Bruins Cassidy Is Here To Stay As He Nears Two Full Seasons

Boston Bruins vs New Jersey Devils

PHOTO CREDITS: (Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)

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

On Saturday, February 9th, Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will be the main man on the B’s bench for his 164th game – exactly two full 82-game seasons. Recently, individuals around the fan base have been questioning the work of Cassidy and whether or not he is the right head coach for the team moving forward in the years and seasons to come. In the shootout loss to the New York Rangers, Cassidy chose not to put forward Patrice Bergeron in the player-vs-goalie period, once again bringing up the judgement on his decisions.

Then there is the David Pastrnak situation. The Bruins are very much a front-loaded roster when it comes to the offence. Aside from the first line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak, the Bruins do not have much to fall back on when we are talking bottom-nine scoring forwards. David Krejci can put up numbers but always seems to be lacking good wingers at all times. Jake DeBrusk has more recently brought some life to the second line, but a hole remains on the right wing.

During the fast-paced action of a game, Cassidy may put Pastrnak with his fellow countryman, David Krejci and Canadian Jake DeBrusk to “spread out” the offensive firepower. However, not before long, the trio that is a true threat to any team in the NHL is back together and a large pool of centres and wingers are placed alongside Krejci to try and find that seemingly-rare chemistry.

We have yet to see multiple games of consistent Krejci-Pastrnak action unless it is on the power-play which, coincidence or not, is one of Boston’s strongest weapons of scoring opportunities. Krejci and Pastrnak have proven in the past that they can find that chemistry that has been discussed before on many occasions and build some good chances to put the puck past the goal line and into the back of the net.

Although, once they are on together, it brings along a weaker first line, where Marchand and Bergeron lose a highly-skilled scoring player who can make things happen on the ice. Recently in an interview prior to the Kings game on Saturday, Cassidy said that they are going to try out Danton Heinen on that top line. Heinen is not Pastrnak by any stretch of the imagination and has struggled this season after a strong rookie campaign in 2017-18. Cassidy did go on to say that Heinen is more a defensive player and the three of them will not have to worry too much about the top lines of other teams because all of them, especially Patrice Bergeron, are for the most part, responsible defensively.

The lack of depth scoring on the Boston Bruins in February 2019 can also be attributed to the lack of trades by General Manager Don Sweeney and with only a few more weeks until the NHL Trade Deadline at the end of the month, the clock is ticking to make that deal for another scoring player to play on the front end and bring some help to the top-six.

Either way, Bruce Cassidy has done well and continues to do well. In the past few games, the only line that has been reliable offensively has been that first line. In the three games of February so far, Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak have a combined eleven points. After them, David Krejci has two points, Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, and Peter Cehlarik have one, and the rest of the forwards are yet to score a single point in three games.

Dating back to January 1st, the dangerous first line has fifty-three points combined (22 Goals, 31 Assists) with Brad Marchand (7-13-20) leading the way in those 15 games. Only David Krejci has double-digits in points for 2019 and Jake DeBrusk is the next highest with only five points in fifteen games. It does not make the job of Cassidy any easier when they do not have a high quantity of quality players.

Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Tampa Bay Lightning for examples. Both teams have many interchangeable parts on all four lines. Almost every forward on the roster can play on the first line with success and the team will most likely still win games. Do goaltending and defence play a large factor in that as well? One-hundred percent. But the flexibility of those four forward lines makes the job of Mike Babcock on Toronto or Jon Cooper on Tampa Bay a lot easier.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

 

Just like the blame cannot be placed on individuals for a team effort, the blame cannot be solely placed on Cassidy for the position the Bruins are in. On April 26th, 2017, the Bruins named Cassidy head coach of the team – replacing long-time coach, Claude Julien who was fired earlier in the year.

Cassidy coached twenty-seven games for the Bruins, finishing with an 18-8-1 record and leading them to a first-round playoff matchup with the Ottawa Senators in the 2016-17 season, a series that they lost in six games. This led into last season, where Cassidy implemented his faith and passion for the young players of this league, helping lead the B’s to a 50-win season. Bruce was right behind the team for their first-round win over Toronto and stuck by them in the five-game loss to the Lightning. The year for Bruce led to him being one of the three nominees for the Jack Adams Award – awarding the best coach in the NHL for that season. While he didn’t take the award home, the honour of being nominated for it is a great accomplishment.

Again this year, Cassidy has done a great job. It has been a difficult road to manage the struggling youth that once succeeded for him not only in Providence but in Boston during 2017-18 as well, the goaltending challenges of Rask and Halak, and the whole offensive situation that I’ve discussed over.

With the older players such as Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, and Backes, being surrounded by the younger players such as Pastrnak, DeBrusk, McAvoy, Carlo, and Heinen, Cassidy has had a challenge of who to play with who at what time and when. For a team that seems to have rough nights, still battles back and is able to fight their way to earn a point or at the very least, remain competitive in the ever-so-difficult Eastern Conference.

Bruce Cassidy has a 97-45-21 record with the Boston Bruins since 2016-17. According to BostonGlobe.com’s Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD on Twitter), Claude Julien, the man who won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, had a 94-48-22 in his first 164 career games with the Black N’ Gold.

Julien and Cassidy are almost identical in their wins/losses and they have started almost a decade apart from each other (’07/’08 debut for CJ, ’16/’17 debut for BC). Bruce Cassidy is not only a good coach, but he should remain a coach for the Boston Bruins. He has had success and will continue to have success if the right players are on his lineup. Does he make mistakes time in and time out? Of course, not many coaches in any sport are perfect, (unless you’re Bill Belichick on New England) and it is how he can rally behind the team after a loss and turn it into a win. Bruce Cassidy can do that with the best of them.

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Bruins Colby Cave Representing Saskatchewan With Recent NHL Success

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PHOTO CREDITS: (nhl.com)

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

“Colby Cave gets his first career National Hockey League goal!” Jack Edwards’ legendary call during Monday’s win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night will play loudly in the Cave household in North Battleford, Saskatchewan for many years to come. While I have not personally been in a situation, (clearly), where I scored an NHL goal, against Carey Price of all goaltenders, in the Bell Centre. But you can see the amount of excitement imploding from Cave once the rubber puck crossed the red line.

It was a nice goal too, not some lucky bounce off of three legs and just happened to bounce off the eventual goal-scorer, but a solid one-time goal. David Pastrnak circled the puck around the blue line, made a quick pass to Charlie McAvoy down near the faceoff circle, who sauced the puck to Cave in the slot for a sweet goal. Cave’s celebration after is something that easily puts a smile on your face.

Undrafted, Cave made his big impression on the Boston Bruins during his time in the Western Hockey League with the Swift Current Broncos. In 2011-12, Cave debuted with 6-10-16 totals in 70 games played. Just one year later, Cave quickly boosted his scoring numbers, hitting forty-one points (21 goals, 20 assists), in 72 games. He also tallied four points in five playoff games that season as well.

When then-captain Adam Lowry left the Broncos to the American Hockey League to play for the then-Winnipeg Jets AHL affiliate, the St. John IceCaps, Swift Current stitched on the “C” on Cave’s Bronco jersey. Cave said the following when he was awarded the captaincy.

“It’s a true honour to be named the captain of such a respectable organization,” says Cave.  “This organization goes back a long way. Just seeing some of the former captains and their names up on the wall, guys like Adam Lowry and Zack Smith, it’s quite an honour to be put into the same group as them. I hope to prove everyone right and keep this team on the right track and win some games.” 

And prove everyone right was indeed what Colby did. In the seventy-two regular-season contests during the 2013-14 season, Cave scored 33 goals and 37 assists for 70 points as well as a +20 rating. Once again in the following season, in 2014-15, Cave scored a WHL career-high 75 points (35 goals, 40 assists) in 72 games. The numbers led Swift Current in assists and second on the team for goals and points. The only player ahead of Cave in goals and points was fellow-Bruin, Jake DeBrusk, who had 81 points in 72 games.

While the Broncos never made it out of the first-round when it came to the playoffs, his regular season production was something that caught the eye of the Bruins organization. On April 7th, 2015, ex-Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli signed Cave to an entry-level contract, sending him to the Providence Bruins immediately.

In the 239 career AHL games with Providence over the course of over three seasons, Cave has produced 43-72-115 totals while being the assistant captain for the team for the last three consecutive seasons. The 2016-17 season was the best season for Colby in terms of production, scoring 35 points during the course of the campaign.

The entry-level deal that the Bruins signed Colby to back in 2015 expired over the offseason, but the Bruins re-signed the six-foot-one, 201-pound Saskatchewan native to a two-year, two-way deal. 

Following three NHL games last season, Cave’s true chance to get that first goal would be this season – during the middle of the Bruins’ injury bug. When Patrice Bergeron was placed on the injured reserve in mid-November, the Bruins were forced to call-up Colby Cave to the NHL team on November 20th. The number of injuries on the forward core left the organization almost no choice.

According to Frozen Pool by Dobber Sports, Colby Cave has seen the majority of his ice time with David Backes and Joakim Nordstrom (28.39%) as well as time with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak (24.37%). Cave tallied his first career NHL point with an assist against the Detroit Red Wings on December 1st, followed by another helper two games later against Tampa Bay.

All of Cave’s hard work through the juniors, minors, and big leagues eventually led to that goal that was showed at the beginning of this article. In addition, Cave pitched in with an assist, his first career multi-point night in the NHL.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (USA TODAY Sports)

Now, Patrice Bergeron was on the ice for Bruins practice on Wednesday, December 19th, making his inevitable return to the roster even closer. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will most likely go back with the Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak line that dominated the league before Bergeron’s sternoclavicular/rib injury. David Krejci will probably be brought back down to the second-line, so where does Cave go?

At one point during the season, the simple answer would be to man the middle of the third line. However, the line of Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Danton Heinen has been finally finding their groove, thriving on each other’s growing confidence of playing alongside one another. In the same idea, it would seem wrong in a sense to demote Cave to the Providence Bruins, but the fourth-line is essentially set – leaving no other real option.

Unfortunately, when the Boston Bruins are, for the most part, injury-free on the forward core, Colby Cave will most likely be demoted to the American Hockey League to re-join the Providence Bruins until his services are once again required in the big leagues. Cave’s two-way contract allows Boston to send him down without the fear of waivers and while Donato and JFK also have two-way deals, their recent success should keep them on the NHL roster.

Nonetheless, the Canadian province of Saskatchewan is proud to see Cave find success in the National Hockey League, even if it may be short-lived. Having been to North Battleford on many occasions and living only 2.5 hours away from the small Saskatchewan city, I can appreciate the efforts Cave and every other NHL player had to go through to make it to the position he is in today.

When Boston eventually becomes injury-free, does/should Colby Cave be the odd-man out, getting a trip to Providence or should it be another Bruin forward currently on the roster? Let me know via Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

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Gladiators Training Camp Update

( Photo Credit: @atlgladiators Twitter )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

The 2018-19 Atlanta Gladiators training camp is in full swing. New Ownership marks the beginning of a new era in Georgia, and preparations are underway for what promises to be an exciting season. The return of head coach, Jeff Pyle, has created a genuine feel of optimism amongst the players as well as the supporters. Roster spots are up for grabs with senior players away on AHL tryouts, so there’s strong competition in the camp with everybody trying to impress the new bosses. Training camp ends on October 7th, so the clock is ticking for players eager to earn their place.

The Gladiators management have been busy with a number of players returning to Atlanta after AHL try-outs, and some new faces joining the squad. Branden Troock, Darby Llewellyn and Jack Stander returned from try-outs with the Milwaukee Admirals, in addition, the Gladiators also loaned forward Alex Overhardt from Milwaukee. Ben Danford returns from the Chicago Wolves, and Luke Sandler is back from the Rockford IceHogs. On Monday, October 1st, the Gladiators announced that 6 players had been added to the squad from the Providence Bruins. The AHL affiliate have loaned defenseman Olivier Galipeau and forward Brett McKenzie, and assigned defenseman Joel Messner to Atlanta. Sean Bonar, Zach Malatesta, and Tyler Deresky have been released from their try-outs with Providence and will report back to the Gladiators. On Tuesday, October 2nd The Milwaukee Admirals loaned forwards Tyler Moy and Carl Persson, and assigned Matt Lane to the Gladiators. The team also confirmed that Zac Sikich, Alfred Johanson, Hunter Stewart, Matt Harrington, and Robbie Hall have been released from their PTOs.

The Gladiators have been very clear in their expectations for the new season. Coach Pyle has high standards and will be aiming to go one step further than his previous tenure in charge of the team. When discussing his first stint with the Gladiators, Pyle claimed: “This place was special in my heart, I helped build it, I helped being part of a really good thing and I want to bring that back.” With the support of new team owner Dan Orlich, Pyle has every opportunity to finish what he started in Atlanta, it’s clear he’s hungry for success. The players seem to be buying into Pyle’s approach with Gladiators captain, Derek Nesbitt, claiming “I’ve known him for 14 years, he just brings a lot of positivity to the game and to the locker room, just every day it’s a fun place to be, and you get excited to be here”. It’s important for a team to have belief in the system and the early signs suggest that the players share the team’s ambition and vision for success.

It’s not long before we get to see the team in action, on Thursday, October 4th, the Gladiators will head to Greenville to take on the Swamp Rabbits in their only official preseason game against a league opponent. Training camp concludes with an intrasquad exhibition game which has been arranged for Sunday, October 7th, giving the players one last chance to impress coach Pyle as he prepares his final roster ahead of the 2018-19 season. The Gladiators start their quest for the Kelly Cup on the road against the Orlando Solar Bears on Saturday, October 13th. Keep an eye on BlackNGoldHockey.com for updates throughout the season.

Is There A Place In Boston For Winnik/Stempniak?

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

By: Garrett Haydon  |  Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

For years, the Boston Bruins had been a veteran-oriented team that had the occasional young player who stood out. Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin, and Blake Wheeler are prime examples of this, but from the years 2009-14 the Bruins were mainly a team comprised of veteran players who had been through the battles of postseason hockey. The likes of Marco Sturm, Shawn Thornton, Miroslav Satan, and Dennis Seidenberg were key pieces of those veteran-laden squads. However, in 2018, times have changed dramatically.

This Bruins team is still comprised of a few key veteran players such as Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but the team has gotten significantly younger in recent years with the superb drafting job done by Don Sweeney. The future of this team has never looked brighter, and the youth was one of the biggest reasons for their success last season. So it was kind of a surprise when the Bruins announced they had offered tryout contracts to veteran wingers Daniel Winnik and Lee Stempniak.

Stempniak, of course, spent time during the 2015-16 season with Boston after being traded from the New Jersey Devils. The winger had just 10 points in 19 games and was unable to help the Bruins to the playoffs. Stempniak has performed very well this preseason including a goal the other night against the Red Wings. It’s clear he still has that shooting ability and has the ability to be a strong locker room presence. Stempniak is also very familiar with Boston as he has lived here for the last few summers. He’s also skated with Bruins players in the past so bringing him up to the varsity club at least to start the year might make sense.

The biggest issue with bringing in the 35-year-old would be him potentially hindering the development of younger players trying to make the roster and get ice time. Stempniak’s performance has proved he can still play in this league but maybe not necessarily in Boston. Undoubtedly he would be nothing more than an extra forward so keeping him around might not be the best idea. With the Bruins’ recent success with young players and the young guys battling for roster spots who can put the puck in the net, I would be surprised if Stempniak got a roster spot.

As for Winnik, the 33-year-old former UNH Wildcat, he’s bounced around the league much like Stempniak. He played last season with the Minnesota Wild, totaling 23 points in 81 games. Winnik has played with eight teams during his career, and he’s survived the first few rounds of cuts so his chances of making it nine total teams in his career are good, at least for now.

Unlike Stempniak, Winnik has never been known as a scorer. He’s almost exclusively played on the fourth line his entire career. One of the best parts of his game is the fact he very rarely gets injured. Over the last three seasons, Winnik has only missed a total of 17 games. Winnik plays the game with an edge and has always been a high-energy player. It remains to be seen where he’d fit in Boston because of the glut of young players looking to get ice time. With Winnik being a fourth-liner, he wouldn’t be exactly stealing ice time from anyone because a player such as Anders Bjork or Peter Cehlarik would be well-utilized on that line.

Despite Winnik’s age, I do think he’d be a very solid fourth-liner, and personally, I would like to see him play with Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari to create a line of effective, hard-working players. The good thing is, the Bruins do have many other options, so there’s not necessarily a need for a player like Winnik, but I don’t think it would be a bad thing if the Bruins brought him on.

I think the chances of making the Bruins roster are greater for Winnik because of the type of game he plays. I think the reality of bringing in Stempniak is not very strong considering the younger options the B’s have. But I do believe both of these players could be useful as both still have plenty left. Stempniak would be joining a team with tons more offensive talent than the team he played with 3 years ago. Winnik would be joining his ninth team in his career and could be a very effective fourth-liner. I don’t believe either player makes the Bruins’ final roster, but it is interesting that they’ve lasted this long through multiple rounds of roster cuts.

Bruins Blue Line Remains In Doubt

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PHOTO CREDIT: (Getty Images)

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

It’s been a little over two weeks since the Boston Bruins traded away tough-guy defenseman Adam McQuaid to the New York Rangers in exchange for Steven Kampfer, a 2019 fourth-round pick and a 2019 conditional seventh-round pick.

There are two sides to every coin, (three if you count the edge), and there are two sides of the Adam McQuaid trade. On one side, McQuaid was loved in Boston. The fans and players alike commonly shared a continued love and appreciation for the tough, gritty, old-school Bruin that McQuaid represented. He played the game of hockey similar to the old Bruins. The Boston hockey club that would fight anyone at any time in any arena, especially if it was in the cause of defending a star player.

On the opposite side of the coin, the Bruins were placed into a situation where they almost had to trade away McQuaid before the season begins. With the free-agent signing of former New Jersey Devil defenseman, John Moore, the B’s had eight NHL-caliber defensemen under contract — at the beginning of September. If you happened to be unaware, only six defensemen play during the course of a game, meaning two of those defenders would find themselves watching from the press box.

While it seems like a disrespectful thing to trade such a humble, classy guy like McQuaid, especially because he was loved by nearly everyone in Boston, it was actually the opposite — it was out of respect. How?

Well, in today’s National Hockey League, fighting is not nearly as big of a factor in the sport itself as it was, say, a decade ago. In fact, in 2017-18, there were a recorded 280 total fights according to HockeyFights.com. Rewind one decade earlier — in the 2007-08 regular season, there were 664 recorded fights in the NHL. That number alone is incomparable to the fighting numbers that there would have been in the 70’s and 80’s.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Even without the exact numbers, it is clear by just watching one game from the 1970’s and one game from 2018. The results speak for themselves. Adam McQuaid was not the best defenseman when it came to preventing the puck from entering the zone or stopping offensive threats, making him one of the expendable players on that Bruins blue line.

The Boston organization knew that McQuaid would receive limited playing time when the B’s were healthy, as he would most likely be spending his time in the press box as previously mentioned. Out of respect, Boston shipped him to the Big Apple for a couple of picks, and a returning defenseman, who you can predict will play in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins for this upcoming season.

The return was quite surprising to many fans, including myself. McQuaid is on an expiring deal, and the belief was that Adam was going to simply walk come July 1st, 2019, giving him the ultimate freedom to play wherever he chooses for the then following campaign. Even with that idea, the Rangers gave in to the two draft selections and upgraded from Steven Kampfer to gain that tough guy defenseman.

This way, McQuaid nearly guarantees himself consistent ice time with an NHL team, as the Rangers are not as deep on the defensive core as the Boston Bruins are. That said, the trade impacted the Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada native, who spent the last nine years with the Massachusetts club. However, this league is a business, and sometimes business hurts. Yet, the Bruins still have questions regarding the blue line for the 2018-19 regular season.

As of September 21st, the Bruins currently have Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller on their confirmed NHL roster — but not all can have that confirmed, full-time ice time.

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PHOTO CREDIT: (nhl.com)

Initially, when the Bruins signed Moore on July 1, it made it seem like a possible Torey Krug departure more likely. Krug has seemingly always been in Boston trade rumors, even if they have no actual evidence behind the accusations. The team has also been rumored in the conversation for an Artemi Panarin trade or an acquisition for a scoring winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

Clearly, the trade rumors were just that — rumors — but the thought still remains. In my personal opinion, Torey Krug should not be moved from the Bruins because he is quite possibly one of the most underrated offensive defensemen in the NHL today, and I enjoy the thought of keeping him on the roster moving forward.

With that said, it may not hurt for Boston to send off Krug to another team if they can acquire a player who can drastically help the Bruins in some way right now. Otherwise, I don’t see a valuable return for Krug if the team traded him for say, some first-round picks or prospects.

There are still seven, NHL-caliber defensemen on the Bruins roster and all are expected to have some ice time. Even though the McQuaid trade made more predictable, it is still a question to ask — who gets the majority of the time on the bottom pairing. To know what d-men may find themselves out of the picture, who exactly is guaranteed a spot for the majority of 2018-19?

As I said in my official 2018-19 Boston Bruins prediction article earlier this month, I see the likes of Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk on the full-time roster for the entirety of the season, not regarding the possibility of injuries. When the article was published, I mentioned that the trio of McQuaid, Kevan Miller, and John Moore were the uncertainties, with Miller getting the bulk of the minutes.

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PHOTO CREDIT: (Katharine Lotze/The Signal)

But, my views on this matter have changed over time, and I think that Moore and Miller will each get split times during the course of the season. Although, this can bring some negatives.

Many great sports franchises over the years have had one thing in common — chemistry. The Chicago Blackhawks dynasty of the 2010’s had the same similar faces — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook, and so on. The Los Angeles Kings had Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, and Drew Doughty.

Sure, a bottom-pairing defenseman may not make that big of a dent when it comes to chemistry, but consistent faces on the power play, penalty-kill, or even five-on-five action can make a difference. Another argument is that having better players in the depth can lead to a stronger lineup. While that is true, it is also unfortunate to have a good defenseman that often finds himself in the press box.

Needless to say, the Bruins still have a few questions regarding the defense. Will they see who proves themselves the most in the early stages of the regular season and award that last d-man the majority of the ice time, or will they look to split the workload across all seven defensemen?

Bruins Prospect Andersson Returned To SEL, Among Other Monday Roster Moves

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(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced a series of roster moves yesterday.

One of the most noteworthy comes in the form of 2018 second-round draft pick Axel Andersson being returned to Djurgarden IF of the SEL. Andersson had a solid summer in Boston, most notably in preseason action with the Bruins. Returning to his Swedish stomping grounds will allow the 18-year-old defenseman to grow and improve as a hockey player in SEL, a league in which he has past experience in. This past Saturday, Axel got in the board in some preseason action this past Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Additionally, four young Bruins are heading to Providence, as Cameron Hughes, Emil Johansson, Joona Koppanen, and Zachary Senyshyn have been sent to the AHL. Johansson and Senyshyn return to the Providence with 50+ games of AHL apiece, while Hughes and Koppanen are still getting their feet wet. All four, regardless of experience, join a group in Providence with a good mix of veterans as well as young, skilled players that could very well be a solid Atlantic division team yet again.

To wrap up the series of moves, forward Tanner Pond will report to Providence as well. After amassing 163 penalty minutes on top of 37 points in 61 games with the Atlanta Gladiators last season, Pond is not one to shy away from the fisticuffs.

The moves will continue to come as the regular season gets closer and closer to the regular season. One thing is for sure — roster decisions won’t become any easier for Bruins management as some roster battles still rage on.

Prospects Challenge: Part 2 — A Tale Of Three Goalies For The Bruins

Round Up ( Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Stasio Coombe )

By: Jen Stasio Coombe  |  Follow Me On Twitter @hockeygirl2976

Dan Vladar, Kyle Keyser, and Dawson Weatherill were three netminders who played their way to Buffalo representing the Bruins in net over the four-day extended weekend event. Three men to tend the pipes gave Boston Brass the opportunity to scrutinize the skills and tenacity each of these players brought to the game.  As well as giving each of them their opportunity to shine as the squads starting goalie.

Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, was to be Kyle Keyser’s night in the spotlight. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound goalie has played for the Oshawa Generals since 2016 and at the young age of 19 was looking to convince the people upstairs that their faith in his growth and development were not misguided. Attending the development camp in the spring, there were a few doubts about his ability to keep the pace and continue to build his repertoire.  Kyle took Game 1 by the horns and left little doubt that he was here to work hard and win.

Keyser 2( Photo Courtesy of Joshua Bemis @ToCauseway )

Through the first two periods, Keyser was on fire, not letting one of the many shots he faced past his post. His determination in net saw the B’s entering the third with a 4-0 lead. This iron curtain did falter a bit in the third as he allowed two pucks to find their way into the net, but his composure was not to let him down.

Finishing his night off with a total of 35 saves, it was reasonable to think that perhaps fatigue is what caused the two pucks to slip by in the third, so the next day I asked Kyle his take on the situation. “Honestly, I didn’t feel fatigued at all in the third, sometimes when you are as a team 4-0 and you are going into the third, you maybe take your foot off the gas a little, even me, and I think that is just an area to focus in on to improve for everybody.”  Backing up his confident statement regarding his endurance Keyser did show a good bit of athleticism late into the third, using the butt of his stick while making a nice leap to ensure the puck would not find its intended target.

Vladar( Photo Courtesy: Joshua Bemis @ToCauseway )

Game 2, the feature game of the weekend, saw Dan Vladar take his place in the crease to put a kibosh on the Buffalo Sabres scoring chances.  His 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame towered over the net as the puck was dropped at the Harbor Center. After spending two seasons with the Atlanta Gladiators, Boston’s ECHL Affiliate, Dan was ready to make his next step up the pro ladder taking place in Providence as the second goaltender for the organization this coming year. His performance would not disappoint those invested in this 21-year-old’s blossoming career.

While the Sabres came into the weekend not only with a home-ice advantage but a strong and wily group of youngsters, the first period ended with only a single puck making it past this Czech beast. Not completely satisfied with his first period, Vladar came into the next two periods with a galvanized resolve and a positive outlook. Not one of the battery of shots on goal was able to penetrate this jolly giant’s façade.

Vladar 2 ( Photo Courtesy of Joshua Bemis @ToCauseway )

Finishing the night with a record of saving 38 of 39 shots on goal would leave many a goalie, tooting his own horn, but not our Vlad. When asked about his performance in the net his humble attitude and desire to continually better himself was on full display. “I feel good, but it is my first game of the season … I felt a little bit off my posts, but I got a little bit stronger over the summer, so my pushes were good…To be honest, it was not my best hockey. ”  In contrast, Jay Leach felt Vladar had an outstanding performance. “I think at first he had a few saves that looked like he hadn’t played in six months, which he hadn’t, but he settled right in, and ‘Vlady’ will always give you his best effort … guys love playing in front of him … and he was really very impressive.”

The third and final game of the weekend saw Dawson Weatherill step up in an attempt to send the New Jersey Devils packing. Another formidable obstacle at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Weatherill came to the prospect challenge as an invite. Basically, he was brought up to test the waters and fill out the third roster spot as some would say.  Not taking this merely a chance to mingle with the pro boys or a holiday with a bit of hockey thrown in, Dawson buckled down, worked hard at all practices and morning skates, and soaked up all the information he could from the coaches and teammates here in Buffalo.

Unfortunately, learning does not occur overnight and being the least seasoned of the goalies here for Boston, Dawson saw the third game come to a disappointing close with a score of Devils 6, Bruins 2.  He was not as focused or as agile as Vladar and Keyser, and he appeared to have trouble from time to time with letting the frustration overtake him.  While he was not able to vanquish these Devils, Weatherill will take what he has learned in this tournament back to the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL and continue to grow and develop, hoping for another shot in future seasons.

Finishing with a strong showing of winning two of the three matches, the Bruins goalies were ready to head back home and get the rest of the preseason underway.  Don Sweeney confirmed that Vladar would be heading to Providence to split time in net with Veteran P-Bruin Zane McIntyre. “We play a lot of three in three situations in Providence, where one goalie gets two out of those three,” he said. “You want that competition, he really needs to challenge and push Zane for as many starts as he can get.”

So, while Keyser and Weatherill set off to mature for another season, it is up to Dan Vladar to determine his own next big move.

What China Trip Meant For Bruins, NHL

Image result for china nhl 2018(Photo Credit: South China Morning Post)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

One team. Three countries. An entire sport.

That’s the focus all of Boston had on the Bruins recently completed (and successful) trip against Calgary to the Far East for the NHL China Games in Shenzen and Beijing! And for supposedly “meaningless” preseason games, these two timely tilts held plenty of meaning for everyone involved, especially the Chinese fans of the game who want nothing more than to see NHL players be a part of the 2022 Winter Olympics in the People’s Republic. Thankfully, the young, up-and-coming talent of the B’s was on full display and in full force, perhaps setting the stage for many a prospect’s skillful return to China in only four years.

But winning two highly publicized exhibition games, affectionately labeled by NBC Sports as “NHL’s Asian Championship,” isn’t the true accomplishment for the Bruins, for the NHL or [big picture] for the sport of hockey in general.

It’s winning the minds, hearts and attention of a region that desperately wants to be a part of the future of our favorite game. And at least IMHHO (a familiar acronym from my previous writings & musings) — with no disrespect to the Flames or Calgary, Alberta for that matter — the National Hockey League couldn’t have picked a better team than the Boston Bruins to help spotlight the sport.

Sure, there are many writers & reporters out there who documented the trials and tribulations of the team’s traveling travails…

…from equipment being lost to everyday essentials unavailable to stomach bugs and to this:

But that’s not what I’m running with for this article. And since many a fellow Black N’ Gold blogger & colleague has recapped these aforementioned games, their subsequent highlights and highlighted players & plays, I shall focus only on the B-spoked symbolism of the Bruins China trip, as evidenced in the playful picture below.

Image result for bruins fans china(Photo Credit: BTA by way of the Associated Press)

Far East fandom at its finest is what you see. You also see a sea of B’s sweaters, jerseys, posters & towels — kids connecting with a team whose likability factor  and history is as appreciated as The Great Wall, which Brad Marchand and company couldn’t help but stand atop in hopefully a sign of foreshadowing for the standings and this season’s end game.

And when the games had ended in China for the Bruins, the team had built something equally impressive, if not as visually stunning just yet: a genuine connection to a people and a culture craving to be a part of ice hockey history. As longtime Bruins correspondent Amalie Benjamin wrote in a brilliant profile piece for NHL.com, “this is hockey in China… [a teenager yelling for Brad Marchand] wore a Bruins jersey with a No. 15, Milt Schmidt’s retired number.” She goes on to describe the crowd as people who already know and love the game surrounded by those who want it to stay and become a part of their lives. It’s as revealing and eye-opening a picture of the importance and impact of these games as Pierre McGuire’s new take on what “DD” could soon mean to New Englanders (move over Dunkin’ Donuts)!

Fonts, puns and wordplay aside, it’s the play of the Bruins that has garnered the attention of a nation at time the NHL needs it most. Bringing the game back to the Olympics, especially in China, would be as a celebratory as an OT game winner for players and fans alike. And based on what we just saw from the B’s, perhaps some of those festive, fireworks-filled celebrations will soon be in order — for one team, three countries AND an entire sport!

Atlanta Gladiators: New Beginings

( Photo Credit: quepasaenatlanta.com )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

This year I will be covering the Atlanta Gladiators, ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, for blackngoldhockey.com  website. Throughout the season I’ll provide news and summaries of the team’s performance as well as updates on any Bruins prospects that represent the organization in the ECHL. With hockey season almost upon us, it seems like a good time to preview the Atlanta Gladiators upcoming season.

Despite finishing fourth in the Eastern South Division last season, the Gladiators managed to make the Kelly Cup playoffs for the first time since 2012-13, though they were blown away 4-0 in the first round by the Florida Everblades. The team will be hoping to make progress next season with the return of Jeff Pyle, who left Atlanta for the AHL in 2011. Pyle will assume the role of General Manager and Head Coach, and Pyle seems hungry for success.

“This is a great market with an incredible fan base,” he said. “They deserve the best, and we as an organization, from not just the hockey side, but the business side as well, are going to work together to do everything we possibly can to produce a championship-caliber team that the community can truly be proud of.”

Pyle lead the Gladiators to their most successful season back in 2005-06, 107 regular season points and the team’s first and only appearance in the Kelly Cup finals, where they were beaten by the top-seeded Alaska Aces.

( Photo Credit: atlantagladiators.com )

Building on the optimism generated by the return of Jeff Pyle, the Gladiators finally revealed their long anticipated new uniforms on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The new threads, modeled by Derek Nesbitt, provide a fresh look using the team’s primary colors — garnet, gold, and black — while retaining a classic feel. The home jersey will now be garnet instead of black and the away jersey will be gold, making the Gladiators the only team in the NHL, AHL and ECHL without a white jersey. “We felt it was time for an update that goes parallel with all the new and exciting things we are doing as an organization.” said designer Chris Treft. Gladiators fans will also have the chance to vote on which uniforms they want the team to use on any given night, a unique opportunity that could provide some very colorful matchups as the season unfolds. With the third jersey still yet to be revealed, the Gladiators will be hoping the new uniforms mark the beginning of a successful era in Atlanta.

The ECHL season starts slightly later than the NHL, and the team’s roster will be finalized in the coming weeks. As is normal in the ECHL, the team have invited a large number of PTOs with many places up for grabs. It would be great to see some Bruins prospects make the team after a strong showing from Dan Vladar last season, who helped the Gladiators into the playoffs. Both Vladar and Tanner Pond featured for the Boston Bruins in their preseason win over the Washington Capitals, an encouraging sign for players who are sent to Atlanta.

With a lot of action off the ice, it won’t be long before the Gladiators are back on it. The team travel to South Carolina and face off against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Oct. 4 in their only official preseason game. An inter-squad game is planned for Oct. 7 to help get the skaters up to speed ahead of the 2018-19 season opener on the road against the Orlando Solar Bears on Oct. 13. The games then come thick and fast in Week 2 as the Gladiators play three times in three days — at home to the Swamp Rabbits, the Solar Bears, and then a road game against the South Carolina Stingrays. You can find the Gladiators 2018-19 schedule on the team’s official website for full details.

With less than a month to go before the puck drops, there’s a lot to be excited about for the Atlanta Gladiators. Jeff Pyle will be working hard to make sure the team is ready to build on making the playoffs last year. With all the changes the team have made, there’s no better time to start following the Atlanta Gladiators. I look forward to keeping you all up to date as the season unfolds, stay tuned.

Boston Bruins: Training Camp Invites

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PHOTO CREDIT: (nhl.com)

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

When the Boston Bruins Training Camp comes around, it always gets me even more amped up for the upcoming regular season because it is one of the final team events before the opening faceoff. This year, however, is a bit different for the Bruins. The training camp roster will be split into two, as some players will be headed off to China for the pair of preseason games against the Calgary Flames.

Expected Roster For O.R.G China Games (Camp Opens Sept. 11*)

Forwards: David Backes, Martin Bakos, Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk, Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic, Colby Cave, Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom, David Pastrnak, Jack Studnicka, Jordan Szwarz, Chris Wagner

Defense: Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril

Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Tuukka Rask

Expected Roster For Domestic Preseason (Camp Opens Sept. 13*)

Forwards: Noel Acciari, Patrice Bergeron, Anders Bjork, Anton Blidh, David Krejci**, Ryan Fitzgerald, Austin Fyten, Danton Heinen, Cameron Hughes, Joona Koppanen, Karson Kuhlman, Sean Kuraly, Jakub Lauko, Brett McKenzie, Mark McNeill, Marcel Noebels, Cedric Pare, Tanner Pond, Zach Senyshyn, Daniel Winnik, Lee Stempniak

Defense: Axel Andersson, Chris Breen, Daniel Bukac, Zdeno Chara, Connor Clifton, Mark Fayne, Olivier Galipeau, Cody Goloubef, Emil Johansson, Torey Krug, Jeremy Lauzon, Joel Messner, Wiley Sherman

Goaltenders: Kyle Keyser, Zane McIntyre, Dan Vladar

*According to the Boston Bruins website in a press release on September 4th. 

**Was taken off of the China roster due to troubles with his Visa. Colby Cave will replace him. 

You may recognize all of the players that will be headed to the most populated country in the world this September, but there are a few names in the domestic preseason roster that are not quite familiar to the Bruins organization. Joel Messner, Brett McKenzie, Tanner Pond, Marcel NoebelsMark Fayne, Daniel Winnik, and Lee Stempniak are invited to the camp, but who exactly are they?

Joel Messner (D)

After four seasons in the NCAA with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, the 24-year-old Messner recently signed a professional tryout contract with the Boston Bruins and he will be included in Boston’s training camp.

Messner started his junior career with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), playing with the Selkirk Steelers for three full consecutive seasons. His best season with the Steelers came back in the 2013-14 campaign when he produced 9-44-53 totals in 54 games as a defenseman. That season earned him the honors of Top Defenseman in the league as well as making the MJHL First All-Star Team.

The season earned him the chance to play with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, starting in the 2014-15 season. While he wouldn’t come close to the 52 points he scored in junior, Messner would become the captain of the team for this past 2017-18 season. In his first season, (and only to date), as captain, he scored five goals and 23 points for the club.

Joel also won the Don Leahy Senior Career Achievement Award in the 2017-18 year, which recognized the male athlete that had a stellar career at the University.

The 6-foot-2 defender could be someone to watch when he participates in the camp on the Sept. 13.

Brett McKenzie (F)

Brett McKenzie is one of two players on this short list of Bruins training camp invites that has an AHL contract with the Providence Bruins.

Even though he has an AHL deal with the P-Bruins, McKenzie is not quite considered a Boston Bruin. According to Habs Eyes on the Prize, when a player signs an AHL deal, he is not eligible to be called up to the National Hockey League and play for that NHL team, even if it is the affiliate team of the AHL team.

Therefore, it can be considered that McKenzie and other AHL contracted players are invites to the Boston training camp because they do not have the opportunity to play with the team during the course of the regular season.

McKenzie was a seventh-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, but the Canucks failed to offer the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada native to an Entry-Level deal, leaving him a free agent. In the season of his draft year, McKenzie finished his third year with the North Bay Battalion in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), scoring 26-27-53 totals in 66 games that year. He would also help with five-points in 11 playoff games that same year.

brett-mckenzie.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (TERRY WILSON / OHL IMAGES)

Due to the fact that he would not sign with the Canucks right after the draft, he would play another season with the Battalion, this time as the alternate captain. In the 2016-17 season, he would set a career-high in points, finishing the year with 67 points (29 goals, 38 assists) in 67 games.

This past hockey season, McKenzie started the year with the Battalion as he had for the three seasons prior. Following a time where he scored 23 points in 31 games, he was involved in a trade that sent him to the Owen Sound Attack. In the 33 games with Owen Sound, McKenzie scored 26 points. Below is a scouting report from Elite Prospects’ Tyler Parchem back in 2015. 

“McKenzie can be described as a smart defensive forward who skates well and is excellent on the draw. He is not overly physical, but is overall awareness in all 3 zones is coveted.” (Tyler Parchem, EP 2015)

Tanner Pond (F)

Tanner Pond brings another American Hockey League contract to the Bruins training camp and the 2016 NCAA Hockey East Champion is looking to make a name for himself.

Even though he plays at the center position, the Walled Lake, Michigan, USA native is still a decent player and could bring an interesting style of play to Boston’s camp. Pond has played in the USHL, NCAA, ECHL, and now more recently, the AHL. Following 137 games played over three seasons in the USHL, Pond played four seasons with the Northeastern Huskies in the NCAA.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Amanda Bingham)

 

The 6-foot, 194-pound forward only scored a combined 12 points in 109 NCAA contests, accumulating more than 70 penalty minutes. He played a pivotal role on the 2016 NCAA Hockey East Championship-winning team that defeated the UMass-Lowell River Hawks by a score of 3-2.

After a lackluster 2016-17 campaign, he signed a deal with the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL, starting in ’17/’18. Once the deal went through, Gladiators Head Coach Andy Brandt said the following about Tanner Pond.

“Tanner is a player who is a full out competitor,” said Gladiators Head Coach Andy Brandt. “Our research indicates that he excels on the forecheck and is defensibly responsible.”

Tanner would play 61 games with Atlanta, producing 14-23-37 totals and 163 penalty minutes. On March 9 of this year, Pond would sign a PTO with the Providence Bruins, going scoreless in the four games he played.

This past off-season, Pond agreed to a contract with the Providence Bruins and is expected to play with them for the 2018-19 season.

Marcel Noebels (F)

Marcel Noebels has been in the Bruins media for numerous months now, as a possible signing between him and either the Providence Bruins or the Boston Bruins was suggested earlier in the off-season. However, nothing came about and it seemed like the signing would not happen. With that said, the Bruins and Noebels would recently agree on a PTO contract, allowing Noebels to play in the upcoming Boston training camp.

The 26-year-old center is coming off of a 30-point season with the Eisbären Berlin in the DEL. Noebels also added 14 points in 18 playoff games for the club. The 6-foot-2 German also played in the 2018 World Championships, scoring one point in seven games.

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PHOTO CREDIT: (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Noebels has previously had experience in the American Hockey League, playing 95 games over the course of four seasons bouncing back-and-forth between the AHL and Germany. In the 95 games played with the Adirondack Phantoms, Marcel scored 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points.

Noebels also took home a silver medal in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games with Team Germany, as they lost to the Olympic Athletes from Russia. The former fourth-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft signed a PTO with the Bruins back on the Sept. 5.

Daniel Winnik (F)

The Boston Bruins have also handed out three PTOs to veteran NHL players and Daniel Winnik is one of them. Selected in ninth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes, Winnik has since played 798 career NHL contests, scoring 82 goals and 169 assists for 251 points, along with a career plus/minus rating of +52.

Winnik’s near-800 games played is an impressive stat considering he was the 265th player drafted in the ’04 Draft. However, the time he has spent in the National Hockey League has not been with one team, but rather eight teams. Winnik has not spent more than three whole seasons with a single franchise, hitting the three-year mark back in Phoenix from 2007-08 to 2009-10.

Daniel’s most productive year was back in the 2014-15 regular season, which was split between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins. In his most recent campaign as an NHLer, Winnik played 81 games with the Minnesota Wild, scoring a total of 23 points. He has also been involved in four different trades, coming in 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2016.

Winnik signed a professional tryout contract with the Bruins on Sept. 10, 2018.

Lee Stempniak (F)

This name should look a bit familiar to Bruins fans, even the new ones. Lee Stempniak was drafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, 148th overall by the St. Louis Blues. As of this current time in his career, he has played the majority of his 909-game NHL career with the Blues, playing for four straight seasons.

After stints with the Maple Leafs, Coyotes, Flames, Penguins, Rangers, Jets, and Devils, Stempniak would be sent to Boston on Feb. 29, 2016 via a trade deadline deal. Lee would only play 19 games with the B’s, producing 3-7-10 totals with the club. When the 2015-16 season concluded, he would not re-sign with Boston during the offseason, instead signing with the Carolina Hurricanes on a two-year contract worth $2.5 million per season.

Lee would find early success with the Hurricanes, adding 40 points in a full, 82-game season. Although, in the recent 2017-18 year, Stempniak would only score nine points in 37 games. He has signed a PTO with the Boston Bruins on the same day as Daniel Winnik — September 10th, 2018.

Mark Fayne (D)

The last player on this list, Mark Fayne, has been on the Bruins roster on a PTO for a few days now and I recently wrote an article about the signing when the news was released. While I won’t go as in-depth about Fayne in this particular article, you can read more about the former Oiler in my article below.

Mark Fayne has only played in seven NHL seasons, four with the New Jersey Devils and three with the Edmonton Oilers. Although, Fayne was only with Edmonton for four games during the 2016-17 regular season and did not play a single National Hockey League game for the entirety of the ’17/’18 campaign.

Mark’s career year was his second season, in 2011-12, when he scored four goals and 17 points but was a -4 rating. Ever since he agreed to a four-year contract with the Oilers, his production has dropped off significantly, scoring a combined 17 points in 147 games. His value dropped so much that he played 39 games with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL, scoring only 2-3-5 totals.

Fayne will one of 14 defensemen taking part in the Boston Bruins training camp for players not headed to China.

The Boston Bruins training camp begins tomorrow for all players expected to head to China to play the two preseason games there against the Calgary Flames. For the remaining players, their training camp is currently scheduled to begin on Thursday, Sept.13.

Once again, all of the current dates for the Boston Bruins NHL training camp is courtesy of the official Boston Bruins website.