Rask’s Unbeaten Home Streak Has Landed Him In Vezina Contention

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(NHL with AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The Bruins’ latest winning streak came to an end Sunday afternoon in Detroit, though one streak remains intact for the Bruins’ starting netminder, Tuukka Rask.  Following the 4-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes Saturday afternoon, Rask extended his home regulation winning streak to 18 games.  Rask has not logged a regulation loss at the TD Garden since April 6, 2019, against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The streak also breaks Gilles Gilbert’s 17-game winning streak to open a season, set back in 1973.

Rask is in the midst of an impressive year and is in contention for the NHL’s best goaltending trophy: the Vezina.  Considering goalies who have played more than 25 games this year, Tuukka leads the league with a 2.14 goals-against average and ranks second with a .929 save percentage behind Columbus’s Elvis Merzlikins.  He sports a 20-5-6 record with 67 goals against, which ranks sixth among NHL goalies.

The Bruins sit atop the NHL standings with 80 points, three points ahead of the surging Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.  It’s no coincidence that Rask is among the top three goalies in contention for the Vezina, and his team is the best in the NHL.  He’s even made a case for the save of the season.

When it comes to the Vezina race, Rask has some stiff competition.  To open the year, Rask ranked behind Pekka Rinne, Frederik Andersen, and 2019 winner, Andrei Vasilevsky.  All three have been atop the goaltending ranks for the past few years.  Rask currently has the second-best chance to win the trophy behind Winnipeg Jets’ netminder, Connor Hellebuyck.

Hellebuyck is having a remarkable year in goal for Winnipeg.  He is leading the NHL with 1,306 saves and has been able to maintain a .920 save percentage.  To put this in perspective, his team has allowed 1,420 shots through the 46 games he’s played this year.  Rask has seen 942 shots and has saved 875.  Hellebuyck’s goals-against average sits at a high 2.67, which gives Rask has an opening to reclaim the trophy.

Rask etched his name in the Vezina trophy’s history books once before.  In the 2013-14 season, he ended the year with a 36-15-6 record and a league-leading .930 save percentage.  Tuukka also recorded a 2.04 goals-against average and seven shutouts.  He has consistently been a rock for the Bruins, including his performance in the playoffs.  This past playoff run, Rask was always the best player on the ice for the black and gold.  He led all goaltenders in the playoffs (who played past the opening round) with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.

The Bruins have historically been a strong home team.  They rank first in the NHL with a 19-2-9 home record, and it’s no secret that Rask has been the main contributor to that success.  The Bruins are a few trade deadline pieces away from hoisting their seventh Stanley Cup.  They have the makeup, leadership, and experience to make another deep playoff run.  If Rask can continue his torrid pace at home, the Stanley Cup may be in a different set of hands at the TD Garden in June.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 165 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’ Rask To Forgo 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend

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(Photo: Winslow Townson / AP Photo)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask will not participate in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, as announced by NHL Public Relations. Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevsky will replace Rask at the festivities on All-Star Weekend.

Rask spoke to the media on Monday evening before Boston’s visit with the Philadelphia Flyers, saying it was a tough decision that he put a lot of thought into. While the goaltender noted that it was an honor to be selected to the Atlantic Division All-Star team, he emphasized that he made his decision in order to get extra rest and time with his family.

“I had to be kind of selfish, thinking how much hockey we played last year, the short summer, wanting to play into June again, and [All-Star Weekend] falling right in the middle of our bye week.” Rask said to the media. “It was a selfish decision to go spend time with my family and get the mind and body rejuvenated.”

As is the case with players who decide to forgo All-Star Weekend after being voted in, Rask will be mandated by the NHL to serve a one-game suspension in the Bruins’ last game before the break or the first game following the break. Rask acknowledged the suspension during his media availability, saying it will probably be after the break.

The 32-year-old Finn also said that the organization supported his decision. In 27 appearances this season, Rask holds a 17-4-6 record to go along with a 2.27 goals-against average (fifth-best in the league) and a .925 save percentage (fifth-highest).

The Bruins will take on the Flyers on the road on Monday night at 7:00 pm before visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. Jaroslav Halak will get the nod in goal on Monday, while Rask is expected to start in Tuesday’s contest, per head coach Bruce Cassidy.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 162 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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Boston’s Goaltending Strategy Extending Into The Playoffs

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

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Bruins Game 7 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Winslow Townson/AP)

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

After two consecutive wins over the New Jersey Devils and the Anaheim Ducks, the Boston Bruins now look to start the hardest four-game stretch of the early season, starting things off against the Tampa Bay Lightning before a home-and-home match-up with the Toronto Maple Leafs and then the St. Louis Blues to wrap it all up. Boston is tied for third in the league standings with a 5-1-0 record and ten points.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have not had the best start to the new season, or at least not what they had hoped for coming off of their shocking first-round loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Lightning hold a 3-2-1 record after the first five games, positioning them in the first wild-card spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

Tampa is coming off of a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday after losing to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. The defending Presidents Trophy winners are still a great team, but have struggled early on.

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Tuukka Rask 3-0-0 1.33 GAA .957 SV% Last Game: 31 Saves in 3-0 win vs NJD

TBL: Andrei Vasilevskiy 3-1-0 2.53 GAA .921 SV% Last Game: 33 Saves in 3-1 win vs MTL

Who’s Hot:

David Pastrnak. David Pastrnak. David Pastrnak. David Pastrnak. Why did I say his name four times? That’s how many goals the superstar forward scored against the Anaheim Ducks on, lighting the lamp four times en route to a 4-2 win over the Ducks in Boston. The performance led Pastrnak to becoming the first Bruin in the 2019-20 season to hit double-digits in points with 6-4-10 totals in six games so far. Everything is working for him right now and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.

For many years now, Steven Stamkos has been the face of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Season after season, he is always near the top of team scoring and for that matter, league scoring. In 2019-20, nothing has changed, Stamkos currently leads the Lightning in points with 4-4-8 numbers in six games – tied with Nikita Kucherov. Stamkos has also been great on the face-off dot, winning 57.89% of the draws he takes. In 39 career games against Boston, Stamkos has 21-10-31 totals and will look to add to that tonight.

Even with the dominant performance from David Pastrnak against the Ducks, Brad Marchand was still as threatening. Anaheim managed to prevent Marchand from getting any shots on goal, yet he still finished the night with two assists – bringing his season total to 4-5-9 – second on the team in points. Marchand has found success against the Lightning throughout his career as well, scoring twelve goals and sixteen assists for 28 points in 33 games against Tampa.

Who’s Not

In one of the biggest moves of the 2018 Trade Deadline, defenceman Ryan McDonagh was traded from the New York Rangers to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last season, the 30-year-old scored 9-37-46 totals in a full 82-game season with Tampa Bay, but only has one assist in the opening six games in 2019-2020. McDonagh only has two hits on the season and averages 21:52 time-on-ice. The one bright spot for him is his +5 rating in the plus/minus category, however, that statistic often gets a bad rap.

Today, Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk turns 23-years-old and it would be a perfect time for him to score his first goal of the new season. DeBrusk has one assist in six games, even though he has had opportunities to score in multiple games this season so far. With his center, David Krejci, out tonight with an upper-body injury, DeBrusk needs to step up offensively to bring some depth scoring to Boston against a stacked Lightning offence.

Charlie Coyle will move up in the lineup to be the second-line center for DeBrusk and Brett Ritchie, yet he himself only has one assist that was achieved in the opening game against the Dallas Stars back on October 3rd. The third-line of Heinen, Coyle and Ritchie had some chances in the last game against Anaheim, but failed to score. Tonight would be a good game for him to find his game that he had in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and get back on the score-sheet.

Milestone Watch:

Boston Bruins:

  • G Tuukka Rask is playing in his 499th career NHL game
  • F Patrice Bergeron is four assists away (496) from 500 career NHL assists
  • F Patrice Bergeron is one assist away (496) from passing Rick Middleton (496) for sole-possession of 6th-most assists in Bruins history

Tampa Bay Lightning:

  • F Steven Stamkos is three goals away (397) from 400 career NHL goals

Bruins vs Lightning Outlook:

The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning have a rich history as Eastern Conference teams. Throughout the regular-season, the two franchises have played in 102 games against each other, with the Bruins having the better record of 64-28-9-1 – averaging 3.31 goals-for-per-game and 2.60 goals-against-per-game. In the playoffs, the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals come to mind when Boston defeated the Lightning in a razor-close Game 7 to advance to the Finals where the eventually won the Stanley Cup.

More recently, the Lightning dispatched of the Bruins in the 2018 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in only five games after the B’s won Game One. These two teams have been atop the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings for the better part of the past decade and each game has created an entertaining affair.

Tampa Bay won the season series of four games in 2018-19, defeating the Bruins three times, (3-2, 5-4, and 6-3) while the Bruins won once by a final score of 4-1 on February 28th. Boston scored a total of thirteen goals for and allowed fifteen against in the four games.

Regarding specialty teams, this could be a very entertaining hockey game. On the power-play, both teams are tied with a 31.3% success rate on the man-advantage, however, the Bruins have a better penalty-kill percentage (83.3%) compared to Tampa’s 73.9%. Either way, it will be interesting to see what team’s specialty teams out-performs the other. It may just be the difference in who wins.

Bruins Projected Lineup:

David Krejci is out for the Bruins tonight after playing minimal minutes against Anaheim on Monday. After the game, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy expressed hope that Krejci would be able to play tonight, but evidently has decided to keep the veteran center out of the lineup. Charlie Coyle moves up while Par Lindholm centers Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman on the third-line. The first and fourth lines remain the same as of right now.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pm EST in the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 149 that we recorded on 10-11-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Bruins Goalie Tuukka Rask Cracks NHL Network’s Top 10 Goalies List

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( Photo Credit: USA Today )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

Every summer, the NHL Network narrows down the best players from throughout the league at each position. As part of the series, producers, hosts, and analysts prepared a top-10 list of the current best goaltenders in the National Hockey League and revealed it Sunday night. Tuukka Rask made the top ten list again and made a significant move up from his position last year. 

Last year, Rask was named to the top-10 goalies list at number-eight while this year the Bruins netminder cracked the list and came in at number five. Rask was one ahead of Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at number six and one behind rival Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price who came in at number four. Jordan Binnington who out-dueled Tuukka Rask in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals made the list at number eight. Rask posted a 27-13-5 record in 46 games played in the 2018-2019 campaign with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage along with four shutouts.

The Bruins had a strong goaltending tandem this season and Bruce Cassidy wanted a rather equal workload for both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak as he felt they could use a more rested Rask for the playoffs and boy did that pay off for the Black ’N Gold. Tuukka Rask had one of the best goaltending performances in the playoffs this season and was one of the biggest reasons why the Bruins were able to make it to game seven of the Cup Finals. In the 2019 playoffs, Rask recorded a 15-9 record with a 2.02 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. 

Throughout the whole playoffs, Rask was strong for the Bruins but there were a few performances in particular in which Rask absolutely stole the show. In the opening-round series against Toronto, the teams met again at TD Garden for a deciding game seven. Rask turned away 32 Toronto shots en route to a 5-1 victory and another second-round appearance for the B’s. In round two against the Columbus Blue Jackets, two of the best goaltenders went head to head as Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky battled all series long. In game six in Columbus, Rask had one of his best games of the playoffs as he shut the door on the Blue Jackets’ season with a 39-save shut out to blank the Blue Jackets and propel the Bruins into the Conference Finals. In another series-clinching game in the Conference Finals against the Hurricanes, Rask again stood tall with a 24-save shut out for the B’s and sent them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Rask also became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history after a Super Bowl Sunday shutout over the Washington Capitals. This was Rask’s 253rd win with the Bruins and passed Tiny Thompson who played for the Bruins from 1928-1939 and racked up a 252-153-63 record.

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Other notables who made the list are division rivals down in Florida with Sergei Bobrovsky of the Panthers coming in at number two and Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay who came in as the best goaltender right now.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 8-25-19 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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Game Preview: Bruins vs Lightning 12/6/2018

Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) works to bat the puck into his possession with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) defending with Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) during the third period of Sundays (5/6/18) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round semifinal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times(Photo Credits: Douglas R. Clifford | Times

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

Tonight can play out in two ways:  the B’s rally their worn-out troops to overcome the Bolts in a victorious bounce back or…they lose in real ugly fashion.  The narrative continues in Boston and it’s not a pretty one.  Injuries have hit the team hard this season and while they’ve mustered some wins, things are starting to catch up. Tuesday’s abysmal loss to the Florida Panthers was a good example of just how much the Bruins are missing their key players defensively.

But fret not Bruins fans-it’s still early in the season. The team will be healthy and McAvoy is thisclose to returning.  As we know from last year when Boston wasn’t looking too hot early on (injuries galore) they became that “thorn on your side” type of team that ended up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs . Coming off back to back losses to Detroit and Florida, the Bruins have their work cut for them when they face a juggernaut team led by  Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins - 12/6/18 NHL Pick, Odds, and Prediction(Photo Credits: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

LIGHTNING STRIKES

The Bolts return home to the Amalie Arena to face the Bruins after completing a perfect road trip, posting a 3-0-0 record. Tampa recently played games against the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings. Monday night’s game against the Red Wings saw the Bolts rally back to win 6-5 in a shoot-out. Mathieu Joseph had two goals, while Cedric Paquette and forward J.T. Miller both recorded short-handed goals. Right-winger Nikita Kucherov leads the team with 42 points, while Brayden Point has 37 points. The 22-year-old Point leads the team with 20 goals while Kucherov has 12 goals with 30 assists. Center Steven Stamkos has 26 points with 10 goals and 16 assists.

The Lightning are in first place in the Atlantic Division as well as the league, boasting a 21-7-1 record with 114 goals. One weakness that perhaps the B’s could expose; Tampa’s number one goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been out with a foot injury. Louis Domingue has stepped in for goal-tending duties with a 11-4 record, 3.14 GAA with a .900 save percentage. Domingue is expected in net for tonight’s game against the B’s as goalie Eddie Pasquale played this past Monday.

Image result for bruins vs lightning(Photo Credits: Cappers Picks)

BATTERED BRUINS

In a rematch from last’s season’s Stanley Cup semi-finals, the Bruins are looking a little different. Boston continues to muster through as they await the return of top center forward Patrice Bergeron,  Captain Zdeno Chara, defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Miller. Brandon Carlo returned to the fold this past Saturday night as the B’s fell to Detroit 4-2. With the loss of Bergeron, the Bruins have held on to a 4-3-1 record, prior to Tuesday’s game. Wednesday’s practice saw a few line changes with the team focusing on breakouts and the power play.

Image result for bruins vs lightning(Photo Credits: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“We focused on breakout structure to get out of our end quicker. Pick up the pace of the game. That allows us to play fast. That leads to more attacks. We talked a bit about the power play groups, we knew that we needed to put in a good practice in at some point.”- Coach Bruce Cassidy.

Defenseman Steven Kampfer will return in tonight’s game, replacing Connor Clifton in the lineup. JFK will center in between Ryan Donato and Noel Acciari. Tuukka Rask will start in net. Wednesday practice lineups were as follows, with optional Thursday skate:

Marchand-Cave-Pastrnak

Nordstom-Krecji-DeBrusk

Heinen-Kuraly-Backes

Donato-JFK/Acciari-Wagner

 

Krug-Carlo

Moore-Kampfer

Lauzon-Grzelcyk

Clifton-McAvoy

 

Rask

Halak

 

WHEN: Tonight with puck drop at 7:30 pm at the Amalie Arena

WHERE TO WATCH:  NESN, SUN

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Boston Bruins: Round 2 Game 2 Preview

Image result for tuukka rask blade

Photo Credit: Sportsnet 

By: Lucas Salvatore | Check me out on Twitter @lsalvatore29

After a convincing win away from home, the Boston Bruins look to continue to the momentum heading into game 2 as a potential 2-0 series lead is up for grabs tonight at Amalie Arena.

The Bruins will need to be better no question as the Tampa Bay Lightning set up camp in Boston’s defensive end for most of game 1. While the score was in fact 6-2, this does not tell the tale of how this game was played. Tuukka Rask had his best game of the playoffs Saturday afternoon, and it is no surprise that he will need to replicate that Monday as the Bruins look to take a commanding 2-0 series lead for the second straight matchup. Rick Nash also showed up in a big way posting 2 goals one was an absolute snipe from the bottom of the right circle as he went post and in. Rick Nash is a player that likes to score in bunches if this did ignite a fire in him expect him to be a difference maker in this series which could be finally what the Bruins traded for back in February.

Lineup

Things You Need To Know

  • Kuraly spent some time on the third line but will return to his usual spot for game 4
  • David Krejci is quietly scoring a point per game in these playoffs
  • David Pastrnak now has 17 points in 8 games
  • Head Coach of the Lightning Jon Cooper was not happy after game 1 expect a different team tonight

Player To Watch

Boston

Tuukka Rask: The game 1 hero for the Bruins will need to match the same intensity he had last game if the Bruins expect to win game 2. Tuukka kept his composure after losing his skate blade in the middle of a penalty kill and being scored on this was a fantastic sign of leadership that Rask showed as he proved to his teammates that this wasn’t going to affect him shutting the door for the final period of game 2. The Lightning will come out even stronger then they did in game 1 if the Bruins do want to win this game they will need to spend less time in the defensive zone and push the pace for a full 60-minute. They cannot rely on Rask for every game in this series.

Charlie McAvoy: After possibly his best game of the playoffs thus far McAvoy will be heavily leaned on in game 2. The two days of rest seemed to have played wonders for Charlie as he looked like an entirely different player in game 1 then he did throughout the full series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Look for McAvoy to have the same jump in game 2 as he will continue to push the pace and create plays in both the defensive and offensive zones. Bruins fans know what he is capable of now its time for Charlie to take over this series as the new number one defensemen for Boston.

Tampa Bay

Brayden Point: After a sub-par performance against the Bergeron line in game 1 look for the Lightning to move point away from this matchup as they look to create more offense. Bruins fans should be worried about more than just the top star for Tampa Bay as Point was one of the few players that were part of the 30/30 club (30 goals and 30 assists). So moving him away from a shutdown role may just be what Tampa Bay needs to get this electrifying young forward going.

Andrei Vasilevskiy: Andrei has struggled for most of his career against the Boston Bruins, and last game was no different as he allowed 5 goals against. While most of the goals that were scored on him weren’t mainly his fault, he will need to be better in this almost must-win situation for his team. This Vezina candidate has what it takes to be better and most likely will as this series is definitely far from over. Look for him to track the puck better through traffic and be more athletic going post to post. If he falters so does the Lightning Stanley Cup hopes.

BNG Prediction

Lucas Salvatore: 3-2 in OT Tampa Bay

KG: 4-2 Boston

Max Mainville: 3-1 Boston

Mike Cratty: 4-2 Tampa Bay

Garrett Haydon: 4-3 Boston

Mark Allred: 5-2 Boston

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins: Round 2 Game 1 Preview

Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

By: Lucas Salvatore | Check me out on Twitter @lsalvatore29

After beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in 7 games, the Boston Bruins jump right back into things Saturday afternoon as they head to Tampa Bay for round 2.

This might as well be the battle of the east as these two Atlantic division rivals are the number one and two seeds in the entire eastern conference. The Lightning are stacked with one of the best forward cores in the NHL as well as a Vezina candidate goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy and a tough defense to play against. The Bruins will have their hands full with this team if they do not have everyone firing on all cylinders. Look for the Bruins to be the team with more jump as they are coming off a game 7 victory that was only three days ago compared to the lightning having not played a game in a week. This could be a good factor for the Bruins as the team with more rest usually doesn’t do particularly well in the first game back.

Lineup

Things You Need To Know

  • The Bruins were 3-1 against the Lightning this season
  • Tuukka Rask has a 0.899 save percentage in the first round
  • Ryan Callahan has been nursing an injury expect him to play in game 1
  • Nikita Kucherov scored 10 points in 5 games during the first round

Player To Watch

Boston

Jake DeBrusk: Boston game 7 hero will need to continue his excellent play as we head into round 2. Depth will be a huge factor in this series as it should be expected that the top lines of both Boston and Tampa Bay will be matched up throughout most of this series. This sets the stage for DeBrusk and his lines mates to take center stage and help the Bruins reach round 3. As we saw against Toronto Jake was capable of creating plays out of nothing by just using his relentless effort to want the puck this rookie lives for big moments and Bruins fans should be expecting more of the same from playoff Jake DeBrusk.

Tuukka Rask: After a disappointing game 7 where many speculated Rask would be pulled heading into the 3rd-period head coach Bruce Cassidy decided to let his star goalie fight through his struggles which may be just what the doctor ordered for Tuukka and the Bruins. Rask needs to be better and what else could be a better opportunity for him to get his game back to where it needs to be. Tuukka has been stellar against the Lightning throughout his career and fans should expect nothing less than fantastic goaltending from Rask. Outplaying Vasilevskiy will be crucial for the Bruins so they need Rask to bounce back in a huge way which should be expected heading into game 1.

Tampa Bay

Andrei Vasilevskiy: This monster of a goalie will be staring down the Bruins offense for the next few games, and this should have fans terrified. After reports came out that Andrei was feeling tired throughout the end of the regular season, he struggled, but looking at his first round numbers suggest that he is rested and ready to go posting a 0.941 save percentage and a 1.55 GAA. He is a very athletic goaltender and is just a brick wall when he is on his game. He has struggled against Boston throughout his career but regular season numbers do not matter in the playoffs. Look for the Bruins to be sending a lot of traffic his way and be shooting from the point in looks for tips or rebounds in front.

Nikita Kucherov: Whenever a player scores 100 points in a season he should be a force to be reckoned with, and this is no exceptions with Kucherov. One of the NHL most electrifying players will cause the Bruins some problems it is inevitable, but it is how the Bruins will contain him that will decide this series. Look for him to be paired against Zdeno Chara for this entire series just like Auston Matthews was in round 1. The mix of him and Steven Stamkos is a nightmare so the Bruins will need to stay out of the box and keep them on the outside at all times if they expect to keep Tampa off the scoreboard. The only problem is if you do shut down Kucherov there are so many other weapons on this Lightning team that it might not matter. Look for the Bruins to tighten up defensively in this series or else it will be a short-lived second round appearance.

Prediction

4-2 Lightning