Returning To Normalcy | Boston Bruins Edition

Boston Bruins chase Braden Holtby in 1st to beat Washington ...
(Photo Credits: TSN, The Canadian Press)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

To say that this year so far has been tough would be an understatement, however, things are starting to slowly return. The general public (for the most part) are being careful, being mindful, and some are heading back to work. How this virus has affected almost every aspect of regular life has been overwhelming to say the least. While things screeched to a halt in the world of sports, a glimmer of hope arose when it was announced that the NHL and NHLPA ratified a four-year extension to the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and more excitedly a Return to Play Plan. That’s right folks…hockey’s back.

KEEPING IT REAL

While there has been multiple discussions on the well-being of players, testing, and imposing restrictions while in the hub cities, the fact that the NHL is returning brings about a start of normalcy when it comes to sports. For some, its a welcome distraction. For the Boston Bruins, it’ll be a chance to finish what they started.

For the team, returning to the ice will keep things in perceptive. Fans were treated to the first pictures of returning familiar faces during the start of voluntary workouts a few weeks ago. And as much as it was a great step forward, the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic still lurks in the minds of the players:

” I think its a very serious matter. As much as we do want to play, we realize that there are more important things in life, and you have to make sure that other things fall into place first…you watch the news and see how serious this whole situation is…I think the league and the team are taking all the right measures to have players stay as healthy as possible, and staff coming to the rink, keeping them in mind”

Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk

The players are practicing carefully, skating in small groups as they continue to adhere to protocols set in place by the league. As they shake out the rust (they haven’t played since March) the team, according to Bruins President Cam Neely are ready to move forward:

“I think our guys recognize that we had a legitimate chance to do well and have a deep run in the playoffs…our goal all along is to win the Stanley Cup. That goal is not going to change. From what I understand, talking to some of the guys, they’re anxious and excited.”

BACK IN THE SADDLE

As most of the team returns to Boston, adjusting back to the physical and mental part of the game will be amongst the hurdles to overcome. While many were able to get in some workouts to stay in shape, skating wasn’t an option as restrictions forced rinks to stay closed. Not knowing when or if the season would return also effected every team in the league. As Bruins forward Joakim Nordstrom recently said:

“What I can do is trust that our team, the Boston Bruins, and the NHLPA and the league and all the doctors are taking all the precautions and making sure that we’re gonna be safe as possible.”

The Bruins concluded the second phase of voluntary workouts at Warrior Ice that saw Brandon Carlo, Andres Bjork, Connor Clifton, Jake Debrusk, David Krecji, Karson Kuhlman, Joakim Nordstrom, Nick Ritchie, Jeremy Lauzon, Zach Senyshyn and Max Lagace lace their skates up. Training Camp is set to start on Monday, July 13th and will see the Bruins head north of border into Toronto towards the end of this month.

The wide-open field makes this the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup to ...
(Photo Credits: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

NORTHBOUND

After having a few months to rest and recharge, the Boston Bruins are hoping to be back in winning form as they face the Philadelphia Flyers in their first Round-Robin game. At the abrupt conclusion of the season in their last game, Boston defeated Philly 2-0. Getting back to work amidst the unknowns will be challenging, as Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy remarked:

“The message for us hasn’t changed in terms of what our ultimate goal is, our unfinished business is to be Stanley Cup champions…but inside of that message will be a lot of the unknowns and how we have to be prepared to deal with that as it comes at us, which can difficult because we don’t know how its gonna work out for players’ families yet..the mental toughness part is gonna determine who ends up raising that trophy at the end of the day. That’s where I like our chances.”

While other sports leagues have had key players opt out of playing due to safety concerns, the team as a whole are ready get back on the ice. With the very recent announcement of the roster that’s heading to Toronto, the Bruins will continue to adhere to strict protocols. The league has worked hard in reaching an agreement while addressing the risks of the virus. Daily testing will be the new normal for every team living in the secure “bubble” as well as temperature and symptoms checks.

This year will certainly be one for the history books and while so many in this country continue to work through daily life cautiously, seeing the boys back in Black and Gold will feel pretty damn nice.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

The Window To Win Another Cup Is Closing For Some Current Bruins Veterans

( Photo Credit: Boston Globe via Getty Images )

By Jeremy Grabowski | Follow me on Twitter @JeremyBNGhockey

For a little over a decade now, we as Bruins fans have been blessed with playoff hockey almost every year since 2008. Sure, not all of them have ended the way we would have liked, but playoff hockey is better than no
playoff hockey. We are entering a time now where we have to start asking ourselves this question, “how much longer does Boston have to win a cup with its core group of players still together and in their primes?”

Let me be more specific. By core players, I mean the guys that have been here since the Stanley Cup Championship in 2011. That involves Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask. All of these guys are in their early 30’s except for Chara, who is 43. Chara is long past his prime. With that being said, he is still finding a way to be one of the most feared and lock-down defenders in the league. Let’s go more into depth on a few of these guys.

Patrice Bergeron

Other than being my personal favorite player for over a decade now, Patrice Bergeron is the perfect description of what it means to be a Boston Bruin. He plays the game with his heart on his sleeve and leads by example. He does the difficult things that not a lot of guys would do. Simply because he wants to win, and he doesn’t want to let his teammates or the fans down. Bergeron has had his fair share of injuries. Some he has been able to play through, some he has not.

I don’t think anyone will forget back on October 27th, 2007 the scary scene of Bergeron laying flat on his back after being boarded by Flyers defensemen Randy Jones. He would be stretchered off the ice after a 12-minute delay to tend to the injured forward. he was diagnosed with a “Grade 3” Concussion and would miss 72 games during the regular season plus another seven in the playoffs that year.

It wasn’t until the following pre-season that Bergeron was cleared to fully participate once again. He would only score four goals and 14 assists in the first 31 games of the 2008-2009 season. Then he got hurt again. On December 20th, 2008, Bergeron collided with Dennis Seidenberg, who was a member of the Carolina Hurricanes at the time and once again, sending Bruins fans to panic. Regardless of those fears, Bergeron was back in-game action a little over a month later.

Now, on the other side of this is the injuries he did play through. More specifically, the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. In the toughest event, and at the highest level of play, Bergeron suffered torn rib cartilage in Game-Four. Then a broken rib in Game-Five. And to put the icing on the cake, he suffered a separated right shoulder and punctured lung in Game-Six. The Puncture in that lung caused it to collapse. Despite all those injuries and all the pain that comes with them, Bergeron KEPT PLAYING! He would spend the next three days after Game-Six in the hospital.

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Bergeron has literally given his body and soul to this organization and the fan base. I consider myself lucky to have grown up watching and learning from his style of play. That being said, Bergeron is now 34 years old. He is still in the prime of his career, but how much longer will that be true with the injury history he has? Eventually that will take a toll on his body and he wont be the same player. Hopefully, that happens later rather than sooner.

Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara has been the captain of the Bruins since the 2006-2007 season. He was the big piece the Bruins needed to turn its fortune around. Since joining the club, Chara has taken on the responsibility of being the captain of a team in a market that LOVES its hockey and knows the game. In Boston, if the fans are unhappy with the way you are performing, they are going to let you know! And Chara has been up to the task the whole time.

Now, Chara is well known for being the tallest person to ever be in the NHL coming at 6’9 and maybe a little more than that on skates. But, he is also known for his NHL record hardest shot at 108.8 MPH. That record has not been broken since and probably never will.

Chara has had his fair share of injury history as well. Like Bergeron, he is no stranger to toughing it out and playing through injuries. The most recent sign of this was in last year’s Stanley Cup Final. In Game-Four, Chara went to block a shot from Brayden Schenn that deflected of Chara’s stick and hit him directly in the mouth. He was spitting out blood and skating off the ice under his own power. He would return to the bench for the third period of the game with a bubble mask on his helmet but did not play. It was later revealed that Chara had broken his jaw.

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With two days off between Game-Four and Game-Five, all the talk around the city of Boston was, “Is Chara going to play, or is he done?” It wasn’t until hours before Game-Five that we found out he would play despite having a broken jaw. Once again, Chara showed his toughness by playing through a debilitating injury that most guys would even think of playing through. Chara came out for the start of Game-Five to a standing ovation that, to this day, still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

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Chara is 43 now. Seriously, how much longer can this man play? I don’t have an answer to that for you, but I think he could play for another two-three years, at least. We’ve already seen one Boston icon play well into his 40’s with Tom Brady. Is Big Z going to do the same if not longer?

Brad Marchand

Brad Marchand is the youngest out of the core players coming in at 32 years old. He is the kind of player that if he isn’t on your team, you love to hate him. But, if he is on your side, you absolutely love the guy! Early in his career, he got into some trouble with suspensions and fines from the league. Since then, he has learned how to toe the line without crossing it. He is an energetic player who, like Bergeron, plays the game with his heart on his sleeve. If there was anyone you wanted to get under the skin of the opponent, it was Brad Marchand.

He quickly became a fan favorite and an essential player in this team’s future. He has six years left on his deal, so he isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but how long will the Bruins continue to be useful during those six years? Will they all be good years for the team? Will they still have a chance to win another cup?

In conclusion, the Bruins core players are still in a great position to win another cup in the next two, maybe three years. But, what about after that? How good is this team going to be by then? Hopefully, the kids that come up from Providence or players that they sign in the offseason come in and fit in seamlessly. This core group can get it together and be as good as we all know they are.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Where Does Bruins Forward, Jake DeBrusk, Fit In The Bruins Future Plans?

Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake DeBrusk

(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Since the NHL released its Return to Play schedule, the NHL community has been buzzing with news and rumors.  The latest news comes from NBC Boston Sportswriter, Joe Haggerty.

On NBC Sports Boston Zoom Call, Bob Stauffer announced his thoughts on Jake DeBrusk’s worth in the upcoming contract negotiations.  Bob Stauffer is an Edmonton Oilers radio analyst who has spent over 10 years calling hockey games in Alberta, so he knows his hockey.  Stauffer thinks Debrusk is “a $6 million a year player,” which, if that’s true, the Bruins have an extremely tough roster and cap decision to make.

DeBrusk’s contract ends at the same time as Torey Krug’s deal, which is this coming off-season.  We wrote about Krug’s next probable contract, which is the area of $7-8M per year.  It had been reported back in March that Krug was seeking a 6-year, $49M contract, which is $8.2M per year.  To Bruins fans liking, Krug did mention he was open to a hometown discount, which could benefit the Bruins cap situation immensely.

DeBrusk’s agent, however, did not seem to be on the same page as Torey.  Bob Stauffer and Jake DeBrusk’s agent, Rick Valette, spoke on Stauffer’s radio show on Monday.  Stauffer mentioned the Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak deals with Valette to get the agent to convey his Jake’s willingness to take a hometown discount.  Valette wouldn’t bite on the hometown discount comment and understandably so.  Valette needs to have his clients’ best interests in mind and cannot be coming to the negotiating table showing his hand that they’ll take a hometown discount.  There’s a difference between being open to one and openly expressing taking one.

Rick Valette didn’t shut the door on it but definitely didn’t hint towards one.  He explains DeBrusk’s accomplishments through his “big-game playoff performances” and “being a top-six forward almost from the moment he stepped in the National Hockey League.”

DeBrusk was one of the three 2015 first-round draft picks when Don Sweeney made two swift trades leading up to the draft.  DeBrusk was selected with the Bruins’ own draft pick at 14th overall out of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in Canada.  He potted 185 points in 205 games in the WHL and stepped into Providence for another exciting year.  He scored 49 points with the Providence Bruins, showing Bruins management he was ready for the NHL spotlight.

DeBrusk had a fruitful rookie season, scoring 16 goals and adding 27 assists.  He followed up his rookie regular-season with 6 goals and 2 assists in the ensuing playoffs.  Bruins fans salivated at his tenacity, willingness to battle in the corners, and his clutch goals.


DeBrusk entered last season with that same drive, scoring a career-high 27 goals.  Any NHL forward who scores 30 goals is widely celebrated, and DeBrusk was three away from that feat.  He ended the year with 42 points, looking to continue his fiery playoff game-play.  However, DeBrusk was close to a no-show in the 2018-19 playoffs.  He scored four goals and seven assists in 24 playoff games.  He only surpassed his previous playoff total by two points but played in 12 more games.

DeBrusk has definitely scored timely and much-needed goals in the playoffs, making his “big-game playoff performance” claim fine.  But what about the other games?  DeBrusk ended the shortened season with 35 points, which he was on pace to net 44 points in all 82 games.  44 points would become his career-high, but scoring 27 goals the year before, Bruins fans thought Jake would smash his career total and easily eclipse 50 points.

He has spent most of his career with David Krejci, who has been longing for a left-winger who isn’t afraid to grind in the corners.  Before the season ended, DeBrusk was spending some of his ice time with Charlie Coyle on the third line.  Coyle seemed to give DeBrusk the spark we all know he has, and it’s likely Head Coach, Bruce Cassidy, places DeBrusk on Coyle’s left to begin the playoffs.

Debrusk is playing the last of his 3-year, $4.05M deal and will become a restricted free agent.  He is not eligible to enter the open market and is not arbitration-eligible, leaving him entirely under the Bruins control, to an extent.  Restricted free-agents are still under their teams’ command and can only be plucked by another team through an offer sheet.  General Managers have strayed from offer sheets because they’re afraid another team will steal one of their players in the same process.

Debrusk also doesn’t have arbitration rights, which is a contract negotiation that uses a third party arbitrator to determine a fair contract term and length for a restricted free-agent.  Jake’s options to negotiate are limited, hence his agent’s demeanor leading up to the off-season.  He can holdout for a better deal, which is the route William Nylander took in 2019.  However, if DeBrusk holds out into the next calendar year, he is ineligible to play in the current season.

His presence will be missed if he chooses the holdout route, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.  If DeBrusk comes to the negotiating table with a 6-year, $42M offer, either Krug or DeBrusk will likely be wearing a new jersey next season.  The Bruins are in an excellent position to give DeBrusk a bridge deal, which is a “show your worth” type of agreement that Torey Krug took back in 2015.  Krug signed for a 1-year, $3.4M deal, which clearly has worked out well for him.

Debrusk’s bridge deal would be in the neighborhood of 2-years, $8M, which would pay him $4M a year.  It is certainly is a much lower price point than his agent is touting him to be, but it could help both sides at the end of the day.  The Bruins have $19.6M in cap space next off-season and still need to sign Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Anders Bjork, and Matt Grzelcyk.

The $4M per year deal is by no means a low ball offer either.  DeBrusk has plenty of comparables to reference for that contract offer.

DeBrusk’s point per game is certainly on the high-end of the comparables, and a few players have been in the league longer than DeBrusk, so he carries a higher weighted average.  He’s also been compared to Travis Konecny in Philadelphia.  Konecny signed a 6-year, $33M deal immediately following his rookie contract.  At the time of the signing, Konecny had scored 24 goals in two consecutive years and followed it up with 61 points in 66 games in the shortened season.  The Flyers skipped the bridge deal and went full throttle, risking what Konecny’s ceiling was.  Thankfully for the Flyers, he has rewarded them.

If you were to ask the Bruins what they’d ideally like to do, they would probably choose to take the Konecny route with DeBrusk.  However, their cap situation does not allow that.  If the Bruins signed Krug and DeBrusk to their reported offers, the Bruins would be left with $5.6M to sign Grzelcyk, Chara, and Bjork. This would be nearly impossible, and someone wouldn’t be wearing the spoked-B next season.

Now, if the Bruins can negotiate successfully and sign both Debrusk and Krug at $4M and $7M, respectively, they’ll have $8.6M leftover.  Sweeney has shown his ability to make a roster complete with limited funds.  Last season, he had Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without deals and $7.3M leftover in space.

DeBrusk taking a bridge deal, would help both him and the Bruins in the long-run.  DeBrusk would be setting himself up for an even bigger pay-day once the bridge deal is over if he performs well enough.  Additionally, Bruins will (hopefully) have more cap space in two years to fund DeBrusk’s ceiling.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Does Bruins Cassidy Deserve The Jack Adams Award?

Ottawa Senators v Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

For the last three years, I have watched the NHL awards nominations and the subsequent awards show and wondered when Bruce Cassidy is going to get some recognition as one of the best coaches in the league? Even though he was nominated in 2017-18, everyone knew that Gerard Gallant of Vegas was winning the award that year (despite the B’s finishing with more points than the Knights. When will his time come, if ever?

Cassidy received his first NHL head coaching position in 2002. He was 37 years old and took over a veteran-laden Washington Capitals team with eight regulars that were over the age of 30. It must have been a pretty daunting proposition for the Ottawa native in his first kick at the NHL coaching can? His initial year in Washington went relatively well. The team had an above-average season, finished with 92 points, and made the playoffs after missing the season before under previous coach Ron Wilson. The Capitals were eliminated by Tampa in the first round in six games, but all in all a decent start for Cassidy.

Unfortunately, the following season was a different story. The team got off to a rough 8-18-1-1 start under Cassidy and he was replaced by Glen Hanlon (who fared no better). There were rumors of issues between veteran players and their young head coach. Any time players are only a few years older than the coach and things don’t go well, this is a possibility.

Cassidy had less than six seasons experience as a professional head coach and had been the coach of the year in the AHL in 2001-02 for Grand Rapids before making the jump to the NHL. It was a rapid rise and Cassidy may not have been fully prepared for the rough road his second season in Washington?

He returned to coaching in 2005-06 as an assistant for the Chicago Blackhawks. He would spend the next ten seasons honing his craft in the OHL and AHL before returning to the NHL as an assistant coach with the Bruins under Claude Julien in 2016-17 at the age of 51. The team had narrowly missed the playoffs the previous two seasons and after 55 games were only three games above .500. This was an unheard-of proposition for the proud Original Six franchise and GM Don Sweeney decided to make a change.

He installed Cassidy as Julien’s replacement with 27 games to go and the season in the balance. The B’s went 18-8-1 during that stretch, finished with 95 points, and qualified for the playoffs. After some key injuries, they were eliminated by Ottawa in the first round in six games. Probably not what Cassidy and the team had hoped for, but a solid beginning. It was no surprise that Cassidy would not get Adams Trophy consideration for 27 games, but I’m not sure what the reasoning has been since that time?

The following year (2017-18) would see the team take another step forward under Cassidy. They finished with a record of 50-20-12 (.683), and 112 points, good for 2nd in the Atlantic (one point behind Tampa). After a thrilling seven-game series and victory over Toronto, the Bruins appeared a bit overmatched vs Tampa Bay and were eliminated by the Bolts in five games. Still, it was a step forward for the organization, reaching the 2nd round of the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Cassidy was nominated for the Adams but ended up finishing 2nd to the Vegas Knight’s coach, Gerard Gallant. As I mentioned earlier, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Gallant would win because of his success with an expansion squad, leading them to the Stanley Cup Finals. In retrospect, seeing the advantages this expansion team had over its predecessors and how well they were constructed, perhaps this vote should have been a lot closer than it was?

In 2018-19 it was more of the same for Cassidy and the Bruins. They finished the regular season at 49-24-9 (.652), with 107 points, and finished 2nd to Tampa Bay again in the Atlantic. One could argue that Cassidy did an even better job that regular season than the year before (despite having five fewer points). The B’s didn’t suffer any season-ending injuries, but they did have a variety of injuries to key contributors on the top two lines, both forwards and defensemen. Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug, and Zdeno Chara all missed 15-20 games, with Charlie McAvoy missing almost 30. Cassidy plugged guys into the holes and the team didn’t miss a beat.

While the 2018-19 postseason started off the same as 2017-18, with a seven-game series win over the Maple Leafs, what followed hadn’t been seen in Boston since the 2012-13 season. The B’s followed up their opening-round victory with wins over Columbus and Carolina (in the Eastern Conference Finals), and faced St. Louis in the championship round. Ultimately, the Bruins lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Blues. Obviously not what the organization envisioned, but it was another big step forward.

Cassidy was not nominated for the Adams. That honor went to Barry Trotz for turning the Islanders around, Craig Berube for doing the same with the Blues, and John Cooper for a record-setting regular season. Ultimately the award went to Trotz after engineering a 23-point improvement for the Isles. Unfortunately, the Jack Adams Award is based solely on regular-season performance, otherwise, I feel like Cassidy would have had another strong candidacy. Despite the tough loss to St. Louis, the Boston front office had seen more than enough from their head coach the prior two-plus seasons and signed him to a multi-year contract extension in September of 2019.

Which brings us to the 2019-20 hockey season, one like no other in history (unfortunately). There was a lot of talk last summer about Stanley Cup hangovers and teams struggling after losing in the Finals. Cassidy and the Bruins showed no sign of these maladies, getting off to a quick start, and finishing October with a record of 9-1-2. Despite predictions by many of an angry Tampa team coming out hard after their first-round elimination last season, it was Boston that led the Atlantic pretty much start to finish.

When the NHL recently announced their “return to play” plan and the regular season was officially over, the Bruins became the 2019-20 President’s Cup winners, finishing the year with a 44-14-12 record (.714) and 100 points. Because of the expanded playoff system, Boston will have to take part in a “play in” round to determine the top four seeding order in the East, along with Tampa, Washington, and Philadephia. This despite being the dominant team in the league all season (but that’s another discussion).

Cassidy replaced a coach who had won a Stanley Cup in Boston, which is no mean feat itself, but he also has made fans forget about Mr. Julien. His adherence to two-way hockey is nearly at the level of his predecessor, but unlike Clode, Cassidy appears to want his defensemen to “activate” and join the rush whenever possible. His demeanor with the press is also very different. I have been a Boston sports fan for a long time and his candid statements to the media are refreshing. At the same time, Cassidy manages to do this without being abrasive or disrespectful to the players. You get the feeling that “what you see is what you get” and that he has the same straightforward approach with the team.

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(Photo Credit: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Cassidy led the team to the playoffs as an interim guy. Followed that up by winning a playoff round the next season, and leading the team to the Stanley Cup Finals the following year. Not content to rest on his laurels, this season the Bruins finish with the most points in the NHL. Over three-plus seasons, Cassidy has compiled a staggering .682 winning percentage. He is second in wins to Tampa and John Cooper but has enjoyed more playoff success.

Due to the change in the season schedule, the NHL Broadcaster’s Association, which is responsible for voting on the nominations and winners of the Jack Adams Award, will not be announcing anything until an undetermined date later in the summer. Is there anything else Bruce Cassidy needs to do to get his name on that trophy? We shall see.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

What Could the Bruins’ Power Play Look Like Next Year If Krug Leaves?

( Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports )

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

As I’m sure most of you reading this know, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Krug is one of the top power-play quarterbacks in the NHL, and he’s improved greatly at both ends of the ice at even strength in recent years as well. He’s also become a good leader on and off the ice. Contrary to what some still think, Krug is an extremely important player to the Bruins, and losing him will create a huge hole on the back end that won’t be easily filled.

Thankfully, both the team and Krug want him to stay, so hopefully, he does. But an agreement hasn’t been reached yet, and it’s still possible one never will be. I don’t think that’ll be the case, but since it’s possible, we should start thinking about what things could look like without Krug. So, I decided to take a look at what the first power-play unit could look like next year should Krug depart.

Current PP Structure

Before I get too far into this, I thought it’d be good to provide a refresher of the way the Bruins structure their first power-play unit. The Bruins use four forwards and one defenseman on their PP in the 1-3-1 format. Krug is the point man, Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak are the attackers (bumper, right half-wall, and left elbow, respectively), and DeBrusk is the net-front presence.

This is the typical structure of it, but the true beauty of the Bruins PP is how fluid it is. You’ll often see Marchand (or even Pastrnak) switching positions with Krug, or Pastrnak switching with DeBrusk, among many other switches. While they may technically have an assigned spot, they rarely stay in it the whole time, and it’s a big reason why the Bruins’ PP is as successful as it is. Krug is a big reason why they are able to do this because, as an offensive-minded defenseman, he is very comfortable jumping up in the offensive zone, as evidenced by his point totals.

Keep The Same Format

( Photo Credit: John Minchillo/Associated Press )

The easiest option if Krug departs is to keep the same format (four forwards, one defenseman, 1-3-1 set-up), and plug either McAvoy or Grzelcyk into Krug’s point spot. Both McAvoy and Grzelcyk have proven that they’re able to man the PP, as they run the second unit and sub in for Krug if he’s hurt. They aren’t as good as Krug, but they’re capable and will likely improve if given more time there. Unfortunately, though, if McAvoy or Grzelcyk was the point man, the PP would likely not be as fluid.

While both players are comfortable jumping up into the offensive rush, they aren’t quite as offensive-minded as Krug. So, I have my doubts that either of them would be comfortable rotating around as much as Krug does, or at least they wouldn’t be for a while. So, this style of PP would be less effective for the Bruins not only because Krug wouldn’t be there, but because it wouldn’t be as fluid and therefore it’d be just like everyone else’s, and so teams will be better prepared to defend it. So, Cassidy has reportedly been considering another option, one that no other team currently uses in the NHL.

Five Forward Unit

According to this article by Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic, if Krug leaves, Cassidy is considering a first PP unit made up of all forwards. Please note, much of what was said in that article I fully agree with, so I am not simply parroting what he said. I actually hold the same opinions that he does on this. Moving on, this PP structure has the potential to either be really good or really, really bad. The reason teams don’t do this is that obviously when they’re on the PP, they want to lower the chances of a shorthanded goal being scored.

Having a defenseman man the point (most of the time) does that. Anybody who watches a lot of hockey can tell you that defensemen are almost always far better at transitioning and skating backward than forwards are. Plus, they obviously know their defensive positioning angles better. If you stick a forward back there, it’s probable that opposing teams will take more chances shorthanded to know they aren’t as equipped to handle it. As a result, they’ll likely score more shorthanded goals, which is obviously not what you want.

However, this may not be the case with the Bruins, and I can see why Cassidy is at least considering it. The Bruins have several forwards who would be capable of manning the point and handling a shorthanded break should one happen.

( Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/Associated Press )

Krejci is the first player who comes to mind as a forward who would be good at quarterbacking the PP. He’s one of the smartest players on the team, so he would likely be fine with his positioning on a shorthanded chance. Also, because of his high hockey IQ, he’d be able to handle rotating with some of the others a lot, thus allowing them to keep the fluidity they have. That’d also make it so the point responsibilities wouldn’t all fall on him.

Plus, he’s a pass-first guy, making him perfect for manning the point on the first unit because he’ll have plenty of eager shooters to pass to. But, Krejci also has a great one-timer and isn’t afraid to use it, so if the opportunity presented itself, he could also rotate down one of the walls, particularly the left one. His ability to slow the game down is incredible as well, which is a skill that is very useful for the guy operating the point on the PP to have. In short, a five forward unit of Krejci, Pastrnak, Bergeron, Marchand, and DeBrusk has the potential to be lethal offensively as well as sound defensively.

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/Associated Press )

Another forward that could work well as the point man is Coyle. He’s a solid skater all around, and he has a good hockey IQ, so he’d probably be able to contain shorthanded chances fairly well. He probably wouldn’t be as likely to rotate all over the place, but I think he’d be capable of it, so it’d still be an option, just to a lesser extent probably. Coyle also has a nice shot, so if the best option was to shoot, he’d probably be able to get it through a fair amount of traffic. He’s also great at passing and setting others up, so regardless of what the best option was, he’d be able to handle it well. 

If the Bruins are going to go with this, they really need to pick a center to be the primary guy to man the point. They have other options that could work, but centers are often (but not always) better at skating backward and playing defensively than wingers are, and in the case of the Bruins, they have two great all-around centers (besides Bergeron) to choose from. Both Krejci and Coyle would likely be fine handling the point, although I’ll have to give the edge to Krejci, given his incredible vision and ability to slow the game down.

So, What’s the Best Option?

All of this being said, I’m not sure we can say with much certainty which option would be better for the Bruins if Krug leaves. At first glance, it seems like they’d be better off just sticking to the usual 4F/1D, but at the same time, the 5F format could be really interesting. No other team uses it, so teams wouldn’t be as good at defending it. Plus, unlike some other teams, the Bruins have some solid options for forwards to run the point that would not only be good offensively but would be capable defensively as well.

So, in the unfortunate (and in my opinion unlikely) event that Krug leaves this offseason, I think we see Cassidy try the 5F configuration for at least a few games. He’s certainly not afraid of mixing things up and trying new things, and this could end up being really successful. If it goes well, he’ll keep it, and if not, it’ll be easy for them to revert back to the old format.

Or, it’s possible that he could practice both and have them as options, so depending on the opponent or how the PP is playing, they could switch it up. Regardless of what they do, though, the PP wouldn’t be the same without Krug. He’s a huge part of why it’s so successful, so no matter which option they choose, it probably won’t be as good as it is right now. But hopefully, they’ll be able to find a way to minimize the damage caused by Krug’s departure should it unfortunately happen.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Who Could Get The Call From Providence When Playoffs Begin?

Frederic Looking to Seize Opportunity
(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

It’s all but confirmed that we will be getting playoff hockey in the summer. But with this massive break between action, there is certain to be plenty of rust for this Bruins squad. With the season entering sink or swim mode, the Bruins don’t have the luxury to let everyday starters get out of their funk. Coach Bruce Cassidy will have some tough decisions to make if his NHLers aren’t up to the task, but the Bs have plenty of talent in Providence that will be chomping at the bit to see some ice in the Playoffs, especially with the increased roster space. Here are a few reinforcements from the AHL that I’d like to see if Boston runs into any issues.

Trent Frederic

( Photo Credit: Brian Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images )

Trent Frederic figured out pretty quickly how to become a fan favorite in Boston. By dropping his mitts in his first NHL game, he showed what type of player he really is. The 6’2, 203-pound center is tough as nails and would be a welcome presence to have in the bottom six. Remember earlier this season when the Bruins had no response for Tuukka Rask getting run over against the Blue Jackets? Well, Frederic certainly wouldn’t let that go.  

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We’ve seen the St. Louis native here and there with Boston, playing with the big club for 17 games in his brief career. And after watching those 17 games, you can’t question what the youngster brings to the table. He’s a big, strong and physical player with a gnarly edge to his game. The AHL penalty minutes leader would seamlessly slide into the intensity of playoff hockey.

Jack Studnicka

( Photo Credit: David Kirouac / Icon Sportswire- Getty Images )

In his first year as a pro, Studnicka looked anything but out of place. He led the entire AHL in shorthanded goals while reaching his first career All-Star Game in the process.  The rookie potted 23 goals to go along with 26 assists in 60 games, helping Providence have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The young centerman has WHEELS.

The former 2nd round pick hasn’t been shy from showing up in big games. In his OHL Playoff career (aside from his rookie campaign) Studnicka has potted 11 goals and 31 points in 27 games. How’s this for a stat line for an NHL debut? 1 assist, plus-1 rating, 67% on draws in 14:30 of ice time. Not too shabby for someone thrust into a prominent 2nd line role. Adding a guy as dynamic as Studnicka to an already potent 3rd line could be just what the Doctor ordered for the Bruins. 

Zach Senyshyn

( Photo Credit: Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press via AP )

Has he found the scoring touch he had in Juniors? No. Has he been lighting up the AHL? No. Has he been as good as the other 2015 1st rounders that seem to follow him wherever he goes? No. Buuuuut when he was finally given the chance to impact the big club, he looked like he belonged in the NHL. 

In his short stint with the Bruins earlier this season, the former Greyhound was a part of a dynamic 3rd line with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle. Despite the minimal ice-time he got, Senyshyn showed off why he still has the pedigree of a 1st round pick. He and his linemates were buzzing around, creating a high possession, high energy 3rd line the Bruins had hoped to get. The now 23-year-old was enjoying a nice start to his 2019 NHL season with two assists (and if you remember, a goal that probably should’ve counted) in just three games until an unfortunate injury in his fourth game essentially cost him the rest of his season in Boston. 

As for defenders? I’m not sure we see any jump up from the AHL. We already saw Jeremy Lauzon jump into the NHL as smooth as one could, and with Connor Clifton coming back from an injury, I can’t see a guy like Urho Vaakanainen pushing any of them for a spot but with everything that has happened so far in 2020, you never really know.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 182 that we recorded below on 6-7-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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The Bruin Who Needs To Have A Stellar Playoff Performance

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(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Last week, the NHL announced its Return to Play action.  The plan allows teams to return to NHL activity based on individual states’ reopening laws and a proposal to begin the NHL playoffs in July.  The Bruins finished the year with the highest point total in the NHL, which awards them the President’s Trophy.  They have also secured a place in the top-4 seed round-robin playoff to determine the seed they’ll occupy for the upcoming playoff.  They can place no lower than fourth and will have a bye for the preliminary round.

Full disclosure, it is quite unfortunate they have to play in a round-robin to determine seed when they finished the year as the best regular-season squad.  Alas, the Bruins, and every other team will play by the rules, and we’ll hopefully see the Bruins occupy the top seed.

The year they won in 2011, the Bruins were the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.  During that year, every player on the team had a significant moment and played their best hockey.  The top two lines will always be relied on and are obvious choices to bring their A-game every night.  We’ve seen teams’ third-lines become even more impactful throughout the years and are heavily relied on.  Charlie Coyle has filled that void nicely since his trade from Minnesota.  There are a few other players who need to be an X-factor to bring the Bruins their seventh Stanley Cup.  Enter: Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly is in the midst of his fourth professional hockey career.  He has always dawned the black and gold, even though he was not initially drafted by the Bruins.  Kuraly was part of the Martin Jones deal with San Jose.  The Bruins originally received Martin Jones from the Los Angeles Kings, along with Colin Miller and a 2015 first-round draft selection (Jakub Zboril) for Milan Lucic.  Tuukka Rask was still at the helm when the Bruins acquired Jones, so they flipped Jones to the Sharks for a 2016 first-round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly.

Since then, Kuraly has always called Boston home.  He was drafted 133rd overall in the 2011 NHL draft.  He played all four years at Miami University (Ohio), where he amassed 93 points in 154 games.  In his final year at Miami, Kuraly added another accolade to his resume that fits the Bruin mold.

He played three quarters’ of a year with the Providence Bruins in 2016, where he scored 26 points in 54 games and a plus 10 rating.  He joined the Bruins for eight games when the Providence Bruins’ playoffs ended, and never looked back.  He notched his first NHL career assist in and his first NHL career playoff goal in the subsequent playoffs.  Along with his first NHL career goal, he also completed his first multi-goal game.

Kuraly has played almost every position the Bruins have needed him.  He is their Swiss Army knife and has been extremely flexible and adaptable.  Recently, he’s spent most of his time between the third and fourth lines.  The Bruins have been trying out many of their draft prospects throughout the past couple years, and Kuraly has been a byproduct of that.  He’s been able to move throughout the lineup as the Bruins give players like Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman opportunities.  Kuraly has spent most of his 2019-2020 5v5 time with Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom, which means he’s been used primarily on the fourth line.  

Before the season’s suspension in March, Kuraly had been playing alongside Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk on the Bruins’ third-line.  The move seemed to help Kuraly immensely because he scored his fourth goal of the year on the first night he was united with Coyle and DeBrusk in Tampa.  Kuraly’s game caught Head Coach Bruce Cassidy’s eye because in the final game before the suspension, Kuraly logged 17:47 minutes on ice.

His four goals in 69 games are something he will undoubtedly have to fix come playoff time.  Thankfully, if history repeats itself, Kuraly has been known to show up on the NHL’s biggest stage, regardless of his season’s contribution.  He scored 10 points in 20 playoff games last year.  One of his most memorable playoff goals came in another game seven with the Toronto Maple Leafs leaving Bruins fans with even more examples as to why Kuraly is a vital playoff player.

Fourth-line players generally tend to hover around 10-12 minutes on ice per game.  Kuraly should play at least 12 minutes a game during the playoffs, regardless of his line placement.  He is not featured on either powerplay (unless there’s an injury), but he is featured on the penalty kill.  His 112 minutes of penalty kill time this year leads the Bruins’ forward group, according to Natural Stat Trick, making him a crucial piece of their special teams.  The Bruins rank third in the league in penalty kill percentage at 84.3.  The San Jose Sharks hold the top spot at 85.7%.

Kuraly’s adaptability gives him a unique edge on most players.  He can play with any Bruins forward on any given night, and he has.  Kuraly is a left-shot center, which is his natural position.  However, when he played on Coyle’s line, he was placed at left-wing.  He has the incredible ability to play his game and his style on any side of the lineup.  This gives Cassidy the flexibility to plug-and-play Kuraly depending on the lineup he wants to use on any given night.  If Kuraly can replicate or even improve on his 2019 playoffs, the Bruins may end up on the right side of a game seven Cup final.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 181 that we recorded below on 5-31-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Report: Peter Cehlarik Leaves Bruins, Signs With Lugano

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(Photo: Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Now former Boston Bruins forward prospect Peter Cehlarik has reportedly agreed to a terms with HC Lugano of the Swiss National League. The 24-year-old was slated to become a restricted free agent this summer after his one-year deal with an average annual value (AVV) of $700,000 runs out.

Last month, Cehlarik spoke with Slovak media about his frustrations with the Bruins organization after traveling to his native country to wait out the pandemic. The left-shot forward did not seem too pleased with his usage under Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy during his stints with the big club.

“I can’t cross the line to persuade Bruins [coach] Bruce Cassidy for good,” Cehlarik said at the time. “Sometimes I felt as if he was just waiting for my mistake to send me back to the farm.

“They know what they are doing. They’ve invested years of development in me. It’s all about trust from a coach I don’t get. I still hear that I’m ready for the NHL, I have it, but when it goes like this, I need a change and a new start. It is high time.”

The left-winger has suited up in just three games with the Bruins this season, notching just one assist and posting a minus-one rating. In 48 games with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate, he has 16-21-37 totals in addition to a plus-three rating in 48 games.

On Nov. 2, 2019, Cassidy was candid with the media about his thoughts on Cehlarik’s performance after a matchup with the Ottawa Senators, saying: “If [Cehlarik]’s going to stay in the National Hockey League, you’ve got to play to your strengths, and I thought he had opportunities to make plays. He made a few here and there, but I thought he left some on the table. At the end of the day, the details we’ll keep getting after him about, so overall, I thought he was okay.”

Boston’s bench boss also noted he feels Cehlarik’s ideal spot in the lineup is next to a “skilled centerman.” After failing to make the team out of camp, Cehlarik was placed on waivers to be assigned to Providence, and went unclaimed.

On his career, the 90th overall pick in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has five goals and six assists for 11 points in 40 NHL games, as well as a plus-11 rating. In 185 AHL contests, Cehlarik has 59-77-136 numbers in addition to a plus-20 rating. Over nine Calder Cup Playoffs games, he recored three goals and one assist.

Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron skated with Lugano during the 2012-13 lockout. In 21 games with the club before the NHL returned, Bergeron registered 29 points (11g, 18a).

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 180 that we recorded below on 5-25-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Broadcasting Bobby: Bruins Celebrate Orr’s Cup-Winning Goal 50 Years Later!

Superman on skates: The aura of Bobby Orr | CBC Sports(Photo Credit: CBC.ca)

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

“Cleared, but not out. Bobby Orr… behind the net to Sanderson — ORR! BOBBY ORR! SCORES! And the Boston Bruins have won the Stanley Cup!”

When heralded hockey broadcaster Dan Kelly made that famous call on May 10th, 1970 (not to take anything away from the brilliant voice of B’s broadcast legend Fred Cusick), little did Kelly or anyone else know just how memorable or iconic it would become.

Now, fifty years to the day later, the Boston Bruins organization is celebrating it — and the team’s epic Stanley Cup-winning ’69-’70 season altogether — by asking fans to recreate how they would’ve voiced “The Goal.”

The clever and creative social media campaign began on the B’s Instagram page but has quickly flown (just like Bobby after scoring that unforgettable OT winner) over to Twitter, Facebook and beyond.

In case you’d like to hear “The Call” in its entirety… look no further than another great online resource: Youtube!

 

As for this lifelong Bruins fan and former sports broadcaster, This Date in Bruins History will always be a special one for me… even if I didn’t get to experience it live and in person. It was the moment my dad and grandfather chose to introduce me to B’s fandom. It was how I learned to bleed BLACK N’ GOLD for the first time — by watching Orr score over and over and over.

And with so many fellow fans and Boston buddies doing the same thing right now, it’s as if Orr’s moment in history has once again becoming living history

… As lifelike as the stunning statue soaring high above the ground outside TD Garden itself!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 177 that we recorded below on 5-3-20!

And please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support.

Click HERE for exciting new Black N’ Gold online content!!

 

Alexander Khokhlachev, Still Bruins Property, Traded In KHL

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(Photo: Ilya Smirnov / photo.khl.ru)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Former Boston Bruins prospect Alexander Khokhlachev has been traded in a one-for-one swap in the Kontinental Hockey League. The 26-year-old was dealt from Spartak Moscow to Avangard Omsk in exchange for forward Sergei Shirokov.

This season with Spartak, Khokhlachev posted 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points in 56 games in addition to 2-3-5 numbers in six playoff contests. Through four seasons in the KHL, the Moscow native has 56-73-129 totals in 187 games to go along with two goals, six helpers, and eight points in 25 playoff games.

Selected 40th overall by Boston in the second round of the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Khokhlachev departed North American hockey after the 2015-16 campaign, where he tallied 23-45-68 totals in 60 American Hockey League contests with the Providence Bruins. The Russian was a prolific scorer at the AHL level with 61 goals and 110 assists for 171 points in 197 AHL contests under Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, who apparently has a strong relationship with “Koko.”

The five-foot-11, 187-pound forward could not seem to get his success to translate to the NHL: zero points in nine games with a minus-four rating. When Khokhlachev got looks with the big club, former Boston head coach Claude Julien fed him limited ice time.

During the 2017-18 season, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada reported that a return to Boston could be in the fold for Khokhlachev, and according to Mark Divver, team representatives met him overseas that winter to “talk things over.”

At the time, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney even acknowledged that Khokhlachev “indicated to us originally during the year that he was interested [in returning to Boston].” However, it seems fair to say that a return is probably not imminent at this point in time.

The Bruins hold Khokhlachev’s NHL rights until he is 27 years old, so long as the team submits a qualifying offer each year. Khokhlachev will turn 27 on September 9, 2020.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 176 that we recorded below on 4-27-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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