Do The Bruins Have Enough “Backup” Power To Charge Through 2020 Playoffs?

Halak adds new wrinkle to practice-only equipment(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

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

It’s going to be one Halak of a playoff season in 2020 if Jaroslav, the B’s backup-turned-starting netminder wearing No. 41, keeps getting better and better as the games get tougher and tougher. In fact, he could even make a bit of Stanley Cup Bruins history if that were to fortunately happen!

But while we’re on the topic of black-n-gold history, let’s ask ourselves an all-too-important and timely question: do the B’s have enough backup power in goal to make a charge in this year’s delayed but still official second season?

It hasn’t happened often in modern-day Bruins history that the quote-unquote “number two” in net has vaulted to number one status during a playoff run. Some may argue that Tim Thomas was technically the backup to Tuukka Rask before he took over during the Cup-winning campaign of 2011.

Fair point but that had happened much earlier on AND during the regular season. By the time “TT” was in between the playoff pipes, Rask only ever saw the ice for warm-ups or practices.

And now that Rask has left the ice, and the NHL bubble, for personal reasons this year (and truly, who can blame him when it comes to family — although many unfortunately have), it’s up to Halak to helm the Bruins’ ship and steer them towards Stanley Cup redemption and revenge.

That means the recently-signed goaltending stud Dan Vladar is now the “backup” to the B’s playoff hopes and dreams in 2020. And who knows… he may even see some time in net before this round against the Lightning is done!

And if the Bruins want lightning to strike twice in the form of a return visit to the Stanley Cup Finals, then perhaps BOTH of these so-called backup B’s will have to play a pivotal role in winning multiple playoff games. When was the last time that happened in B’s history?

Look no further on this #TandemTuesday than to Reggie Lemelin and Andy Moog during the 1987-1988 playoffs and then, rather fittingly and flippingly, Andy Moog and Reggie Lemelin during the 1989-1990 playoffs.

While Moog and Lemelin often split time during the regular season, posing the argument who was truly “backing up” whom, they each had a shot to lead the B’s to Cup glory when they took over as their respective number ones. But as many B’s fans remember, each of the talented and talked-about goalies ran into the juggernaut that was the Oilers Dynasty, neither getting a chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s coveted chalice above their heads.

Of course, there have also been other starter/backup postseason success stories for the B’s, but none that have led them all the way to the finish line. Not since the Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston “Stanley Cup split” of 1972. But I don’t think Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy has that in mind for Halak and Vladar this season.

Nevertheless, Halak has already made his way into into the B’s record books surrounded by Cup-winning company I’m sure he’d like to keep, as noted above. And wouldn’t this already irregular second hockey season be just the time to charge ahead and do it?

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Bruins’ Rask, Halak Awarded Jennings Trophy For 2019-20 Season

NHL: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals

(Source: NESN)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have officially been named the recipients of the William M. Jennings Trophy for the 2019-20 season, annually awarded to the goaltenders on the team with the fewest goals allowed during the regular season. Rask and Halak become the third duo in franchise history to earn the Jennings Trophy, joining Tim Thomas and Manny Fernadnez (2008-09), and Andy Moog and Reggie Lemelin (1989-90).

Boston’s duo allowed 167 goals-against during the regular season, the fewest in the NHL, seven clear of Dallas’ Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin (174). The Arizona Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets tied for the third-fewest goals-against with 183 each.

On the season, Rask finished with a 26-8-6 record and a 2.12 goals-against average (GAA), the best in the league among qualified goaltenders. The 33-year-old’s .929 save percentage sits second in the league behind Khudobin’s .930 marker. Rask also pitched five shutouts, one shy of Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, who led the league with six.

The Savonlinna, FIN, native made a total of 1,189 saves on the year, allowing only 85 goals in 41 appearances. Rask previously won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender for the 2013-14 season.

Halak concluded the season with three shutouts, the fourth-most in the league, to go along with a record of 18-6-6 and a .919 save percentage over 31 appearances. The 35-year-old posted a 2.39 GAA, which finishes as fifth-lowest in the league. A native of Bratislava, SVK, Halak made 905 total saves and surrendered just 73 goals.

This mark’s the second time in his career that Halak has won the Jennings Trophy, having earned it alongside Brian Elliot during the 2011-12 season while playing for the St. Louis Blues. Halak and Elliot gave up 165 goals that season. Halak becomes the tenth goaltender to win the award multiple times, joining the likes of Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, and Dominik Hasek.

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Bruins & Canes Share A “Whale” Of A Playoff History!

Image result for bruins canes whalers(Photo Credit: WGME)

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

Call them the Canes. Call them the Whalers. Call them the Jerks! But, whatever you do, don’t call them inexperienced when it comes to battling the B’s in pivotal playoff match-ups. Hartford-turned-Carolina and Boston have had a healthy history of clashing for the Cup (even regional recognition if you want to really surge up a storm). Let’s take a look back at all the times these two talented teams have met up in the postseason aka the NHL’s most exciting season:

Bruins vs Whalers: 1990

 

Almost ten years after the Hartford Whalers officially became an NHL franchise in 1979 (they were originally the New England Whalers of the defunct WHA), the team finally met the Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs — or as it was called at the time the Adams Division Semifinals. The series went the distance with the Bruins overcoming what could have been a devastating 3OT game six loss to emerge victorious in game seven. Craig Janney scored what would become the series-clinching GWG in a 3-1 win, with Andy Moog outdueling the inimitable Peter “El Sid” Sidorkiewicz in net.

Image result for bruins whalers 1990(Photo Credit: Pinterest)

Bruins vs Whalers: 1991

 

In a rematch of the 1990 Adams Division Semifinal, the B’s and Whalers again played a hard-fought series. This time, the Bruins’ offense proved just too much to handle for Hartford with the Black N’Gold taking down the White, Green N’Blue in six games. Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and Craig Janney led the way for Boston while Andy Moog proved to be the ultimate puckstopper again between the pipes. These two meetings really showcased how the Bruins’ best players, when playing at their best, could change the course of a game and a series — exactly what will need to happen NOW for Boston to continue its playoff success.

Image result for bruins whalers 1991(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Bruins vs Hurricanes: 1999

 

When the franchises met for the third time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a lot had changed: Hartford had moved to Carolina and became the Hurricanes (the team was playing in Greensboro then before moving to Raleigh); and the NHL had changed its division & conference structure, as well as playoff seeding, so the number three ranked Canes who won the Southeast Division wound up playing the sixth-seeded Bruins from the Northeast Division in the Conference Quarterfinals aka Round One.

Image result for bruins hurricanes 1999The B’s dispatched Carolina in six games with none being as memorable as the 2OT game five affair. Anson Carter scored the game-winner on a beautiful feed from Jumbo Joe Thornton after the B’s rallied from two down in the third period (see above).

Boston would close it out at home (another change as it was The FleetCenter in ’99) for the third consecutive playoff series win between their once-local now coastal rivals.

(Photo Credit: Ebay)

Hurricanes vs Bruins: 2009

 

It’s been exactly a decade since the B’s and Canes last faced off in puckdom’s perennial postseason. And it was a painful one so apologies for the ’09 reminder. Coming off a near President’s Trophy-winning season with 116 points and a Northeast Division Championship, the B’s made quick work of the hated Habs in Round One before moving on to face Carolina in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Canes had narrowly defeated the New Jersey Devils in seven games so the match-up heavily favored Boston. It showed in game one but it was all Carolina after that. With the B’s facing a 3-1 series deficit, they routed the Canes at home (now TD Banknorth Garden) before winning game six on the road. That set up a winner-take-all game seven back on home ice before a raucous Gahhhhden crowd (I remember it well). The B’s were trailing 2-1 in the third when old friend Milan Lucic tied things up and sent the game to OT. But that’s when the flukiest of Carolina players scored the flukiest of goals — Scott Walker’s whiffer off a rolling rebound that eluded a tired Tim Thomas — to send the Canes onto the ECF. This was their first playoff series win against Boston in franchise history… and it still stings today!

Image result for bruins hurricanes 2009(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

Bruins vs Hurricanes: 2019

As I alluded to earlier, in order for the B’s to best the Canes and continue their winning ways this year, their best players — namely Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Pastrnak & Rask — will need to keep the momentum going from the Columbus series and produce, produce, produce. If there’s one thing the 2019 Carolina Hurricanes / Hartford Whalers are good at, it’s playing UP to their opponent and, as we’ve seen from recent playoff history, better than their opponent (to wit: the defending Cup Champ Capitals and the energetic Islanders of Brooklyn). BN’G colleague @tkdmaxbjj will have more on what this series could mean for both teams right here so check back in with your Black N’ Gold squad soon — after all, it’s #InOurBlood!

*Bonus B’s/Canes History:

Image result for bruins whalers(Photo Credit: Canes Country)

There are some moments in hockey that even if they’re not from the playoffs, they still belong in a team’s shared history/story together. These are a few of those unforgettable moments!

The Boston Brawl of ’90

Don’t mess with Cam Neely. Or Craig Janney. Or Glen Wesley. Or Chris Nilan. Or Jim Wiemer. Or Lyndon “off the bench” Byers for that matter (yes, stay watching until that moment — don’t let Byers pass you by, dare I say).

The Czerkawski Crosscheck of ’96

Much the same way Bobby Orr got trailblazed after scoring (although this incident was not on nearly as grand or momentous of a stage), one time B’s legend Marius Czerkawski got Czer-cross-checked after his timely tally back in ’96. The B’s didn’t have a lot to fight for during those years so at least they stuck up for each other when the Whale wanted to wallop!

The Shorty Shellacking of ’10

 

I don’t think this will ever happen again in the NHL. And man oh man was it a pleasure to watch (especially after what had happened the year previous): three shorthanded goals in just over a minute on the same Hurricanes powerplay. Talk about being swept away!

Feel free to let us know what YOUR favorite Bruins/Canes/Whalers memories are by commenting below or sharing on social media using the #BruinsFam hashtag!

Would Bruins Consider A “Playoff Split” for Rask, Halak?

Image result for bruce cassidy tuukka rask halak(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

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

The “Playoff Split.”

It could easily be a bowling term for leaving the 7-10 on the lane during the PBA Open. And as you may remember from FOX NHL Saturday, “bowling would be better if it were hockey”–or vice versa for those bunch of jerks in Carolina (just kidding).

However, in the recent words of Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, it’s more like 10-7–at least from here on out for No.’s 40 & 41 for the Black N’ Gold:

But, what does all this mean for mid-April, when the real NHL season starts up and your starting goaltender needs to be penciled in for the playoffs? Should the B’s take advantage of Tuukka Rask’s “lightest [number of games played] total since 2012-13” as intrepid BSJ reporter Conor Ryan referenced? Or, should the team & management hearken back to the days of yore (not to be confused w/ another B’s blogger the Days of Y’Orr) when BOTH goalies shared the second season workload aka the “Playoff Split” ala Andy Moog & Réjean “Reggie” Lemelin…two of the finest crease keepers to ever wear the spoked-B (and IMHHO my lifetime’s best B’s tandem until this year’s performances of monsieurs Rask & Halak, respectively)?

It would be hard to argue against the numbers, which certainly do indicate and project that the Bruins would be best served to play both goalies–as they have been all season long–throughout what we all hope & expect is a long playoff run. Sure, there’s a lot of evidence supporting the “You Go With Your Number One” argument in the playoffs no matter what, and even a bit of recent B’s history where that worked out quite nicely. But, how ’bout if you have TWO Number Ones, just like the B’s do now and did back then when Mooger & Reggie literally owned the Jennings Trophy?

If you think about it (or just look it up–although I prefer using my puck head), between the time the Lemelin/Moog tandem was between the pipes and the current Rask/Halak pairing of now, the Bruins really haven’t had two goalies that were capable of, or that they trusted, to split a season’s worth of games so evenly & so successfully. Yes, Tim Thomas & Manny Fernandez joined the prestigious Jennings company of Lemelin & Moog during the epic 2008-09 B’s season, but in all fairness to Fernandez, he really didn’t play that much compared to TT. Heck, for about decade, the B’s had a revolving door in the crease where 4, 5, even 6 goalies got starts (I’m talking about YOU Bill Ranford, Rob Tallas, Jim Carey, Scott Bailey, Tim Cheveldae & Paxton Schafer of the league-worst ’96-’97 season)!

So, knowing the numbers & knowing the history, doesn’t it make sense for Cassidy to take advantage of the rarefied air–I mean ice–surrounding his dynamic duo in net and perhaps plan for a duality of options when it comes to who starts for the playoffs? I mean, outside of the aforementioned Thomas standing on his head in 2011 in every round, especially the Cup Finals, the B’s haven’t fared the best in recent playoff play when they’ve tried to rely on “just the starter.”

Related image(Photo Credit: Boston Sports Journal)

Of course, I remember how Rask nearly accomplished the same in 2013 (were it not for :78 seconds of ‘Hawky’ hell in Game 6). And yes, I also realize my favorite B’s tandem of all-time lost both of the Stanley Cup series they shared games in (but let’s be honest… NO ONE was beating the Oilers in those days, Boston Garden electricity bills included).

But, hardly any NHL team or franchise ever gets the chance to prep for the post season with two elite goaltenders simultaneously boosting each other’s play while inspiring the offense in front of them to score & find ways to win. And your 16-game point streak Boston Bruins have that chance — Tampa be damned (with Lightning!) — this year. It’s now up to the B’s to decide how to make the most of it. Sure, a lot can happen between now and April 15th. But if all goes according to plan, then I sure hope to see both Rask & Halak making playoff appearances this year.

I’d settle for 10-7. Heck, make it a 7-10… as long they’re wins! After all, since sixteen is the magic number, this is a “Playoff Split” well worth picking up.

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Bruins Alum Featured In “Finding Murph” Documentary

Joe Murphy Bruins(Photo Credit: Hockey Card Database)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

From being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 NHL Draft out of the illustrious Michigan State University hockey program (he led the Spartans to an NCAA National Championship that year) to a Stanley Cup Champion four years later with the unbeatable Edmonton Oilers (versus the beleaguered Boston Bruins, mind you, and clinched at the “Old Garden” as you can see in his goal-scoring clip below against a pad-stacked Andy Moog), Joe Murphy‘s hockey career — and destiny — seemed set for stardom.

But by the time he returned to Boston (now as a home team player) for a fight-filled cameo during the 1999-2000 season, he was literally fighting his own demons and was in a difficult personal and professional state of mind, according to his former teammates and coaches. While still a talented goal scorer, playmaker, and skater on the ice, it was his personality and pugilism off the ice — sparring with fellow players and criticizing team personnel openly and derogatorily — that often had him benched, and not just in the figurative sense. Years later, we would learn that the many concussions he suffered while playing the game proved detrimental to not only his career, but also his life and health. This may explain why he didn’t endear himself to the Bruins organization (or fans) that season and was subsequently traded after only 26 games. In an excerpt from an article in the Globe And Mail from February of 2000, here’s what Bruins brass had to say at the time about the behavior and attitude of a disgruntled and ostracized Murphy:

“The players have had enough and I have had enough. I don’t have time for [Murphy’s antics and lack of respect].”

— Coach Pat Burns

“Seeing [his insubordination] is not good for the younger players. We’ve suspended him and we’re looking to move him.”

— GM Mike O’Connell

(Photo Credit: Game Worn Auctions)

Murphy, as we know, did move on from Boston, but it is this moving story from TSN Originals that has put him back on the map, and not just in New England and Michigan, but all over Canada. In particular, Northern Ontario where he’s tragically been living homeless for quite some time. I strongly suggest you click on the link above to learn more about his historic and heartbreaking story — one all-too-familiar for hockey players and athletes who have dealt with head injuries or are currently dealing with them.

Aug_ 22-finding murph

“Finding Murph” originally aired on TSN on August 21st, 2018. For more information on the NHL’s continued legal battles with concussion lawsuits (and victims like Murphy), see the Real Sports w/ Bryant Gumbel special below:

While in Boston, Murphy posted 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points to go along with 41 PIM — the majority of which, as expected, were for fighting. His career totals were 233G-295A-528P with 801 PIM in 779 career games. He officially retired in 2001 after playing parts of 18 seasons in the NHL with seven different teams, including the aforementioned Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers in 1989-90.

IMG_8078(Photo Credit: HHOF)

 

 

Remem”B”ering It All: The B’s, The Basement & “BTBB”!

(Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Evan Michael   |   Follow Me On Twitter @EVAN007onTV

“You play by the rules, or you don’t play at all!”

The echo of these words, usually delivered by my father in the most serious of tones, would carom off the cellar walls like a hastily iced puck would do off the old Bahhston Gahhhden boards.  It was his way of reminding 7-year-old Evan that even in the made-up sport of “basement hockey,” there was still protocol.  There was still a gentleman’s code (or in my case kid’s code) that should never be broken. No goofing around. No whining about losses or bragging about wins.  No going into overtime aka “the-real-Bruins-game-is-on-so-you-can’t-keep-pretending-to-be-Andy-Moog-all-night-down-here-because-I’m-not-missing-Renee-Rancourt-singing-the-anthem-again” time.

Believe me when I say my Dad played by the rules.  Bernie played by the book.  Because of this, I learned to love Boston hockey much in the same way By The Book Bernie” (BTBB) did: with plenty of puck passion, attention-to-detail, and respect. I knew exactly what I was getting into between the B’s, the basement and BTBB. And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

When you grow up in Western Mass, in the beautiful Berkshires of the Bay State, you have a choice of where your fandom will lie — across the minutes-away border of New York state or with Boston.  That choice didn’t exist for my Dad. His loyalty was always with the hometown, Beantown boys.  He “bled Black N’ Gold” as many guys his age used to say (and as this eponymous blog reminds us daily) when watching their favorite team take the ice.

Naturally, I followed suit.  I wanted to cheer on his team, and now my team, just like how we played hockey down in the basement.  Sure we’d yell, scream, hoot & holler–sometimes at each other in jest, especially when he’d go all Gerry Cheevers on me and play the puck (aka sponge ball) way out past the blue line (aka carpet demarcation line).  But it was all in good fun!  It was a bonding experience. The B’s brought us together and still do to this day, which is why I feel like it’s come full face-off circle for me now as a fan, a comedic writer, and a son.

Well, this son and lifelong B’s supporter/complainer just talked to BTBB about the team I remember first watching with him and how so many names from back then are still relevant now.  Strike that… they’re integral. Bourque. Neely. Sweeney. Donato (just to name a few).  And with the ladder also being a father-son connection, I was all nostalgic when it came to our conversation. The main point: could some of his favorites who just missed out as players on Lord Stanley’s coveted Cup back in the 80’s & 90’s now achieve that success in management. Namely, Dealin’ Donny since good ol’ Sea Bass himself played a pivotal role in constructing the 2011 title team. My answer: you bet my Bruins Wives Charity Carnival autographed Vinny Reindeau towel they can!

But can they do it as soon as 2019? Based on the truly remarkable, surpassed-all-expectations-despite-the-moans-and-groans-of-losing-in-the-second-round-to-ugh!-Tampa 2017-2018 season, I definitely think so.  And I don’t even think they need that “JT” whose making more Twitter & social media headlines than his same-initialed entertainment counterpart to do it! (Full disclosure: if I just imagine, just imagine, just imagine John Tavares in a Bruins jersey, I truly can’t stop the feeling.)

Speaking of feelings, how Sweeney and Neely, and in turn, Cassidy, have turned things around in just a few short years in “The Hub” is not only promising for the future of the B’s, but also their fans like myself and BTBB.  This current team is the ideal blend of youth and experience, of talent and leadership, of workmanlike will and sportsmanlike skill — qualities that every Dad hopes for in his son and every son hopefully admires in his Dad.  They’re also qualities imbued within the fabric of the team by the aforementioned higher-ups whose hirings were crucial to the success of the franchise, both in the past, in the present and undoubtedly in the future!

So when our conversation turned to the B’s so far having a slow off-season, what with no 1st round pick in the draft or Kovalchuk signing, I started to joke to my Dad about Mr. Sweeney using, perhaps, some persuasive and bribery-based tactics to lure other promising talents to Boston.  It was at this moment when my (crazy) train of thought was cut short by an all-too-familiar fatherly edict: “Evan, that’s against the rules!”

And Lord (Stanley) knows, you either play by the rules, or you don’t play at all.  BTBB was right again. Father does know best.  Thankfully, when it comes to the management of the Bruins, so does one of Dad’s favorite former D-men.  In Don We Trust!