Takeaways For Boston From Tampa Bay’s Win Over Washington

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

By Bryan Murphy | Follow me on Twitter @bryan_murphy10

The Bruins haven’t looked quite like themselves since arriving in the Toronto bubble as the NHL restarts with its 24-team playoff.

Boston looked sluggish and sloppy in its 4-1 exhibition loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last week. In its first game of the round robin, the Bruins played a back and forth game with the Philadelphia Flyers, an improvement from the poor showing against Columbus. However, the Bruins again fell 4-1 in a crucial game for seeding.

Now the Bruins are in a tough situation going into Wednesday’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning took a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in their first round robin game and now the Bruins are at the bottom of the seeding rankings with no points. With a loss to the Lightning, the Bruins will no longer have a chance at the No. 1 seed.

The Lightning looked very solid in their first meaningful game, outside of a span of four minutes at the end of the second period where the Capitals scored two goals to tie the game.

Here are some of the takeaways for the Bruins from the Lightning’s win.

More Sandpaper In The Bay

Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois had plenty of time to mull over what happened to the Lightning last season when they were swept in the opening round by the Blue Jackets. He realized the Lightning needed to add physicality to their game and they did just that.

BriseBois and the Lightning signed Pat Maroon this offseason and brought in Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman at the trade deadline, in addition to signing Zach Bogosian in late February. With guys like Cedric Paquette, Yanni Gourde, and a boatload of big defensemen already on the roster, this is a dangerous group that may have just figure out the final piece of the puzzle.

The physicality was on full display against the Capitals, with the Lightning racking up a whopping 45 hits to the Capitals 44. They didn’t cave and get away from their game plan trying to take runs like we’ve seen in the past. They now have enough sandpaper guys that their skilled players don’t have to worry as much about playing that style.

“I thought we were in their face,” said Maroon after the game. “That’s the kind of team we need to be, just kind of have that mentality to push back. … I thought we did a really good job of just staying in it, not getting frustrated when they were throwing big hits and responding at the right time.”

It’s part of why the Bruins have had success in the playoffs. They have the skills, but it’s the in-your-face mentality that ultimately separates the men from the boys. The Bruins have seen the scrappiness from the Lightning in the regular season and should expect to see that ramped up on Wednesday.

No Steven Stamkos

The Lightning were without their captain Steven Stamkos against the Capitals and appeared to not miss a beat.

Stamkos suffered a leg injury during voluntary workouts and while he’s expected to play at some point these playoffs, he isn’t quite ready yet. Brayden Point slid into the top line center position alongside Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.

Mitchell Stephens was in the fourth line center role and looked very comfortable. The rookie put the Lightning ahead 2-0, getting in front of the net and deflecting a shot past Holtby. That started from a hard forecheck by Stephens that caused Capitals defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler to turn the puck over and Stephens outmuscled Siegenthaler again in front to get his stick on the puck and redirect it.

The Lightning went 3-3-1 in the regular season without Stamkos when he went down with his core muscle injury in February. Two of those games were against the Bruins, a 2-1 win for Boston and a 5-3 win for Tampa Bay.

So the Bruins know what to expect from the Lightning even without Stamkos. They looked very good without him against the Capitals and will have to do so again on Wednesday against the Bruins. But it’s a chance for Boston to exploit the absence of their top center who was averaging over a point per game this season.

Vasilevskiy Is Still Really, Really Good

SPOILER ALERT – Quarantine did not seem to affect Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The “big cat” of Tampa made 31 saves and two of three saves in the shootout on Monday. The two goals he gave up came off of some bad bounces that the Capitals were able to just sneak by.

Vasilevskiy made some big time saves, including stopping a Jakub Vrana breakaway attempt in the overtime period.

The rebound control is what stood out the most. Vasilevskiy was calm in the net and either was able to swallow up everything or kick it to the corners. The Caps two goals came off of getting bodies and pucks to the net and the Bruins will have to do just that to disrupt Vasilevskiy.

The Vezina candidate compiled three wins and a loss against the Bruins in the regular season, giving up no more than three goals in a game. And after a rough postseason in 2019, Vasilevskiy, like the rest of the Lightning squad, will be coming back with vengeance this postseason.

The Bruins and Lightning will kick off at 4 p.m. on Wednesday with a lot more on the line for the boys in black and gold. It’s put up or shut up time for the Bruins, as they truly need to find their game before it’s too late.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 188 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.

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Get Hyped: The Boston Bruins Are Back!

Boston Bruins 2019-2020 Season Hype! - YouTube(Photo Credit: YouTube)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

Get hyped, Bruins fans! Boston’s team is back TODAY.

Puck drop is at 3pm EST at the B’s kick off Round Robin play against the Flyers.

Or(r), as the organization’s recent official tweet announced: “The hunt resumes.”

Are you #StillHungry for hockey and for the B’s bringing home another Stanley Cup to Boston? Let us know here at the BN’G blog with your comments, likes and shares and tell us how you feel about the new Bruins hype video.

Because you best “B”-lieve… we’re buying into all the hype!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 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.

User 568316199 · 187: We Honor The Loss Of An Amesbury, Mass. Legend & Give Updates On Recent Bruins News

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Biggest Questions Facing The Bruins As They Enter The 2020 Playoffs

Notes, Thoughts And Observations From Ondrej Kase's Bruins Debut ...
( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images )

By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

What is up with Kase and Ritchie?

There is a lot up in the air with the Bruin’s two most recent acquisitions. We know Ondrej Kase was the only player to not travel to Toronto with the team. It’s been said that the Czech Republic native will meet the team later, but if he’s healthy, what role will he have? He’s only played six games with Boston, and with younger guys (that will be mentioned later) getting more chemistry with the team, it will be interesting to see what type of role he’ll have when he’s with the team.

That same story remains true with Nick Ritchie. Despite traveling to Toronto with the team, Ritchie has just now made his first on ice appearance in Ontario’s capital, in an optional skate this morning. He wasn’t featured Bruin’s lineup in the exhibition game and it’s anyone’s guess as to when he’ll join the Bs for a game. The physical forward would be a really nice addition to the lineup, and his presence would be a welcome addition to the forward group.

How will the kids play?

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 26: Jack Studnicka #68 of the Boston Bruins warms up prior to the game against the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on November 26, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Bruins seem to have three players penciled into their lineup that have yet to play a playoff game in their NHL career. The trio of players are Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Jeremy Lauzon. I recently wrote an article about how I believe Bjork has a good chance to break out in the playoffs. He’s an incredibly skilled player that has had success in every league he’s been in. The Notre Dame alum has developed into a really good 200-foot player and is a guy I can totally see having a Marcus Johansson like run in the playoffs. 

As for Studnicka, it appears that he will get the start to the right of David Krejci on the second line and I love it. He’s done everything you want in a young player making the jump to the pros. He led the entire AHL in shorthanded goals and was within the top 15 in both total goals and points. Getting the chance to play in the top six in the NHL playoffs as a 21-year-old is not something many can do, especially for a President’s Trophy winning team. It’s been all praise from teammates and I’m really excited to see how he does after his promising showing in the exhibition game. 

We saw Connor Clifton take big steps in his NHL career last year as a rookie in the playoffs, and now Jeremy Lauzon is looking to do the same. The French-Canadian plays the perfect playoff style of hockey. The adjective I would use to describe him certainly wouldn’t be shy as he already has 10 fights in his short NHL career. He’s added a nice physical presence next to Matt Grzelcyk and that bottom pair has been a big part of the B’s success. Since joining the big club, the Bruins have had a 15-3-1 record in games Lauzon has played in.

Can Rask replicate last year’s playoff success?

Bruins' Tuukka Rask Reveals Item He Brought To Toronto, Game Plan ...
(Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Rask was excellent in the 2018-19 Playoffs. Saying anything but that would be idiotic.  Outside of the final game of the Cup, Rask was absolutely dominant in elimination and series clinching games. In five elimination games, the Finnish tender allowed just four goals to go with a .973 save percentage. And as crazy as it may sound, he was even better in series clinching games. He allowed ONE goal in the three games, good for a .990 save percentage and if you picked this up, well done, had more shutouts than goals allowed. Those are elite numbers. 

It will definitely be interesting to see how the time off will affect the B’s starter coming off of his best regular season since winning the Vezina in 2014. Luckily if Rask falters for any reason, they have one of the best backups in the league in Jaroslav Halak. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. 

Will the formatting of the playoffs hurt the Bruins?

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 16: Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins and Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins fight during the second period at TD Garden on January 16, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Well the immediate answer is yes. As they were six points up on the second place team in the league, Bs were poised to finish the regular season as the number one seed. They would’ve had home ice throughout the entirety of the playoffs but are now forced to play in a round robin to determine where they finish. If the Bs fail to maintain the top spot in the East they would end up playing a better team than they would have normally faced. Can you believe if they end up playing the Penguins in the first round instead of a team around the 7-9 seed? No disrespect to any of those teams, but that would be incredibly tough on the Presidents Trophy winning team. 

If there’s any pro out of this, it would be the fact that the Bruins now play high intensity games that matter, but without a lose or go home stipulation. Maybe if they don’t show up in the three round robin games it sends a message. Maybe if they DO show up it will give the team confidence and add a little swagger to their play. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

Can the veterans succeed after so much time off?

Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand - Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
(Photo Credit: Minas Panaglotakis/ Getty Images)

There’s no questioning if the leadership of the Bruin’s veterans will be there when the playoffs begin, it will. But will their usual great play be there as well? Zdeno Chara (42), Patrice Bergeon (34), David Krejci (33) and Brad Marchand (31) have all had amazing NHL careers, but without a proper training camp and so much time off, it may be tough to get back into the swing of things with the intensity of playoff hockey. Brad Marchand said earlier in quarantine that he thinks younger teams like the Maple Leafs and Lightning will have the advantage over teams with an older core. With that being said, you know Bruce Cassidy and co will have the Bruins ready to play when the time comes. 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 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 Newest Winger’s Future

kase 1

(Photo: Maddie Meyer, Getty Images)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The Boston Bruins’ phones are generally ringing off the hook at each trade deadline.  This year, they made two moves, with the same team, in two separate trades.  The Bruins acquired Anaheim Ducks’ Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase for David Backes, Axel Andersson, a 2020 first-round pick, and Danton Heinen.  General Manager, Don Sweeney, received tons of praise for these separate deals because it relieved some cap stresses and brought NHL-ready talent to a team that is in a “win-now” mode.

Ondrej Kase is a 24-year old right-winger who hasn’t tapped his full potential.  His last meaningful game with the Bruins was on March 10, and he’s been a ghost since the NHL announced its Return To Play plan.  The NHL’s Return To Play plan consists of four phases, with the second phase being one of the more important ones. Step 2 of Return To Play allowed players to practice in small-group sessions, without contact.  NHL clubs were not permitted to require players to practice, making them voluntary.  In the world of COVID, Kase opted not to skate.

The NHL’s training camp, beginning on July 10, was its third phase of the plan.  These camps were to be held in the club’s respective cities and last about two and a half weeks.  The Bruins had a near-perfect attendance during training camp.  David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase were the regular absentees.

The Bruins went about their regular business during these two and a half weeks and did not give the media any info to work off of related to the two absentees.  Recently, however, news broke as to why both players were held out.  Kase and Pastrnak attended a practice unrelated to the NHL’s Return To Play plan a few days before Phase 3, which required them to quarantine for 14 days.  Pastrnak joined the team on the charter to Toronto; however, Kase did not.  He had to fly coach, which means he needs to quarantine for an additional four days before rejoining the Bruins.

The problem here is, he is new to the Bruins.  Pastrnak has been with the Bruins for five years now and can integrate with his linemates with ease.  Kase has played a whopping six games with the club and was coming off of a concussion that he suffered earlier this year.  The Phase 2 training camp was the best thing that could have happened to Kase to allow time to get his skating legs back and chemistry flowing with his new teammates.  The unregulated practice was harmless, but it costs him time with his team and, now, potentially his spot on the second line.

Jack Studnicka is a promising young right-winger, who was drafted 53rd overall in the 2017 NHL draft.  The pick was acquired from Edmonton in return for Peter Chiarelli, their former General Manager. Studnicka played two games with the Bruins this year, tallying an assist against Montreal on November 26, 2019.

He has a nose for the net, averaging 1.4 points per game in the Ontario Hockey League in the 2018-19 season.  Jack has been hyped as maybe the best prospect the Bruins have in the system, and he’s showing Head Coach, Bruce Cassidy, he can earn a spot in the starting lineup in Thursday’s exhibition game vs. Columbus.

One scenario that would be quite troubling for Kase is if Studnicka is given the right-wing spot for the beginning of the playoffs and plays well enough to stay in the lineup.  Would Bruins fans be okay with spending a first-round draft selection on a player who watches the more playoffs than not from the ninth floor?

The above scenario would be a tough pill to swallow for Sweeney, but it’s unlikely it to happen.  Kase will likely play the majority of the playoffs, but his current absence is troubling.  His playoff performance could determine his future with the Bruins.  If Kase plays from the beginning and plays stellar, he’ll probably be on the second line come next season.  But if he doesn’t play well or at all, Sweeney could move him in the upcoming off-season.

The Bruins announced a contract extension for one impending restricted free agents last night.

The NHL announced next season will feature a flat salary cap, meaning the cap will neither increase nor decrease.  The Bruins currently have $18M in cap space after the Bjork extension.  They still need to sign Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, and Matt Grzelcyk.  There are some murmurs DeBrusk’s agent pegs him at $6M per year, and Krug has stated he is looking for a 6-year, $49M deal this off-season.  If both players receive what they’re asking, the Bruins will have $4M left in cap space.  Don Sweeney has not given a current Bruin their first figure at the negotiating table, and he’ll continue that trend.  But what if Kase doesn’t have a fruitful playoff and the DeBrusk does?

The Bruins could be staring down another cap clearing trade this off-season.  If the Bruins decide to trade Kase and his $2.6M cap hit, they would increase their current cap space number to $20.6M.  Trading Kase wouldn’t mean that he is damaged goods, it’s just the timing of everything.  He hasn’t practiced with the team, he hasn’t played a meaningful game in 4 months, and he had been coming off an injury in March.  Some players need ample opportunity to get up to speed, especially on a new team.  The playoffs are not the time to get back up to speed, hence why the NHL allowed a two and a half week training camp.

The Bruins would have to look for a trade partner who is in need of a top-nine forward.  They could package Kase and another draft selection or higher-end prospect to get back into this year’s first-round.  The Bruins have been stockpiling their prospect pool for a few years under Sweeney, and it would be challenging to watch newly-acquired Kase and another prospect leave for a draft selection we already possessed.  But, the Bruins face more significant issues with their impending free agents that they’ll have to address, and freeing up cap space is the number one priority.

Another scenario is Kase plays unbelievable and DeBrusk is unwilling to sign a bridge deal that would pay him significantly less than his $6M per year ask.  Maybe the Bruins look to trade DeBrusk’s rights to a team.  This would allow the Bruins to get compensated for their player, sign Krug and Grzelcyk, and the receiving team would be able to sign DeBrusk before July 1.

Trading Kase seems to only happen if he doesn’t participate in the playoffs or play up to his potential.  It would be more beneficial to the Bruins and management if their newly-acquired right-winger can step into a top-six role and have an immediate impact.  Most Bruins fans want the latter scenario and hope both Kase and Studnicka can take a leap forward this playoff and beyond.  But, if Kase is unable to keep pace, there could be some new unforeseen changes on the Bruins horizon.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below on 7-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

 

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