Boston Bruins: Four Games, Two Wins, Three Lines

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Photo Credit: Frank Gunn/AP

By: Cameron McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter: @CSthinks

It doesn’t take a brilliant hockey mind to understand that the Bruins stole Game 4 from Toronto thanks to some big games from big names.

 

The Bruins, despite twice going up by two or more goals in the game, never seemed to have complete control, and their feeble attempt at staving off a Toronto comeback effort demonstrated how unstable their leads can be. Tuukka Rask allowed a bad goal, but he also played an outstanding hockey game. Game 4 was probably the strongest offensive effort the Leafs put together, pouring in four goals and matching their series high. Yet even as they were charging late having stolen every ounce of momentum, Rask was equal to the task (I hate that I just used that line), slamming the door on both the Leafs and Game 4.

The Bruins got solid games from their top defensive pairing and Brandon Carlo on the back end, with their top line and Charlie Coyle playing well up front. Outside of this group (and Rask) the Bruins played a “meh” hockey game. Maybe even “meh-minus.”

For the third time in four games, Toronto played a better hockey game than the Bruins. If not for the grace of Boston’s top dogs, the Bruins would be coming back to Boston down 3-1 with their backs secured firmly against the wall.

What’s encouraging about this scenario for Boston, is that they’ve essentially played four games (winning two of them), with just three lines. Butch Cassidy’s fourth forward unit of Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari, and Chris Wagner has been, to put it nicely, disappointing. While Nordstrom was able to score an empty netter with the game already decided last night, and even drew a critical penalty in the opening minutes of the game (which lead to a Charlie McAvoy BINGO), the unit as a whole put together another underwhelming game.

 

Kuraly, Please.

The string of playoff performances that this fourth line has compiled sheds a lot of light on just how valuable Sean Kuraly is to not just the fourth unit, but also the team as a whole. Sean Kuraly is the straw that stirs the fourth line drink. With Kuraly in the lineup, his speed makes the entire fourth unit faster and opens up the ice North/South. His ability to carry the puck with speed through the neutral zone drives offensive zone possession for Boston, something that is invaluable, especially coming from a fourth unit. Kuraly’s speed also allows him to be first on a lot of pucks that are dumped behind defensemen. While certainly this bodes well for Boston’s offense and scoring chances, it also (and almost more importantly) creates tougher minutes for Toronto’s defensemen. Forcing Toronto to play in their own end limits their energy and ability to bypass the Bruins’ forecheck with smooth and simple breakouts. Without Kuraly, the Black and Gold forecheck has been noticeably weaker (aside from Game 2). When examining the forechecking efforts of the fourth line specifically, they seem to lack the necessary speed to apply pressure in certain spots (Wagner, Acciari), and lack the necessary physicality to disrupt possession in others (Nordstrom). Kuraly will bring both physicality and speed to Toronto’s front door, and Game 2 showed just how important that is for the Bruins to succeed. To paraphrase the great Destiny’s Child, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

 

Kuraly’s role might be as significant to this team’s success as any fourth liner that I can remember. His presence on the fourth line makes the entire lineup deeper, and it opens up chances for other lines because it forces opponents to play tougher minutes. Toronto has shown that it is incapable of playing 60 solid minutes when presented with physicality and aggressiveness.

Having #52 rejoin will not only signal Kuraly’s return to the lineup, but it also signals the return of the fourth line to the Bruin’s rotation. Having Kuraly back means that Bruce Cassidy will have another line he can trust to put on the ice regularly, which will save the legs of the Bruins top scorers and open up the game for them to play as they are capable of. We got a glimpse of how good they can be in the playoffs on Wednesday night in Game 4. Imagine how good they will be when Kuraly’s line eats up some of their tougher minutes.

Put your Kuraly caps on! (I’ll see myself out.)

Moving Forward

As far as what the fourth line will look like upon Kuraly’s return, I think it’s anyone’s guess. While the Wagner-Acciari-Kuraly line had a lot of success during the year, it will be interesting to see if Cassidy doesn’t leave Nordstrom in for either Acciari or Wagner. While Nordstrom did outplay both of them, Acciari and Wagner’s chemistry with Kuraly might prove to be too significant to ignore.

If it were up to me, the fourth unit would feature Kuraly-Acciari-Kuhlman. Admittedly, while part of me thought that a “KKA” (pronounced “Ca-Caw”) line would have a cool nickname and be fun for Cassidy to shout when their time had come to grace the ice, I also think that this grouping brings the best balance of speed, skill, and physicality to the fourth line. And that’s a combination that the Bruins have been in dire need of for more than a week now.

In all likelihood, we will probably see either the WAK line or Nordstrom with Kuraly and Acciari. Either way, there’s no scenario in which Sean Kuraly returns and the Bruins’ fourth unit isn’t immediately miles ahead of where it was just days before.

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Photo Credit: Brad Penner/ USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins just got their swagger back. And are back on Garden ice. Uh-oh.

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Part 3: How These Two Combatants Are Different

( Photo Credit: JEFF CHEVRIER/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

Boston Bruins

In: Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, Joakim Nordstrom, Karson Kuhlman, Chris Wagner, Jaroslav Halak, Connor Clifton, Steven Kampfer, John Moore, Brandon Carlo (injury)

Out: Rick Nash, Adam Mcquaid, Tim Schaller, Tommy Wingles, Ryan Donato, Nick Holden, Brian Gionta, Anton Khudobin

Injuries: Sean Kuraly, Kevan Miller, John Moore

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Just looking at who the Bruins have added and subtracted from their roster since last season’s matchup, it’s clear that this is a better roster than last year. Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle have both been very solid pickups at the deadline. While they haven’t been lighting up the scoresheet, they have provided much-needed stability to the middle-six group of forwards both offensively and defensively. Neither has had incredible playoff success (Johansson with 30 points in 72 games and Coyle with 15 points in 44 games), but the experience is almost just as important as success in the playoffs.

One major addition (which isn’t technically an addition) is Brandon Carlo. Injured the last two post-seasons, this will actually be the first playoff action Carlo will play in his career. Last season, Charlie Mcavoy and Zdeno Chara shut down Auston Matthews, and the Leafs first line but other players like Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau were still able to have very successful series matched up against guys like Adam Mcquaid and Kevan Miller, who were better suited for a 3rd pairing role.

(Photo Credit: Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)

Karson Kuhlman and Connor Clifton have both had very successful rookie stints with Boston and will look to continue that in the playoffs. Kuhlman’s speed should fit well when playing against the high-flying Maple Leafs squad and Clifton’s physicality is a perfect fit for the playoffs. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom have both been pleasant surprises and have improved the Bs’ depth considerably.

In all honesty, the Bruins didn’t lose too much. Rick Nash had just five points in 12 playoff games last season. Wagner and Nordstrom have filled the roles of Tim Schaller and the rest of the depth the Bruins lost admirably and with the depth at D, Mcquaid and Nick Holden won’t be missed too much.

Toronto Maple Leafs

In: John Tavares, Jake Muzzin, Trevor Moore, Frederic Gauthier, Michael Hutchinson, Tyler Ennis, Igor Ozhiganov

Out: Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk, Thomas Plekanec, Roman Polak, Leo Komarov, Dominic Moore

Injuries: None

John Tavares led the Maple Leafs with 47 goals this season.

(Photo Credit: BRIAN BABINEAU / NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES)

So obviously the Maple Leafs won the John Tavares sweepstakes. With JT, Austin Matthews, and Nazim Kadri, the Leafs now boast arguably the best 1-2-3 center punch in the league. Along with improving their center core, the growth and success of the Leafs’ youth can really be seen as a major addition. The last series, we saw glimpses of the skill that youngsters Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen possess but throughout this regular season, they took major strides. They both had career years, boasting almost identical stat-lines with Johnsson notching 20 goals and 43 points in 73 games and Kapanen scoring 20 goals and 44 points.

Arguably more game-changing than the Tavares addition was the addition of Jake Muzzin. The Leafs traded for the former Kings defenseman at the end of January and has really solidified the Maple Leafs D-core. In 30 games in Toronto, Muzzin has scored five goals, adding 11 assists with a plus-11 rating.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Four

( Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images )

These additions didn’t come without a cost. The Leafs lost a lot of really good pieces that hurt their depth, but more importantly, it hurt their special teams. Losing guys like James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak has hurt their powerplay considerably. JVR’s 11 goals and 20 points, as well as Tyler Bozak’s 13 points, left considerable holes on their PP, dropping to 21.8% from their previous 25% success rate.

Along with that, the Leafs lost many of their best face-off men, which is crucial in the playoffs. Dominic Moore (54.3), Tyler Bozak (53.6) and Tomas Plekanec (57.9) all proved to be very valuable on the face-off dot and again will leave big shoes to fill. With this, the team’s penalty kill has also slipped from 81.4% to 79.9 and losing the veteran leadership from these guys, and Leo Komarov will certainly hurt come when they meet.

So have both teams improved since last year? Yea. Will the results change? Only time will tell. I still got Bruins in 7.

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Bruins Clinch Home Ice Advantage-Time To Rest?

( Photo Credit: Canadian Press )

By: Jack McCarthy  |  Follow Me On Twitter @73johnnymac 

By virtue of their 6-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena, the Boston Bruins have secured second place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division and more importantly, home ice advantage in their opening round playoff series against their division rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Bruins were led by winger Jake DeBrusk’s three-point game and Brad Marchand’s two-point night, becoming Boston’s first 100-point player since Joe Thornton in the 2002-03 season.  The six-goal outburst was hi-lighted by balanced scoring with goals coming from three of the four lines.

The Bruins victory coupled by Toronto’s 4-1 defeat on home ice to the Carolina Hurricanes wrapped up second place in the Atlantic Division for the Bruins and guarantees they will open at TD Garden against the Leafs when the NHL playoffs begin in just over a week.

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The significance of clinching home ice with two games to spare should not be overlooked.  Coach Bruce Cassidy now has the luxury of resting some of his key players who may be nursing minor injuries that players often deal with having reached game 80 in the regular season schedule.  Look for Cassidy to deploy some unfamiliar looking line-ups over the final two regular-season games against Minnesota and Tampa Bay.  For a change, this is a luxury situation and not a crisis caused by the injury bug.  The question becomes which Bruins are in line for a game off over the last two?  Coach Cassidy will attempt to balance health and rest with keeping players playing well and not disturbing chemistry.

Candidates to receive a night off over the final two games include:

Zdeno Chara:  The 42-year old Chara will be relied upon heavily against the Maple Leafs in a shutdown role most likely against the Auston Matthews line, as well as on the penalty kill.  Having suffered a knee injury in Colorado back in November, Chara has only appeared in 61 games this season, low by his standards, but the opportunity for a night off to refresh and recharge for the playoffs makes perfect sense.

Charlie McAvoy:  McAvoy has had a good season and has been especially solid over the last 25 games or so for the Bruins while earning seen key situational ice time including an increased role on the first power play unit while Torey Krug was out of the lineup.

Brandon Carlo:  The third-year defenseman has blossomed this season and is having the best campaign of his young career.  Carlo has become a key defender and is being deployed in matchup situations as well as on the penalty kill.  Bruins fans are all too familiar with the devastating season-ending injuries Carlo has suffered in each of his first two seasons.  After compiling relatively injury free seasons, Carlo was lost in the final regular-season game two years ago and missed the entire 6-game playoff series against the Ottawa Senators.  Last season, Carlo went down with just over a week remaining in the regular season and missed the entire playoffs yet again.  The Bruins would be wise to sit Carlo for the final regular season game and have him wrapped in cotton balls in the press box for good measure!

The remaining key Bruins defenders, namely Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller have all recently returned from injury.  Provided all are now fully healthy and wouldn’t stand to benefit from a game off, are likely best suited to play the final two games to continue getting back into game fitness heading into the playoffs.

 Patrice Bergeron:  Bergeron is on the cusp of cracking the 80-point mark for the first time in his illustrious career.  Whilst it would be nice to reach that mark, Bergeron being the consummate professional would likely value the opportunity to rest prior to going to battle with their bitter divisional foes next week.

Brad Marchand: Marchand is an interesting option and likely gets a game off as well.  It would have been really interesting to see what approach Coach Cassidy and the Bruins might have taken in the final game of the season if Marchand was sitting on 98 or 99 points.  Whilst the team certainly comes first it would have been difficult to deny a player the opportunity to achieve such a huge personal milestone, one that has only be seen in black and gold twice in the last 25 years.   Needless to day, Marchand reaching the 100-point mark with two games remaining in the regular season makes the decision a much easier one.  There is the slim opportunity to reach 40 goals (Marchand would need 4 over the last 2 games) or 100 penalty minutes (Marchand would also require 4 over the last two games), but milestones aside, sitting one of the final two games is a good bet.

David Pastrnak:  Having missed 16 games in the second half of the season with a broken thumb, Pastrnak should be relatively refreshed heading into the playoffs.  That said, if there are any ill effects of the injury still being felt, the opportunity is there to give Pastrnak a game or two off heading into the weekend.

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David Krejci: Krejci is the only Bruin to have played in all 80 games this season and has probably earned the right to make his own call as to whether he sits a game in the final two or not.  Krejci has had an outstanding season and is expected to be a key contributor against Toronto in round one.  Krejci has an opportunity to establish a career high in points, needing just two in the final two games to match his high of 73 points achieved all the way back in 2008-09.

As for the others, the opportunity is there for Coach Cassidy to sit any players who may be dealing with minor, undisclosed injuries over the final two games of the regular season.  The Bruins have gotten the job done, securing home ice advantage, which has proven pivotal against Toronto in their two previous meetings, both decided in Game 7 on TD Garden ice.  The rest that may be given out over the final two games has certainly been earned.

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How to Treat Bruins Defensemen As Playoffs Approach

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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/ USA TODAY Sports

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

The Bruins have been hurt all year. You’d be hard pressed to recall a game in which their regular roster was 100% healthy. If you can in fact recall such a game off the top of your head, then you are likely someone with a strangely strong memory who would probably weird me out if we were to meet in person. The point is, these games have been few and far between.

No one position in the lineup has been immune to these injuries. The list of injured Bruins players includes… well, just about everyone. Big ups to David Krejci for not only staying healthy all year, but for staying positive when all his friends were licking their wounds and putting band-aids on their boo-boos.

But as we approach the playoffs, an area that draws significant focus in terms of game management and recovery for players is the defensive unit of the Bruins. The man-games lost to injury among Bruins defensemen alone has been astounding. So much so that I used the word astounding just now, and I took a vow to never use that word without just cause.

At the tail end of a pretty significant stretch of games where the Black and Gold have been undermanned at the defensive position, things are starting to look hopeful at the right time. Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller are all rejoining the Bruins’ lineup within one week of each other. Undoubtedly, some rust is to be expected out of these three as they return (Krug only had 2 assists in his return from injury, yuck). But on the whole, the Bruins will be a much better and more well-rounded team with half of their regular defensive unit back in action.

A dilemma that Bruce Cassidy might be faced with, however, is how to treat the other half of the defensive unit. This would be the half that has helped keep the team afloat when a weaker team might have folded. This is the half that has been tasked with playing significant minutes in the absence of their compatriots, in order to minimize the amount of pressure and responsibility placed on the defenseman mitigate the negative affects of a beaten up D-core replete with AHL callus and press box regulars.   Specifically, it will be interesting to see how Cassidy will handle the playing time and workloads of Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, and perhaps most importantly Brandon Carlo over the final five regular season games.   Chara is 42, and despite being in remarkable physical condition, some rest might be crucial to entering the postseason in top form. Carlo has been solid all year long, yet went down in the later part of the regular season last year, and his absence was more than noticeable against Tampa Bay. McAvoy, despite being relatively healthy for at least the latter half of this season, has been tasked with shouldering the load as far as ice time is concerned, averaging around 23 minutes throughout each of his past five games.

 

Unfortunately, there McAvoy struggled in the third period of a game against Tampa Bay on March 25th, a result that could very well be linked to fatigue and overuse (McAvoy played nearly 27 minutes in that game).

All this to say, the balance between effective rest and harmful idleness is one that Cassidy will have to find for the three aforementioned D-men. Certainly any coach would like to rest the legs of those on whom he will have to rely in the playoffs (as well as protect them from injury), but it is important to keep them fresh and primed as the postseason approaches. This balance is one that is going to have to be found by calculating the right amount of minutes per night for each of the defensemen, as well as how many games they will actually dress for.

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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/ USA TODAY Sports

What does coach Cam do?

If it were up to me (and it won’t be), I would play all 6 of my regular defensemen in the final game of the season. Sure, this game comes against Tampa, whose run-and-gun style is one that could potentially place some stress on the Bruins defensively. While this might factor into a potential decision to use the game as a rest for some of the B’s defensemen, I would leave them all in. Toronto is a lock for the Bruins as a first round matchup, and the closest thing that resembles the star-power the Bruins defensemen will be facing in the first round is the star power of Tampa’s forwards in Point, Kucherov, and Stamkos.

For the four games leading up to the (regular) season finale, I think it would be wise to play Miller, Grzelcyk, and Krug as much as possible. Conversely, Bruce Cassidy would be wise to allot 3 games to Chara, McAvoy, and Carlo as the season comes to a close. Apart from the final game, find two others for each defenseman to skate in, and have Connor Clifton and Steven Kampfer fill in as needed. If all goes well, maybe John Moore will even be healthy by the time playoffs roll around.

 

This is all speculation and opinion from someone who writes with more confidence than he ever played hockey with. But to me, it seems pretty clear that the Bruins D-core could benefit from some balance and rest as the season comes to a close, so that they are not decimated by injuries as was the case at the heartbreaking end of last season.

 

Don’t worry. I’ll have my guy talk to Butch. They text a lot.

 

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My Pick for Bruins’ 7th Player Award

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( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

The NESN’s 7th Player award is presented annually to a player on the Bruins roster who has performed above and beyond expectations this season. The award has been given out since the 1968-69 season when Ed Westfall won the award that season according to Fandom.com.

The award has been given out to Bruins players who have turned into legends. To name a few: Terry O’Reilly, Cam Neely, Barry Pederson, and Rick Middleton. Recently, the award has been given to Bruins players like Tim Thomas, Milan Lucic, David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy.

This year, the Bruins have been one of the best teams in the league and one of the most dominant at times. Their dominance has been in part from incredible performances from up and down the lineup. Of course, the Bruins top line made up of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak is a constant threat night-in-night-out. But, part of the Bruins success comes from unlikely heroes in the forward group, the defensive core, and both goaltenders. Also, a plethora of injuries this year has caused many different players to be called upon through the “next man up” mentality.

 

With the Bruins so successful, we can easily make a case for 4 or 5 players who deserve the 7th Player Award. Jaroslav Halak has been a huge surprise as a strong backup sharing the net with Tuukka Rask. David Krejci has not missed a game this season and is having his second best season based on points with 65 through 76 games. Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly could also be in the conversation who have both become fan favorites in the bottom 6.

My pick, however, is Brandon Carlo. In his third season, he has been a big part of the Bruins success this season. He has not done it in a flashy way though. He has been doing the right things in the defensive zone and neutral zone and at times jumped in the offense. He might not be the clear-cut frontrunner for the player who has gone above and beyond this season because his numbers are not outstanding. But, if you watch Brandon Carlo play on a nightly basis, his shutdown play can’t be missed. There have been so many times this year where I have said to myself “wow, Brandon Carlo has really stepped it up this season.”

Carlo has had a couple of good seasons before this one but nothing too incredible. He hit a couple bumps in the road towards the ends of the last two seasons. On April 8, 2017, Carlo suffered a concussion after a collision with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. This knocked him out for the playoffs as he missed all 6 games against the Senators in the 2017 post-season. Right before the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Carlo suffered a broken fibula in the third period of a game against the Florida Panthers. For the second straight season, Carlo would miss the entire playoffs.

These injuries have definitely hurt the Bruins defense in the playoffs and have set back Carlo’s development into a top-tier defenseman. This season, he has come back from the injuries stronger, better, and more confident. He is making the right plays and using his size to eliminate opponent scoring chances. But it’s not just his defensive abilities. He also has the awareness and confidence to jump into the offensive rush at the right times and contribute to scoring chances in the attacking zone.

 

Carlo is averaging just about 21 minutes of ice time this season. He has scored two goals and six assists for eight points this season while also compiling a +18 rating. His hockey IQ and his defensive awareness has made him into a top shut down defenseman for the Bruins who is really growing into his top-four role for the B’s. He has been arguably the most consistent Bruin this season. He did miss a few games earlier this season but has not let it hinder his play or his confidence.

If Brandon Carlo stays healthy for the Bruins throughout the playoffs, it will be huge for the team defense in their quest for the Stanley Cup. Whether Carlo wins the 7th Player award or not, he is still a huge force for the Bruins this season and is vital for the Bruins defense to combat the high-flying Maple Leaf offense that the Bruins will almost certainly face in the first round. Either way, the Bruins have multiple candidates for the 7th Player Award which is a great thing, and any of those candidates can take home the hardware.

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Bruins Kuhlman Fits A Few Needs As Playoffs Approach

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( Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/NHLI via Getty Images )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Just to get it out of the way, Karson Kuhlman has one of the best names in professional hockey. You’ve got alliteration. You’ve got “K”s where you were expecting “C”s. The word “cool” fits in there somehow. Very impressive performance by his name, and big ups to his parents.

Somehow, Kuhlman’s contributions to the Bruins in the abbreviated time that he has been granted with the club have outshined the coolness/Kuhlness of his name. Just one season removed from an impressive collegiate career at Minnesota-Duluth, Kuhlman has shown that, as far as forward call-ups from Providence go, he might be as NHL-ready as any of them.

In his first stint with the Bruins in February, Kuhlman impressed as a relatively unheralded prospect. His solid, yet unflashy point totals in the AHL might be to blame for how deeply undersold he was as an effective contributor in the Bruins’ lineup. Kuhlman was able to grace the scoresheet in two of his first three games as a right-wing plug-in alongside David Krejci, providing points in two important games against formidable west coast opponents in Vegas and San Jose (both ended up being one-goal wins for Boston).

After tallying a silky goal in another Black and Gold win over Florida on Saturday night, Kuhlman’s potential as a contributing forward in the offensive end has been made clear. In the individual effort displayed during this goal alone illuminates Kuhlman’s skating ability, hands, and finishing drive. Not to mention how he is able to use his body to shield the puck from the defenseman he just breezed in order to create further separation on his way to the net. A quick snap of the wrist (low glove, thanks for coming), and bingo was his name-oh.

Goals are good. Points are great. Offensive tools are at a premium come playoff time. But I wouldn’t be doing my duty as someone who self-proclaims his duty to be an explanation of young Bruins talent if I didn’t shed some light on the depth of his game.

Kuhlman, in what has been so far just a little more than a handful of games with the Black and Gold, has shown that he is playing a 200-foot game that many young Bruins prospects have left to be desired. In his own zone, Kuhlman’s positioning is superb for a young player. Undoubtedly, he plays like someone who was a lead-by-example captain at the college level.

Kuhlman’s work ethic shines in corner battles and on the forecheck, where his being a novice to the NHL has been drowned out by his skating, tenacity, and grit. His ability to hunt pucks without compromising his positioning and playmaking potential make him useful on any line.

 

Why Kuhlman is Playoff Material

Last year, the Bruins’ season came to an end with Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo on the shelf, crippling a defensive unit that was searching for depth and struggling to maintain its health throughout the playoffs. David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, Noel Acciari, Riley Nash, and Zdeno Chara were also dealing with injuries during the playoffs and into the offseason.

Unfortunately, a depleted Bruins roster didn’t have the depth last year to make the “next man up” philosophy all that effective when tasked with taking on an opponent as formidable as Tampa. Certainly, there were players available to enter the lineup. But these players seemed to make more of a change on the lineup card then on the actual ice surface. And unfortunately, that’s where the games are played.

This is where Kuhlman makes a difference. As a versatile forward who can bring the skill to fill in as a top-six forward, and the discipline, grit, and skating to play among the bottom-six, he gives Bruce Cassidy significantly more leeway with his playoff roster than he had last year.

Currently, Kuhlman is holding Marcus Johansson’s place on the second line, but with MoJo’s return to the lineup closer every day, it’s quite possible that we see Kuhlman drop down to a bottom –six role while Sean Kuraly is injured. In all likelihood, this would mean Joakim Nordstrom gets removed from the lineup. Nordstrom seems like a great person, with a good work ethic, and a mediocre goatee. But if you object to his removal from the lineup, then we are no longer friends.

While Kuhlman’s short-term role might be more clear-cut, don’t be surprised if he sticks around to fill into spots that get vacated by ailing Bruins. I’d much rather see a healthy Karson Kuhlman than an injured forward not named Pastrnak, Bergeron, or Marchand. His presence alone allows Cassidy to give rest to players who might need it down the stretch without compromising the effectiveness of the lineup all that much.

And that’s pretty cool. Man.

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Bruins Re-Sign Zdeno Chara To One-Year Contract

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports Images )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

The big man isn’t retiring anytime soon.

The Bruins have announced that they have re-signed defenseman Zdeno Chara to a one-year deal worth $2 million with another $1.75 million in performance incentives. He will receive $1.25 million at ten games, $250  thousand for making the playoffs and another $250 thousand for winning the Stanley Cup.

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports Photo )

Even at age 42, the future Hall-of-Famer is still having a very productive season. In 55 games this season predominantly featured on the top pair with Charlie Mcavoy, Chara has scored four goals and tallied seven assists to go along with a plus 16 rating. He continues to be great in the possession metrics as well with a 53.7 CF% and 54.7 FF%. He’s a huge asset to Boston’s 10th-ranked penalty kill and continues to be an incredible leader on, and off the ice.

Chara was originally drafted by the New York Islanders in the 3rd round of the 1996 NHL Draft. Crazily enough, there’s actually another active player from that draft in fellow 42-year-old Matt Cullen (the only other player older than Chara). In 2001, Chara was apart of a massive trade with the Ottawa Senators that sent Bill Muckalt, the 2nd overall pick in the NHL draft (which was used to draft Jason Spezza) and Chara for Alexei Yashin. In 2006, the Bruins signed then UFA Chara to a massive deal for five years at $7.5 million per year.

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Chara continues to amaze after 21 seasons in the NHL. He is immensely important to this Bruins team. He’s proven to be an incredible role model to the entire Bruins organization, but especially to the growth of the crop of young d-men, the Bruins have, namely Charly Mcavoy.

There’s no questioning if the Slovakia-native will be Hall of Fame bound. Chara has been in the top five in Norris Trophy voting eight times, capturing the award in the 2008-2009 season. He set a career high of 19 goals that season and was a plus 23 in 80 games.

USA - Sports Pictures of the Week - June 20, 2011

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

He, of course, doesn’t just have regular season success. He led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years in 2011 where he was a league-leading plus 16 and was on the ice for almost half the game, averaging 27:39 minutes of ice-time a game. He was a hug factor in the Bruins 2013 cup appearance where he actually averaged even more ice-time than the previous cup run at 29:32 a game and tacked on 15 points in 22 games.

While his legs have slowed down, this deal is still a bargain for the captain. He continues to be the heart-and-soul of this Boston team, and it shows how much he values the team in this deal. While the thought of Chara leaving is unfathomable, he certainly could’ve gotten a bigger deal due to his importance to the roster. His small cap hit allows the Bruins to allocate more of their cap to their upcoming RFAs with Danton Heinen, Brandon Carlo, and Charlie Mcavoy all looking for significant raises next season.

The man just never ceases to amaze and will stay the “C” of the black and gold for at least one more run.

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If You’re A Gambler, You Might Want To Bet On A Bruins Championship

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( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter: @CSthinks

I don’t want to tell anyone how to spend their money. I am still just a few years removed from having a Velcro wallet (don’t make fun of it unless you’ve experienced its convenience and practicality first-hand). I’m the last person anyone should listen to for advice on what actions they might want to consider financially.

With that being said, here’s some financial advice for anyone who might be trying to make some money, and is willing to gamble to do so: put some money on the Bruins as soon as possible. Not on the next game, or the game after that, but on the outcome that they win the Stanley Cup.

Why?

The Bruins put away Toronto in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and were undermanned and too banged up to compete with a healthier and yes, more skilled Tampa Bay squad. At first glance, the road to the Stanley Cup Finals from the Eastern Conference again runs through Tampa Bay, a team that the Bruins would be slated to play in the second round of the postseason.

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( Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill/AP )

Certainly, Tampa Bay is a better team this year. Go ahead and glance at the standings. It’s obnoxious how successful they have been. But with their success, comes serious opportunity not only for the Bruins but for those who might want a strong Stanley Cup pick with high value and serious capabilities of knocking off the Cup favorites.

Lost in the tomfoolery that has been the months-long highlight reel of a season the Lightning (Bolts? What do we call them these days?), is the fact that the Bruins have strung together an immensely impressive season. Like, “the next best record in the league” impressive.

A lot of people will look at the disparity between the point totals of Tampa and Boston (the next closest team), and fill in their Stanley Cup brackets early, in pen, with Tampa as the champs (I tried to think of a Tamp/Champ pun here…don’t try, there isn’t one).

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( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/ USA TODAY Sports )

But I am not a lot of people. In fact, like most individuals, I am only one person. So as someone who has been able to track the successes of the Black and Gold this season, I’ve been able to note that they’ve been thriving despite ridiculous amounts of adversity.

Their top eight scorers have missed a combined 93 man-games. That comes out to more than 11 games per man, and this number would be even higher if not for the iron-man season that David Krejci has put together. Their top defensemen have missed a total of 136 man-games, which comes out to closely 20 missed games per defenseman. Their prized goaltender went down with a concussion midway through the season, and the Bruins needed to rely on the play of Jaroslav Halak (though it should be noted that he has been stellar this season).

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( Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images )

The Bruins’ lineup has been constantly in flux, with more than a dozen call-ups from Providence having joined the Bruins to serve as wads of gum plugging any proverbial holes in the lineup, while a more permanent fix had yet to be discovered.

Kevan Miller has been unable to stay healthy, which has forced a solid depth defenseman who brings toughness, leadership, and reliability to remain sidelined at times where the Bruins could have greatly benefitted from his play.

All this to say that the Boston Bruins have outperformed, in my opinion, all other teams, including Tampa, in the NHL. When taking into account the absurd amount of instability in their lineup, unparalleled susceptibility to the injury bug, and total man-games lost (not to mention how many of those man-games lost are those of key players), the B’s have rallied at the right times.

As things stand now, the Bruins appear to have outlasted most of their toughest times and are well on the road to total recovery in health in the next week or two. This leaves enough time for a completely healthy Bruins roster to find chemistry and togetherness just as the postseason rolls around. Not to mention, many of the players coming back from energy have saved themselves from the fatigue that accompanies the latter stages of each season. Fresh legs heading into the playoffs? Please and thank you.

While, yes, Tampa is a better team than they were last year, you are a fool if you don’t see the significant improvements in the Bruins’ team from last season. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak are all having career years in terms of points per game. For those who hate stats and don’t believe in numbers, these same players that make up the best line in hockey are also all one year hungrier.

Jake DeBrusk is hitting his stride at the right time of the season and has already significantly outscored his goal total from last year. We all remember what a hot DeBrusk looked like in the postseason last year. I could go for another helping.

The Bruins defensive unit and goaltending tandem, as a whole, are significantly deeper. The B’s no longer have to rely solely on the play of Tuukka Rask, as they have found themselves a safety net (who safeguards the net…anything?) in Halak’s play. If Rask falters, Bruce Cassidy has shown no issues with putting Halak between the pipes and letting him compete, something that has brought the best out of the bona fide NHL starter. Matt Grzelcyk’s play is head and shoulders ahead of where it was last year at this time, while a healthy Brandon Carlo improves a unit that has been rock-solid for the most part with his +17 rating, tops amongst Bruins defenseman.

If you want to see a healthy Bruins squad facing off against a healthy Tampa team looks like, then might I interest you in the 4-1 beatdown the B’s put on the Bolts on February 28th?

The B’s are slated to play the Lightning again in a few days. I would say it is a good measuring-stick game for them, but there’s no way to know if they will be fully healthy, especially given the horrible luck they’ve endured this season. Although it is worth noting that the Bruins have not lost a game in which Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have both been on the ice.

 

So if you like money, making money, having money, or enduring ridiculously high-stress levels to maybe make some money, then put a few bucks on Butch’s boys. They are underestimated, hungry, and ripe with talent.

And to close, I will now make a horrible joke about lightning never striking in the same place twice, despite that expression’s total irrelevance to the National Hockey League. Congratulations on making it through that.

Check out the available tickets from our advertising partner SeatGiant for your next Boston Bruins game. Click the link below, and when purchasing any event ticket, from the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL to concerts and shows, please use discount code BNGP to save a little money. Thank You! 

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A Look At Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara On His 42nd Birthday

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

The Bruins team is full of wise, experienced veterans in their lineup and Zdeno Chara is probably the wisest and most experienced of them. On Monday, March 18, Chara turned 42 and continues to lead the Bruins with no end in sight to his outstanding career in the NHL.

At Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, the team brought Chara a birthday cake and sang him Happy Birthday. Although he might not have eaten it, the gesture was fun and thoughtful of the Bruins coaches, players, and management for one of the greatest Bruin of all time.

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Zdeno Chara was born on March 18, 1977, in Trencin, Czechoslovakia. He was originally persuaded by many in his home country to play basketball because of his height. However, he continued playing hockey and was drafted in the third round 56th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft in St. Louis.

Chara spent his first year in North America in the WHL with the Prince George Cougars playing close to 50 games. The following season he split time between the Islanders squad and the then Kentucky Thoroughblades of the American Hockey League. Then, ironically, before he came to the Bruins, he spent time in Lowell, Massachusetts playing for the Lowell Lock Monsters, who was the New York Islanders AHL affiliate at the time during the 1998-1999 season.

After 4 seasons on Long Island and 4 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Chara signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Bruins on July 1, 2006, and was also named the team captain.

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Standing at 6 foot 9 inches tall, Chara is the tallest player to ever play in the National Hockey League and has yet to give up that title. Much like his body type, his play on the ice is monstrous. Throughout his career with the Bruins, he has been a strong, shut-down defenseman that can occasionally put the puck in the net with his record-breaking 108.8 mph slap shot. His dominant play has always given his coaches the confidence to play him against the league’s top lines and top players. He averages 24:20 time-on-ice for his career and even this season, at age 42, he is averaging 21:02 time-on-ice for the Bruins defense. From his shutdown play to versatility on the ice, Chara achieved the leagues highest defenseman honor with the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best d-man in 2008-2009. Chara also was an integral part of the Bruins bringing Boston its first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years when Chara lifted the Cup the highest it had ever been lifted in 2011.

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Zdeno Chara has just turned 42 years old, and many fans have criticized him for his play in the past three years or more. Although he will never be as dominant as he was earlier in his career, he is still a force on the Bruins blue-line. Just one part of his importance with the Bruins for the rest of his career will be his mentorship for young Bruins defenseman. When Brandon Carlo stepped into the league in the 2016-2017 season, he was paired up with Chara for most of his rookie year, and now we have seen Carlo be one of the Bruins best defenseman this year. We have also seen Chara paired up with Charlie McAvoy as he was transitioning from College hockey to the big leagues and both have learned valuable on and off ice lessons from Big Zee. He knows what it takes to win mentally and physically and how to keep his body healthy to continue to perform at a high-level night in night out in which he can teach young defenseman valuable lessons.

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No doubt that Chara is headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame when he does decide to hang them up, and we could even see #33 hanging from the rafters at TD Garden. Chara is one of the most influential pieces for the Bruins this season and postseason both on and off the ice and has proven to be a fierce competitor who has put his blood, sweat, and tears into the spoked B for over a decade. Happy Birthday, Zdeno!

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston vs. Florida: 3/7/19

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Boston Bruins

Away: Florida Panthers

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen

Cehlarik – Krejci – Kuhlman

Nordstrom – Coyle – Backes

Kuraly – Acciari – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Moore – Grzelcyk

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Florida’s Lineup

Forwards

Huberdeau – Barkov – Dadonov

Vatrano – Trocheck – Hoffman

Hunt – Sheahan – Brouwer

McGinn – Borgstrom – Hawryluk

Defense

Matheson –  Ekblad

Yandle – Weegar

Pysyk – Brown

Goalies

Luongo

Reimer

First Period

The Bruins came into this one with a point or more in their last 17 games. They looked to continue that streak against a struggling Panthers team. The big pre-game news was that Karson Kuhlman would sub in for Jake DeBrusk who is dealing with a lower-body injury. Not much really happened of significance early on until Matt Grzelcyk took a hooking penalty, but it ended with a fairly routine penalty kill for the Bruins.

It was a pretty cut-and-dry period all around. The shots were 10-9 Florida.

Score: 0-0

Second Period

Things got interesting early with a near goal by Brad Marchand, and a tripping penalty called on Brandon Carlo. Florida converted on an Aleksander Barkov tip to make it 1-0 early on in the power play. David Backes and Joakim Nordstrom nearly connected for the equalizer almost immediately afterward.

Misfortune continued for the Bruins when Jonathan Huberdeau scored early on in the power play that resulted from Zdeno Chara’s delay of game penalty. The goal was reviewed for a high stick, but the call on the ice stood.

A little more than halfway through the period, the Bruins finally found their way on to the scoreboard thanks to a really nice give-and-go between Danton Heinen and David Krejci. His 17th goal of the season was assisted by Heinen (16) and Backes (10).

Krejci stayed in the fray of things when he drew a high sticking penalty within the final two minutes of the period. The Panthers lead in shots again, 7-5 in the period, 17-14 overall, but the Bruins made some headway towards a comeback.

Score: 2-1 Florida

Third Period

Florida’s two goals on the night to this point came on the power play, and they got an opportunity for another when Chris Wagner went off for tripping. Their power play didn’t last long as Barkov went off for a trip of his own to make it 4-on-4. A Marchand breakaway highlighted the 4-on-4, but no one scored.

It was all about the penalties early on in the third as Torey Krug was the next culprit for hooking. Tuukka Rask made some huge saves on the penalty kill on some of Florida’s top players. Then, who else but Patrice Bergeron to even things up, and whilst shorthanded. 2-2 with around 11 minutes to go. Bergeron’s 24th of the season was assisted by Charlie McAvoy (15) and Marchand (51).

The tie didn’t last long as Huberdeau gave Florida the lead back with his second goal of the game.

Krejci drew yet another penalty in the last three minutes of regulation, giving the Bruins a huge opportunity to tie the game. With just around a minute to go, Rask was pulled for the extra attacker. That move proved fruitful as Matt Grzelcyk picked an ideal time to end his 48-game goal drought and tie the game. Marchand and McAvoy tallied their second points of the game on the assist of Grzelcyk’s second goal of the season.

Remember what I said about Bergeron? Oh yeah, he scored another clutch goal. Seven seconds left, puck on his stick, game over. This Bruins team is something else.

The point streak extends itself to 18 games. Brad Marchand’s third assist of the game was the lone one on the goal. The shots in the period were 14-7 Bruins, and 28-24 overall. Next up for the Bruins are the Ottawa Senators at home at 7 PM on Saturday.

Final Score: 4-3 Boston

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