, New York native sent Nash to ice in exploding fashion with a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder collision.

Charlie McAvoy was a crucial part to the small successes that Boston found in the Game Three defeat. As previously stated, McAvoy handled the puck with ease around oncoming defenders and managed to help the Bruins secure some offensive zone time – a feat that seemed difficult to accomplish at numerous times in not only this game, but the first two meetings as well. His zone entries were clean, feet were always moving, and his passes were clean – turning the puck over on only one occasion compared to the four turnovers he committed in Game Two.

Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy praised the efforts of McAvoy in the post-game press conference as well, as this quote taken from Shawn Hutcheon (@ShawnHutcheon) suggests.

“Excellent. He was all over the ice. Dominant. He wanted to be a difference-maker without being reckless. Really, really good. Charlie was a big reason why we were in the game.”

A topic that was often included in these conversations about McAvoy’s stellar performance on Tuesday night was that McAvoy usually does not play like this consistently and if he does, could be a strong asset to Boston as this series progresses further and further. Bruins Network (@BruinsNetwork) included that perfectly in a Tweet below.

Similar to Acciari’s post shot, McAvoy ripped one off of the red iron as well in the game. His speed and skill with the puck allowed a clean entry into Columbus’ zone, but his solid wrist shot hit the post behind a standing Bobrovsky. Just another digressive attack that demonstrated his confidence that he possessed throughout the sixty-minute hockey game.

Even in a losing effort, the end result for Charlie McAvoy could be a winning one in the long run. On July 1st, the young defender’s contract officially expires and he will become an unrestricted free-agent. As of the end of the 2018-19 regular season, McAvoy has played in 117 career NHL regular season games, amassing 14-46-60 numbers within that time span as well as 13 points in 28 NHL playoff games.

Following a recent poll on my Twitter page, 51% of voters predict McAvoy’s contract to be anywhere from $4.1 to $6 million annually, with many people suggesting that the length of the deal plays a role in that annual salary as well. The next highest percentage, at 35%, suggested a $6.1 to $7 million price gap.

On CapFriendly’s “comparable” tool on their website, I took a look at players similar to McAvoy when he will sign his new contract. Such parameters included a 21-year-old, right-handed defenceman with 60 points in 117 games making $5.5 million on a six-year contract. Of course, those numbers are going off of the Twitter results and do not result in a definite, expected number.

The best match for McAvoy according to CapFriendly is Arizona Coyotes d-man, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson signed his deal back in March of 2013 when he was 21 years of age. At the time of signing, OEK had only 56 points in 157 games played. The website’s tool has both players matching at 97.1%.

Now, my first issue with this was the idea of the points scored. With the statistics provided above, Charlie McAvoy possesses a 0.51 points-per-game average while Ekman-Larsson had only averaged 0.35 points-per-game when he signed for $5.5 million for six seasons. In response, I re-adjusted my sliders for the attributes that I wanted to be considered the most, including career games played, points, and age. Below were my top 5 results. You can also CLICK HERE for the official CapFriendly table.

  • 98.1% – ARI D Jakub Chychrun – 21yrs – 118GP – 34pts – $4.6 million/6yrs in 2018
  • 97.1% – MIN D Jonas Brodin – 21yrs – 127GP – 31pts – $4.1 million/6yrs in 2014
  • 96.7% – NJD D Adam Larsson – 21yrs – 128GP – 27pts – $900,000/1yr in 2014
  • 96.6% – MIN D Brent Burns – 21yrs – 108GP – 22pts – $825,000/2yrs in 2006
  • 96.2% – ARI D Oliver Ekman-Larsson – 21yrs – 157GP – 56pts – $5.5 million/6yrs in 2013

Taking a look at the annual salaries, clearly the contracts of both Adam Larsson and Brent Burns are highly unlikely for McAvoy at this point in his career, but they do have a strong resemblance to McAvoy’s current situation. Jakub Chychrun, to me, makes the most sense. However, due to McAvoy having a significantly higher career point total as well as having a larger role on the Bruins team than Chychrun did, I personally see his contract around Ekman-Larsson’s.

For Charlie McAvoy, if his Game Three performance can be continued out for the remainder of the postseason, he can truly have some bargaining power on General Manager Don Sweeney and the rest of the Bruins management. For the Boston Bruins, even if they have to pay more than possibly expected at the start of the season, it is a win for them because they will have another young, solid defenceman of the future to build around once the likes of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug move on.

Tonight, the Bruins are back on the ice against the Blue Jackets in Game Four. Puck drop is currently scheduled for 7:30pm EST. Can Charlie McAvoy play as dominantly as he did only two nights ago? Will the Bruins tie the series at two, heading back to Boston? They’re all just questions, but soon, they will become answers.