Mainville: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night: Version One

boston-bruins-celebrate.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (The Canadian Press)

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

Before I dive into this piece, I would like to credit fellow Black N’ Gold writers Mike Cratty (@Mike_Cratty on Twitter) for the idea and would also like to further you to take a look at both Mike’s and Garrett’s (@thesportsguy97 on Twitter) article on the same idea. Keep a lookout on the website for more opening-day article lineup ideas.

Click HERE for Mike’s article.

Click HERE for Garrett’s article.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Throughout the Bruins fan universe, the issues in the top-six typically fall on the right side. The duos of Marchand-Bergeron and DeBrusk-Krejci are near locks for opening night but the answers on the remaining pieces need to be found. Even though he showed struggles in the postseason at times, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy continued to slot David Pastrnak on the right side of the first line.

Without a doubt in anyone’s mind, Pastrnak will soon become the star of the Bruins’ offense for possibly the next decade and the more time he can play with Marchand and especially Bergeron, the more his value to the team and organization can skyrocket. That line, when hot, is one of the best lines in the entire National Hockey League and the thought of having that consistently is intriguing.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

During the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins relied heavily on their depth scoring, goaltending, and defense to help them last to the final Game Seven. Boston’s top six forwards failed to score points on a night-to-night basis and the lack of scoring in the elimination game was the reason for the loss on home ice.

Down 3-2 in the series, Cassidy threw a curveball at the St. Louis Blues in Game Six by placing speedy forward Karson Kuhlman on the second line and he played great. Kuhlman scored the third goal of the game with a blistering wrist shot past Jordan Binnington that gave Boston a 3-0 lead in the game.

Kuhlman’s 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame finally brought some speed and finesse to a line that was lacking those attributes when David Backes was alongside DeBrusk and Krejci. Similar to Pastrnak, time with a veteran like Krejci mixed in with the big-time experience that he already has under his belt, Kuhlman can be a good player on that line.

Third Line: Heinen – Coyle – Ritchie

This line is such a massive question mark on the right side yet again. At this stage, I put free-agent signing Brett Ritchie on this line for one reason – size. The 26-year-old Ritchie stands at six-foot-four and weighs 220 pounds. Throughout the different lineup predictions on the internet, Ritchie is commonly considered to be a depth forward and while that remains a possibility, I believe he has a better shot at making the lineup over some of the younger wingers in the system.

Alongside Ritchie, Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle had found some chemistry since Coyle’s entrance into the Boston Bruins roster around the trade deadline and that should continue. Heinen has proven to be a defensively responsible forward and with a consistent center that can play deep in the zone, it may only help the young forward more in the short and long run.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

If there was a line that was etched in stone – it’s this one. The fourth line of the Boston Bruins has been crucial for the better part of the last decade and in each of their Cup Finals appearances in 2011, 2013, and 2019, the Bruins have had a strong line that rounds out the forward core.

With Noel Acciari departing Logan International in Boston to Florida during the Free Agency Frenzy, it will be without a doubt that these three players will man the pivotal bottom line for a good portion of the 2019-2020 season.

Extra Forwards: Lindholm

Another one of the Bruins’ depth signings on July 1st, former Toronto Maple Leaf and Winnipeg Jet, Par Lindholm signed a two-year contract for $850,000 per season with Boston as a depth player. The Swedish forward adds versatile play with a penalty-killing ability that has value when injuries come along.

First Pairing: Chara – McAvoy

Franchise defenceman with future franchise defenceman. Zdeno Chara might be 42 years of age but his game does not represent that number. While he does often get caught frozen in time by the faster forwards in the league, he brings a presence that strikes fear into players even today. Chara will continue to mentor McAvoy this season as it could very well be the last season where that is an option.

Second Pairing: Krug – Carlo

The second pairing of Krug and Carlo is the type of combination teams dream of on their blueline. Torey Krug is one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL today, especially on the power-play. That said, Krug has had issues on the defensive side of the ice and even though he has improved recently, he is not fantastic in that role. Brandon Carlo, however, secures that pairing. Carlo was arguably the best d-man wearing the Spoked-B in the 2019 Playoffs and he is only 22 years old.

Third Pairing: Grzelcyk – Clifton

Matt Grzelcyk scored the only goal in the Game Seven loss to the St. Louis Blues, but he brought more than just that lone tally in the postseason. Grzelcyk is a solid defenceman in almost all facets and Clifton has matched that as well. Both young blueliners have come out of seemingly nowhere over the course of the past few seasons – earning them a roster spot for the start of the ’19/’20 campaign.

Extra Defensemen: Kampfer – Miller – Moore

Steven Kampfer recently extended his contract with the Bruins and rightly so – he adds good depth for when the inevitable injuries strike again, something every team requires to be successful. With no clear timeline on John Moore (shoulder surgery) and Kevan Miller (knee), we must assume that they are not ready for the opening night on October 3rd.

Goaltenders: Rask – Halak

Tuukka Rask carried Boston to the Stanley Cup Finals for much of the playoff run and that success could be attributed to the regular season play of backup goalie Jaroslav Halak. With the two netminders nearly splitting the 82-game season in half, Rask was able to get needed rest and not overwork himself like he has when the team does not have an adequate backup behind him. If the two can avoid the haunted injury bug, I’d expect another stellar season from the two goaltenders.

As the offseason continues to progress with more and more news as well as the upcoming NHL Training Camp, these lines could very well take a turn before puck drop against the Dallas Stars.

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!

Haydon: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night: Version One

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins

Photo Courtesy Of NESN.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

First Line: Marchand-Bergeron-Studnicka

If there’s going be a young forward that breaks into the B’s lineup, I’m willing to bet it will be Jack Studnicka. The youngster is already a very talented and dynamic player but obviously doesn’t have much experience as he only has 5 AHL games under his belt. Putting him on the top line gives him a chance to play with some word class players but also to learn from them. Studnicka one day should become a center, but starting on the wing especially on the first line would allow him to not become overwhelmed by NHL play.

Barring an injury of some sort, there’s no reason to think the duo of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron won’t return to the top line on opening night in Dallas.

Second Line: DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

There’s a simple fix to the revolving door of wingers on the second line, and that is to add a little pasta. David Pastrnak is easily the B’s best right-shot winger and has come into his own the last two seasons and become one of the best goal scorers in the entire league. This really should be a simple decision for the Bruins coaching staff, to create two elite offensive lines to make it difficult on opposing defenses. Jake DeBrusk should improve after a slight down season and David Krejci should be at the top of his game after putting together his best season in quite a while.

Third Line: Heinen-Coyle-Kuhlman

I am being completely serious when I say this but if this line is put together it has the chance to be one of the best lines in the entire league. The trade for Charlie Coyle turned out to be an amazing move for the Bruins in February as Coyle was spectacular in the postseason. Not only did he put up the points, he was also very strong on the puck and was able to stabilize the B’s third line which had been stuck in neutral all season long. There’s no reason to believe he shouldn’t perform close to that next season and pairing him with two young, talented forwards would give the Bruins another rock solid line.

Danton Heinen should improve after a rocky second season and should see more scoring opportunities playing with Coyle. Karson Kuhlman is a perfect fit for this line with his determination for the puck and his willingness to go to the dirty areas. He also certainly doesn’t lack in his offensive game and could see upwards of 15 goals next season if he remains in the lineup.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

No surprises here, with Noel Acciari going to Florida. Chris Wagner was incredibly solid in his first year in Boston and should continue on the fourth line and won’t be too much of a downgrade from Acciari. Joakim Nordstrom rebounded from a uneven regular season to be one of the B’s best forwards in the playoffs and should have no trouble keeping his job in training camp. With Sean Kuraly centering this line, the Bruins again will have incredibly solid depth down the middle. Kuraly seems to improve every season so there’s no reason to not expect another jump from him this season.

Extra Forwards: Lindholm, Ritchie

Both players were signed as NHL depth so it wouldn’t shock me if they both started the year in Boston. Lindholm is a solid, versatile player that can easily slot in to replace anyone in the lineup if it be an injury or inconsistent play. Ritchie will probably be used in a similar way to Acciari as a fourth line replacement or he may see time on the third line if Kuhlman were to struggle in camp or the preseason.

First Pairing: Chara-McAvoy

Chara is another year older and probably won’t be able to play 24-25 minutes anymore but McAvoy should be able to pick up some slack. However, both players seem to work very well together and are often in the right place especially defensively. McAvoy could easily surpass Chara as the number one defenseman this season which would be good for the front office to see that the team would be in good hands when Chara eventually hangs them up.

Second Pairing: Krug-Carlo

As much flack as Krug gets for being average or worse in his own end, he is a beast of an offensive player and is a big reason why the power play had such a good season last year. He is easily their best offensive defenseman and should continue to be that next season. Brandon Carlo is almost the exact opposite as he became a shutdown defenseman during the playoffs and is just a solid player to have on the back end. Offensively he may not contribute much but is so rock solid defensively that is almost doesn’t matter. Assuming the B’s shed some salary, Carlo should see a decent raise this offseason.

Third Pairing: Grzelcyk-Clifton

This is yet another rock solid pair on the back end with both young players having very solid postseason performances. Grzelcyk has grown exponentially as a player ever since he was drafted and at points last season he was the B’s best defenseman. Clifton was incredibly solid when called upon and had a great postseason despite never playing a playoff game prior to this past season.

Extra Defenseman: Kampfer

With both John Moore and Kevan Miller likely starting the year on injured reserve, Kampfer is the obvious choice to have as the seventh defenseman. The B’s signed Kampfer to a two-year deal prior to free agency to serve as a safety net in case of injury or inconsistencies. He was solid in his playing time this past season and understands his role so keeping him around was a no brainer for the Bruins.

Goalies: Rask-Halak

Really no debate here as both goalies should return to a 1A and 1B situation that was so successful for the team last season.

Rask was well rested by the time the playoffs rolled around and had his most successful postseason since 2013. Halak was incredibly solid as a backup and arguably had a better regular season than Rask. Both goalies should again have very good seasons barring any injury.

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!

Report: Bruins Add RW Ritchie For Depth

Image result for brett ritchie nhl(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

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

The Boston Bruins reportedly have added some grit, depth & potential goal scoring to their bottom six forward group.

According to reports from the Stars camp and TVA sports up in Canada, the Bruins wrestled rough Right Wing Brett Ritchie away from Dallas — and at good value.

 

The early Twitter returns are saying Ritchie will not only be a solid replacement for the recently departed Noel Acciari, but also brings an “intriguing skill set” that includes the major ability to… well… earn majors (but in that Big Bad Bruins way as seen above).

As the above tweet says, this could be a “smart move” by Bruins GM Don Sweeney, especially considering the B’s have always liked their 4th line wingers to have a little pugilistic pluck & puck personality.  It also comes on the heels of another solid signing — the locking up of Connor “Cliffy Hockey” Clifton for four more years — and at that always affordable in today’s NHL $1M AAV.

Make sure to follow the Black N’ Gold Hockey team for more Bruins & NHL Free Agency updates in the days ahead. And of course be sure to listen to and support our podcast below:

Check out last weeks Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 133 below!

What Should The Bruins Do About Torey Krug?

Krug

( Photo Courtesy of Patrick Smith / Getty Imagines )

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Coming into this off-season, the Boston Bruins had a few questions that needed answering when it comes to the roster. One of the main questions is, what do the Bruins do about Torey Krug? The former Michigan State University defenseman is 28 years old and heading into the final year of a four-year 21 million dollar deal. He’s also coming off a fantastic season. In 64 games this year Krug netted six goals while dishing out 47 assists for 53 total points and on top of that in 24 playoff games he netted two goals while dishing out 16 assists for 18 total points. Krug firmly established himself as one of the Bruins top players while also reminding us that he’s not afraid to throw his body around.

The other major thing that Krug brings to the table is that he runs the first power-play unit. The Bruins have not been able to find another player that can run the power play like the former Michigan State Spartan does, though not for lack of trying. Given all of the information that I just provided, it would seem like this is a no-brainer for Don Sweeney, you re-sign Torey Krug. However, it’s not so simple. Krug will be 29 at the beginning of next off-season. He will also likely command a six or seven-year deal worth over seven million dollars a year. That’s a lot of money to commit to a player for any team, but especially one who has as many restricted free agents in the next two seasons, most of whom you’d like to keep.

This season, Boston has around 13 million dollars in salary cap space. They also have three major RFAs to sign Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen. After next season the Bruins have 34 million dollars to spend and one nine roster spots committed not including Carlo, McAvoy, and Heinen. On top of that, Jake DeBrusk, Karson Kuhlman, Matt Grzelcyk, and Connor Clifton are also RFAs. That’s seven players that you likely want to keep. The Boston Bruins may not have the luxury of re-signing Torey Krug unless he does take another team friendly deal. This means that Boston has a big decision to make. What do they do assuming they cannot re-sign Krug?

They have a few options. First, they could try and move Krug for a top-six forward. This is something that has been speculated by analysts and fans alike. While this is definitely a viable option, you would have to make sure that you had a defenseman ready to take Krug’s spot on the power-play. At this point in time, I do not believe trading him for a top-six forward is the best option. The player that you get in return probably will not have as big of an impact on the game as Krug does, and you are likely better off filling that second-line right wing position with an internal option rather than giving up Krug.

That leads us to our next option, you keep Torey Krug the entire season and then hope for the best in free agency. This is basically buying into yourself and believing that the team you have constructed can make another deep run into the playoffs. Then at the end of the season, you hope for the best, and maybe Krug surprises you signing a team friendly deal. To me, this is the best option. Torey Krug has proven his worth tenfold over the past few seasons both offensively and defensively. His ability on the power-play is one that cannot be duplicated right now, and this gives you a full season to finally groom his replacement. Plus, the fact of the matter is that you are a better hockey team Torey Krug on it.

With the salary cap situations and RFAs, the Boston Bruins will have some big questions to answer sooner rather than later. For the Torey Krug situation, I believe keeping him is the best option. Yes, you run the risk of losing him in free agency for nothing, but having him on the team gives you the best chance to win next season. Ultimately we have an interesting free agency period and season on the horizon, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. As always, GO, Bs, GO!

Bruins Extend Qualifying Offers To Six Players

cropped_GettyImages-1144687828.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer / Getty Images Sport / Getty)

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

As July 1st, or better known as the start of NHL Free Agency Frenzy, gets closer and closer, teams around the NHL are looking to re-sign the players that are going to be around for a long time. Boston has some key players within the system that are going to become free agents, however, the biggest names – Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen – are all restricted free agents (RFA).

In order to retain negotiating rights on these RFAs and others within the Bruins organization, Boston had to extend qualifying offers to six players. For a brief description on what exactly a qualifying offer is, below is a statement from CapFriendly.

  • A qualifying offer is an official Standard Player Contract (SPC) offer which shall be 1 year in length, and which can be subject to salary arbitration should the player be eligible.

  • Clubs have until the later of June 25th or the first Monday after the Entry Draft to submit Qualifying Offers.

  • Qualifying Offers apply to Group 2 and Group 4 free agents.

  • Submitting a Qualifying Offers gives the prior club the right of first refusal to match any offer sheet submitted, or receive draft pick compensation.

  • If the player rejects the qualifying offer, they remain an RFA and their rights are retained by the team.

  • If a player does not receive a qualifying offer, the player becomes a UFA. – CapFriendly.com

As mentioned above, if the player decides to reject the offer, then he remains an RFA and can negotiate a new deal with the team. For the players that did not receive an offer at all, then they will enter the free agent market as a UFA and teams can no longer receive draft compensation in return.

Here are the six players that the Boston Bruins extended a qualifying offer to:

The qualifying offer depends on the salary that the player made in the previous season with their respective club. More on that from CapFriendly below:

  • The qualifying offer is calculated from the players base salary (NHL salary minus signing bonus), and at minimum must meet the seasons minimum salary requirements:

    • 110% of the base salary if the base salary is less than or equal to $660,000

    • 105% of the base salary if the base salary is greater than $660,000 or less than $1,000,000. However, this qualifying offer cannot exceed $1,000,000.

    • 100% of the base salary if the base salary is equal to or greater than $1,000,000.

    • CBA Reference 10.2 (a) (ii) – CapFriendly.com

On their website, there is a tool that allows you to select a player that is currently an RFA and what exactly their qualifying offer is worth. Here are the results of that. It should be noted as well that all qualifying offers are only one year in length.

  • D Charlie McAvoy – $874,125
  • D Brandon Carlo – $874,125
  • F Peter Cehlarik – $735,000
  • F Ryan Fitzgerald – $787,500
  • F Danton Heinen – $874,125
  • F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – $874,125

Players can choose to accept the contract if the salary works for them in hopes for earning a larger deal once the one year expires. Forwards Ryan Fitzgerald and Peter Cehlarik will most likely agree to the qualifying offer that has been presented to them.

Evidentally, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen will decline the qualifying offer as they are proven NHL players and will get a large payday very soon. By declining the offer, they remain RFAs and the Bruins do indeed keep their rights within the system.

Another player that will likely decline this qualifying offer is forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson who announced in May of this year that he has signed a contract with Vaxjo of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) for the 2019-20 campaign. GM Don Sweeney said in a press release that Forsbacka Karlsson wishes to be closer to his family while continuing his hockey development. This declining of the qualifying offer means that Boston will hold onto his rights for the time being.

Within the entire Boston Bruins organization, only one player did not receive a qualifying offer and that is forward Gemel Smith who skated in 47 games with the Providence Bruins, putting up 16-24-40 numbers. Smith will enter the 2019 Free Agent class as an unrestricted free agent.

July 1st is less than one week away and the free agency frenzy is only getting more and more interesting. Make sure to stay locked on Black N’ Gold Hockey for the latest on the Boston Bruins.

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast Episode 132 below!!

Report: Bruins Re-Sign D Steven Kampfer To A Two-Year Deal

cut (44).jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

According to Frank Seravalli of TSN and other reports, the Boston Bruins have signed defenceman Steven Kampfer to a two-year contract extension worth an average of $800,000 per season ($1.6 million total).

The 30-year-old, Ann Arbor, Michigan native has had a solid history with the Boston Bruins over his seven-year NHL career. Kampfer began his tenure in Boston back in the 2010-11 season, playing 38 games after joining the club in March of 2010 in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. Kampfer recorded 5-5-10 totals in that time with Boston.

After ten games played in the 2011-12 season, Kampfer was traded to the Minnesota Wild and would not find himself in Boston until September 11, 2018, when he and two draft picks were sent to Boston in exchange for D Adam McQuaid. Within the 2018-19 campaign, Steven Kampfer played in another 35 games for the Bruins, recording three goals and three assists for six points, averaging 14:38 of time on ice.

The depth blueliner also found himself playing in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs – playing one game in three of the four series. Kampfer skated for 11:06 in Game Three against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round One and played 14:56 in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, scoring the first goal of the hockey game.

Kampfer played a key role throughout the season for the Bruins, bringing some experience to the depth blueline players, especially when injuries or suspensions prevented the top players on Boston’s backend from playing. Even though the plus/minus statistic is typically looked down upon, Kampfer was never once a minus player in the postseason, further confirming that he can be trusted on in those important games.

For the Bruins, this contract ensures that they have the depth on defence that they need quite a lot. It has already been announced that defensemen John Moore and Kevan Miller will be out of the lineup for some time to begin the 2019-2020 regular season, meaning Boston will have to fall back on guys like Kampfer to get those early-season victories.

Boston and the rest of the National Hockey League are only one week away from the free agency frenzy on July 1st meaning those key players that need contracts are going to need to sign with their current teams fast. Boston now has just over $13 million in remaining cap space with players such as RFA defenceman Charlie McAvoy, RFA defenceman Brandon Carlo, RFA forward Danton Heinen, UFA forward Noel Acciari and UFA forward Marcus Johansson, among others, expiring very soon.

This signing is a solid move for General Manager Don Sweeney as he locks up a reliable depth defenceman for under $1 million annually on a low-term deal. Heading into the next stages of the NHL offseason, the news and stories will be piling up and everyone here at Black N’ Gold Hockey will make sure that you get all of the latest information.

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast Episode 132 below!!

Backes’ Time in Boston About So Much More Than Points

Boston Bruins v Ottawa Senators - Game Five

(Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

It may be fitting that the image of David Backes that many Bruins fans have emblazoned on their memories was actually a highlight in another player’s young career. That moment came on April 21, 2017, when veteran leader Backes gave Sean Kuraly a “noogie” on the Bruins bench in celebration of one of the rookie forward’s two goals that helped keep the team’s playoff hopes alive in an elimination game against the Ottawa Senators.

The former captain of the St. Louis Blues, Backes’ future with the Bruins seemed as of Friday’s breakup day to be very much in question. However, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said in a Monday morning press conference that there may well be a role for Backes on the team for the 2019-2020 season.

After putting up just 20 points in 70 games in the 2018-2019 season, a drop from a 33-point performance in just 57 games in a 2017-2018 season that saw the veteran forward miss time as a result of needing surgery to remove part of his intestines, suffering a laceration from a skate to the back of the leg and concussion issues, Backes himself said Friday that he knows his future is “in-flux.”

The end of the 35-year-old alternate captain’s 2019 Stanley Cup campaign was a difficult one. Backes sat watching from the press box as a healthy scratch for the final games of the series. Coach Bruce Cassidy opted to take Backes out of game five of the Stanley Cup Finals to allow an 11-forward, seven-defenseman lineup to boost a banged-up defensive corps. The final two games of the series, Backes sat in favor of the speedier Karson Kuhlman. As a result, Backes was forced to sit and watch the Bruins lose in game seven to his former team, the St. Louis Blues.

With Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson all becoming free agents and a potential Torey Krug contract extension looming, the Bruins front office is faced this summer with the difficult task of trying to find a way to hold onto as many of those key young contributors as possible. Given his declining production and advancing age, it would make sense for the Bruins to try to rid themselves of some or all of Backes’ remaining contract. However, those same factors make it difficult to move him.

Backes signed a five-year contract with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2016. He has two years left and a $6 million per-year cap hit left on that deal. Talk of possible buyouts and trades has been swirling all year, but it remains to be seen what Bruins general manager Don Sweeney could do in regards to Backes to free up some space.

Although his future is in limbo, there is no question that Backes is a team leader who is respected and admired by his teammates. He has also proved to be a valuable mentor to the team’s future stars. Backes has assumed a leadership role from the day he arrived in Boston.

Even with myriad health and injury issues and a drop in playing time, Backes embraced every role he was asked to play in the team’s 2019 playoff run, and before. Backes worked to drop some weight ahead of the 2018-2019 season in an effort to keep up with a trend that favors speed over the heavier power-forward role that was prevalent when Backes broke into the National Hockey League. He was also an integral part of a second line that helped to combat the physical play of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round.

It looks as though Bruins fans may not have seen the last of David Backes donning the Spoked B. If that proves true, it is good news for a team that can use number 42’s leadership, experience, and never-say-die attitude to guide a young group of still-developing stars.

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

ap_30ccc40a10284f99b8f4d2928dc5f1c2-620x370

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

cut (5).jpg

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?

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 6: Boston at St. Louis

bruins-blues-2.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (CBS Sports)

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

The Stanley Cup is in the building. For the first time in franchise history, the St. Louis Blues are one win away from winning the Stanley Cup and above all else, on home ice. The Bruins are facing elimination for only the third time in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (two versus Toronto) and are looking to force a Game Seven on Wednesday.

Pre-Game Notes:

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

Home: St. Louis Blues (15-7)

Away: Boston Bruins (14-10)

Last Game Result: Blues won 2-1

Bruins Lineup:

Bruins forward Karson Kuhlman is in the lineup for Game Six while forward David Backes and defensemen and Steven Kampfer are the scratches.

First Period:

The Boston Bruins start off the elimination game with some decent legs and forward pressure, even though they made some bad passes in their own zone that forced Tuukka Rask to make a big save in tight. Less than three minutes into the period, Sean Kuraly clears the puck over the glass and the Bruins are going shorthanded for a delay of game penalty.

On the penalty kill, the Blues had some serious chances to score but Rask continues to look excellent in net early on and after some following clears, the Bruins are now back at even-strength.

After some great forecheck by St. Louis, the Bruins finally get the puck out of the zone and down the ice. Joakim Nordstrom drove deeper into the zone and at the same time, takes a huge hit from behind by Brayden Schenn. The officials whistle down the play and Schenn is off to the box for boarding.

The power-play takes off early but in the worst way. Ryan O’Reilly manages to escape on a breakaway chance but fans on the shot attempt. As the Bruins work their way into the zone, Brad Marchand makes a poor pass directly to a Blues player, who feeds O’Reilly. This time, however, O’Reilly clears it over the glass himself and he goes to the box, 5-on-3 coming for Boston.

Boston gets a close chance early on the two-man-advantage off of some shots that created rebounds and forced the Blues to scramble. As the puck came to the top of the zone, Krug passes it to Pastrnak, who controls the puck and delivers a perfect no-look feed to Brad Marchand and the Bruins strike first, 1-0 lead.

After the goal, the B’s seemed to take the momentum just a little bit. The second line of Krejci, DeBrusk, and Kuhlman had a good, solid shift with great work deep in the zone by both DeBrusk and Kuhlman. That line is improving from the previous games in this series with the addition of Kuhlman.

Less than two minutes remaining in the opening frame, Zdeno Chara engages in a net-front battle with David Perron with both men pushing and shoving each other but when Chara pushes him all the way down, the officials call it and Boston goes to the penalty-kill for the second time of the game. Bruins do a solid job preventing high-quality shots on Rask and the ones that did go through were easily shut down.

The first period was not terrible for Boston. They had some good offensive chances and were not atrocious on the defensive side of the puck. However, the Blues forecheck proved once again to be a scary force in this series and on numerous occasions, they had a minute or so of control in Boston’s zone but the B’s survived it. St. Louis will have 21 seconds of power-play time to begin the second.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 12 STL: 10

Score: 1-0 Bruins – Goals: Marchand (9) PP Assists: Pastrnak (10), Krug (16)

Second Period:

St. Louis tried to strike early again in the middle frame on the limited power-play chance with some fantastic shot opportunities that were stopped with confidence by Tuukka Rask – continuing his good play so far. Penalty ends and the game is back to 5-on-5.

Within the first five minutes of action in the second, the Bruins nearly score again to extend their lead. Charlie McAvoy showed high-level patience to make a crisp pass up the ice that sent Danton Heinen up the middle on a breakaway but a great defensive play by Pietrangelo lifting Heinen’s stick prevented the shot from beating Binnington. Nonetheless, an encouraging opportunity for the Bruins.

Just around the halfway point of Game Six, Boston is whisted on yet another penalty call. Brad Marchand aggressively forechecks on the dump-and-chase, but collides his leg with Alex Pietrangelo – a slewfoot – and Boston goes shorthanded again. On the PK, the Blues get multiples razor-close chances to bury their first of the contest including a shot that hit the post, hit by McAvoy’s stick, then off of Rask’s back and stays out. Blues fans cannot believe it, but the man-advantage ends and we return to 5-on-5 hockey.

With just around six minutes to tick away, the speed of the game costs Boston once again with another penalty. Charlie McAvoy collides with a Blues player with his knee and gets called for tripping, Boston’s fourth penalty of the game. The Bruins reply with possibly their best penalty-kill of the hockey game and successfully shut it down with great reads and clears.

It was an even better period from the Boston Bruins once the buzzer sounds, signifying the end of the second period. Pastrnak had a good shot in close in the final second that was stopped with the armpit of Binnington and now we head to the third period with a one-goal hockey game.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 20 STL: 19

Score: 1-0 Bruins

Third Period

The third period of play was back and forth, to begin with St. Louis putting on much-needed pressure in hopes of scoring quickly. Less than three minutes into the final frame of regulation, Jake DeBrusk does a terrific job deflecting the puck into St. Louis’ zone and engaging in a board battle before passing it to Brandon Carlo on the point. Carlo shoots the puck towards the net, bouncing on the ice right in front of Binnington and beats him. An odd one but it puts the Bruins up 2-0.

These two teams are proving once again how close they are to one another. Each team goes both ways in the third period with Boston playing a little more of a defensive style of hockey with a two-goal lead. Tuukka Rask has been able to see everything that St. Louis puts towards the net if anything does indeed get by.

Another area of strength in tonight’s game for Boston has been the neutral zone coverage – making sure nothing serious gets by them and making sure pucks get in the Blues zone more than in the Bruins zone. David Krejci brings the puck into the offensive zone, feeds it off to Karson Kuhlman on his right side and Kuhlman rips it far-side past Jordan Binnington and Boston leads 3-0.

Not long afterwards whatsoever, the Blues get one right back. A bouncing puck hits Ryan O’Reilly who controls it on the ice and shoots it on Rask. Tuukka sprawled across the crease and appeared to make the save with the right pad, however after video review, it was made clear that the puck clearly crossed the red line and the lead has been cut back to two goals once again.

Bruce Cassidy has had tendencies to put Boston’s fourth line late in hockey games with the lead in order to kill time off the clock and it works again. Sean Kuraly with some terrific forecheck, effectively stealing the puck and passing it to Brad Marchand. Marchand makes a nifty backhand pass to David Pastrnak who patiently waits for Binnington to move and he roofs it – 4-1 Boston.

Blues Head Coach Craig Berube pulled Jordan Binnington with a few minutes left on the clock in an attempt to maybe make some sort of comeback effort but it only results in Zdeno Chara icing the game with a long empty-net goal to put the nail in the coffin and end this game for the Boston Bruins who have forced a Game Seven.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 32 STL: 28

Final Score: 5-1 Bruins – Series Tied 3-3

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 27 Saves on 28 Shots, .964 SV%

2nd Star: BOS F Brad Marchand – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 15:47 TOI

3rd Star: BOS D Brandon Carlo – 1 Goal (GWG), +3 Rating, 20:32 TOI

For the first time in NHL history, the Boston Bruins will host a Game Seven in the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night. Scheduled puck drop is 8:00pm EST.