Leafs’ Firing of Mike Babcock Similar to Bruins’ 2017 Firing of Claude Julien

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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

When the news that Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock had been fired and that the Head Coach of the Toronto Marlies, Sheldon Keefe, had been hired as the new Head Coach of the NHL club, the opinions throughout the entire NHL universe – especially on Twitter, filled everyone’s feed.

The release of Babcock from the organization is a surprise, considering the expectations placed on him when he was hired by the team in 2015, but at the very same moment, it was expected. As of November 20th, the Maple Leafs are 10th in the Eastern Conference with a sub-par record of 9-10-4 and they have lost six consecutive games dating back to November 9th. Toronto has the team to win games on paper, but when those victories fail to come to fruition, it eventually falls on the Head Coach and that is the case here.

Mike Babcock started his NHL coaching career with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2002-03, leading them to a 40-27-9-6 record and the Western Conference Championship, losing an eventual Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals to the New Jersey Devils. In 2003-2004, the Mighty Ducks missed the playoffs altogether and Babcock was subsequently fired in June of 2004.

A full season later, in July 2005, Mike Babcock was hired by the Detroit Red Wings who were coming off of a dominate 48-21-11-2 record but were eliminated in the second round. From 2005-06 to 2008-09, Babcock led the Red Wings to four-straight 50-plus-win seasons – culminating it all off with a Stanley Cup Championship in 2008 and a Western Conference Championship in 2009.

For the entire ten-year tenure that Mike Babcock spent in Detroit, the Red Wings made the playoffs – adding to their incredible streak of 25 playoff berths that began in the 1990-91 campaign, tied for the third-longest playoff appearance streak in NHL history, behind only the Boston Bruins (29 seasons from 1967-68 to 1995-96) and Chicago Blackhawks (28 seasons from 1969-70 to 1996-97) and equal to the St. Louis Blues (25 seasons from 1979-80 to 2003-04).

From July 15, 2005, to May 8th, 2015, Mike Babcock coached the Detroit Red Wings in 786 regular-season games with a combined record of 458-223-105 along with a 67-56 record in 123 postseason games with the franchise, solidifying himself as one of the best coaches in the NHL. Add that with his two Olympic Gold Medals (2010, 2014), IIHF World Championships Gold Medal (2004) and his World Cup of Hockey Championship win (2016), Babcock proved that he is one of the best bench bosses in the game.

However, after repeated first-round exits, the Red Wings organization relieved the Manitouwadge, Ontario native of his head coaching duties and only a few days later, the now 56-year-old agreed to an eight-year, $50 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in an intense bidding war. Babcock’s ’15/’16 campaign with Toronto was a dismal one, as the Maple Leafs finished last in the Atlantic Division with a 29-42-11 record. Immediately, however, Babcock coached Toronto to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season – losing to the Washington Capitals in six games.

In 2017-18, the Maple Leafs took even larger strides en route to a 49-win season but fell short in seven games to the Boston Bruins. Last season, the Leafs managed to win 46 games for another 3rd place finish in the Atlantic Division, setting them up for the rematch against Boston, but once again, they came up short losing in another Game Seven.

With a virtually similar roster, the Maple Leafs entered this season with even higher expectations and they have not met them whatsoever as mentioned at the beginning of the article. Toronto has struggled to score first in any game and they constantly find themselves chasing the game in almost all aspects. Their defensive game is extremely lacking and the goaltending after Frederik Andersen is almost non-existent. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not good right now and it all fell on Mike Babcock, resulting in his departure from the organization.

In response, the Toronto Maple Leafs also announced the hiring of Sheldon Keefe, the Head Coach of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies since the 2015-16 season, as the 31st Head Coach of the NHL franchise. Sounds oddly familiar to the Boston Bruins back in 2017.

Boston Bruins Déjà Vu?

Replace the names of “Mike Babcock” with “Claude Julien” and “Sheldon Keefe” with “Bruce Cassidy” and you essentially have near-identical stories, sort of. Rewinding to the 2016-17 regular-season, the Boston Bruins were in a similar situation to the Leafs of today. Prior to ’16/’17, the Bruins failed to clinch a berth in the playoffs for two straight seasons, even though they just narrowly missed by only a few points in both scenarios.

Boston started the new season off rough, failing to gain any momentum or put together any winning streak(s), accumulating a 26-23-3 record throughout the first 55 games of the year. The B’s were on a pace to miss the playoffs once again and for the Bruins ownership, that is not acceptable with the roster they have, so they fired the man who has control of the lineup – Claude Julien.

Rewinding the tape even further, Claude Julien had one of the most successful tenures of a Boston Bruins coach in the history of the franchise. In fact, Julien is the all-time most-winningest head coach in Bruins history, winning 419 games in 759 regular-season games played. In addition, Julien was the Head Coach for 98 playoff games – the most out of any other Bruins coach, winning 57 games – another franchise record. Wrap all of that in a pretty bow called the Stanley Cup because it was Claude Julien that ended the 39-year Stanley Cup drought in Boston.

However, the league was changing and Julien’s defensive-minded style was just not cutting it anymore so General Manager Don Sweeney made the decision to release CJ of his duties in February 2017. Instead of naming a new Head Coach immediately, the Bruins named Bruce Cassidy the Interim Head Coach as he was serving as Julien’s assistant coach for the first time after being the Head Coach of the AHL’s Providence Bruins for the previous five seasons.

Cassidy brought in new ideas and upped the intensity during practices to get the guys to rally behind him. Cassidy came into the role as an almost exact opposite to Julien, coaching a more offensive game while staying defensively responsible. At the time, Cassidy also had experience and chemistry with a few of the younger players on the roster from his time with the P-Bruins, giving him additional advantages.

Backed by the veterans in the lineup, the Boston Bruins indeed rallied behind Bruce Cassidy, winning 18 of their final 27 games, earning a playoff spot against the Ottawa Senators. Even though the Bruins were eliminated in six games, it was a breath of fresh air to go 18-8-1 after Claude Julien was fired and to make an appearance in the postseason. On April 26th, 2017, Bruce Cassidy was officially promoted as the 28th Head Coach in franchise history.

Since then, he has brought the Bruins to a 50-win season in his first full year as coach followed by a 49-win campaign last year that ended up bringing the Black and Gold to a Stanley Cup Finals berth for the first time since 2013. Cassidy has done an excellent job adjusting and adapting to challenges in the lineups during the season and even mid-games. He has done a terrific job battling against injuries, slumps, and tough teams to earn the respect of being a top coach in the National Hockey League.

Will the Toronto Maple Leafs become a contending team, make the playoffs, and find themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals in a few seasons under the guidance of Sheldon Keefe – possibly, but this could very well end up doing nothing or even doing more harm to this struggling team. Boston had a talented roster behind them and had heart – some may debate if those exist for the Maple Leafs.

Boston and Toronto have a lot in common. The method of relieving old-school coaches for younger, new-school coaches is proving to be yet another similarity. Only time will tell to see if the Toronto Maple Leafs can turn their season around and be a contender for the Boston Bruins.

To close out, here are a few statements from current Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and former Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien on the firing of Mike Babcock:

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 154 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Boston’s Goaltending Strategy Extending Into The Playoffs

( Photo Credit: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

 

After Tim Thomas solidified a championship-winning run for the Boston Bruins in 2011, he took a longer than expected sabbatical from the NHL leaving Tuukka Rask the keys to the kingdom. Rask has been the Bruins sole beneficiary to their successful season since 2012. A recent question to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy by The Athletics’s Fluto Shinzawa has made Bruins fans wonder, how long until teams are using the same goalie tandems they’re using in the regular season in the playoffs?

Fluto Shinzawa’s question to Cassidy centered around how goalie tandems are so heavily used in the regular season, but perish in the playoffs entirely. Fluto asked if and when we will see the same regular-season timeshare used in the playoffs. “I don’t know if it will be this year. But I think eventually, if they’re structured that way during the regular season, then why would you necessarily change it in the playoffs? So I could see it happening, definitely. Absolutely,” Cassidy said during one of his pressers. For years, the NHL has relied heavily on one goaltender to carry a team throughout a playoff run. Martin Brodeur led his New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cups; two of which he had played over 70 games in the regular season.

Dominik Hasek had played in 65 games before his first cup with Detroit. Jonathan Quick led his Los Angeles Kings to two cups, playing in 69 and 49 regular-season games in their respective years. Tim Thomas played in 57 regular-season games in 2011, before hoisting the cup in June 2012. Starting goaltenders have always been expected to play most of the regular season, and continue that regularity into the playoffs. Recently, the NHL has seen goalies’ workload split almost evenly between starter and backup in the regular season. Teams have been focusing on finding reliable backups who can give rest to their star keeper. It’s only a matter of time before we see this continue into the postseason.

Andrei Vasilvesky is Tampa Bay’s young promising goaltender, who has already won the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender in the regular season) at the age of 24. He was part of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s historic run last year when Tampa roared through the entire NHL racking up 128 points. The 2018-2019 Lightning won 76% of their games, in large part due to their lethal offense and stingy defense and goaltending. Vasilevsky played in 53 games last season. The Lightning were not only heavy favorites to sweep the Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs, but was predicted to walk into the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning (and the rest of the NHL) were stunned to see the Columbus Blue Jackets sweep the series four games to none. Vasilevsky’s regular-season timeshare was questioned and many wondered if he was overused.

The 2019 Stanley Cup Final was represented by two goalies: Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington. Binnington at one time played for the Bruins’ farm system as an emergency loan before ultimately starting for the St. Louis Blues. The Blues were at the bottom of the standings by Christmas and were viewed as heading for a rebuilding year and sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. Jordan Binnington received the call-up because their current goalie, Jake Allen, sported a 2.83 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Binnington sparked a winning streak in the Blues and appeared in 32 regular-season games and eventually carried his team to the Final. Binnington’s usage during the regular season had been a unique situation, but the message stays the same: goalies who have more rest during the regular season enter the playoffs fresh. They fare extremely well the deeper the playoff run extends.

Tuukka’s situation was more common. He had never had a strong backup who could handle a larger workload. They swung and missed on numerous back-ups including Malcolm Subban, Zane McIntyre, and Nicklas Svedberg. Anton Khudobin seemed to handle the backup role quite well, but was given a two year, $5 million raise from the Dallas Stars and the Bruins were unwilling to match for a perennial backup. In the 2018 off-season Don Sweeney, current General Manager of the Boston Bruins, signed former New York Islander starter Jaroslav Halak to take on Rask’s backup duties. He was signed to a $5.5 million deal over two years, which exceeds Khudobin’s raise.

The difference here is that Halak was a long-time starter for the Canadiens, Blues, and Islanders. He had the resume that could withstand a long season with dependable starting opportunities, which is something the previous backups lacked. Halak most recently guarded the Islanders’ goal from the 2014-2017 seasons. The Islanders had a strenuous 2017-2018 season allowing the most shots on goal in the entire NHL, making Halak’s job harder than it already was. He posted a weak 2.80 goals-against average on Long Island. Halak came into Boston giving Rask something he wasn’t used to a reliable backup who can handle a substantial amount of starts appearing in 40 games in the 2018-2019 season. Halak was back to his old form in the black and gold posting a 2.34 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

 

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Halak’s reliable play put Tuukka in a fantastic situation to tend the twine deep into the playoffs. It, unfortunately, did not gain the Bruins a championship, but Rask was often the best player on the ice throughout the playoffs, which can be attributed to his regular-season rest. The closest we’ve seen to a team using a goalie tandem in the playoffs was the Pittsburgh Penguins during their historic run winning back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, Marc-Andre Fleury was one of the team’s biggest stars, which is a high accolade playing alongside Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang. Fleury played in 58 games in the regular season, with a promising young goalie prospect, Matt Murray, only providing rest for 13 games.

Jeff Zatkoff played in the remaining 11 games. Fleury, a three-time Cup winner, was injured in the second game of the playoffs, ceding the crease to Murray. Behind some impeccable offensive firepower, Murray and the Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup championship. The following season the two net-minders split time almost evenly. The Penguins gave Fleury the starting nod come playoff time. Fleury was a force in the first two playoff series, ensuring his team won both. He was eventually pulled in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals after allowing four goals on nine shots. Murray started the rest of the way, earning the franchise’s fifth championship.

The goalie tandem is not unheard of in the NHL but has not been viewed as best practice. Certain circumstances have shown that it is necessary. If a goalie in the regular season benefits from a reliable backup, what’s stopping that same philosophy in the playoffs? The Bruins are set up to be one of the best teams to test this theory, given they essentially have two starting-caliber goalies and a coach who is not afraid to play the hot hand, regardless of a player’s salary. These upcoming playoffs could come with an interesting twist if Cassidy decides that Halak and Rask can co-exist in the sport’s most crucial time of the year.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 153 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

BNG First Annual Bruins Season Predictions

( Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh )

By: Michael Robert |  Follow me on Twitter: @b_blackandgold

Well, folks. Here we are. The 2019-20 season is just around the corner and camps are underway. And here we are to meet your Bruins needs with the First Annual BNG Season Predictions! We throw some guesses out there, some educated and some not, on predicting the unpredictable. All questions based on regular-season unless otherwise stated. Assembled here for this is our five-person panel from http://www.blackngoldhockey.com, and without further ado, let’s get this underway and hope you enjoy!

On Twitter, they are as follows!

Michael: @b_blackngold
Joe: @jchrz19
Lucas: @LucasPearson_
Garrett: @thesportsguy97
Mike: @Mike_Cratty

Will Pastrnak hit 40 goals?

Michael: Yes
Joe: Yes
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: Yes
Mike: Yes

Will Pastrnak put up 100 points?

Michael: No
Joe: No
Lucas: No
Garrett: No
Mike: No

Will Marchand top the 100 point mark?

Michael: Yes
Joe: No
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: Yes
Mike: No

How many goals will Marchand score?

Michael: 40
Joe: 37
Lucas: 38
Garrett: 38
Mike: 33

Can Bergeron stay healthy for the full season?

Michael: Yes
Joe: Yes
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: No
Mike: Yes

How many points for Bergeron this season?

Michael: 82
Joe: 77
Lucas: 92
Garrett: 72
Mike: 88

Will the Bruins keep the top line together or look to spread the wealth?

Michael: Let them continue to dominate.
Joe: Keep them together.
Lucas: Stay together.
Garrett: Keep them together.
Mike: Stay together.

Will DeBrusk score 30+ goals?

Michael: Yes
Joe: No
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: Yes
Mike: Yes

Will DeBrusk post 70+ points?

Michael: No
Joe: No
Lucas: No
Garrett: Yes
Mike: No

Who will lead the team in points and with how many?

Michael: Brad Marchand. 104.
Joe: Brad Marchand. 94.
Lucas: Brad Marchand. 101.
Garrett: Brad Marchand. 106.
Mike: Brad Marchand. 98.

Will Krejci be able to match his 2018-19 season in terms of overall play?

Michael: Yes
Joe: Yes
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: No
Mike: Yes

How many points for Krejci?

Michael: 70
Joe: 69
Lucas: 68
Garrett: 71
Mike: 71

Is there a chance Grzelcyk could be moved up to lessen the load on Chara?

Michael: Yes
Joe: No
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: No
Mike: Not likely

Will Chara see less ice time this season? If so, what will his average TOI be?

Michael: Yes. 19:00.
Joe: Yes. 20:50.
Lucas: Yes. 19:20.
Garrett: Yes. 20:30.
Mike: No, the same as last season.

Will Big Z retire after this season?

Michael: Yes
Joe: Yes
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: No
Mike: No

Will McAvoy see over or under 23 mins average TOI?

Michael: Over
Joe: Under
Lucas: Over
Garrett: Over
Mike: Under

How many points will McAvoy produce?

Michael: 55
Joe: 43
Lucas: 39
Garrett: 43
Mike: 47

Will Torey Krug still be a Bruin by the trade deadline?

Michael: Yes
Joe: Yes
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: Yes
Mike: Yes

Will Heinen have a back bounce season and contribute more offensively with 50+ points?

Michael: No
Joe: Yes
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: Yes
Mike: No

Can Coyle bring his 2018-19 playoff success into the regular season consistently?

Michael: Definitely
Joe: Yes
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: Yes
Mike: Yes

With Brett Ritchie being added to the bottom 6 group of forwards, can he come in and make an impact?

Michael: Yes
Joe: No
Lucas: Yes
Garrett: Yes
Mike: Yes

How will the addition of Ritchie and Lindholm affect the lineup?

Michael: Bolster the bottom 6 depth.
Joe: Won’t affect it.
Lucas: If they get in the lineup, they will
contribute.
Garrett: Won’t change much, as they
won’t get much ice time.
Mike: Depth, but no real playing time.

How many starts will Rask get? Halak?

Michael: Rask 44. Halak 38.
Joe: Rask 47. Halak 35.
Lucas: Rask 47. Halak 35.
Garrett: Rask 46. Halak 36.
Mike: Rask 48. Halak 34.

How many wins for Rask? Halak?

Michael: Rask 28. Halak 22.
Joe: Rask 30. Halak 19.
Lucas: Rask 30. Halak 20.
Garrett: Rask 29. Halak 23
Mike: Rask 29. Halak 21

What will be Rask’s Sv% on the season be?

Michael: .912
Joe: .920
Lucas: .918
Garrett: .914
Mike: .921

Can the Bruins find a trade partner for Backes or will they eat his contract until it runs out?

Michael: Yes.
Joe: Yes, next offseason.
Lucas: After this season.
Garrett: They are stuck with it.
Mike: Yes, next summer.

Could Vaakanainen earn himself a spot in the top 6 by seasons end?

Michael: Yes
Joe: No
Lucas: No
Garrett: Yes
Mike: Yes

What prospects will get a look in some NHL games this year?

Michael: Studnicka, Senyshyn, Vaak, Lauko, Steen, Frederic
Joe: Vaak, Studnicka, Lauzon, Frederic, Steen, Hughes, Senyshyn.
Lucas: Studnicka and Bjork.
Garrett: Studnicka, Vaak, Lauzon
Mike: Vaak, Lauko, Lauzon, Steen, Hughes, Senyshyn.

Who is your candidate for the player that “comes out of nowhere?”

Michael: Zachary Senyshyn
Joe: Zachary Senyshyn
Lucas: Anders Bjork
Garrett: Karson Kuhlman
Mike: Anders Bjork

Who is your player pick for “comeback of the year” player?

Michael: Anders Bjork
Joe: Danton Heinen
Lucas: Danton Heinen
Garrett: Danton Heinen
Mike: Anders Bjork

Who will be the offensive team MVP? Defensive MVP?

Michael: Marchand and McAvoy.
Joe: Marchand and Carlo.
Lucas: Marchand and Krug.
Garrett: Marchand and Carlo.
Mike: Marchand and McAvoy.

What player will win the Seventh Player award this season?

Michael: Matt Grzelcyk
Joe: Anders Bjork
Lucas: Matt Grzelcyk
Garrett: Karson Kuhlman
Mike: Connor Clifton

How many points in the regular season will the Bruins get?

Michael: 102
Joe: 105
Lucas: 109
Garrett: 111
Mike: 108

Will the Bruins make it back to the playoffs? Finals?

Michael: Playoffs yes. Finals no.
Joe: Playoffs yes. Finals no.
Lucas: Playoffs yes. Finals yes.
Garrett: Playoffs yes. Finals no.
Mike: Playoffs yes. Finals yes.

If no, what round will they get beat out in and to who?

Michael: Conference finals loss to
New York Rangers
Joe: Second round exit to Tampa Bay.
Lucas: They’re winning the cup.
Garrett: Conference finals loss to
Washington
Mike: All the way for the cup win.

LEAGUE PICK EMS

Top 3 finishers in each division, in order.

Atlantic Division

Michael: Tampa, Boston, Toronto
Joe: Tampa, Boston, Toronto
Lucas: Tampa, Boston, Florida
Garrett: Tampa, Boston, Toronto
Mike: Boston, Tampa, Toronto

Metro Division

Michael: New York Rangers, Washington
Philadelphia
Joe: Washington, Pittsburgh, New York
Islanders
Lucas: Carolina, Washington,
Philadelphia
Garrett: Washington, Pittsburgh, New
York Islanders
Mike: New York Rangers, Washington,
Carolina

Central Division

Michael: Nashville, Colorado, Dallas
Joe: Nashville, Dallas, Colorado
Lucas: Colorado, Nashville, St. Louis
Garrett: Nashville, Colorado, Winnipeg
Mike: Nashville, St. Louis, Colorado

Pacific Division

Michael: Vegas, Calgary, San Jose
Joe: Calgary, Vegas, San Jose
Lucas: Calgary, San Jose, Arizona
Garrett: Vegas, San Jose, Calgary
Mike: Vegas, San Jose, Calgary

Eastern Conference finals matchup?Winner? How many games?

Michael: Boston v New York Rangers
New York Rangers in 7
Joe: Tampa Bay v Washington
Tampa Bay in 6
Lucas: Boston v Toronto (WC)
Boston in 7
Garrett: Boston v Washington
Washington in 7
Mike: Boston v New York Rangers
Boston in 6

Western Conference finals matchup?Winner? How many games?

Michael: Nashville v Vegas
Vegas in 6
Joe: Dallas v Vegas
Dallas in 7
Lucas: Nashville v San Jose
Nashville in 6
Garrett: Colorado v San Jose
San Jose in 6
Mike: Vegas v Colorado
Vegas in 7

Stanley Cup finals winner? How many games?

Michael: New York Rangers in 7
Joe: Tampa Bay in 6
Lucas: Boston in 7
Garrett: San Jose in 6
Mike: Boston in 7

Most likely exceed expectations?

Michael: New York Rangers
Joe: Arizona
Lucas: Arizona
Garrett: New York Rangers
Mike: New York Rangers

Most likely to underachieve?

Michael: St. Louis
Joe: Columbus
Lucas: Winnipeg
Garrett: Carolina
Mike: Dallas

Canadian team with the highest points?

Michael: Toronto
Joe: Calgary
Lucas: Calgary
Garrett: Toronto
Mike: Toronto

How many teams north of the border will make the playoffs?

Michael: 3
Joe: 4
Lucas: 2
Garrett: 3
Mike: 3

AWARD WINNERS

Hart Trophy

Michael: Connor McDavid
Joe: Nathan MacKinnon
Lucas: Connor McDavid
Garrett: Nathan MacKinnon
Mike: Connor McDavid

Art Ross Trophy

Michael: Nathan MacKinnon
Joe: Connor McDavid
Lucas: Nikita Kucherov
Garrett: Nikita Kucherov
Mike: Connor McDavid

Calder Trophy

Michael: Kappo Kakko
Joe: Kappo Kakko
Lucas: Jack Hughes
Garrett: Jack Hughes
Mike: Kappo Kakko

Selke Trophy

Michael: Patrice Bergeron
Joe: Aleksander Barkov
Lucas: Patrice Bergeron
Garrett: Patrice Bergeron
Mike: Patrice Bergeron

Norris Trophy

Michael: Victor Hedman
Joe: Roman Josi
Lucas: Seth Jones
Garrett: Victor Hedman
Mike: Victor Hedman

Vezina Trophy

Michael: Henrik Lundqvist
Joe: Ben Bishop
Lucas: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Garrett: Marc-Andre Fleury
Mike: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Jack Adams Award

Michael: Jared Bednar
Joe: Jim Montgomery
Lucas: Rick Tocchet
Garrett: Jared Bednar
Mike: Bruce Cassidy

Coach on the bubble?

Michael: Mike Babcock
Joe: Bruce Boudreau
Lucas: Bruce Boudreau
Garrett: Mike Babcock
Mike: Mike Babcock

GM on the bubble?

Michael: Kevin Cheveldayoff
Joe: Brad Treliving
Lucas: Pierre Dorion
Garrett: Kevin Cheveldayoff
Mike: Kevin Cheveldayoff

Player drafted 1 to 3 at the 2020 draft?

Michael: Alexis LaFrenière, Quinton
Byfield, Lucas Raymond

Joe: Alexis LaFrenière, Lucas Raymond,
Quinton Byfield.

Lucas: Alexis LaFrenière, Lucas
Raymond, Quinton Byfield

Garrett: Alexis LaFrenière, Quinton
Byfield, Lucas Raymond

Mike: Alexis LaFrenière, Quinton Byfield,
Lucas Raymond

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 145 that we recorded on 9-15-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel!

Bruins F Charlie Coyle Will Have Big Role In 2019-20

NHL: MAY 09 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final - Hurricanes at Bruins

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHLPA.com)

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

Boston has always had a close connection to forward Charlie Coyle, considering he was born just 16.7 miles south of Boston in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Similar to other young kids that live near an NHL city, Charlie always had a dream to play for the Bruins, in the TD Garden, in Boston, Massachusetts. In an article for the Player’s Tribune back in May, Coyle shared his thoughts when he heard of the trade that sent him to the B’s.

“Boston is in my blood. Boston raised me. This place is my home.” Coyle said, “Me on the Bruins? My hometown team? Playing next to guys like Zee and Bergy? Come on that’s like fairy-tale stuff.” – Charlie Coyle, Player’s Tribune

Coyle, drafted 28th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, was traded to the Minnesota Wild in the off-season of 2011 where he, Devin Setoguchi, and a 2011 1st Round Pick (Zack Phillips) were sent to San Jose in exchange for Brent Burns and a 2012 2nd Round Pick.

The trade allowed Coyle to make his National Hockey League debut in the 2012-13 campaign, skating in 37 games, putting up 8-6-14 numbers for his first NHL season. Over the course of the next seven seasons, Coyle played in a combined 479 games for the Wild, ending his tenure with 91-151-242 totals and an additional 15 points in 44 playoff games for the franchise. Coyle’s time with the Wild placed him in the top ten for games played, assists, and points in franchise history, cementing his name in Minnesota history books.

However, with the Wild on pace to miss the postseason for the first time in six seasons, management decided to part ways with Coyle, trading him to the Boston Bruins just days before the NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for prospect forward Ryan Donato and a conditional 2019 5th Round Pick.

The trade caught many Bruins off-guard, especially when they saw who they were sending back to Minnesota – forward Ryan Donato. Donato had been one of the most anticipated prospects to come into the organization and many fans had imagined him being a future top-six player as we now look at Pastrnak or DeBrusk. However, after a struggling season for the young forward, it was best for the Bruins to move away and get more of an experienced player in return.

Coyle came into the lineup and played in 21 regular season games, putting up 2-4-6 numbers and averaging just under 16 minutes per game. At this point, it seemed like the acquisition of Coyle was nothing too special, until the playoffs came around. In the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 27-year-old scored three goals and added an assist for four points in seven games – scoring the first of two empty-net goals in Game Seven.

“That Game 7 environment against the Leafs was just about the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Like Roman Coliseum s***, with thousands of people screaming for blood. There’s no better atmosphere in hockey, and that’s not up for debate.” – Charlie Coyle, Player’s Tribune

He was not done there. In Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Charlie Coyle stole the show on home-ice, scoring the game-tying goal with less than five minutes left in the third period to cause an uproar in the TD Garden. Not as loud, however, when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give Boston a 1-0 series lead.

Coyle finished the series against the Blue Jackets with 2-2-4 totals in six games, then went on to score four points in the four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals – including an impressive three-assist night in the 6-2 victory in Game Two. In the Stanley Cup Finals against the Blues, Charlie buried three goals and assisted on one goal to finish the best-of-seven series with four points. All in all, Coyle proved to be one of the most valuable players in Boston’s playoff run in 2018-19, ending the post-season with 9-7-16 numbers in 24 games.

Entering this upcoming campaign, the current role of Charlie Coyle is undecided by some, but for me, it makes clear sense where he should be playing – third line center. His success that he found throughout those playoffs were because of his third-line time with wingers Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson (who signed with the Sabres in the off-season). Coyle does a great job battling in the boards and during the post-season, he recorded 14 takeaways and only 9 giveaways – the type of ratio you want to see from your third-line center.

One concern for him playing in that position is his face-off percentage. Due to lack of regular season games, I once again go to his playoff numbers to tell the story. Coyle took a combined 257 face-offs, winning 122 of them, for a face-off win percentage of 47.5%. Although, that percentage is not too far off from second-line veteran, David Krejci, who had a 48.4% success rate on the face-off dot.

The alternative option would be to play Coyle on either the second-line right-wing, alongside David Krejci or on the first-line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with David Pastrnak playing on the second-line instead. With that said, it would only create another hole at third-line center, an important position. Also, Coyle and Heinen showed great chemistry and separating that forces the third-line to have brand new chemistry, which is not always in the best interest.

Oftentimes, when a player is traded to a contender at the Trade Deadline, he only has one year remaining on his current deal. It is a way for a team to make a strong push without constraining the cap for the next season. However, the Bruins were able to acquire Coyle with another year left on his contract. For the 2019-2020 season, Charlie Coyle will make $3.2 million – the final year of his five-year deal that he signed in 2014.

Now, with the opportunity to play a full season and post-season with the Boston Bruins, it is Charlie Coyle’s time to shine. Regardless of his exact position in the lineup, he will bring his very best to every single game and will play a big role, no matter where Head Coach Bruce Cassidy decides to play him. Boston is his home and he wants to make his home proud.

“I want to win a Cup for Boston and Weymouth — for all the great people from my town who’ve supported me every step of the way. And I want to win one for all my cousins back home who I know are going to be losing their minds as soon as that puck drops.” – Charlie Coyle before Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, Player’s Tribune 

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 144 that we recorded on 9-8-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel!

Mainville’s Full 2019-20 Boston Bruins Predictions

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Billy Hurst/USA TODAY Sports Images)

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

September has always been one of my favorite months of the year. The summer is winding down, the students start heading back to school, the leaves begin to fall off the trees, the sweaters and pants come out of the drawers while the tank-tops and shorts go back until next year. However, best of all, the return of the NHL hockey season is right around the corner.

Before the season officially begins in October, the events that come before the first puck drop of the year fall one after another. Rookie camp, training camp, preseason games – all while management scrambles to find the players who have proven enough to make it to the big leagues, to earn a spot in the NHL, but also send the players who failed to reach those expectations to lower levels of hockey.

This time last season, I published my official 2018-19 in-depth predictions – going over my lineups, statistics, final standings, and of course, the success of the playoff season. Taking a glance back at that article showed that I was wrong about a few things, but regardless, it is fun to do just that and look back. So without further ado, here are my official 2019-20 Boston Bruins Predictions. 

Lineups

This season more than ever, predicting the lineup of the Boston Bruins is a difficult task. The Bruins still do not have a proven top-six right-winger to play alongside David Krejci on the second line and with the loss of Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari to free agency, the Bruins have some more holes to fill from their Stanley Cup Finals appearance this past June.

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

Heinen – Coyle – Ritchie

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

(Lindholm)

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

(Moore – IR, Miller – IR)

Goaltenders

Rask

Halak

Earlier this off-season, I published an entire article on Black N’ Gold Hockey regarding this dilemma and this was the lineup that I had settled on. For this current moment, I am going to leave it this way but let it be known, that I would without question, substitute a prospect from the system into Brett Ritchie’s third-line role. However, due to the fact that it will come down to performance in training camp, I will leave them off. I do see Anders Bjork making an entrance on that third line, so do not be too surprised if that comes to fruition as well.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Individual Statistics

Without a single ounce of doubt, the Boston Bruins have a plethora of talent in the system that can not only hold their own, but can put up numbers over the course of the 82-game NHL season. When it comes to making predictions a month out, individual statistics of these players are always the most difficult for me. Last season, I had Brad Marchand leading the team with 85 points – yet he turned in a 100-point season. Regardless, here we go.

Note: For these predictions, I am going to assume that no injuries are going to play an impact on any player and that Charlie McAvoy agrees to a contract before the season begins. Of course, both are not certain but it would be impossible to predict otherwise.

Top Three Scorers (Forwards)

Brad Marchand – 38G – 57A – 95P

David Pastrnak – 42G – 50A – 92P

Patrice Bergeron – 28G – 45A – 73P

Top Three Scorers (Defense)

Torey Krug – 5G – 45A – 50P

Charlie McAvoy – 14G – 35A – 49P

Matt Grzelcyk – 4G – 20A – 24P

I simply cannot put any other forward than the three superstars on the Bruins forward core when it comes to the highest point totals at the year end. Marchand had a tremendous 100-point season in 2018-19, but I do not think he will meet that mark. Pastrnak, on the other hand, will see a large increase from his 81 points last season due to his chance to play more than 66 games this year. Patrice Bergeron will increase in points as well for the same reason.

On defense, Charlie McAvoy could very well surpass Torey Krug this season for point totals as he only skated in 54 games in ’18/’19 – ten less than the veteran Krug. McAvoy will find his game, but I think with the power-play time of Krug, he will remain ahead of the young blueliner.

Regular Season Standings

Even with the changes throughout the league in the off-season, not too much should change in April when the final league standings on NHL.com are published. In the Eastern Conference, the Atlantic Division is one filled with three powerhouses in the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Aside from them, the talent drops off but will be picking up this year.

The other Eastern division, the Metropolitan, is one giant question mark. Franchises such as the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes can see large jumps in the standings while the Columbus Blue Jackets and even the Pittsburgh Penguins can see a worse position for the playoffs. My predictions for the standings here may be a little crazy, but truthfully, anything can happen. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well.

Atlantic Division:

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning
  2. Boston Bruins
  3. Toronto Maple Leafs
  4. Florida Panthers (1st WC)
  5. Montreal Canadiens
  6. Buffalo Sabres
  7. Ottawa Senators
  8. Detroit Red Wings

Metropolitan Division:

  1. Washington Capitals
  2. New York Islanders
  3. New Jersey Devils
  4. Carolina Hurricanes (2nd WC)
  5. New York Rangers
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins
  7. Columbus Blue Jackets
  8. Philadelphia Flyers

Possible Milestones for the Boston Bruins

Milestones are all over the sports world. Players breaking records set decades prior, teams reaching new marks that have never been seen before, or a player setting a new career-high or finally reaching that career goal total. With aging veterans, the Boston Bruins have quite a few players that can reach large career milestones.

Skaters:

  • F David Krejci – 200 Career Goals (Current: 194)
  • F Charlie Coyle – 100 Career Goals (Current: 93)
  • F Patrice Bergeron – 500 Career Assists (Current: 492)
  • F Brad Marchand – 300 Career Assists (Current: 297)

Goaltenders:

  • Tuukka Rask – 500 Career Games Played (Current: 495)
  • Jaroslav Halak – 50 Career Shutouts (Current: 47)
  • Tuukka Rask – 50 Career Shutouts (Current: 45)

Playoffs:

Not one person genuinely thought the Boston Bruins would finish 2018-19 as the NHL’s Eastern Conference Champion, let alone pushing the St. Louis Blues to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. With that said, it happened. The Boston Bruins are not favorites to win the Cup this season, but there is absolutely nothing that says that they cannot contend again.

Do not be surprised when the Bruins and Maple Leafs once again battle it out in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals and it will go seven games and yet again, Boston will pull through on top. Toronto’s defense did not drastically improve and they have some holes around the lineup as well. I imagine the Bruins taking the series until Toronto improves defensively.

Everyone and their mother expected the Lightning to be a Finals-guarantee, but the defending President’s Trophy winners failed to win a single game in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Look for them to comeback with a vengeance this season and I see them defeating the Bruins in the second-round. When at the very top of their game, Tampa Bay has given the B’s trouble and unfortunately that will be showcased in their best-of-seven series.

There you have it, my full prediction article for the 2019-2020 Boston Bruins season. Agree or disagree with any of it? Let me know via Twitter @tkdmaxbjj, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 9-8-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel!

Bruins’ DeBrusk At Crossroads After Difficult Postseason

NHL: Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins

(Photo credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

There is no doubt that Jake DeBrusk is a Boston fan favorite, known just as much for his infectious off-ice personality as his puck-handling skills and scoring touch on the ice. Still, it was hard to ignore the fact that DeBrusk was a proverbial ghost in the last three rounds of the team’s 2019 playoff run.

Two issues arose in the first round of the playoffs that may well have contributed to DeBrusk’s noticeable decline in production, and both stemmed from the same incident. DeBrusk was the victim of a Nazem Kadri hit that shook the 22-year-old Bruins right wing and resulted in Kadri being suspended for the remainder of the Toronto/Boston series.

Although DeBrusk would return to game action in the series against the Maple Leafs, he later revealed that he had battled throughout the ensuing three rounds of the playoffs with concussion symptoms stemming from the Kadri hit. DeBrusk also said he was forced to delete the social media apps from his phone because he and his family were receiving death threats from Toronto fans who felt DeBrusk was not properly penalized for his role in the Kadri incident.

Even though it seems extenuating circumstances were at play, the fact remains that DeBrusk was quiet for the remainder of the postseason, contributing to the mediocre play of a much-maligned second line. Now, DeBrusk is heading into the final year of his contract, he will be a restricted free agent after the 2019-2020 season and needs to produce to maintain his spot on the second line and to convince the Bruins that he is worth a longer-term deal.

DeBrusk had a solid 2018-2019 regular season, scoring 27 goals in 68 games played. If he can continue to score goals at that pace, and it is quite possible that he would have potted 30 goals this past season if he had not missed 14 games, Bruins management should be happy enough with his output to offer him a new deal when his contract runs out next year.

That being said, DeBrusk contributed 42 points in the 2018-2019 regular season, one fewer than during the 2017-2018 campaign, which he finished with 16 goals and 27 assists. Although DeBrusk’s goal total increased from season to season, he had just 15 assists this past year, a decline of 12 from his rookie-year assist total.

Perhaps the decline in assists can be partially attributed to the fact that DeBrusk played on a line with veteran center David Krejci, who plays a pass-first game, and a revolving door of right wings. DeBrusk himself spent some time in the 2RW slot, although he struggled to produce playing his off wing.

It stands to reason that team president Cam Neely, general manager Don Sweeney and head coach Bruce Cassidy are going to expect DeBrusk’s, or any young player’s, overall production to increase each year. In DeBrusk’s case, that did not really happen in the 2018-2019 season.

It’s quite possible that injuries, line changes, and the off-ice issues experienced during the Toronto series all combined to make this past season an exception to the norm for Jake DeBrusk. However, if he does not return to form in the upcoming season, the team will have a difficult decision to make regarding his future in Boston.

Everything You Need To Know About The Boston Bruins Break Up Day

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33), of Slovakia, lies on the ice after getting hit in the face with the puck during the second period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues Monday, June 3, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

( Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson/Associated Press )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

Break up day happens every single year, but this one obviously hurt more than the rest. You could tell that every guy in the room went through a ton throughout the entire year, here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Zdeno Chara

This news doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but Chara confirmed that he had multiple fractures to his jaw, and his expected recovery is 5-6 weeks.

Kevan Miller

It seems like we’ve been waiting forever to hear some sort of update on Miller’s injury, but it’s been confirmed that he broke his kneecap vertically in a regular season game against the Wild in April. He was reportedly close to returning in the Carolina Hurricanes series, but re-fractured it while rehabbing, capping off an absolutely brutal year for the defenseman.

Dec 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) takes a knee on the ice during the second period against the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

( Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper/ USA TODAY Sports )

David Krejci

No injury news or anything like that, but it’s worth noting that in an interview Krejci said that he hoped that there weren’t going to be many changes to the roster this offseason, “we are very tight, very close.”

Jake Debrusk

He didn’t say much about the topic, but it was clear that when Nazem Kadri cheap-shot Debrusk, it (likely a concussion) had lasting effects on him throughout the playoffs.

Brad Marchand

It was pretty obvious that something was up with Marchand in the playoffs, he revealed that he was dealing with a sprained hand (that he re-aggravated during their scrimmage), a strained groin and abdominal injuries.

( Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/Getty Images )

Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron dealt with a groin injury throughout the playoffs but won’t need surgery.

David Pastrnak

Pasta said that he re-aggravated his thumb during the Columbus series.

John Moore

This one surprised me a bit. Moore was hit from behind during a game in Tampa, and it blew out his shoulder and broke his humerus and could be out for four to six months. “I could barely hold a stick with two hands.”

Charlie Mcavoy

Finally, some good news, when asked about his future with the team he said, “I don’t want to go anywhere. This is the best place on Earth. This has become home for me. I want to be here forever.” Hopefully, this bodes well in contract negotiations.

Boston Bruins’ Marcus Johansson was hospitalized after an enormous hit by the Hurricanes’ Micheal Ferland sent him flying to the ice during Tuesday’s game.Â

( Photo Credit: Getty Images )

Marcus Johansson

Some more good news. Johansson continued to say that he loved his time in Boston and is very eager to hear what the Bruins have to offer, “hopefully they can work something out.”

Noel Acciari

The 4th liner played with a fractured sternum and also injured his foot while blocking a shot in game seven against St. Louis that will need to be evaluated.

Steven Kampfer

The upcoming UFA noted that he wants to stay but realizes that the defense is “a bit of a logjam.”

David Backes

Backes was very vague when talking to the media and knows that there is a lot of uncertainty about his future, but reiterated that he wanted to stay in Boston.

Torey Krug

One of the biggest question marks of this offseason is “definitely very aware of the situations and scenarios that can play out” but also “wants to be here forever.”

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 7: St. Louis at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett/Pool via AP)

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

All of the blood, sweat, and tears that have been poured into the 2018-19 NHL season have come down to this – Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Both the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues have three wins each in this best-of-seven series and now, tonight, the winner will be crowned Stanley Cup Champions.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (15-8)

Away: St. Louis Blues (15-10)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 5-1

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed that defenceman Matt Grzelcyk is indeed back in the lineup after missing two weeks following concussion protocol. Due to that, defenceman Connor Clifton will be a healthy scratch as well as forward David Backes who was scratched for Game Six.

First Period:

For the early stages of the first period, the St. Louis Blues accomplished what the majority of people expected – hard zone pressure and zone control. The Blues get a couple shots towards the net, nothing too harmful though. The Bruins get a couple of their own, however, as John Moore came in on the rush with a shot that had a rebound for Acciari who failed to shoot the puck.

Within the first five minutes of game action, Jordan Binnington has allowed two rebounds that nearly converted. Sean Kuraly, Marcus Johansson and Patrice Bergeron all had in-tight scoring opportunities that came off of point shots. Boston started off somewhat slow, but have come back strong with aggressive chances that have been a result of turnovers by St. Louis.

With 12:03 remaining in the opening frame, Blues defenceman Colton Parayko, with little pressure against him, clears the puck high over the glass in his own zone and the Bruins are off to their first power-play of the hockey game. Boston had some excellent chances to bury the game’s first goal including a brilliant saucer pass from Heinen to Krejci that Binnington robs with the split-save. Blues kill off the penalty.

The Bruins controlled the play for all of the first period. St. Louis went over 15 minutes without a shot on Tuukka Rask while the Bruins earned chances to score on the other end of the ice. However, with less than five minutes to go in the period, the Bruins get caught in their own zone with St. Louis cycling the puck around the zone. That creates a point shot from Bouwmeester that gets deflected by Ryan O’Reilly in front of Rask, beating him five-hole and the Blues have a 1-0 lead.

Boston continues the effort later in the period after the goal with some shots on and a good sequence of passes and zone control in St. Louis’ end but none of the shots passes Binnington. As the Blues recover and bring the puck out of the zone, the Bruins for some reason, attempt a horrendous line change that leaves Jaden Schwartz able to feed Pietrangelo who backhands one over Tuukka Rask – 2-0 Blues at the end of the first.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 12 STL: 4

Score: 2-0 Blues – Goals: O’Reilly (8) Assists: Bouwmeester (7), Pietrangelo (16); Pietrangelo (3) Assists: Schwartz (7)

Second Period:

Without a single sliver of doubt, the Bruins need to put up one or two goals in the second period in order to still have a chance at winning tonight. Early in the middle regulation frame, Boston gets more zone control – not as much as points in the first – and get a couple shots on Binnington, all being saved by the rookie netminder.

The second period, as of 5:58 remaining, has not been very opportunity-filled. The Bruins do not get many chances whatsoever on Binnington, nothing even close to the brilliant chances that they had in the first period. St. Louis has played a perfect road game that includes a systematic shut down of the Bruins forwards and any zone time Boston gets.

In the opening period, the Blues made the bad turnovers that nearly caused Bruin goals but in the second, the tides regarding turnovers have changed. Boston has been turning the puck over more than they make clean, tape-to-tape passes and that has prevented them from getting into the zone. It seems although they are feeling the pressure of being down 2-0 and it is affecting their game.

The best chance to score for Boston was at the very end of the frame by the line of Heinen, Coyle, and Johansson – seemingly the best line in the Black n Gold jersey once again who get some shots on Binnington but come up short. 2-0 Blues after two.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 23 STL: 10

Score: 2-0 Blues

Third Period:

The beginning of the third period is not too much different from the second period. The Blues are doing a purely excellent job tonight preventing any rushes, passes, opportunities or simple shots. In the first five minutes, Boston needed Tuukka Rask to bail them out twice – a poor method for winning any hockey game that you trail.

After a slot shot that Rask stopped as well as the two rebound attempts, the B’s turn the puck over in the neutral zone to sniper Vladimir Tarasenko who turns and gets a seemingly free shot at Rask. Rask faces him the entire way and makes the chest save.

Another interesting storyline in this game has been the failed shot attempts by Boston. Many of the top players, especially David Pastrnak have whiffed on the shot or even the pass. To add to the frustrating game, the ice has been quite poor as the puck can often be seen bouncing everywhere. It is expected when you play a game in mid-June.

Finally, with just around eleven minutes to go in the final period of regulation time, Boston gets a beautiful chance to bury one past the red-hot Jordan Binnington. A strong forecheck leads to Joakim Nordstrom all alone, makes a move to get Binnington on his stomach, but Nordstrom’s shot gets robbed by the right pad of the rookie goaltender, Boston remains off the scoresheet.

Mere minutes after that highway robbery, Vladimir Tarasenko makes a beautiful pass to the slot while he’s along the boards to Brayden Schenn who one-times it off the post and past Tuukka Rask. St. Louis takes a commanding 3-0 lead in this final game and it seems like the Bruins will go 0-for-2 in the Finals since winning in 2011.

The Boston Bruins get some decent chances later in the period, but the Blues answer big time with a goal from Zach Sanford that makes it a four-goal lead for St. Louis off of a nice backhand pass from David Perron.

Matt Grzelcyk takes a point shot that manages to beat Binnington to end the shutout, but the Blues hold on to the 4-1 lead and win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 33 STL: 20

Final Score: 4-1 Blues – STL wins Stanley Cup 4-3

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: STL G Jordan Binnington – 32 Saves on 33 Shots, .970 SV%

2nd Star: STL F Ryan O’Reilly – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 18:56 TOI, Conn Smythe Winner

3rd Star: STL D Alex Pietrangelo – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, +3 Rating, 25:56 TOI

A sincere congratulations to the St. Louis Blues on winning their first Stanley Cup. To the Boston Bruins, thank you for a great season full of unexpected accomplishments. On to the offseason.

Boston Bruins: Keys to Win Game 7 Over St. Louis

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

How are your nerves? Are your fingernails still intact? No? That’s alright, it’s normal – expected at this time of year. Tonight, the Boston Bruins will meet the St. Louis Blues for the final game of the 2018-19 NHL season with a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice while the Blues look to lock in their first ever Stanley Cup in their 52-year history.

Before the best-of-seven series began, it was well noted that these two franchises were near exact mirror images of one another. Great goaltending, solid players on the blueline and a forward core that brought a combination of toughness, hitting and goal scoring throughout all four lines. Many people, including myself, felt that this series was destined to go the distance and as we found out on Sunday, it sure will.

In Sunday’s Game Six in St. Louis, Missouri, Boston took a huge 5-1 win on the road to force this seventh game. Tuukka Rask was beyond stellar in net for the Bruins while third period goals from Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman and David Pastrnak sealed the deal before Zdeno Chara’s empty-net goal. The Bruins managed to quiet the roaring St. Louis crowd once again and made the series a true toss-up again.

Following Game Five, the Bruins had lost their second-consecutive game in the series and due to the fact that it was heading back to the Blues home arena, it seemed like the momentum was in St. Louis’ favor. Now, once again, there is no real momentum nor favorite to win Game Seven in TD Garden.

The entire series so far has been fascinating to watch. Boston overcame a two-goal deficit to win Game One only for the Blues to take an overtime win in Game Two. The B’s exploded back when the series debuted in the Enterprise Arena with a crushing 7-2 victory only for the Blues to win both Game Four and Five to take a 3-2 series lead. After the Game Six performance where the top-six of Boston finally woke up and played at the level that we are used to seeing while Rask continued to be elite – a reoccurring theme in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

All across the spectrum, the Bruins and Blues have an equally strong chance to hoist the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night in Boston. Neither team has let set downs hold them down long-term. As we know, the Blues were once dead-last in the National Hockey League on January 2nd and look where they are now. So, for the Boston Bruins, what needs to happen during the three periods (and maybe more) in order to win Stanley Cup number seven?

1. Tuukka. Rask.

As previously mentioned, Tuukka Rask has been one of the sole reasons for being Eastern Conference Champions and having three wins in the Finals as of this point. Going way back to the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Rask was key in numerous wins including a dominate Game 7 performance, stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced to send Boston to the second round.

Against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Rask finished the six-game series with a .948 save percentage and a 1.83 goals-against-average, closing out the series with a phenomenal 39-save shutout in Game Six. That dominance continued in the Conference Finals over the Carolina Hurricanes, allowing only five goals in four games with another shutout in the final elimination game.

In every game during the Stanley Cup Finals, Rask has allowed over one goal but no more than three goals except for Sunday’s win where he allowed only one goal against on 29 shots. Tuukka was by far Boston’s best penalty-killer in Game Six and crushed the momentum for the Blues. Rask is now 3-0 in elimination games in the 2019 postseason with a 1.34 GAA and .953 save percentage.

St. Louis has had great success with their forecheck against Boston’s defense and that is likely to continue, but if Tuukka Rask can be as dominate as ever, he will be the biggest factor to a Bruins win if it does happen and they need him to perform at that extreme level.

2. Shut Down The Neutral Zone

Part of the reason for the success in the 5-1 win three days ago was the strength in the neutral zone. The Bruins did an excellent job at making the Blues offense work hard for their zone entries and make it a difficult task to dump the puck in deep. Boston’s second line of Jake DeBrusk, Karson Kuhlman and David Krejci did a particularly good job at that while the defensive pairings managed to retrieve the loose pucks on the dump-ins.

Boston’s third goal of the game came from Kuhlman, but was created off of a neutral zone turnover by St. Louis. For the majority of the game, the Boston players were quite aggressive on pucks and gave the Blues very little room to work. This was evident on this goal as DeBrusk goes after his man who turns it over to David Krejci. Krejci quickly brings it into the zone and feeds Kuhlman who snipes one far-side.

Boston cannot back down when the Blues go for their zone exits and rushes up the ice. St. Louis has big forwards such as leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly who can blast down the ice and get hard drives to the net that create scoring opportunities. Limiting the space that St. Louis has to exit the zone will force more mistakes and allow Boston to pounce on the resulting chances.

However, Boston cannot make mistakes of their own while doing this. If a player misses a check and gets them self out of position, then the Blues could have an odd-man rush going the other way. Calm, but tenacious hockey in the neutral zone is what will win this for Boston.

3. Win The Smaller Battles & Trust Leaders

Once again, the Bruins found the success that they did in Game Six because of the smaller plays. It was not until the third period where Boston scored goals two, three, four, and five. From the 8:40 mark of the first period to just over two minutes into the third, Boston managed to maintain a one-goal advantage on the scoreboard. That was in part, due to the victory of smaller battles throughout the entirety of the game.

As showed above, Boston did a much better job controlling the neutral zone to adequately shut down the chances St. Louis had coming down the ice. Also, Boston did a solid job winning the battles along the boards, in both the offensive and defensive zones and that allowed the Bruins to score goals and also keep the Blues to the outside and forced them to take point shots that were either blocked, intercepted, or stopped by Rask in between the pipes.

On David Pastrnak’s goal that gave the Bruins a 4-1 lead in the third, forward Sean Kuraly used that same concept to drive into the zone, pressure the St. Louis defence, make a clean pass to Marchand who made an equally impressive feed to an open Pastrnak to beat Binnington. The rest of the players in the blue jerseys were unable to come back and defend the play because they were expected a pass up the ice and because they were finishing up a change. The tenacious effort on pucks will be crucial for Boston to claim victory.

In addition to that, the 2018-19 Boston Bruins are much different from the 2010-11 Bruins that won the Stanley Cup. The 2011 Bruins were filled to the rim with veterans of the game who had the experience to guide them to the championship. This time around, a lot of the key players – David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Karson Kuhlman, Jake DeBrusk, etc. – are leading the team. However, they will need to listen to the guidance and expertise of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Brad Marchand who have been there before and have won before. Every piece of advice and knowledge may be the ultimate difference maker.

Regardless of the outcome, at the end of the day, very few individuals in the hockey community expected the Boston Bruins to be one win away from the Stanley Cup this season. The same could be said for the St. Louis Blues as well. After all, the Tampa Bay Lightning were by far the best team in the regular season and they were swept early. When the final buzzer rings tonight, the winner will be the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions. The only question remains – will it be the Bruins or Blues hoisting the Stanley Cup above their heads?

Hypothetical: If Grzelcyk Can Go, Who Is In For Bruins?

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Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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

Banged Up

While Oskar Sundqvist’s dirty hit on Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals warranted both a minor penalty and a one-game suspension, the Boston Bruins found themselves feeling the repercussions (and concussions) of that incident for a much longer period of time.

As the hit took place early on in Game 2, Grzelcyk has essentially missed five games of the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins have gone on to win just two of these games, while losing three games, including the game from which Grzelcyk was removed for injury. On the contrary, the Bruins have won every the single game in which Grzelcyk remained healthy during the Final. While one game is a small sample size, it’s also all that stands between the Bruins and the greatest prize in professional sports.

Damage Control

Sure, the Bruins have been able to string together a couple wins without Grzelcyk. But anyone who would argue that the Bruins’ third defensive pairing, not to mention their team as a whole, has been missing the completeness and maturity of Grzelcyk’s game has not been watching.

In Grizz’s stead, John Moore has stepped in and has been…present.   The predicament that Bruce Cassidy and the rest of the string-pullers behind the Black and Gold curtain find themselves in is a tricky one, which couldn’t come at a more critical time:

If Matt Grzelcyk is cleared to play in Game 7, do the Bruins opt to put him into the lineup, or stick with John Moore?

The Case For Grzelcyk

Bruins fans know just how good Grzelcyk is, and has been, for the entirety of the 2019 postseason. A stalwart for the Bruins all year on their third-pairing, Grzelcyk’s upside has skyrocketed far beyond what most Bruins fans imagined at the start of the season. While he showed flashes of skating ability and strong puck-moving ability last season, he elevated his game to a new level throughout 2018-2019, and well into the playoffs.

What makes his health so important to the Bruins’ success in a seven-game series against St. Louis is the exact same reason that he has been injured for the majority of the series—the St. Louis forecheck. The Blues have demonstrated a propensity for aggressive play in the offensive zone on the forecheck in an attempt to disrupt clean zone exits by Boston. This aggression has at times proven to be dirty play, manifesting itself through hits from behind, hits to the head, and the occasional slewfoot. I’m not here to enforce the rules. It seems too that, at times, the referees aren’t even here to enforce the rules.

But I digress.

Grzelcyk is not just effective in the Bruins’ own zone against St. Louis, but his ability to snap tape-to-tape passes out of the zone in concert with his ability to beat forecheckers with speed make him an invaluable asset. The quicker the Bruins can break it out of their own zone, the less time they spend there. Read a book for once.

Having a defenseman who can, at times, singlehandedly surpass a forecheck designed to make the game tougher on the Bruins, inherently makes the game easier on the entire Black and Gold roster. Fewer minutes in the D-zone means fewer tough minutes, which means that the majority of the Bruins’ energy can be allotted towards effectiveness in the offensive zone (bingos, ginos, daggers, lazershows…goals).

It would be difficult to argue that John Moore’s upside accomplishes half of what a healthy Grzelcyk’s does. As such, and as is the nature of the hypothetical I’ve raised, the issue lies with just how healthy Grzelcyk is, even if he is cleared to play.

The Case for Moore

It would be impossible to argue that John Moore has not played in the four most recent games of the Stanley Cup Final. There is video evidence of him playing in the aforementioned games. John Moore is a defenseman who has played in the 2018-2019 Stanley Cup Final.

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Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Has John Moore’s play hurt the Bruins in any overt or measurable way? No. His +/- even sits in the positives (at a whopping +1) for the series, whereas his +/- throughout the postseason stands at -3. Plus/minus does not tell the whole story of any one player’s performance. Heck (yes, heck), it doesn’t even tell all that much about a player’s performance. But you can’t ask much more of a seventh/eighth defenseman than to step into the lineup and be unremarkable.

Through his first three games of the series, Moore played… hockey. He played hockey. He wasn’t bad. He wasn’t good. But he was in the lineup, and that’s a fact.

Where this hypothetical gets even Moore interesting is after watching Moore’s performance in Game 6. Moore played 17 minutes in a must-win game, and by all accounts… he played well. Moore’s gutty performance featured a hit and three key shot blocks. While Moore has never lit the world on fire offensively with the Bruins, his best efforts have come when he plays a gritty, hard-nosed style of hockey.

While he was on the ice for 100% of St. Louis’s goals (1) in Game 6, he made a strong case to remain in the lineup for the upcoming series-clincher on Wednesday night. It will be interesting to see whether Cassidy opts to keep his Game 6 lineup intact or to roll the dice and play Grzelcyk who has been on the shelf for two weeks. As for me, I hate rolling dice, but I love Matt Grzelcyk.

Butch, Please

A lot of people grow up imagining themselves scoring the game-winner in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, but not me. I grew up imagining Matt Grzelcyk scoring the Cup-winning goal. If Grizz is healthy enough to go for Game 7, I want to see him in the lineup. And if you don’t want to see that happen, then you are officially not invited to my birthday party. Sorry.

Big Thanks to Me

Before you go, I’d like you all to take a moment to appreciate that I have typed the name ‘Grzelcyk’ no fewer than twenty times. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve almost always typed ‘Grzelyck,’ on my first attempt, and have subsequently had to type Grze…#48’s name twice for every time I wanted to reference him. There were times when I wanted to quit. But I persevered. After all, this is Game 7 we’re talking about, and I wasn’t going to let a little a lot of adversity slow me down. Round of applause for me.