AHL Suspends Season, Halts Providence Bruins Impressive 2nd Half

(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Unfortunately, the spread of the Covid-19 virus has taken a toll on the North American sports scene as many amateur, minor-pro, and professional leagues shut down operations to appropriately contain this global pandemic. BNG Senior Writer Max Mainville updated Bruins Nation shortly after hearing the official National Hockey League press release of the 2019-2 being suspended (Seen Here), well shortly after the  American Hockey League followed suit as seen below.

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This egregious effort to cancel large gatherings is a no-brainer, in my opinion, but it does put a serious wrench in the gears of beloved sports fans and what goes on in day-to-day lives. As many Boston Bruins fans know, the team is in first place in the NHL. With a six-point lead over last year’s Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues, they pause their 2019-20 campaign as a favorite to return and hopefully capture the organization’s seventh league championship. The NHL Bruins top minor-pro affiliate the Providence Bruins have also reached impressive milestones this season with an outstanding second-half marching their way up the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with playoff-type games leading up to the recent halt of the regular season.

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The AHL team from the smallest state in the Union (United States) started a better part of the 2019-20 season in the middle of the Atlantic, but in the second half, the Providence club has really put the pressure on teams leading the way. A team such as the Hartford Wolf Pack, who ruled the early season, have taken a plunge since their parent NHL club the New York Rangers recalled phenom goaltender Igor Shesterkin. AHL Clubs like the Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins took advantage of the Wolf Packs downward spiral to be the new leaders of the Atlantic. If you follow the AHL on the regular, the Eastern Conference postseason outlook has been tight since the beginning of January, so you could already see organizations jockeying for Calder Cup Playoff positioning.

Before this sudden pause in the Providence regular season, the B’s were on a season-high 12 game point streak, which contributed to the recent successful rise up the AHL league standings but also a season-high 11 game winning streak. Another high point of the second half of this 2019-20 Providence Bruins season is the way the affiliate of the NHL B’s has played at home in front of the La Salle Square faithful. Before the recent consecutive winning success, the Providence club was a franchise dipping above and below the .500 mark for a better part of this season at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

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The Providence Bruins started the season off with a subpar home record of 7-8-0-1, but since the turn of the calendar year, have picked it up in front of the Providence faithful to produce a very respectable 10-3-2-1 record at the Dunk since the beginning of January 2020. Everything has been clicking nicely until today’s announcement, and as a media member under the credentials of the Providence organization, it’s going to be tough to see this what this minor-pro club has done this season to just stop and figure it out later. A huge chemistry speed bump, in my opinion, for everybody on this mission of a Calder Cup playoff run that I thought was coming this Spring.

The last time the AHL Providence franchise won season-ending bragging rights was in the 1998-99 campaign capturing a Regular-Season Title, Division Championship, Conference Championship, and raising the Calder Cup after beating the Rochester Americans in a seven-game series 4-1. I thought after watching this team and with the way goaltending from the backend was the catalyst to build on early on with the free-agent addition of Max Lagace. The 27-year-old Quebec, Canada native, was amongst the AHL league leaders when it came to highly ranked goaltenders. Lagace has been a solid depth netminder for the Bruins organization and might be Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney’s ace in the hole for another year of backup sustainability while on a cap-friendly contract.

Another member of the crease core in Providence is Dan Vladar, who I’ve always spoken high of has really turned his game around in the last season of his current three-year, entry-level contract. The former 2015 third-round draft pick is having his best pro season posting a 14-7-1 record with league-leading 1.79 goals-against-average, and .936 save percentage. The 22-year-old Czech Republic native is currently on a seven-game winning streak and, in that timeline producing an unbelievable 1.54 GAA and .940 Save%.

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Providence stands as the Eastern Conferences best team with a 38-18-3-3 record and 82 points and tied for second place league-wide with the Iowa Wild eight points behind  AHL leading Milwaukee Admirals who’re leading the league in its 84th year of operation as the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL. After how this team came together orchestrated by bench boss Jay Leach who many fans wanted to see fired every start of regular seasons unable to wait for the mid-season ramp up. Yes, in previous years, the Providence club would struggle severely due to the fact that the NHL Bruins were recalling players ripping apart any youthful chemistry facilitating the higher up parent club. In recent years the new calendar year has been a turning point for Leach and staff to get healthy players back in the lineup and have a stronger competitive season.

Regardless of my displeasure of this whole situation and where this Bruins minor club was going, I hope that all of our readers do the right thing for your families and friends to help the cause. We need our sport back, but we also have to get our healthy life cycle back in order so we can go to these awesome spectator sports venues in the near future. It’s unfortunate that I had to cancel planned trips to Providence to cover this team as a media member via the Providence franchise for our production team, but it’s also a great little city to hang out in. I will miss my regular visits to the Trinity Brew House for a Rueben Sandwich and cold Rhode Island IPA, and Murphy’s Providence for an interesting Irish menu feast. Be safe everyone and the Bruins prospect talk from our BNG team will continue to keep the interest going through tough times.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 169 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!!

COVID-19: Bruins Games On Hold As NHL Suspends 2019-20 Season

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PHOTO CREDITS: (JOHN MINCHILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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

On Thursday, March 12th, 2020, the National Hockey League officially announced that they have suspended the 2019-2020 regular-season for an indefinite amount of time due to the recent COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The news is not as much of a surprise as last night, March 11th, a National Basketball Association (NBA) game between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed after Rudy Gobert was determined to have tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the game. A few days earlier, Gobert jokingly touched all of the reporter’s microphones and recorders following a press conference and as a result, the NBA made the decision to suspend their season as self-quarantines were recommended to numerous teams.

On Thursday, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that they would suspend spring training and potentially the beginning of the regular-season. High-profile tournaments and other sporting leagues also followed the path of the NBA and MLB and suspended their operations, leaving the NHL with a big decision to make and to the eyes of many, they made the correct choice suspending the league.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear that the league plans to eventually continue with the season, stating “Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup.”, in the official statement included above. Other reports earlier in the day suggested that arenas were asked to keep availability into July if the games are able to continue.

Due to this unique nature, the consequences are not yet known. At this point, the situation is ongoing and more details are being revealed to the public by the minute. Details on what this means for the salary cap, potential shortened season, or full-on cancellation is not yet known, but the hope is that the outbreak settles and comes to an eventual end.

For the Boston Bruins, a ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Stanley Cup winning Bruins team that was scheduled for March 24th has been postponed until the 2020-21 season. An official new date will be updated at a later time.

As of March 12th at 2:17 EST, COVID-19 has infected over 133,086 people worldwide, taking the lives of 4,949. In the United States, there are 1,412 cases with 40 total deaths while Canada has 122 cases and one death, with numbers continuing to rise daily. As of now, the hardest hit nations are China, Italy and Iran who have a combined 105,984 cases and 4,614 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a “pandemic” on March 11th.

Updates on the situation and the consequences are as mentioned, being updated daily. For up-to-the-minute news, make sure to follow me on Twitter (@tkdmaxbjj), as well as on the blackngoldhockey.com website for anything Boston Bruins related. We at Black N’ Gold send our well wishes to those affected and remind everyone to stay safe during this pandemic.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 169 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!!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: Tampa Bay at Boston: 03/07/20

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

The NHL’s best team is back at home after going undefeated on a three-game road trip that saw wins over the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers. Boston holds a nine-point lead over the Lightning for the top position in the Atlantic Division with a 43-13-12 record with just over a month left of hockey to play. On Thursday, the Bruins took a tight 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers in overtime to extend their current winning streak to four games.

Tampa Bay lost to the Bruins earlier in the week, but enter tonight’s game following a convincing 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night as well. The Lightning have not been excellent as of late, going 5-5-0 in their last ten games played and with the loss of superstar Steven Stamkos for the remainder of the regular season and potentially somewhat into the postseason, wins are difficult to come by. Tampa is second in the Atlantic Division with a 42-20-5 record.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (43-13-12)

Away: Tampa Bay Lightning (42-20-5)

Bruins’ Last Game: 2-1 OT win vs FLA

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Boston Bruins defenceman Brandon Carlo (upper-body) will not play tonight after taking an elbow to the face from Florida Panthers forward Evgeni Dadonov. John Moore takes his spot alongside Torey Krug on the defensive pairing. Tuukka Rask gets the start in goal.

First Period:

Early in the game, the Bruins get some good offensive pressure and a couple decent chances from Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak who connected on a long pass for a 1-on-1 play for Pastrnak against Kevin Shattenkirk but the shot was stopped by Vasilevskiy. Roughly five minutes into the game, the Lightning had four recorded blocked shots.

5:01 into the game, Barclay Goodrow lands his elbow to the head of Ondrej Kase and the Bruins will go to their first power-play of the game. Only six seconds onto the man-advantage, however, Anthony Cirelli takes the puck and races down the ice to snipe one blocker side past Rask and the Lightning take a 1-0 lead off a shorthanded goal.

One-minute-and-two-seconds later, Mihkail Sergachev is fed the puck in the slot and wrists one past Rask again to give Tampa Bay a two-goal lead off two shorthanded goals. Not a good start for the Bruins who just seem to be lacking on the smaller details of their game early on.

Not long later, Chris Wagner lands a hard hit on Mikael Sergachev behind the Bruins net and then proceeds to drop the gloves with Goodrow for the hit on Kase. Both Wagner and Goodrow get offsetting unsportsmanlike conducts for dropping the gloves and it heads to four-on-four. As soon as the penalties end, Wagner and Goodrow meet at center ice to drop the mitts and Wagner’s fight brings some much-needed life back into the TD Garden.

Another good span in the offensive zone for the Bruins from the Kuraly-Coyle-DeBrusk third line as Kuraly came from behind the Tampa Bay net to nearly feed DeBrusk in the slot. Just moments before that, Charlie Coyle’s one-timer was stopped by Vasilevskiy. During the zone time, Cedric Paquette takes a hooking minor and Boston goes to the power-play again. A bit of a better man-advantage this time around, but nearly all of Boston’s shot attempts were blocked before they even got close to Vasilevskiy. Back to even-strength.

Bruins got a few high-volume shots towards the Lightning net in the time after the pair of Tampa goals but failed to score on any of them. With 45.7 seconds left to tick away in the frame, Jeremy Lauzon gets whistled down on an interference minor and Boston goes to the penalty-kill. Period ends, Lightning will have 1:15 of power-play time to begin the second.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 14 TBL: 5

Score: 2-0 Lightning – Goals: Cirelli (16) SHG Unassisted; Sergachev (10) SHG Assists: Gourde (18)

Second Period:

Down two goals, the Bruins need some spark offensively to cut into Tampa’s lead but early on, Zach Bogosian takes the puck into Boston’s zone and around the net before finding Cedric Paquette for a tap-in goal and a 3-0 lead for the Bolts. Poor defense for the B’s here and now have a tough three-goal deficit to come back from.

Not long after the goal, Bruins forward Brett Ritchie lays a big hit on Brayden Point in the corner of the boards which brings some noise to the Bruins crowd. Ritchie has not been afraid to use the body since his arrival to Boston on Trade Deadline day. That physicality will likely be huge in the postseason if it continues.

Near the end of the period, David Pastrnak takes a shot on Vasilevskiy, leading to a potential Marchand rebound attempt. Marchand took another clean swipe at the puck before getting pushed by Cirelli and then Marchand gets attacked by numerous Lightning players along the boards, but somehow Marchand and Cirelli get matching minors.

On the 4-on-4 session, Jake DeBrusk does a fantastic job driving hard to the net, allowing Charlie McAvoy to snap a gorgeous shot past Vasilevskiy to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to only one goal. This goal does not happen if DeBrusk doesn’t stay strong on the net drive to make the defense stay honest and providing a small screen for the McAvoy shot. 3-1.

All of a sudden, with the home Boston crowd roaring, the Bruins keep coming back with tons of pressure on the Tampa defense. Unlike the beginning stages of the second period, the Bruins have their skating legs and are hard on the board battles. A net-front battle eventually leads to Sean Kuraly tapping in what looks to be a goal, but it is waived off on the ice. As the play goes back the other way, the siren sounds meaning Toronto likely saw a goal and after review, it became apparent that Kuraly scored and now it is a 3-2 game.

Then, all hell breaks loose. The Bruins and Lightning engage in a line brawl with multiple fights breaking out and a ton of pushing and shoving. At the end of it all, here are all the penalties including some at the horn:

BOS F Sean Kuraly – 10-minute misconduct
TBL F Blake Coleman – 10-minute misconduct
BOS F Brett Ritchie – 10-minute misconduct
TBL F Erik Cernak – 10-minute misconduct
TBL F Patrick Maroon – 5-minute major (fighting)
BOS D Zdeno Chara – 5-minute major (fighting)
BOS F Brad Marchand – 2-minute minor (slashing)
TBL Bench Minor – 2-minute minor (delay-of-game) – assistant coach barking at the refs, was ejected from the game

And the second period ends emphatically there.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 28 TBL: 15

Score: 3-2 Lightning – Goals: Paquette (7) Assists: Bogosian (6), Coburn (3); McAvoy (5) Assists: Coyle (21), Grzelcyk (17); Kuraly (6) Assists: McAvoy (27), Kase (17)

Third Period:

The final regulation period starts with a brief 4-on-4 session that sees no goals. However, on Tampa’s shortened power-play off of Marchand’s slashing minor during the intermission, Sergachev takes a point shot that was tipped in by Alex Killorn and the Bolts regain their two-goal advantage just over one minute into the third period.

After some good chances on both ends for either team, Nikita Kucherov gets called on a minor penalty and the Bruins are going to another power-play opportunity. On an offensive zone faceoff win, Torey Krug skates backward towards the point and makes a cross-ice pass to David Pastrnak who unloaded a cannon from way downtown to make this one a 4-3 hockey game. Pastrnak takes sole possession of the league-lead in goals with his 48th of the season.

And once again, the two teams get into a scuffle after a whistle roughly nine minutes into the game. In the mix of it all, Bergeron gets sent to the box for two minutes for a delay-of-game penalty (puck over the glass) and now the Bruins go to a very important penalty-kill. During the possession time, McAvoy, Chara, and Tyler Johnson were engaging in a hard battle with cross-checks in front of Tuukka Rask that leads to another post-whistle scrum. Bruins make the kill.

Just around seven minutes to go, David Pastrnak receives a great pass to be sent alone on a breakaway but his fantastic shot is shut down by Vasilevskiy who keeps this a one-goal contest. Moments later, as Ondrej Kase stickhandles the puck through the neutral zone, Tyler Johnson’s stick interferes with him and takes him down, however, the officials call both the stick infraction and embellishment on Kase so we go to 4-on-4 for two minutes.

With 1:02 remaining, Nikita Kucherov picks up a loose puck from a falling David Krejci and buries it in the empty-net. Tampa Bay wins this one, 5-3 and win the season series over the Bruins.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 38 TBL: 25

Final Score: 5-3 Lightning

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: TBL G Andrei Vasilevskiy – 35 Saves on 38 Shots, .921 SV%

2nd Star: TBL D Mikhail Sergachev – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 2 Hits, 29:05 TOI

3rd Star: BOS D Charlie McAvoy – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 4 Hits, 25:45 TOI

The Bruins now only have a seven-point lead on Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic Division and look to their next game on Tuesday against the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers who have won nine consecutive games.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 168 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!!

Bruins’ Salary Cap Outlook: 2020 Off-Season

( Photo credit: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images )

By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter @andrewlindrothh

With the trade deadline in the past and the playoffs starting in a few weeks, everyone’s focus is in the moment, but it’s essential to look ahead and see what the future holds, starting with the 2020 off-season. The Bruins are known for their tight salary cap situation, but thanks to the Bruins’ GM, Don Sweeney’s most recent trade deadline deals open up a significant amount of cap space, but who will the Bruins re-sign?

Projected Cap Space

According to CapFriendly, the Bruins are projected to have around $22.2M-$23.75M in cap space for the off-season, as it looks like there will be a bonus overage of $1.5M (TBD). At first glance, it seems like the Bruins have plenty in the bank to negotiate with, but players like Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, and Jaroslav Halak, may demand a pay rise that will put more than a dent into their salary cap for next season. With that being said, the Bruins will need to prioritize.

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Jaroslav Halak (UFA)

There is no doubt that the Bruins have one of the best goalie tandems in the league between Tuukka Rask and Halak. Both goalies sharing the starting duties have been a recipe for success starting in the 2018-2019 season, with Halak starting in 37 games, collecting 22 wins, and a .922% save percentage. Sharing starting positions allowed Rask to remain fresh entering the playoffs, where he had a historic playoff run leading the Bruins to a game seven in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Even though Halak didn’t start in a single game during the 2019 playoffs, if called upon, Halak would be the Bruins’ best option going forward in case of an injury to Rask. So far this season, Halak has started in 28 games, collecting 17 wins and a 0.917% save percentage. He will be a UFA at the end of this season, and will likely desire a pay raise worth $3M-$4M per season. Although Halak is 34 years old, he still has plenty of hockey left in the tank and will continue to be a valuable piece for the Bruins.

Torey Krug (UFA)

Torey Krug, the quarterback of the Bruins’ central power-play unit, will be one of the Bruins’ main priorities in the off-season. Krug is a vital piece to the blue-line and activates an offensive spark, especially on the man-advantage, and so far this season has two power-play goals and 24 power-play points, only four short of his career-high of 28 from the 2018-2019 season. During the 2019 playoffs, he continued to be an absolute force on the power-play, tallying two goals and 10 points.

Krug’s current cap hit stands at $5.0M per season, and with him setting up to become a UFA in the off-season, the Bruins’ management should not be stingy with the defenceman’s asking price. The recent deals made before the deadline have made enough room in their cap space for the Bruins to re-sign Krug no matter the asking price. So far this season, Krug leads all Bruins’ defenders with eight goals and 45 points. It is a no-brainer that the Bruins need to re-sign Krug, but at what cost? I believe Krug’s price range for the Bruins will be between $7M-$8M per season.

 

Jake DeBrusk (RFA)

The 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Jake DeBrusk, will be the most interesting contract negotiation this off-season. DeBrusk is known for his elite scoring ability and speed, but has shown to be inconsistent at times and is facing a regression this season.

Playing in 70 games his rookie season in 2017-2018, DeBrusk produced 16 goals and 43 points with a +16 rating. He carried that success over to the following 2018-2019 season, producing 27 goals and 42 points with a +2 rating in 68 games played. So far this season though, DeBrusk has suffered several cold-streaks off the score sheet, and currently has one goal, one assist and a -5 rating in the past 11 games.

Despite having only two points in his past 11 games, DeBrusk is only two goals away from having his second 20-goal campaign and is only nine points short of his career-high of 43. Because of his recent inconsistencies, Cassidy has moved DeBrusk down to the third-line with Charlie Coyle. DeBrusk can use this time to build chemistry with Coyle and regain his offensive touch again. His entry-level contract is about to expire, and I predict the price to re-sign DeBrusk will be between the $3M-$4M range.

Zdeno Chara (UFA)

Yes, the 43-year old Iron Man, Zdeno Chara. Even though fans were very reluctant to bring the Bruins’ Captain back on board last season, Sweeney has made it very clear that Chara has the right to play in Boston. “I think he’s earned the right to determine [his future here] and when his career will end,” Sweeney said back on Bruins Media Day. “As long as his game aligns with his pride and preparations that he wants to put forth to keep it at the level he’s accustomed to having it to then we are going to explore having him as part of our group. He’s an impactful player.”

Chara continues to be an impactful player, registering five goals and 13 points with a +24 rating so far this season. He also provides a wealth of leadership and continues to build on the legacy he’s been building with Boston since 2006-2007. Chara also continues to be one of the Bruins’ most reliable players on the penalty-kill unit and maintains over 20 minutes of average time-on-ice per game. If Chara believes he is fit for another season, it would be in the Bruins’ best interest to re-sign him for another year between $1M-$2M.

Bold Predictions

Other Bruins players who will be looking to extend their contracts at the end of the season are; Matt Grzelcyk (RFA), Joakim Nordstrom (UFA), Anders Bjork (RFA), Karson Kuhlman (RFA), and Kevan Miller (UFA). If the Bruins were to re-sign Halak, Krug, DeBrusk, and Chara at my predicted amount(s), they would have about $5M-$8M left in cap space. Does this leave room for Sweeney to make a trade, or sign other depth-players with expiring contracts?

I predict the Boston Bruins will re-sign Halak, Krug, DeBrusk, and Chara. I also believe the Bruins will look to come to terms with Grzelcyk, Bjork, and Kuhlman, but I believe they will let Nordstrom walk and because of injuries, will not re-sign Miller. If you were the GM of the Boston Bruins, what moves would you make this off-season?

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 168 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!!

Why Did Bruins Fans Dislike Danton Heinen So Much?

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(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By: Joe Chrzanowski| Follow me on Twitter @jchrz19

This is a topic that has been weighing heavily on me for the last year or so. With the Trade Deadline behind us and Danton Heinen off to Anaheim, perhaps it’s a moot point? However, the question remains, what was it about Danton Heinen that was such a turn-off for so many B’s fans?

If you spend any amount of time on Bruins Twitter, you couldn’t go more than 10 minutes without some sort of derogatory comment about Heinen. Most commenting on his lack of toughness, physicality, or production. I would say that Tuukka Rask was probably the only player on the team that was more polarizing than Heinen.

So what was it?

By all accounts, he was well-liked in the dressing room. Given his reaction to the trade, he obviously wanted to be in Boston. He played up and down the lineup and performed reasonably well wherever Bruce Cassidy put him. His salary of $2.8m is a little high based on his production this year but is in line for what players of similar age and production earn. He was extremely durable, having missed only one or two games to injury in almost three NHL seasons.

His detractors say he provides no offense. That he’s soft, never wins board battles and constantly gives the puck away. Obviously, if these were all true, he would not have been taking a regular shift for one of the best teams in the NHL, but why bring common sense into the equation?

For his career, the 2014 4th Round pick played in 220 games, had 34g/69a (103 pts), and was a +23 for the Bruins. Also had 138 hits, 103 blocks, 105 takeaways, and 87 giveaways. That equates to a .47 points-per-game average, which is average to above average for most NHL third-line players. This year Heinen was off his career pace a bit, with only 22 points in 58 games, which no doubt led to increased frustration with him by the fan base.

Not to pick on specific players but when you look at these stats in comparison to some other B’s guys, the “Heinen-Hate” doesn’t make a lot of sense. Jake DeBrusk, who is loved by most of the B’s fanbase, has been stapled to Krejci’s hip in the Top 6 since he entered the NHL. His career totals: 198 games played, 61g/58a (119 pts), +14 (.60 ppg). Throw in 147 hits, 65 blocks, 96 takeaways, and 67 giveaways. Better than Heinen in some categories, but not overly impressive for the 14th overall pick in 2015.

Smaller sample size, but another player B’s fans love is Anders Bjork. In 107 career NHL games, he has only 14g/20a (34 pts), +6 (.32 ppg). He also has 71 hits, 44 blocks, 47 takeaways, and 33 giveaways. The majority of those numbers are actually below Heinen’s totals, even when you double them to get close to his total games. I’m not sure how often people look at stats like this before they tweet out their opinions on Heinen, but given the actual numbers, it’s probably not very often?

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( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images )

The supposedly “soft” Heinen has similar hit totals to both Bjork and DeBrusk and blocks significantly more shots than either. In my humble opinion, stepping in front of a slap shot takes a lot more guts than checking a player or face-washing someone in a scrum when the refs are sure to break things up, but to each his own I guess.

One of the legitimate issues fans had this year with Heinen was definitely his production in comparison to his salary. He got a raise after his ELC expired and was having his worst statistical year as a pro. If he was still making $800k, there would have been less noise about it for sure.

The flip-side to this is that it happens a lot with players. You can only have them on short money for so long, and I didn’t hear anyone complaining when Heinen put up 47 points on the first year of his ELC. As big a Heinen fan as I am, I would agree that he didn’t play to his contract this year as a Bruin. That said, I still don’t believe that his salary was the primary reason that Boston fans disliked Heinen.

So, if it wasn’t the production and the salary was only part of it. A relatively small part that really doesn’t explain the venom with which people went after Heinen. Then what was it exactly?

Heino2

(Photo Credit: Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

More than anything else, I believe it was simply a perception that Heinen was not passionate about the game and didn’t care because of his cerebral and “quiet” style of play. He went about his business as a Bruin very calmly and without any fanfare. Goal celebrations were muted and there was no tugging on the spoked B of his jersey. Instead of big, attention-grabbing hits, opponents were efficiently ridden off the puck. Instead of flashy steals and end-to-end rushes, lanes were clogged and passes sent off the mark or deflected.

Ever since the “Big Bad Bruins” of the early 1970s and Don Cherry’s “Lunch Pail A.C.” teams of the late ’70s, Boston fans have identified more with players they see as gritty, nasty, and tough than they do with guys who are skilled and play a quieter game. I don’t have enough time or space to debate the merits of that approach in this article, but it is the way a lot of Boston fans think. Heinen was not the first B’s player that was disliked by fans because of his style of play and he won’t be the last. He’s just the most recent example.

Blake Wheeler was not physical enough for his size. Reilly Smith was too quiet. Loui Eriksson was a piss-poor return for Tyler Seguin and wasn’t edgy enough. Even a long-time Bruin like David Krejci is not immune to this bias. For years, despite evidence to the contrary, he has been considered “soft” and too cerebral by much of the fanbase he has given so much to. Anybody who watched him fight Pavelski the other night and saw the look of absolute glee on his face as he was throwing punches should realize you don’t judge a book by its cover.

I don’t think we will see Heinen exchanging haymakers with opponents in ANA any time soon, but it won’t be a surprise if he does well there. Hopefully, the deal ends up working out for both teams and both players.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 167 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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Breaking Down The Bruins’ 2020 Trade Deadline

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LEFT: Nick Ritchie (37) (Photo: Harry How / Getty Images North America)
RIGHT: Ondrej Kase (25) (Photo by Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Another trade deadline in the National Hockey League has come and gone. With it, we saw the most trades in the history of the deadline (32) and only the second time that 55 total players have been involved in deals.

Once again, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was active in the trade market, with rumors of Boston being in on Ondrej Kase, Joe Thornton, Kyle Palmieri, Chris Kreider, and more heading into the deadline. Like last year’s trade involving Charlie Coyle and Ryan Donato, Sweeney consummated a trade with a few days to spare before the main event on Monday, acquiring Kase from Anaheim on Friday before dealing for Nick Ritchie on Monday.

Here are the details of the deals that Boston made before the 3:00 pm deadline on Monday afternoon:

Friday Feb. 21, 2020

To Anaheim:

F David Backes (25% retained), D Axel Andersson, 2020 1st-Rounder

To Boston:

F Ondrej Kase

Personally, I really like this deal for the Bruins. Either way, Boston was going to have to give up a higher end draft pick at this year’s deadline, and this year’s first was going to be a late pick in all probability. As far as Axel Andersson, while I think he has NHL potential, I’m not sure that he would have been able to contribute to Boston anytime soon, especially considering how loaded the Bruins are in terms of defense prospects. Anaheim gets two good pieces for their rebuild in the first and Andersson.

As for Backes, it feels like a miracle that Sweeney was able to clear his contract off the books, considering he still has a year left. While it would have been nice to completely move it out, only retaining 25% ($1.5 million) is still a huge win for the Bruins moving forward into this coming offseason with pending unrestricted free agents like Torey Krug and Jaroslav Halak and restricted free agents like Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork. It was certainly disappointing how Backes’ time in Boston went, but the former Blues captain is a great guy, by all accounts, and will likely get a chance to play in Anaheim.

Although he’s suited up in just one game for the Bruins, the acquisition of Kase has the makings to be an incredible bargain bin deal. The numbers have not really popped off the page this season for the 24-year-old (7-16-23 in 49 games), but there’s reason to believe he will improve his output on a team like Boston, especially if he is playing on David Krejci’s wing.

First off, Kase is an analytics darling, and shoots the puck a ton, registering 135 shots on goal this season and averaging 2.76 shots per game. However, his shooting percentage sits at 5.2% – not great. In Anaheim, Kase bounced around the lineup and was asked to play different roles on each line, but with stability, and the type of talent that Boston can put on the ice each night, it is reasonable to expect the shooting percentage and results to improve – he certainly has the talent for it.

Whats more, the 2014 seventh rounder is under contract at just $2.8 million until the end of next season, and even then Kase will only be an RFA. Also, after scoring 20 goals in the 2017-18 season, (maybe) not coincidentally the last time the Ducks iced a playoff team, Kase has struggled with staying on the ice consistently. If he can stay healthy with the Bruins, and his offensive output improves, the Bruins will have made out like gangbusters.

Monday: Feb. 24, 2020

To Anaheim

F Danton Heinen

To Boston:

F Nick Ritchie

Of course, as I write this article, Ritchie follows a minus-two, zero-shot performance on Tuesday with a goal and an assist against the Stars on Thursday, but either way, I’m not sure how to wrap my head around this one. Sure, the writing was on the wall for Heinen’s time in Boston – his confidence was totally out the window, he was not doing enough offensively, and it felt like he was on the outside looking in – so I support getting him a fresh start. However, the return of Ritchie in a one-for-one swap is where things get a little puzzling.

Like Kase, the numbers have not been dazzling for Ritchie this year, although the advanced stats are solid. The 10th-overall pick in the 2014 draft, Ritchie now has 9-12-21 numbers through 43 games, on pace for about 13-17-30 totals. His career-high for goals (14) came in his first full NHL season in 2016-17, while his career-high in points (31) came last season, his third full season – the previous two seasons he tallied 28 then 27 points.

I will commend Sweeney for the foresight in terms of this coming off-season, like the Kase deal. Compared to Heinen ($2.8 million through next season), Ritchie ($1.49 million through next year) is under a friendlier contract, will be an RFA next summer, and addresses a need within the organization as he brings a bigger body, more physicality, and interior scoring, when he’s clicking.

 

Admittedly, I genuinely want Ritchie to succeed in Boston – I think he could easily become a fan favorite and could hit some of that untapped potential – but it feels like this move has extreme boom or bust potential. Ritchie looked great on Thursday after Tuesday’s not-so-great showing, but I think consistency is a valid concern, especially after the national reaction seemed to label Ritchie as a weighty underachiever with a tendency for the dumb penalty. For me, Ritchie feels a lot like Matt Beleskey in terms of being a big, left-shot wing with a heavy style of play and having a very low floor and a high ceiling, but again, I seriously want to see this move pan out for the Bruins.

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Overall, I think the Bruins made out fine at the deadline, and although I’m a bigger fan of the Kase deal, both trades have boom or bust potential. Sure, it was a little disappointing not to see Kreider or Palmieri end up in the Black and Gold, but we’ve seen bargain bin additions work out in spades for the Bruins in the past (see: Coyle, Marcus Johansson). Boston is certainly better than they were at this time last week, but its worth noting how the rest of the Eastern Conference contenders, like Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Washington, and even Carolina, loaded up.

So, did the Bruins do enough compared to the rest of the field? We’ll have to wait and see, but there’s no doubt that this team still has Stanley Cup potential. The stretch run and the playoffs should be electric. Buckle up.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 167 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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Bruins Clifton Ready To Join Boston After Conditioning Stint

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton may be ready for a return to NHL action as soon as this week. Per the official AHL transactions page and RinksideRhodeIsland.com’s reporter Mark Divver, the 24-year-old defenseman’s conditioning stint with the Bruins top minor-pro affiliate the Providence Bruins. Clifton sustained an upper-body injury in late December of 2019 in a 3-2 victory against Buffalo.

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In two games with the Providence Bruins, Clifton failed to register any points but his production on and off the scoresheet wasn’t important in this timeframe. In games against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Springfield Thunderbird that he played in almost a week apart, Connor got to stretch his legs and get back into game shape. In 30 NHL games this season prior to his late December injury the Quinnipiac University graduate posted two goals to bring his career NHL numbers to 2-1-3 in 49 games.

With this recall, it should be interesting to see how the Clifton fits in the defensive core moving forward with 22 games remaining in the regular season. If Connor is going to be that seventh, eighth, or ninth blueliner working in a rotation while Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy utilizes load management in an attempt to keep core members rested and ready for another long postseason run.

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Clifton, in my opinion, is an aggressive strong defenseman with the ability to transition out of his zone quickly and offers a decent pair of hands with it comes to offensive and puck protection attributes. Currently, under the last year of his entry-level contract for the remainder of the year, the Bruins see great potential in the young Connor as they locked him up at one million per season for the next three years. Potential departures on the backend over the offseason could pave way full-time opportunities for the 5′-11″ 174-pound New Jersey native on the backend.

I believe a low-risk high reward “show me first” contract like this was both beneficial to the player and organization moving forward. For the player, the landscape looks good as positions become available and for the Bruins club, his salary cap number allows the organization to add when needed if the forever need of cap space is available. Not saying he’d the heir apparent to a Zdeno Chara in a year or two but might make a solid replacement for a player like Kevan Millar and his uncertain future.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 166 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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Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston at Calgary: 02/21/20

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

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

In tonight’s first game of a back-to-back, the Boston Bruins face the Calgary Flames in game three of their three-game road trip. On Wednesday, the Bruins defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in overtime to secure their fourth consecutive victory and improved their record to 9-1-0 since returning from their week-long break. The Bruins are first in the league standings with a 38-11-12 record, three points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

For Calgary, they come into tonight’s game following a 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on home-ice earlier in the week. The Flames are currently engaged in a tight battle in the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting only two points out of a potential playoff spot as of right now. However, a win over the Bruins tonight would put them in the second position in the competitive Pacific division.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: Scotiabank Saddledome – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Home: Calgary Flames (31-24-6)

Away: Boston Bruins (38-11-12)

Bruins Last Game: 2-1 OT win vs EDM

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Not much has changed from the Oilers game earlier this week, however, the roles of Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman have switched. Jaroslav Halak gets the start and Anton Blidh enters the lineup for Joakim Nordstrom.

Ondrej Kase, the acquisition of the Bruins today, will not play tonight or tomorrow against the Vancouver Canucks. The former Ducks forward will join the team back in Boston next week.

First Period:

Not a good start for the Bruins as only twenty seconds into the game, the Flames bring it into the zone and fire it at Halak. The opening shot missed the net wide, setting up a brilliant chance for Rasmus Andersson who’s in-tight shot gets stopped by Halak. However, the rebound goes right to Mikael Backlund who buries it past the Bruins goaltender to give the Flames an early 1-0 lead.

Only a few minutes later, the Flames do an excellent job turning a defensive stop into an offensive 2-on-1 that ends up leading to a blast of a shot from Backlund that beats Halak clean for his second of the game and the Flames explode for a two-goal lead in this game.

Only 24 seconds after that, however, a dump-in by the Bruins bounces right into the slot in front of Cam Talbot where Patrice Bergeron picks up the loose rubber and buries it past the former Oilers netminder to cut into Calgary’s early lead. Bergeron’s 28th of the season makes this a 2-1 hockey game.

Did you think the goal scoring was done there? Nope. Only seconds after Bergeron’s tally, Johnny Gaudreau enters the zone on a rush, tossing the puck towards the middle of the ice. The puck takes an odd bounce and confuses Halak, giving the Flames a two-goal lead almost immediately after the Bruins scored themselves.

The two teams play for another three minutes before the Bruins start to cycle the puck around the Calgary defensive zone. Marchand feeds the puck back to McAvoy on the point who makes a quick feed to Pastrnak in the high slot for a one-timer. Pastrnak’s shot was stopped, but the rebound went directly to Bergeron in front and he scores his second of the game to make this one a 3-2 game.

With a lot of these high-scoring games, the intensity of each and every play increase immensely. Flames forward Tobias Rieder skates through the neutral zone only to meet Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk who finishes his check. The on-ice officials didn’t like the collision and send Grzelcyk to the box for elbowing. Bruins successfully make the kill on the first penalty of the game.

Later in the frame, Anders Bjork blocks a shot in his own end, allowing Karson Kuhlman to make a great pass up the ice to Charlie Coyle who finds himself all alone on a breakaway. After a few nifty moves, Coyle roofs the forehand past Talbot for his 15th goal of the campaign and this crazy game is equal at three apiece.

Mere shifts after the tying goal, Charlie Coyle gets put on another partial breakaway but cannot bury the puck around Talbot and neither can Heinen on a pair of rebound chances. Bruins have taken the momentum of this game and are running with it through the ending minutes of the period.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 12 CGY: 7

Score: 3-3 – Goals: Backlund (11) Assists: Andersson (15), Hanifin (14); Backlund – 2 (12) Assists: Rieder (6), Tkachuk (31); Bergeron (28) Assists: Pastrnak (42), McAvoy (22); Gaudreau (15) Assists: Lindholm (22); Bergeron – 2 (29) Assists: Pastrnak (43), McAvoy (23); Coyle (15) Assists: Kuhlman (5), Bjork (10)

Second Period:

Less than a minute into the second period of play, the Bruins get early possession in the Flames’ zone leading to Brandon Carlo throwing a shot on goal. Brad Marchand managed to twist his body and deflect the puck past Talbot to give the Bruins their first lead of the game and it’s 4-3. The goal is Marchand’s 24th of the season, giving Carlo his 14th assist and Krug his 33rd assist of 2019-20.

Later on in the period, the Bruins are getting the better of the offensive chances as Wagner takes a rocket of a shot towards the open cage off of a great pass from Charlie McAvoy but it bounces around off of the Flames in front of Talbot before hitting the outside of the net. Extremely close opportunity for the Bruins to take a two-goal lead in this now quite defensive game.

Just past the halfway mark of the game we see the intensity boil over between Jeremy Lauzon and Matthew Tkachuk. Throughout the game thus far, the two have been barking at each other until finally, off of a faceoff, they agree to drop the gloves. Lauzon managed decently to land a couple shots on the now-familiar NHL tough guy before getting taken down. Tkachuk was standing up for Mangiapane, but both Lauzon and Tkachuk get five minutes in the box for fighting.

A much, much better period for the Boston Bruins while the Calgary Flames looked behind the B’s for the majority of the frame. Bruce Cassidy must have calmed the players down following the first intermission because there were noticeable improvements on defense for Boston.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 17 CGY: 11

Score: 4-3 Bruins – Goals: Marchand (24) Assists: Carlo (14), Krug (33)

Third Period:

Boston came out with some good chances again to begin the final regulation period but all of a sudden, Cam Talbot is playing solid goaltending in between the pipes for the Flames. Just under six minutes into the frame, Derek Ryan carries the puck through the neutral zone, cutting aggressively towards the center of the ice.

Patrice Bergeron ends up getting his stick caught in his skates and Boston’s number-one penalty-killer will sit in the box for two minutes for tripping. Flames passed the pucked around the zone quite a lot but failed to get any real chances other than a bomb of a one-timer that was blocked by Lauzon. Back to even-strength.

Calgary’s urgency to tie this game as the minutes tick away has become more and more apparent. Gaudreau had a great chance on a speedy rush down along the boards but thanks to a combination of Jaroslav Halak and great backcheck from Charlie McAvoy, Gaudreau was never able to get the shot off and the Bruins hold onto the one-goal lead.

And that will do it, Bruins will a wild one, 4-3.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 23 CGY: 21

Final Score: 4-3 Bruins

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS F Patrice Bergeron – 2 Goals, 3 Shots, 68% Faceoffs, 15:59 TOI

2nd Star: CGY F Mikael Backlund – 2 Goals, 3 Shots, 17:22 TOI

3rd Star: BOS F Brad Marchand – 1 GWG, 1 Assist, 5 Shots, 18:36 TOI

Boston is right back at it tomorrow against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 166 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 Bruins Acquire F Ondrej Kase From Anaheim

Boston Bruins v Anaheim Ducks

PHOTO CREDITS: (Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

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

With the NHL Trade Deadline only days away, the Boston Bruins have made their first deal, sending forward David Backes, defenseman Axel Andersson and a 1st-round pick in the upcoming 2020 NHL Entry Draft to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Ondrej Kase.

In addition to the deal, the Bruins are also retaining twenty-five percent of Backes’ $6 million salary. Backes, 35, has only played in 16 games for the Bruins this season, scoring one goal and two assists. Backes was sent down to the Providence Bruins but failed to play a game for the AHL club. With other players on the roster performing better than the veteran, the Bruins organization felt it was time to move on from Backes and send him back to the Western Conference where he began his NHL career.

Boston is also sending defenseman Axel Andersson to the Ducks as a piece of this deal. Andersson, 20, was drafted 57th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Bruins and has played the 2019-20 campaign in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Moncton Wildcats where he has 2-20-22 numbers in 41 games.

So, what do the Bruins get in return? Ondrej Kase is a 24-year-old right-winger that was drafted in the seventh-round (207th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks. Since his draft, the 5-foot-11, 186-pound forward has played in 198 regular-season games, scoring 43 goals and 53 assists for 96 points.

This season, Kase has 7-16-23 numbers in 49 games with the struggling Ducks, averaging a career-high 16:47 of ice-time per game. Contract wise, Kase will save the Bruins a lot of money especially considering the departure of David Backes in the move. The Kadan, Czech Republic native has a cap hit of $2.6 million until the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season. The newfound cap space may be used to reel in another trade target or opens up a window to re-sign defenseman Torey Krug as well as the other expiring contracts throughout the roster.

As of right now, Kase fits perfectly on Boston’s second-line alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci and would likely be a solid upgrade from Karson Kuhlman who currently holds that position. The trade still leaves some opening for another acquisition before Monday’s deadline if General Manager Don Sweeney still has something under his sleeve, but regardless, it appears the Bruins are winners in this one.

As the days and the hours count down until the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, make sure to stay locked on blackngoldhockey.com for the latest Boston Bruins news as the race for the postseason gets hotter and hotter. Also, make sure to follow me on Twitter (@tkdmaxbjj) and everyone else on the site for up-to-date information and news.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 166 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!!

Bruins Should Go All-In At The Trade Deadline

By: Will Montanez | Follow me on Twitter @Willfro3

 

The Boston Bruins fancy themselves contenders for a National Hockey League title which would see them the first group to have their names etched into the Stanley Cup for the decade. Most of the hockey world would agree with their position seeing that as of their February 16th, 2020 win against the New York Rangers, they sit atop of their division and the League’s standings with 84 points on the back of a 36-11-12 record. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning have rebounded after a brutal start and sit only 3 points behind and the Toronto Maple Leafs seem to be finding their groove. The path to the Eastern Conference Finals most likely features one of the star-studded teams in blue and white so the Bruins may as well swing for the fences before the Trade Deadline on February 24, 2020.

The Bruins lay claim to the Leagues 5th worst Expected Goals For (xGF) in the league. While this is partially offset by a stellar 3rd place position in Expected Goals Against (xGA) the fact of the matter is that both of their division rivals sport more potent offenses, especially the deep forward corps of the Lightning. More notably, the Lighting feature a similar defensive profile and it’s reflected in their numbers. This means the B’s will be in it for a forward, as so many are predicting. Why stop there though? The Bruins should buck expectation and bolster their top-nine by being aggressive and grabbing two… at least.

Why Not Have it All?

In upgrading their forward group, the consensus is that the B’s are gunning for Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers. If they miss out on the deadline prize, the pundits proclaim, then they will settle for secondary rental options like, Kyle Palmieri on the New Jersey Devils, Ondrej Kase in Anaheim, or Ilya Kovalchuck who they could have had for the cost of a roster spot and .0002% of Charlie Jacobs net worth (read: essentially free). Candidates are becoming fewer and farther between as Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman and Jason Zucker have all found new homes in the past week. The trade price of Kreider has been previously been reported as a first-round round pick and a top prospect and may have increased since, per Pierre Lebrun.

That’s a nice chunk of change, no doubt in a draft year that scouts are proclaiming will yield a deep crop of young talent, per the contributors at The Hockey News. The market on the other forwards has likely been set by the Toffoli deal that saw the Kings bring in Tim Schaller on an expiring contract, a good prospect’s signing rights in Tyler Madden, a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft and a conditional fourth-rounder contingent on the Vancouver Canucks signing the 28-year-old right-wing. If those prices hold and the teams are still looking to sell, the B’s may possess the currency to deal for Kreider and one of the “second-tier” options, specifically Kyle Palmieri.

What Would the Prices Translate To?

Consider a total trade package consisting of the Bruins’ 2020 first-round pick, a roster player such as Danton Heinen and prospects such as Urho Vaakenainen or Trent Frederic for the Blueshirt’s Chris Kreider. Is that a palatable rental arrangement if you’re Don Sweeny? Alternatively, you have a package similar to a 2020 second-round pick and Jakob Zboril, Jakub Louko or possibly even Zach Senyshyn for one of the second-tier options. Which would you pick? Again, the answer is both. Let’s delve into the reasons why.

The Cap Situation is Getting Murkier

On the Bruins’ current roster, eight players will need new deals or replacements.  This figure does not include Kevan Miller’s expiring contract, as he seems destined to spend the entirety of this season on the Long-Term Injured Reserve list, taking him to free agency.  This situation leaves approximately $18M to distribute over 8 players, two spots of which represent the player with the second-highest Time on Ice on the Penalty Kill and a back-up goaltending position that has become of increasingly more important to the B’s, if not to all teams across the league. Obvious new deals include the resigning of Torey Krug and Jake Debrusk, which will most likely eat $11 – $12 million of that for at least the next few years.  With only six million in cap space, the Bruins will have to, most likely, replace Zdeno Chara, Joakim Nordstrom, Jaroslav Halak, potentially Matt Grzelyck and almost certainly one of Karson Kuhlman, Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen. 

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None of this considers a David Backes buyout or retained salary trade, which is to say one way or another, the Bruins will be carrying dead cap space immediately after the Matt Belesky and Dennis Seidenberg money was to come off the books. With so many question marks in the future, why not take stock of what’s important to the organization (also known as Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and potentially John Beecher), identify your roster’s weaknesses today and deal from a position of strength to address them for a long run? The deals on the highest-profile trade targets are expiring after the season allowing for cap flexibility to either resign home-grown players, re-sign the acquired players or dip into the free-agent market.

The Core is Getting Older (For Real This Time)

The remnants of the 2011 Cup-winning team are all into their 30’s. Brad Marchand, the youngest of the bunch, is 31 and will be 36 when his deal expires. Chara will most likely not be resigned, whether he wants to hang ‘em up or not, and will become an Unrestricted Free Agent at the ripe age of 43. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask round out the veteran leaders. All of these players still fill irreplaceable roles on the squad, no matter how much flak Krejci and Rask take from the local supporters. If management wants to give their team the best chance to win, it’s today because tomorrow doesn’t look great according to statistics.

Below, one can inspect the average values of players’ Expected Goals For +/-, which is an aggregate number of Expected Goals-For and -Against – a stat based on comparing shots generated or yielded in specific locations with league-wide shooting percentages from those locations at even strength –  for the seasons including and between 2014 – 2015 and 2019 – 2020. Included were only those players who played in 25 or more games in each of those seasons and the data was split between forwards and defense. The trend is quite clear. (All Stats aggregated from Hockey Reference and manipulated by the author as described above).

Along with the bulk of the line, one can clearly identify the downward trend for both groups of skaters. Anomalies occur on the two extremes of age where we see individual performances from the likes of Connor McDavid and Jaromir Jagr, indicating well-above-average skill, at ages with few samples dominate the averages. That the B’s core skaters are still on the good side of this curve is a testament to their quality. Even the oft-maligned Krejci has proven to be the team’s best option on the 2nd line in the 1b role. As seen below, however, their implied effectiveness is slowing down.

Everyone understands the physical beating that Chara, Krejci, and Bergeron have taken in support of the organization’s success. Brad Marchand will only follow that script as he accumulates more years, games and negative attention from opposing defenses. Expected goals for is not an end-all, be-all number, there are other reasons Jagr is no longer in the League, but it is a solid indicator of a player’s contribution to the team. This regressive trend punctuates the point that if the team is going to win with these players, this year might as well be their year.

Bruins Thin on the Wings

Beyond players named David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand who comprise 66% of the highly touted top line, the team’s biggest weakness it on the wing. This weakness is of the physical variety and in terms of their underlying performance. Much has been made about the Bruins’ apparent lack of size against opponents like the Washington Capitals, the Tampa Bay Lightning and last year’s Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. The places where that differential is most important though is exactly where you need your wingers to spend most of their time: the corners of the offensive zone and around the opposing netminder’s crease. Heinen isn’t terrible at controlling the puck in those tight spaces and Bjork’s board play has improved by leaps and bounds, but in reality, physical size is still a variable that needs to be considered in a high octane contact sport. Here we see how the Bruins’ wingers compare to the teams of the Eastern Conference that are either in or in striking distance from a playoff position by team average (excluding goaltenders) and then the average of their defensive players.

No question, the Bruins wingers are at a size disadvantage, particularly when considering the opposing teams’ defensive players. Boston’s presented figure is actually lifted by the inclusion of Sean Kuraly who ordinarily plays center but his found himself on the wing for parts of this season. It isn’t enough to have a willingness to go to the net or engage in battles; one must possess that tenacity but also the physical traits that will prevent the player from being shucked off of the puck or out of inside position. The big prize of the deadline, Kreider will add physical size and not sacrifice much if not anything in regards to foot speed. Palmieri might not swing the numbers on size but he provides excellent offensive prowess and aside from the top line wingers, the Bruins lack impact forwards that don’t man the middle of the ice.

Boston’s wingers, broadly sport poor possession metrics, indicated by their Fenwick-For Relative, which is a measure of how a player impacts unblocked shots. Outside of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, only three wingers that have played at least 25 games (outside of Karson Kuhlman who was on the shelf for most of the first half of the season) are influencing the flow of play in a positive manner and all of those forwards have a metric below one suggesting they do not have much of an impact. The average for that group in the 2019 – 2020 season is -1.9 against the average for all forwards on those same playoff teams of .3. Against wingers on that group of teams over the same time period, the average Fenwick-For Relative is .1. Less to be sure, but by and large, all of the forwards on teams in the East expected to make noise are having a positive impact on possession or at least, not a negative one.

Here again, the addition of both Kreider and Palmieri immediately addresses the need for wingers that help control play. They sport sterling possession metrics across the board and would lift the team’s ability to control play on both wings. If management is going to subject poor David Krejci to a revolving door of line-mates, they might as well keep that portal twirling and stick these two above average, in-their-prime players in there and hope for some magic. Don’t care for “fancy stats?” Well, Kreider would immediately rank 4th in points on the team while Palmieri would be 5th. They would bring a collective 45 goals on the season with little to suggest their production will slow down on a superior team headed to the playoffs.

Little Evidence that the D-Corps Needs an Upgrade

The Bruin’s defense has been one of the most under-sung successes of the year. In some ways, like goals-against average, defensive metrics can be a team stat incorporating efforts from the forwards and goalies in addition to the blue-liners. Regardless, the Bruins sport one of the best-expected goals-against metrics in the League and the 3rd best actual vs expected goals against differential, behind Colorado and Tampa Bay. Torey Krug is still one of the premier power-play quarterbacks, Charlie McAvoy has started to find twine, Brandon Carlo is reminding all who really follow the team that he isn’t some 3rd rate talent behind the B’s 14th overall pick in 2016 and the rest of the cast is providing great support both on five on five and on special teams. Furthermore, options on the trade market are dwindling as Marco Scandella and Brenden Dillion have both moved from selling teams to contenders.

In an ideal world, the Bruins would acquire a depth option to add to the top-6 defenders that would address some size concerns and perhaps take some pressure off of Chara and Carlo on the PK. This is not an ideal world however and there are other teams seeking to do the same. In such a case the Bruins management ought to focus on the primary roster weaknesses addressed above

Five on Five Scoring wins Championships

Gone are the days when B’s fans could tout that their team was “built for the playoffs.” This current roster relies far too heavily on the power-play to get into the win column and love it or hate it, the way that referees interpret the rules in the playoffs changes. Fewer penalties are called, period. One only needs to look at the Bruins’ game seven defeat in 2019 against the St. Louis Blues. The only penalty called was a mandatory puck-over-glass delay of game against Colton Parayko. Although there was plenty of physicality, clutching and grabbing the rest of the game, only the Blues managed to score the meaningful even-strength goals.

In order to accomplish that, you need a top-six set of forwards that will force opposing teams to make choices instead of shutting down one troika for the duration of even-strength play in the playoffs. Providing Krejci not one, but two, real offensive threats that will get to the danger areas and use speed and tenacity to provide him time and space is imperative to forcing hard decisions on even strength coverage. The positive impact on Krejci’s line alone would sure up the third line that has been relatively weak when compared to seasons between 2010 and 2013 where versatile options like Michael Ryder, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, among others, combined to create fantastic checking lines with the ability to chip in on the score sheet. One of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak or Patrice Bergeron may win the Conn Smythe, but one player (or even all three) will not win the Stanley Cup.

If the Bruins are to return to the Cup Final for a second consecutive year, they must realize that they will face tougher competition than the year prior and ensure that they add reinforcements that will truly address their roster weaknesses. With salary cap uncertainty, flexibility will remain of the utmost importance so a rental option is likely to be considered. The core of the group is certainly deep into their back nine in terms of both time under contract and ineffectiveness. Their defense, while flawed in some ways, is the envy of all but perhaps 5 teams in the entire league and they are bolstered by proven, above-average goaltending. With all of these things considered, the B’s should go all-in on Chris Kreider and Kyle Palmieri (or someone who is available and similar) to address their weaknesses with conviction.

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