Unsung Hero: Bruins Jaroslav Halak

Image result for jaroslav halak(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

It’s time for reflection for the Boston Bruins as they prepare to face their final battle en-route to hoisting the Stanley Cup. It’s been a very long season and for many players, it’s sort of surreal.  What makes this team successful is simply put: they played for each other. In the sport of hockey, many times games are decided on which goalie won the battle in the net. And for one goalie, he has more than stepped up into that trusted role and kept a battle-worn Boston team in any given game. This season, Jaroslav Halak has rightfully earned his keep and has proven to be one of the biggest reasons that the Bruins have made it this far.

TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE

With Anton Khudobin leaving Boston for the Dallas Stars, the Bruins signed Halak as the back-up goaltender for Rask, who some say (ok, maybe many) plays better when he isn’t in the net as often. And with Halak, Rask has been able to do exactly that. And while there will always be polarizing arguments about Rask’s eliteness, the 32-year-old Finnish native has been playing nothing short of outstanding. And when it came time to rest his number one goalie, Coach Bruce Cassidy was able to rely heavily on Halak, all while keeping the team in contention for a Playoff spot.

“He played excellent for us, picked us up a number of times… when we were basically a two-headed monster in the net. Both guys, I think they had very similar numbers, Halak’s might have been better in the regular season. Kudos to him. Tuukka has taken the ball and run with it in the playoffs. We didn’t know how that would play out, were hoping we would get consistent goaltending every night. We have. But he was a big reason, Jaro.”

Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

Throughout the regular season, Rask played in 46 games, with Halak pulling up the rear. Jaro posted a 22-11-4 record with 2.34 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage at the end of the season. There have been times where Cassidy wasn’t afraid to “ride” the hot goalie, oftentimes calling up Halak to get the start. While the Bruins were hit with a stretch of injuries, and Rask taking a personal brief hiatus, Halak (much like the rest of the team) took the mantra “next man up” and ran with it:

“…In terms of, we knew Tuukka would be less than in previous years, closer to 50, 55-ish, somewhere in that number, depending on the injuries or anything like that…I think it helped him (Rask), I don’t know how much, only he can answer that. And that goes to Halak…he’s a big reason why we’re here. A big reason.”

Coach Bruce Cassidy

Image result for jaroslav halak boston bruins(Photo Credits; The Causeway Crowd)

Having two calm and well-poised goaltenders is a problem every NHL coach would love to have, and Boston is once again within the grasps of winning another Championship thanks to that very problem. Rask will get the start in net and is favored to win the Conn Smythe award for MVP of the Playoffs. Having Halak made it easier for the coaches to manage Rask’s schedule and that has not gone unnoticed:

“He’s been such a big part of our group, Jaro, all year. I’ve been on that side, not playing in the playoffs. He’s been, like I said, a really big part of our group. And I’m happy he’s my partner.”

-Goaltender Tuukka Rask

Bruins Game 14 Preview: Dallas Stars

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PHOTO CREDITS: (STEVE BABINEAU/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES)

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

The 7-4-2 Boston Bruins will host the 8-5-0 Dallas Stars in TD Garden on Monday night. The Bruins, who are coming off of a 1-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday night are looking to get back into the win column against Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars.

Dallas is riding a three-game winning streak that they have built up. With wins over the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and most recently the Washington Capitals, the Stars have looked quite good so far in the 2018-19 season. Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, and Jamie Benn have been the key reasons for Dallas’ early success.

Who’s Hot

The Boston Bruins have not been the hottest team lately, losing 1-0 to Nashville on Saturday night. If anything, the top line of Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron remains to be the best asset that Boston has right now and it is crucial that that line continues to find success this season. The trio has already accumulated a total of fifty points and will look to add to that total against the Stars.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Matt Stone)

Tyler Seguin has been a key player for Dallas since joining the team back in 2013 via a trade with the Boston Bruins. In thirteen games so far this season, the Brampton, Ontario native has racked up three goals and eleven assists for fourteen points. In ten games against Boston since joining Dallas, Seguin has nine points and he will look to add to that total on Monday.

Stars d-man John Klingberg has been tallying some impressive numbers early on as well. His twelve points in thirteen games this season ranks him second on the Stars scoring list and sixth in the entire league for points among defensemen. The 131st overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft will be looking to continue the success he has had this season so far and possibly set some new career highs.

Anton Khudobin is expected to start in goal for the Stars against Boston. The 32-year-old former Bruin has a 3-2-0 record so far this season with a GAA of 2.35 and a save percentage of .923%. Khudobin’s last start was a 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last Thursday.

Who’s Not

To no surprise, the lack of depth scoring by the Boston Bruins is one of the biggest concerns in the early stages of the 2018-19 campaign. Aside from the first line and David Krejci, no forward on the Bruins roster has more than six points. The lack of goal scoring by Boston this season places them 24th in the entire league for most goals for per game, sitting at just above 2.84 goals per game.

Tuukka Rask has been anything but great for the Bruins so far, rocking a 3-3-0 record with a 3.15 goals-against-average along with a .902 save percentage, the Finnish tender needs to find his game as the month of November kicks into high gear. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced earlier in the day that Rask will get the start against Dallas, making for a good test for him.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (CBS Boston)

Like the Bruins, the Stars have not had much success with goal scoring aside from their big superstars. In the same amount of games played, Dallas only has three more goals than the B’s, while allowing four more goals against. With the injury to Alexander Radulov, who will miss the game against Boston due to a lower-body injury, the Stars lose out on a key scorer once again.

Bruins vs Stars Outlook

Until the Bruins can find some consistency with their depth, they will have to rely heavily on the top line in order to keep the wins coming. After going scoreless against the Predators on Saturday, the Bruins need to come out with an offensive vengeance and score some goals early and often.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (nhl.com)

On the flip side, the Stars will be looking to do the exact same thing. Tyler Seguin seems to find success when playing against Boston and if he, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg can continue their hot run, then the Bruins could be in trouble. The Stars have won three consecutive road games against difficult teams and they will be looking to do the same to Boston.

Both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin will need to be solid in the net as the former teammates look to earn another win on the season. For Rask, a loss could mean less starts in the near future – with more being awarded to Jaroslav Halak. Khudobin is riding on a 31-save performance against Toronto that has given him a lot of momentum.

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Bruins Goalies Rebounding After Tough Opening Night

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins(Photo Credit: NESN.com)

By: Jamie Gatlin  | Follow Me On Twitter: @JamieGatlin1217

Throughout every season teams face adversity in a variety of ways. For the Bruins, their first test came following a humiliating opening night defeat. Starter Tuukka Rask was pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots. Jaroslav Halak did better in relief but still allowed two goals as the Capitals went on to win 7-0. This caused concern regarding the Bruins goalies; however, their last four games have been very different.

Following opening night, the Bruins played the Buffalo Sabres the next day. Back-to-backs are not easy for any team especially after getting blown out the night before. This did not faze the Bruins as they arrived in Buffalo prepared to bounce back. Halak got his first career start in a Bruins uniform and was nothing short of spectacular stopping all 32 shots he faced. The Bruins played like a completely different team. He was nearly as impressive Thursday night stopping 25 of the 26 shots on net in the Bruins victory over Edmonton. This has raised expectations on Rask only five games into the season.

Rask, however, got his shot at redemption in the Bruins home opener. He stopped 28 of the 31 shots he faced. Of those goals, one was nearly impossible to stop as Rask was being screened by six players. He controlled his rebounds and received a better effort from the Bruins defenseman in front of him. Against Detroit yesterday afternoon he built on that performance. He stopped 32 of the 34 shots on net in the Bruins 8-2 victory.  That is how the Bruins will need their franchise goalie to play this season. The last four games have shown how good this tandem can be moving forward.

Furthermore, five games are too small of a sample size to make any significant changes. Last year showed Rask will have to go through a prolonged slump before he loses his role as the Bruins’ No. 1 goalie. What the Bruins need from Halak is what he has shown early on. A steady veteran who can give the Bruins a chance to win when called upon. If he can do that, then he will most likely appear in about 25 games this season. That will only improve his play after appearing in 50-plus games for only the third time in his career last season for the Islanders.

However, it gives the Bruins comfort knowing he can handle that workload. Halak’s veteran presence was one of the reasons the Bruins signed him. His numbers last season were not the best partly due to the defense in front of him. With the Bruins that will only improve especially as the season continues. Even with those factors, the expectations are high for Halak due to his predecessor.

Last season Anton Khodobin was a more than capable backup for the Bruins, but he signed with Dallas in free agency. His performance allowed the Bruins to rest Rask, which improved his play. Early on Halak has shown that he can do that as well. He will push Rask to be his best which the Bruins backups have failed to do in recent years. Through five games it appears as if the Bruins goaltending will not be an area of concern but an area of strength.

Halak Already Proves He’s Reliable for Bruins

Bruins Sabres Hockey(Photo Credit: Boston Herald)

By: Ian Smith | Follow Me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

The Boston Bruins made the decision to sign Jaroslav Halak as a free agent this offseason to serve as Tuukka Rask’s backup goaltender. The contract Halak received was for two years and $5.5 million, and the Bruins can expect him to be a solid backup when Rask needs a breather.

Rask has averaged about 62 games per year over the previous five seasons and is one of the premier goaltenders in the league when he’s on his game. Halak ideally won’t have to carry too much of a load this season, and a team is really in great shape in terms of their goaltending situation if they can boast Halak as their backup.

Anton Khudobin served as the backup for Rask last season, but he signed with the Dallas Stars this offseason for two years and $5 million. Halak is set to make about $250,000 more per year than Khudobin, but it’s probably worth the slight price increase for the Bruins.

Halak is only a year older than Khudobin and has both a higher career save percentage and a higher career quality start percentage compared to Khudobin. Halak has a career save percentage of .916, and a career quality start percentage of 56.1%, while Khudobin has a career save percentage of .915 and a career quality start percentage of 54.8%.

Halak had what was probably his best season back in 2011-12 when he played for the St. Louis Blues. He put up a .926 save percentage, which was the highest of his career among seasons where he has played at least 10 games, and a career-low 1.97 goals against average. He finished sixth in Vezina Trophy voting that year and shared the Jennings Trophy with Brian Elliott. Halak started 46 games that year for the Blues while Elliott started 36, so Halak was the main option for the duo that gave up the fewest goals in the NHL that season. He has quite an impressive track record to be a team’s backup.

Halak is already proving to be a reliable asset for this Bruins squad. He had a shutout in his first start of the year against the Buffalo Sabres on October 4, saving all 32 shots against him. He also came into the Bruins opening game against the Washington Capitals after Rask gave up five goals on just 19 shots. Halak managed to save 16 of 18 shots in what was basically mop-up duty for a disastrous Rask start.

Halak had a relatively poor season with the New York Islanders last year, but the Islanders gave up a league-leading 35.6 shots per game. The Bruins defense was more stingy last season, giving up just 29.3 shots per game, which was the second-fewest in the league.

Halak is going to benefit from not having to face such a barrage of shots every appearance he makes, and his stats are going to likely improve as a result. He was an All-Star back in 2015, and if his early performances this season are any indication, it was a smart signing by the Bruins. They’re going to be getting some solid performances out of him when Rask gets a rest. 

Welcome Back To Boston: Best Bruins Reunions!

(Photo Credits: Evan Michael)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

Forget Mr. Gabe Kotter, it’s time to “Welcome Back” a few fan favorites (or forgetfuls) of the Bruins who took two turns thru town during their illustrious careers wearing the spoked-B. From players to coaches to player-coaches, even a couple of broadcasters and general managers, these Bruins enjoyed lengthy hockey careers with stints in Boston separated by a few seasons for some and decades for others. I’m sure there are additional names that could and/or should be on this list, but because I’ve got ’em on the spot, here are the ones I choose to tease a lot for “Best Bruins Reunions!”

The Captain Cooney Years (1928-’32, 1935-’39, 1940-’41)

Unlike Ralphie from A Christmas Story who nearly shoots his eye out, Ralph Weiland could shoot the puck past any goalie back in his heyday. Pictured in my post from the Fourth (Line) of July, “Cooney” as he was called, was a Cup Champ for the B’s three times — first as a rookie in 1929 then again in his farewell season of 1939 and then behind the bench as a coach in 1941. In “B”tween his Beantown years, he briefly played for the (original) Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. But it was his triumphant return to the franchise in 1935 after having left just a few years previous that the city of Boston will forever be grateful for. And not just because of the Stanley successes he led the Bruins to Captain Cooney also had a lasting impact at Harvard University where he coached the Crimson for two-plus decades post his memorable career wearing the Black N’ Gold (if you brush up on your French, you’ll understand why thanks to Hockey Canada below). Welcome Back, Cooney!

The Flaman Forties & Fifties (1944-’51, 1955-’61)

Move over John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt… there’s a new best long name in town: Ferdinand Charles Carl Flaman! And believe me, Bruins fans, whenever he did go out on the ice, the people always did shout his name. But they used “Fernie” since it was easier to say and more alliterative. When did they say it? For a nice chunk of time first in the forties then again in the late fifties. Sandwiched in the middle of those two Bruins stints was some Toronto time for Fernie, but any former Hub teammate or current North Shore grandparent will tell you that it was in Boston where the tough-as-nails D-man played his best hockey, racking up accolades & respect just as quickly as penalty minutes (he led the league in PIMs in ’54-’55).

Fernie Flaman

(Photo Credit: Hockey Ink)

Also a team captain like the aforementioned “Cooney,” Fernie (man, those are some great B’s nicknames, don’t you think!?) made the most of his return to the city and region, not only serving as a player-coach-GM for the AHL’s Providence Reds** but later as the head hockey coach of Northeastern. Welcome Back, Fernie!

**Read more about the history of hockey in Providence thanks to fellow blogger @hockeygirl2976 by clicking the link!

The Cherry On Top (1954-’55, 1974-’79)

So his NHL playing career only lasted one Bruins playoff game in 1955, but I’ll be damned if Don Cherry didn’t make my list! Flamboyant, eccentric, maddening, colorful (and I haven’t even got to his suits yet), Cherry was — and still is — one of the most singular and original personalities in and of the game.

(Photo Credits: Coach’s Corner & Hockey Night in Canada)

And all of those qualities were on full daily display when he returned as head coach of the B’s in the seventies. After that lone ’55 cameo call-up to Boston, Cherry spent the remainder of his playing career in the minors, even quitting the game during the dawn of Disco to work as a car salesman (perhaps the suit trend started here — “the only thing louder than this Caddie’s engine is my purple blazer!”). When that career didn’t sell, he was lured back to the ice, and ultimately back to the B’s, in 1974. During his time as bench boss of the Bruins, Cherry won everything but The Stanley Cup–from division titles to conference crowns to the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year. But it was the moment seen in the clip below which made Cherry truly unforgettable in Bruins lore (and not in the best way, once could argue):

There’s losing. Then there’s Don Cherry losing. But because we’re still talking about it (and did I mention those impeccable suits?) all these years later, I guess he’s somewhat winning. Ah, who am I kidding, any guy who when asked a question about the Bruins responds with “I love them so much I still wear their shorts” (thank you Windsor Star for this quotable gem) is as perfect as a summertime hot fudge sundae with whipped cream. And a Cherry on top. Welcome Back, Coach!

The OveraCheever (1967-’72, 1975-’80)

Let’s just clear the air, and the ice, right out of the gate and say that perhaps if this soon-to-be-mentioned gallant goalie was in net during the above “Too Many Men” incident, Bruins history would be a lot different (sorry Gilles Gilbert, I’ve always had an affinity for the other G-man between the pipes). And that’s Gerry Cheevers, whom I histrionically mentioned in my first ever post here at Black N’ Gold Hockey.

Gerry_Cheevers_game_3

(Photo Credit: Vintage Sports)

Cheevers, who practically pioneered the art form of “the flop” and always acted as the “third defenseman” of the game, became the B’s number one goalie in 1967 and kept that post-to-post post up until 1972, where after winning his second Stanley Cup in three years, he bolted from the B’s to the fledgling World Hockey Association (WHA). He tended net for the Cleveland Crusaders for four seasons before bouncing back to Boston to finish out his impressive playing career (the only thing more impressive than his Bruins stats during both of these stretches was his inimitable mask as seen below–it’ll literally and figuratively leave you in stitches).

Cheevers then went on to coach for the B’s throughout the early years of the Reagan administration before joining the Bruins broadcast booth on NESN and WSBK-TV in the late 90’s early 2000’s. However, when it comes to broadcasting, how’s this for the perfect Coach’s Corner combo–cherubic Cherry cheering Cheevers cheerfully:

The Bill For My Beers Years (1985-’89 & 1995-2000)

There’s just something about guys on the Bruins whose names start with “B” that I like. It feels like they were meant to play in Boston. And twice for this blog’s point! Let’s keep the good goalie vibes going by first featuring Billy Ranford, who impressed the B’s brass so much as a rookie in 1985 that he became what looked like Boston’s “goalie of the future” for 1986 and beyond.

(Photo Credits: Trading Card Database)

That is until a coaching change led to a change of scenery for Ranford in 1988–him being shipped to the Edmonton Oilers along with the plucky (and pucky) Geoff Courtnall for none other than the great Andy Moog. This trade is one I still to this day hem-and-haw about because I love Andy Moog (and tweet at him often because of my vintage NHL75 jersey) and know how amazing he was with Reggie Lemelin as a ‘tender tandem!

But I also know that Moog’s Bruins lost to Ranford’s Oilers twice in the Cup finals in ’88 and ’90, respectively. So who knows if a Ranford-in-Boston dynasty could have started if that trade never happened? Fittingly, another trade did happen, and good ole Billy boy found himself back in Boston for the mid-90’s but only for a few seasons. He then became a part of the infamous package to the Capitals that sent out Adam Oates & Rick Tocchet and brought in Jason Allison, Anson Carter and “The Net Detective” himself Jim Carey. While I do miss old-fashioned hockey trades like the ones described, one of BNG’s newest writers, @pastagrl88, has some more historical happenings to look at here if you’re into reminiscing and ruminating about what might have been for the B’s!

Speaking of “B’s,” let’s get to that second name–one that I’ll raise a glass to Bob Beers! While his playing career was split between the NHL and AHL both times he was with the Bruins organization (first from ’89-’93, then ’96-’00), the return investment on his return to Boston was when he joined WBZ as the B’s color commentator for radio broadcasts. While the aforementioned Cherry & Cheevers made a name for themselves on TV after their careers, Beers became for many fans thee Bruins voice across the AM & FM airwaves for commentary. Just like he was considered a “Star Rookie” as seen in the card above, here’s Beers talking with soon-to-be star rookie for Boston, Ryan Donato:

I’ve always enjoyed Beers’ insight into the game, knowledge of the game and passion for the game — all intangibles he brings to the booth as a former player who doubly appreciated his time in both Boston & Providence. Cheers to Beers and, of course, Welcome Back, Bob & Billy!

The Magic of Murray (1991-’95, 2001-’08)

While my all-time favorite Murray might be Bill (The Actor), when it comes to Bruins alumni, this guy definitely takes the cake. That’s right, I’m referring to Mr. Glen Murray himself, who like his acting namesake, found himself in a Groundhog’s Day of sorts in Boston first in the 90’s then again in the “oughts.”

(Photo Credits: Trading Card Database)

A first-round pick by the B’s in 1991 (18th overall), Murray’s promise as a skillful scorer didn’t come to fruition until his perfectly timed return to Boston a decade (and century) later in a trade that sent former B’s captain Jason Allison to the Los Angeles Kings. Along with Murray, the Bruins received Jozef Stumpel for the second time as well, as the two played together during their first stints in Beantown. Murray’s all-star level contributions to the point sheet during his sequel years in Boston remain an impressive feat, as he’s the last B’s player to score more than 40-goals in a season–he put up 44 in 2002-’03 (I call dibs on Marchy, Bergy or Pasta breaking the drought this year). His career with the B’s ended in lackluster fashion with an ankle injury, surgery, rehab and waiver buyout. But for me, he’ll always be remembered for this:

I truly think Murray could have led the Bruins to a Cup during the early 2000’s if not for then-GM Mike O’Connell and team owner Jeremy Jacobs making some bonehead moves with free agency, the lockout, and trades. Nevertheless, it was still a fun time to watch and root for the B’s thanks to gleeful Glen. Welcome Back, Mr. Murray!

Other Notable Names (the Nineties to Now)

  • Who remembers the highest scoring Polish player in NHL history? Well, our friends at Stanley Cup of Chowder do — Mariusz Czerkawski!  He played for the B’s from 1993-’96 then again for a hot second during the 2006 season.
  • How about Mass. native Shawn McEachern who toured the Boston ice in ’95-’96 and returned for a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo in ’05-’06.
  • And who can forget Dobby! That’s right, Anton Khudobin first crammed the crease between 2011-’13 before holding the frozen fort as a back-up these past 3 seasons.

Well, if you’ve been a Bruins fan all your life like myself, then the names have all changed since you hung around. But those Cup-clinching dreams have remained, and they’ve turned around. And just in time for the season to soon start. So let’s all be on the lookout for other potential Bruins reunions that could happen in the near future. I mean, who’d have thought it would lead ya, back here where we need ya Milan LucicTyler Seguin, or Jumbo Joe? That probably isn’t true and won’t happen. But it may workout if the right player wants a warm “Welcome Back” to Boston.

Or, they could always just play for this team…

(Photo Credit: C&E Museum)

For The Bruins, Tuukka Rask Is Still #1

 

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo: Dan Hamilton- USA Today Sports

By: Tyler Aragao | Follow Me On Twitter: @TylerAragao40

Tuukka Rask has become somewhat of a lightning rod in Boston. Often labeled a “choker,” “quitter,” or “soft” by some Bruins fans the Finnish backstop also gets criticism for his contract and seemingly any goal he concedes.

The hate is irrational as it feels like the stinging pain from that 2013 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks still resonates. However, that was five years ago, and to Bruins fans, I say its time to let it go.

Tuukka Rask since 2013 has won a Vezina Trophy, been named an All-Star, and has posted a win/loss record of 136-77-31. Many other teams in the NHL would love a goaltender as capable as Tuukka Rask which is what makes it so perplexing that some fans want to see Jaroslav Halak replace him as Boston’s number one option in goal.

The addition of Halak was a strong one by the Bruins. He brings a veteran presence and experience and has performed admirably behind a disorganized and aging Islanders club. He should fill into Anton Khudobin’s spot with ease playing 30 or so games keeping Rask’s workload below the 60 game mark. That’s all Halak will be for the two years he was inked to. He’ll provide stability and act as a stop-gap while Dan Vlader and Zane McIntyre compete in Providence. Don Sweeney didn’t sign 33-year-old Jaroslav Halak to take over for Tuukka Rask, and any rational fan would see that yet, it seems the majority of anti-Rask folks aren’t rational.

Yes, he didn’t play great in game 7 against Toronto, and his 5-7 record and .903 save percentage this past spring leaves a lot to be desired. However, also let’s not forget this was a goalie that won 34 games, went on a 19-0-2 run, and was in the leagues top ten for goals against average and save percentage amongst goalies with 50 or more games played. When it comes to the postseason, he’s started 65 games, and he’s been to two Stanley Cup Finals as a starter and a backup. At 31 he’s a veteran with plenty of experience, and no matter how you slice it he’s one of the game’s higher end talents in net.

A well rested, and healthy Tuukka Rask will be a major factor as this youthful Bruins team looks to compete for a Stanley Cup with its aging core. Halak will allow for Bruce Cassidy to deploy a similar strategy as he did with Khudobin to help control Rask’s workload and that will only benefit the Bruins as a whole. Halak, however, isn’t going to usurp Rask and if anything it’d be a massive downgrade if the Bruins moved Rask and inserted a tandem of Halak and or Vlader/McIntyre.

Goaltending is arguably the most important position in hockey, and you truly can’t win without it. If the Bruins are going to contend and try to win another championship, Rask will be at the forefront of it and for the time being he’s still the guy in Boston, and that’s that.

B’s Dip Into Hurricanes’ Depth Again, Sign Nordstrom to 2 Year Deal.

Nordstrom Jamie Kellner.jpg

Photo Credit: Jamie Kellner

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow Me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

Remember when the Bruins took a chance on some guy from Carolina 2 years ago in free agency, and he turned into a 3rd Line Center of every B’s fan’s dreams? Joakim Nordstrom may not be Riley Nash, but apparently, the Bruins are comfortable using the Hurricanes’ bottom half of the roster as their depth farm system. The Bruins signed Nordstrom, 26, to a 2-year deal, with an average annual value of $1 million. In his 282 game NHL career, he has a total of 20 goals and 29 assists for 49 total points. That’s…less than ideal. Originally a 3rd Round selection by Chicago (90th Overall) in 2010, the Swede split time between the Blackhawks and their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, for two seasons before landing in Carolina along with Kris Versteeg in a post-Stanley Cup salary dump deal. In 75 games this past year, he tallied 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points.

This fits a mold the Bruins seem to like – a player who was previously considered a good prospect, who settled into a bottom 6 role and has the potential for decent offensive output. Unfortunately, he is a negative point-share player in his career, meaning he is scored on significantly more than he is able to generate offense. He averages more takeaways than giveaways, which indicates a respectable level of defensive competence. Unfortunately, that has to be contrasted with the fact that he averages a little under 3 goals against per hour when he is on the ice. That’s a rather high number.

I have to say, that based on this, I am very much not a fan. But, he does do things like this:

Along with the signing of Chris Wagner, who has been 2nd in the league in hits over the last year only to Matt Martin, it appears that Don Sweeney, Cam Neely, or some other “Hockey Man” in the front office has decided that the reason the Bruins were eliminated by the Lightning this year was a lack of “jam” or grittiness. Out-hitting an opponent is not the way of the NHL in 2018. It seems that message may have been missed at some point.


Let’s just not do anything else like this, please.

It seems Boston could’ve very easily retained Tim Schaller and Anton Khudobin for similar prices, but chose to move on. Schaller was, I’m sure, a result of “not enough physicality” in the bottom 6. I can’t believe I have to make this argument AGAIN, but if you are relegating your bottom 6 to being physical, grinder-esque players, you are going to lose. It is not a proper maximization of a lineup to do so. And if you want those types of players, make sure they can do things OTHER than hit and be physical and tough to play against.

Re-Signing Khudobin Should Be Top Priority For Boston

San Jose Sharks Vs Boston Bruins At TD Garden

Photo: The Boston Globe

By: Tyler Aragao | Follow me on Twitter @Tyleraragao40

In today’s NHL its been proven countless times how important it is to have a reliable number two option in goal. Looking at some of the recent Stanley Cup champions the trend is evident.

The Blackhawks in 2015 relied on Scott Darling to push them past Nashville in the first round en route to their third title in five years, the Penguins in 2017 needed veteran Marc Andre Fleury who led them back to the conference finals while Matt Murray was injured. Most recently the Capitals needed youngster Philip Grubauer who played admirably during the regular season while Braden Holtby struggled.

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The Bruins haven’t had much success in the number two spot since Chad Johnson departed the team in 2014. The Bruins have used Niklas Svedberg, Jonas Gustavsson, and have sprinkled in youngsters like Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban along the way. With neither bringing consistency the Bruins sought an old friend and brought back Anton Khudobin for a two-year stint.

Year one was disastrous, to say the least. Khudobin didn’t pick up his first win until December and then wouldn’t win again until February. Though he finished the season, strong Khudobin played in just 16 games, starting 14.

Year two yielded much better results with Khudobin appearing in 31 games, 29 of them starts. His 2.56 GAA and .913 save percentage were far better than his 2.64 GAA, and .904 save percentage of last season. His play also impacted Tuukka Rask in a positive way. The Bruins number one played in 54 games, 53 of them starts. Rask won 34 games, posting a .924 even strength save percentage for the season. It was the first time since 2014 in which Rask played less than 60 or more games.

Khudobin’s sparkling play in the early portions of the season was crucial with Rask’s struggles, and one might imagine without a competent backup if the Bruins even make it into the playoffs let alone advance to the second round. Khudobin’s play allowed the Bruins to rest Rask more and gave the all-star goalie time to work out of slumps and keep himself sharp.

The goalie market this year is chalk full of experienced goalies. Kari Lehtonen, Cam Ward, and Jonathan Bernier have spent numerous years in the league as starters and backups. So while there are options via free agency, the Bruins might already have their preferred choice. Khudobin himself has expressed his desire to continue his career in Boston and why not. In four career seasons with the Bruins, he’s 33-16-9, with a 2.50 GAA, and a .914 save percentage.

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The modern-day recipe for success in the NHL requires two capable goalies. The Bruins have learned the hard way on how failing to shore up in goal can impact a team’s playoff hopes. In 2015 and 2016 the Bruins sputtered out of the playoffs in the final weeks and even the final game of the regular season with a burnt out Rask and no one to step up behind him.  While the backup goalie might be overlooked by most fans to all 31 teams competing for the Stanley Cup is an essential component, and the Bruins should be no different.

Bruins Options If Khudobin Doesn’t Re-Sign

Photo Credit:  MSN.com

By: Mark Allred   |   Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney certainly has his work cut out for him with a long list of contract negotiations this offseason. Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin’s two-year $1.2 million contract comes to an end on July 1, 2018, and it remains to be seen whether or not he returns to Boston or test the free agent market. Khudobin, who turned 32 on May 7,2018 has expressed great interest in coming back to the Bruins organization saying in quotes below from 985TheSportsHub.com’s B’s writer Ty Anderson’s May 14, 2018 article that can be seen in full HERE.

Khudobin said “I want to be here. I like here. I’ve been in California, I’ve been in Texas, I’ve been in Carolina, I’ve been in Minnesota. I’ve been in a lot of cities and a lot of states, and Boston is my favorite one,” Khudobin said. “Don [Sweeney] knows that I love it here. I love the city and everybody knows it. How much is it going to be a factor in signing a new contract, I don’t know. I don’t think it will be a factor. I don’t think it matters. It matters what they can offer, and how much I’m willing to take.”

“I would love to stay here. I’m 32 right now, and if I’m going to play until 40, I would love to play another eight years here,” Khudobin continued. “So that’s clear for me, and if we will get a deal, today, or tomorrow, or in free agency, I don’t know.”

But if it will happen in Boston, I will be happy.”

Anton struggled in year-one of his second tour of duty with the Bruins organization going 7-6-1 with a 2.64 goals-against-average and .904 save percentage in 16 games played in 2016-17 but changed his game for the better when then intern Head Coach Bruce Cassidy took over for the fired Claude Julien in the Spring of 2017. Khudobin’s numbers were far better during the 2017-18 National Hockey League campaign where he posted a 16-6-7 with a 2.56 GAA and .913 Save% in 31 games played.

The backup role and the job Anton did last season is going to garner leverage when the aging veteran sits down to talk about an extension as he was a key member in the crease to start the 2017-18 season and value when starter Tuukka Rask needed time off. Last season was the best year for a Bruins backup netminder dating back to the 2013-14 season where former Bruin goaltender Chad Johnson posted a 17-4-3 record with a 2.10 GAA and .924 Save%.

With the positive things Khudobin has said above and GM Sweeney’s intent to bring him back, what’s the organization going to do if he wants to test the free agent market with hopes of landing a starting position somewhere else in the NHL? Below are a few ideas that I’ve been thinking about lately and could be great fits here in Boston with cap friendly deals.

Promote From Within And Give Zane McIntyre Another Chance?

Photo Credit:  NHL.com

If this Bruins team wants to save valuable cap space and use those funds to address other areas of concern, then 2010 sixth-round draft pick of the B’s Zane McIntyre could be moved up to the NHL for the last year of his two-year deal where he’ll make $650K. My concern with a move like this is McIntyre’s numbers when he’s had the opportunity to show what he’s got at the highest level in the world. In eight career games with the NHL Bruins, he has a 0-4-1 record with a 3.97 GAA and .858 Save%.

In the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins the 6′-2″ 200-pound 25-year-old netminder has had his struggles to begin his professional career but has posted solid numbers in his last two seasons with the top minor-pro affiliate of the Boston Bruins. After going 14-8-7 in 31 games during the 2015-16season, Zane put a stranglehold on his development and work ethic to post a record of 47-21-3 with a 2.27 GAA and .922% in 78 games played after his rookie season.

If the plan is to stay within the organization and save money as mentioned above, then this would be a sufficient move and if he wants to stay longer with Boston, he’s going to have to take every opportunity during this offseason to work hard and prove to the Bruins Brass that he’s still a value in the depth of this organization. If Khudobin is re-signed to an extension, I have to believe that next season could be McIntyre’s last with the Black and Gold and might have a better career elsewhere in the NHL with current goaltending prospects rising up the depth charts.

Possible Additions Via Free Agency

Carter Hutton

Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Hutton had his second best season when it comes to wins last year with the St. Louis Blues organization where he posted a record of 17-7-3 with a 2.09 GAA and .931 Save% serving as the backup to Blues starter Jake Allen. The 32-year-old Hutton is an unrestricted free agent as of July 1st, and with his performance last season I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blues lock him up for another year or two, but if he goes to free agency, the Bruins should consider him if Khudobin doesn’t return.

The 6’1″ 202-pound netminder is a six-year pro in the NHL and last years cap hit for the Thunder Bay, Ontario native was only $1.25 million and will be looking for an increase in pay for the upcoming season that I believe the Bruins could afford with the cap going up next season. Hutton does have some familiarity with the Boston area as he spent his four-year collegiate hockey career playing for Division 1 UMass-Lowell which is not far from the state capitol.

Also, important to point out is what the Blues are going to do with their cap situation when thinking about re-signing players. Current Blues goaltending prospect Jordan Binnington spent all of last season with the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins where he had his second-best season at the minor-pro level on loan from the Blues organization. The Blues did not have an AHL affiliate last year, so the team’s prospects were scattered all over the AHL to get playing time. The 24-year-old Binnington signed a one-year extension in July 2017 and will be a restricted free agent on July 1st. If Hutton is not resigned, Binnington would be a good choice for the backup duties at a low cap-friendly value. Binnington played in 28 games for the Providence team and posted a 17-9-0 record with a 2.05 GAA and .926 Save%.

Michael Hutchinson

Photo Credit:  NHL.com

Hutchinson is a former prospect of the Boston Bruins who was drafted in the third-round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The 6′-3″ 202-pound netminder spent some time with the AHL Providence Bruins appearing in 87 games with a record of 39-37-5 and 2.59 GAA and .915 Save% in three seasons of work with the Bruins affiliate.
Hutchinson only appeared in three games for the Winnipeg Jets organization going 2-1-0 but was demoted to the Jets Affiliate in the AHL the Manitoba Moose and used his anger for the transaction downward as a way to get better and prove to Jets management that he belongs back in the NHL.

With the Moose, he posted a 17-5-1 record with a 2.08 GAA and .935 save percentage after losing his job in the NHL to Connor Hellebuyck which now seemed like the right move for the Jets Brass as they’re currently in the Western Conference Finals playing the new surprising franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights with Hellebuyck in goal. Hutchinson is set to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, and with the depth in goal for the Jets, I don’t believe he will re-sign with the team just to possibly play in the AHL next season.

I believe a move out of Winnipeg would be a solid motivator for the 28-year-old Hutchinson and if the Bruins can’t get a deal done with the current backup in Khudobin, I’d certainly take a chance with “Hutch” and his cap-friendly $1.3 million that the Jets paid during the 2017-18 season.

Boston Bruins Offseason Preview

Don sweeney

PHOTO CREDITS: (Bill Sikes/Associated Press)

By: Court Lalonde | Follow me on Twitter  @courtlalonde

When the final buzzer went on the Boston Bruins season, I had a mixed bag of emotions that had me feeling disappointed and proud at the same time.  At the start of the season, many people in the hockey world either had the Bruins as a fringe playoff team or not making it at all.  Instead, we got a team that had a slow start but became a cup contender in December and never looked back.  That’s where the disappointment sets in because you started to believe that this team could win it all and you start drawing comparisons to the 2011 team in your head that won the cup before the playoffs had begun.  I got caught up in the hype, and when they blew out the doors of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first two games of the playoffs, the hype train had left the station.  The team came back down to earth but did eventually win the series in a game seven for the ages and advanced to the second round.

That’s when they ran into a team that most thoughts were the better matchup for the Bruins and that some people including myself thought they would beat.  The reality of this is that the Tampa Bay Lightning where the better team and the Bruins failed to compete with the Lightning 5 on 5 and lost the series.  People will give excuses that the refs missed calls, which they did, or that Tuukka didn’t play well, which he did.  Now that the playoffs are over for the Bruins they get to move on to the offseason, where the speculation begins with fans and when Don Sweeney works as the boys prepare for next season.

What To Do With Rick And Riley

Rick Nash came over to the Bruins just before the deadline and made an immediate impact and warmed the hearts of Bruins fans across the country.  His tenure as a Bruin seemed to have derailed when he suffered his concussion near the end of the season and lost all momentum and energy he brought to the team after the trade.  When he came back from injury, he didn’t look like the same player the Bruins acquired and struggled on the ice even to win puck battles.  I think he came back too soon from his injury and wasn’t fully healed and was having more bad days than good but is me speculating.  Only he can let us know if that was true and I doubt he would give us an honest answer or even use that as an excuse.  He said all the right things on Breakup Day “The organization was great, the guys were awesome, so it was a great chapter here, and hopefully it can continue” Nash said.  I know it’s not the popular opinion, but I would have him back, but it would have to be on a team friendly deal that was no longer than two years, so the odds aren’t in my favor and more than likely he won’t be returning.  If he doesn’t return I don’t see it as a cause for concern because of the youth that seems poised to step into that second line role.  Both Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork shoot left, but that doesn’t mean they can’t slot into the right side and learn that role for the intern.  With the play of Jake Debrusk during the regular season and the playoffs, it doesn’t look like he will be moving off the second line left wing spot anytime soon.

That brings us to Riley Nash who for a guy making $900,000 a year was lights out for this franchise and did everything that was asked of him and then some.  The 29-year-old finished the regular season with 41 points ( 15 Goals, 26 assists) as the Bruins third line center and filled in for Bergeron on the top line when he went down with an injury near the end of the season.  My thought on Riley is he played himself out of a contract in Boston because he deserves a raise and will get a raise on the open market.  The Bruins in the past have rewarded third line players with extensions that have come back to bite them like Chris Kelley, and I don’t see them repeating this.  I have no doubt they will offer an extension to Riley but doubt it will be in the 3.5-4 million dollar range that he could get on the open market.  The Bruins have the likes of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Austin Czarnik, and Ryan Fitzgerald that could impress and take that spot on the third line next season at a considerably less cap hit.  I don’t see Riley coming back because I’m sure he isn’t interested in signing a short-term deal and is looking for a long-term contract in the 3.5 to 4 million dollar range.

Does Dobby Come Back?

dobby

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

Anton Khudobin will become an unrestricted free-agent on July 1 and will have many suitors for his services because he showed the league that he is one of the top backup goaltenders in the National Hockey League.  The backup position has been a challenge over the years for the Boston Bruins, and some might think it has been an afterthought for upper management since they have had so many different ones since Tuukka Rask became the starter. Khudobin solidified his role as a top backup last year when at the beginning of the season Tuukka hit a rough patch, and he stepped in and helped win some games for the Bruins.  He started out this season a lot better than the previous year which saw him struggle at the start of the season and even got him sent down to the minors at one point because he couldn’t win a game.  He came back at the end of the season to help the Bruins make the playoffs.  This season he was less than stellar at the end of the season and only registered one win in his last six games.  I hope that he does return because he has played exceptionally well in the backup role and has provided Tuukka with the much-needed rest during the regular season and has given his team a chance to win on most nights.  Currently, his salary is $1.2 million a season, and you would think based on his play he would be asking for raise.  The current projected cap space is $9.6 million for next year but still have to make some decision on the restricted free agents and the unrestricted free agents.  I just spoke about two unrestricted free agents that I don’t think will be returning so that does possibly open up some room for Khudobin to get a raise which I’m hoping would be in the 1.5 million dollar range on a two-year deal.  With the fact that both Dan Vladar and Zane McIntyre haven’t shown any signs that they’re ready to make the jump to the big club I think the obvious decision is to bring back Dobby.  I think Khudobin would take a team friendly deal to stay with Boston and have some stability in his life plus stay in a city he enjoys.

Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Moving onto the remaining free agents on the Bruins roster who are restricted or unrestricted.  I think it would be safe to say that Brian Gionta, Nick Holden, and Tommy Wingels will not be returning next year.  If anything maybe Wingels might return because it seemed as Bruce Cassidy had some confidence in him during the playoffs.  Wingels isn’t a bad option to have as your energy guy that can come into your bottom two lines throughout the season when needed.  Sean Kuraly I can see getting a slight raise from his $808,750 he made last year but nothing that will break the bank.  My guess is he will get a deal in the 1.5-2 million dollar range something like a Jay Beagle in Washington who is making $1.75 million a season with similar stats and role.  Tim Schaller is an interesting one because he is an unrestricted free agent and the Bruins have so much youth down in Providence waiting to get a chance to make this lineup.  I see things in his game that I like and I see flashes on offensive output sometimes and gave him the nickname “silky mitts” this year with some of his goals.  He has played well enough to earn another contract and has chemistry on that fourth line with Noel Acciari, and Sean Kuraly.  He made $775,000 last year, and I don’t see a big raise in his future.  He is a local boy that added energy to his line but does have some defensive issues in his zone from time to time, but you could almost say that about a lot of players.  Could Peter Cehlarik, Anton Blidh, or Jesse Gabrielle fill his role next year or do the Bruins look to free agency?  My guess is if he is willing to be paid close to the same cap hit he could be back on a one-year deal.  Last but certainly not least we have Matt Grzelcyk who I had my doubts about and couldn’t see what everyone else saw in him all year.  People were calling to trade Krug and slot him in that spot near the end of the season.  I didn’t agree then and still don’t agree now but did think he played well in the playoffs and proved me wrong.

His defensive game is better than I originally thought but still tends to make the mistakes that most kids his age make with regards to forcing passes in his zone sometimes when he should be holding onto the puck.  I do think he will get a three-year deal in and around 1.5 to 2.5 million dollar range a year.  I don’t see him taking the torch from Krug just yet but do see the potential the kid has and hope he improves next season.

This offseason is going to be a difficult one for Don Sweeney and his team because moves he makes this offseason can have an impact on the next offseason when he has some big names to resign and decisions to make if there is another expansion draft.  The big names I speak of are Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, and Danton Heinen.  McAvoy is going to cost the most with regards to the cap, and I’m sure Sweeney will be thinking about future cap when he is making some of his decision this summer.  I’ve put my faith in Sweeney when becoming the GM, and he has made some questionable trades and signings, but I also feel he has done some great moves and signings and has been thinking about the future of this franchise just as much as the present.  So yes I’m disappointed in the second round exit but I’m still excited to see what the future of this franchise will look like and I’m already counting down the days to training camp.