Bruins David Pastrnak Wins Award

Image result for david pastrnak golden stick award 2018(Photo Credits: Tech2.go)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

For the third time in three years in a row, Czech-native David Pastrnak has won the Golden Hockey Stick ( Zlatá hokejka)). The award is given annually to the top-performing Czech ice hockey player. This year, Pastrnak beat Tomas Hertl, forward for the San Jose Shark and fellow Czech Jakub Voracek-who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers. Pastrnak led the poll with 59 points ahead of Hertle to win the top prize.

Pastrnak became the youngest Cezch player to win the award in 2017. Winning for the third time in consecutive years has not been done since Jaromir Jagr did it from 2005-2008. The 47-year-old Jagr has won the award 12 times while legendary goaltender Dominik Hasek won five times. Fellow Bruins and Czech player David Krejci finished fourth behind Voracek in the poll. Pastrnak and Krejci did not attend the ceremony. In a recent interview with Czech media, Pastrnak had a few words to say about the recent loss in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals:

“The last defeat, even after the few days, still hurts a lot. It’s a memory of the end of life and a big disappointment.”

The 23-year-old native of Havirov had 19 points during the post-season run in the 24 games played. Pastrnak enjoyed one of his best performances during the regular season as being part of Boston’s top line. He had accumulated 81 points with 38 goals and 43 assists in 66 games. David Krejci was voted sixth place last year and jumped to fourth this year.

For the final poll, Pastrnak had 464 points with Hertl at 405 points. The final top players were determined in two rounds and were voted by representatives of hockey associations, coaches and top competitive clubs along with journalists. Here are the top five NHL Czech Players that made the final cut:

  1. David Pastrnak-Boston Bruins
  2. Tomas Hertl-San Jose Sharks
  3. Jakub Voracek-Philadelphia Flyers
  4. David Krejci-Boston Bruins
  5. Michael Frolick-Calgary Flames

IN OTHER NEWS

Pastrnak had a tough end to the post-season and much like the rest of team had been dealing with an injury reaggravated during a game in the Playoffs.  Aside from physical injury, many players had to overcome mental hurdles as well. At the end of the season media presser, Coach Bruce Cassidy did touch upon the possibility of moving Pastrnak and stated the conversation would continue next season.

For his part, the young winger (who reaggravated his thumb in the Columbus series) was quick to say the injury was not the sole reason when it came to the lack of production. A lot of it came the way of criticism and the grind of the Playoff that affected the young Czech winger:

“It was defiantly tough. I wasn’t feeling great, but that’s why this was such a good group because we were picking each other up…I had 25 guys to help pick me up just like I would do the opposite. It was mental stuff…In this kind of life, even if you don’t want to see stuff, read stuff…it’s tough.

I will take a lot of positives from this. I’m just going to get stronger mentally. So it was a good experience. It’s a big mental experience…The mental stuff is what I learned the most…It’s the Playoffs and you just need to come back to the bench and make sure you’re ready for the next shift no matter what happened behind you…Sometimes you get stuck on thinking what happened before and that brings you down kind of.”

With the season down and Pastrnak joining some Czech legendary company, here’s to the young winger and may he reach his 100 point season next year!

Backes’ Time in Boston About So Much More Than Points

Boston Bruins v Ottawa Senators - Game Five

(Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

It may be fitting that the image of David Backes that many Bruins fans have emblazoned on their memories was actually a highlight in another player’s young career. That moment came on April 21, 2017, when veteran leader Backes gave Sean Kuraly a “noogie” on the Bruins bench in celebration of one of the rookie forward’s two goals that helped keep the team’s playoff hopes alive in an elimination game against the Ottawa Senators.

The former captain of the St. Louis Blues, Backes’ future with the Bruins seemed as of Friday’s breakup day to be very much in question. However, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said in a Monday morning press conference that there may well be a role for Backes on the team for the 2019-2020 season.

After putting up just 20 points in 70 games in the 2018-2019 season, a drop from a 33-point performance in just 57 games in a 2017-2018 season that saw the veteran forward miss time as a result of needing surgery to remove part of his intestines, suffering a laceration from a skate to the back of the leg and concussion issues, Backes himself said Friday that he knows his future is “in-flux.”

The end of the 35-year-old alternate captain’s 2019 Stanley Cup campaign was a difficult one. Backes sat watching from the press box as a healthy scratch for the final games of the series. Coach Bruce Cassidy opted to take Backes out of game five of the Stanley Cup Finals to allow an 11-forward, seven-defenseman lineup to boost a banged-up defensive corps. The final two games of the series, Backes sat in favor of the speedier Karson Kuhlman. As a result, Backes was forced to sit and watch the Bruins lose in game seven to his former team, the St. Louis Blues.

With Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson all becoming free agents and a potential Torey Krug contract extension looming, the Bruins front office is faced this summer with the difficult task of trying to find a way to hold onto as many of those key young contributors as possible. Given his declining production and advancing age, it would make sense for the Bruins to try to rid themselves of some or all of Backes’ remaining contract. However, those same factors make it difficult to move him.

Backes signed a five-year contract with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2016. He has two years left and a $6 million per-year cap hit left on that deal. Talk of possible buyouts and trades has been swirling all year, but it remains to be seen what Bruins general manager Don Sweeney could do in regards to Backes to free up some space.

Although his future is in limbo, there is no question that Backes is a team leader who is respected and admired by his teammates. He has also proved to be a valuable mentor to the team’s future stars. Backes has assumed a leadership role from the day he arrived in Boston.

Even with myriad health and injury issues and a drop in playing time, Backes embraced every role he was asked to play in the team’s 2019 playoff run, and before. Backes worked to drop some weight ahead of the 2018-2019 season in an effort to keep up with a trend that favors speed over the heavier power-forward role that was prevalent when Backes broke into the National Hockey League. He was also an integral part of a second line that helped to combat the physical play of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round.

It looks as though Bruins fans may not have seen the last of David Backes donning the Spoked B. If that proves true, it is good news for a team that can use number 42’s leadership, experience, and never-say-die attitude to guide a young group of still-developing stars.

The Disappearance of the Boston Bruins First Line

brad_marchand_patrice_bergeron_david_pastrnak.jpg(Photo Credits: USA Today Sports Photo)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

It’s been a few days since the Boston Bruins suffered a tough end to a well-hard played season and as many weigh in on exactly what went wrong, it’s hard not to discuss one glaring issue: the production of the first line.

NHL Insider for NBC Sports Joe Haggerty dubbed the trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak “The Perfection Line.”  Throughout the regular season, the Bruins top line combined for many of the games top points and Brad Marchand hit 100 career points. At the end of the postseason, they combined for 59 points but despite that, the struggles of the first line had become a hot topic.

(Photo Credits: Harry How/Getty Images)

Last season saw the first line leading in team production, however, it was evident that the Bruins wouldn’t be able to survive on one line alone. This season Boston’s story turned around and as the team fought through injuries, the “next man up” mantra came into fruition. The Bruins kept winning despite all the line juggling and soon saw themselves punching their way into the Playoffs. The fourth line went full-steam ahead and with the addition of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, Boston found their missing pieces.

As the Bruins trailed the series 3-2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the top line exploded with Marchand tallying up two goals and an assist, Bergeron with an assist and Pastrnak had two assists, forcing a Game Seven. But when it came time for Round Two and Round Three, things started to dry up a bit. Early on, Coach Bruce Cassidy addressed the concern in regards to the lack of  production from the top line-most notably Marchand:

“We asked him to attack a little more. What happens with Brad is if the puck’s not going in, he wants to make plays for Pasta, because Pasta can score, Berg, they’re all 30-goal scorers, so [Brad] defers a little bit. If the pass is there, obviously make it, but don’t be afraid to shoot. You saw it the other night, he rang one off the post, had one cross screen and nice blocker save, [Sean] Kuraly almost got the rebound, so there was some stuff going on there for him. I thought Pastrnak was closer than that, had a block on a wraparound, so he’s getting inside. That encourages me. So I feel they’re close, but St. Louis is tough. It’s tough to get inside, they defend well, goaltender’s playing well. So it’s a good battle right now.”

As with the Toronto series, the Bruins found themselves with their back against the wall, but were able to push back and force Game Seven on home ice.  But when the time was needed for Boston’s once-feared first line to explode again, the trio garnered little to no points and missed many scoring chances in the final Game Seven. If you look strictly at the plus/minus, all three had a -3 or -4  at one point in the series.

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Game Seven was arguably the most important game for the Bruins and it was a quite…lackluster. And while you can’t place blame on just one line nor should you expect just one to produce all the goals, the drought was ill-timed. The final game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is one of sports biggest stage and there were many mistakes made. For Marchand, that badly timed line-change is something he will always “live with.” And when asked about the line’s struggles,  Marchand stated:

“I mean, that’s playoff hockey. You’re not going to dominate every game, you’re not going to score every goal. It is what it is. Obviously, we hold ourselves to a high standard, and we would’ve liked to be better. That’s hockey.”

For as tough as this loss was, the focus will now turn to the buyout period and free agency. Changes are inevitable and many of the young players have expressed their strong desire to stay right here in Boston. In a few months, the team will once again come together and whether or not Coach Bruce Cassidy keeps the top line together remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure… the Bruins will use this loss as a lesson and raise the Cup sooner than you think.

Bruins Backes, Wagner Likely To Sit Out Game Seven

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues

(Photo credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

Boston Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy indicated on Monday that the lineup for Wednesday’s series-deciding seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals will probably look just like the one that took the ice for Sunday’s 5-1 victory, with one possible exception that seemed even less likely as the week progressed. If those plans hold up, that means former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes will once again watch the game from the TD Garden press box.

Backes has been in and out of the lineup throughout the playoffs. He was a healthy scratch for game five when Cassidy opted to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in an effort to boost the strength of a banged-up blue line. Backes also was scratched for game six in favor of the speedier Karson Kuhlman.

The decision to insert Kuhlman in the second line left wing slot that Backes had been occupying paid off for Cassidy, with Kuhlman scoring a goal and helping the second line put forth a solid effort in the win. As a result, it makes sense for the coach to stick with Kuhlman for the final game. For his part, Backes seems to be glad to play whatever role he is assigned in the team’s quest for the Cup.

Chris Wagner is another season-long contributor who likely will not dress for Wednesday’s game. Wagner, who suffered an arm injury when he blocked a shot in the third game of Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, somewhat surprisingly participated in practice leading up to Sunday’s game six. Wagner was a full participant in Tuesday’s final practice of the season, as well. However, Cassidy’s plans for game seven do not include inserting Wagner back into the mix, even if he is healthy enough to play.

With fourth liners Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari racking up first line-type minutes and contributing on the score sheet throughout the series, it would be difficult for Cassidy to justify sitting any of them in game seven to make room for Wagner. So, it appears as if the Walpole native will be joining Backes on the ninth floor cheering on his teammates on Wednesday.

That brings us to the player Cassidy dubbed “the wild card” when discussing his lineup for game seven: Matt Grzelcyk. Charlestown’s Grzelcyk was placed in concussion protocol following a hit that forced him out of game two.

Although Grzelcyk has returned to practicing with the team and with the Black Aces, most of that time, he has been donning a red non-contact jersey. Before the game on Sunday, it was announced that he had still not cleared concussion protocol, meaning he could not play in game six. Grzelcyk was still in the non-contact jersey for Tuesday’s practice, making any potential return to game action even less likely.

Even if Grzelcyk is cleared for game seven, Cassidy said there was no guarantee he would play. John Moore has been filling in during Grzelcyk’s absence, and either Moore or Connor Clifton would probably be relegated to a healthy scratch if Grzelcyk does play.

Here is the expected lineup for game seven, based on the lines at Tuesday’s practice.

 

Kuhlman Making An Impact For Bruins In Cup Final

( Photo Credit: Boston Informer )

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Oftentimes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, experience makes all the difference. Typically speaking, experienced players get more opportunities because of their past performance, and they are counted on much more than inexperienced players. The Boston Bruins are no stranger to playoff experience. Three of the most important players on the team, Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara have over 300 games of postseason experience.

These guys have been through all sorts of playoff battles and therefore are relied upon much more than any other players. David Backes is another example of a very experienced player who is a very respected player in the locker room. However, sometimes experience isn’t everything, and Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy made a huge decision that went against some people’s logical thinking. After scratching Backes in Game Five to play seven defensemen, Cassidy chose to insert rookie Karson Kuhlman into the lineup in favor of putting Backes back into the lineup.

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Rightfully so there were some folks unsure about Kuhlman’s insertion and unsure how he would react to playing on such an important stage, an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Final. Not only did Kuhlman play a decent game in Game Six, but he was also one of the best forwards on the ice. Playing on a big stage is nothing new for the former Minnesota Duluth Bulldog who just a year ago, helped the school win the NCAA National Championship and was named the Tournament’s MVP. Not to say the stage is the same, but you can’t deny that experience certainly helped him feel less nervous and probably not allow the nerves to affect him as much. Kuhlman showcased his best skills last night, skating, speed and his unparalleled hunger for the puck. Kuhlman is not the physical player Backes is, but he certainly more than makes up for it in the other aforementioned areas.

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Before you get the wrong idea, this is not an anti-David Backes article because myself I’ve been a fan of his since his St. Louis days. But sometimes a coach needs to recognize which skills are more useful in a certain situation. Backes certainly has made a positive impact for the B’s in the playoffs, but unfortunately, that was two rounds ago. When the Bruins trailed two games to one against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Backes was inserted into the lineup to combat the physical play, and he did just that and was one of the main reasons the Bruins ended up clinching that series by winning three straight games. Since that series, Backes has one point and hasn’t made much of an impact. The Bruins could get by with Backes in the lineup against Carolina but when playing a team that’s as physical as St. Louis, trying to match their strength isn’t the right way to go.

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Physical play is the name of the game for the St. Louis Blues, they play with grit, are hard on the puck and hit everything that moves. Interestingly enough, it perfectly describes the 2011 Boston Bruins, and yes, we all know what happened with that team. Getting down in the muck and trying to outhit and out physical, the Blues is a strategy that hasn’t worked for the Bruins in this series, and it hasn’t worked for them in the past(Tampa Bay last season). This isn’t to say the Bruins aren’t a tough team and can’t hit well, they are a physical team, but they are at their best when they play with pace and energy.

Inserting Kuhlman into the lineup seemed to inject energy into the second line, and they responded with their best game of the series. The more the Bruins can play with pace, the better chance they have to win, and at the end of the day, the goal is to give yourself the best chance to win. People might disagree about who should play, but we can all agree we want the team to win and want the team to put out the best lineup possible.

Bruins D Matt Grzelcyk, Zdeno Chara Deemed Game-Time Decisions

stanley-cup-blues-bruins-hockey.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

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

Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced earlier today, June 6th, that defensemen Zdeno Chara and Matt Grzelcyk are deemed game-time decisions for tonight’s pivotal Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston, Massachusetts.

The news comes today after many speculated on the numerous off days since the Game Four loss on Monday that Zdeno Chara was done for the remainder of the postseason with what was assumed to be a broken jaw. However, it was made clear that the 42-year-old captain did not need his jaw to be wired shut and he is not missing any teeth but he does indeed have a brace going along his bottom gum line according to Shawn Hutcheon.

Chara’s injury came from the second period in Game Four when he attempted to block a wrist shot from Blues forward Brayden Schenn with the Bruins down 2-1 on the scoreboard. As a result, Chara inadvertently deflected the shot off of his monstrous stick and directly into his face. A flow of blood immediately poured out of the giant as he skated off to the Bruins locker room. Chara did end up returning in the final regulation period with a full face mask, but did not play a shift as he felt “uncomfortable”.

As for Matt Grzelcyk, his injury came back during Game Two of the Finals, when he took a hard hit along the end boards by Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. The National Hockey League’s Player Safety took a look at the hit and following a hearing, was suspended for Game Three. After taking the hit hard, Grzelcyk appeared to stumble when he got up, sending him through concussion protocol.

The 25-year-old was forced to miss Game Four on Monday but was seen wearing a maroon-colored non-contact jersey in practice on Wednesday but Cassidy was not positive on his status for Thursday’s contest. Earlier today, Cassidy clarified that Grzelcyk is also a game-time decision like Chara and if he feels ready to go around 7:00pm, then he will be in the lineup.

During the talks of both injuries, Cassidy mentioned the fact that he may lean to running seven defensemen and eleven forwards for Game Five and according to the Head Coach on Thursday, that idea still remains a topic of discussion ahead of puck drop, even if both blueliners are feeling up to the task of playing in this crucial game.

In regard to the injury, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said this in a written response to the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association:

“You don’t think about that. You think about playing. You don’t go into a game thinking you might get hurt. At this time of the playoffs, everyone has injuries and there are challenges that you have to overcome to play. I’m no different than any player on either team.”

The 2019 Stanley Cup Finals is deadlocked at two games apiece with tonight’s game in Boston giving the winner a 3-2 series lead and a chance to win the Stanley Cup on Sunday in St. Louis. The current scheduled puck drop for the game is 8:00pm EST.

Next Man Up: Zdeno Chara Status Uncertain for Bruins in SCF Game 5

charainjury

( Photo Credit: wcvb.com )

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

As the Bruins and Blues prepare for a pivotal game five in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins could be without their captain. In game four at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Zdeno Chara took a puck to the face in the second period that prevented him from returning to the game. Now, Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins might have to adjust to missing their leader for a big game of a tied Stanley Cup Final series.

Just three minutes into the second period of game four, the Bruins lost their captain after Brayden Schenn rifled a shot that ramped off of Chara’s defending stick and into his mouth area. Chara would leave for the second period, and the Bruins were again down to five defensemen much like game two in which they lost in overtime. At the start of the third period, Chara was on the Bruins bench with a full shield on, leading many to believe that the monster defenseman would play. However, he did not touch the ice besides in between TV timeouts to rally up his troops. It was later revealed by Cassidy that Chara was advised not to play as he was “very uncomfortable” but wanted to sit on the bench to be there for his teammates.

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After Ryan O’Reilly buried a late third-period game-winning goal that would ultimately tie the Stanley Cup Finals series at two games apiece, worry crept into Bruins fans’ minds about the status of the Bruins captain. On Tuesday, it was reported that Zdeno Chara broke his jaw as a result and he ultimately missed practice on Wednesday at TD Garden. At the conclusion of Bruins practice, Cassidy spoke about Chara’s facial injury and that it was not a good sign that Zee was not on the ice on Wednesday.

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So, all signs are pointing to Big Zee potentially being out for at least game five in this series. That leaves Bruce Cassidy with some very tough decisions heading into arguably the biggest game of the series and the season for both the Bruins and the Blues. With Grzelcyk going down after a hard hit from Oskar Sundqvist in game two, John Moore was called on to step in and replace Grzelcyk on the blue line. The next man up that we have seen step up in these playoffs would be Steven Kampfer. However, Cassidy has second-guessed the insertion of Kampfer because he is a right-handed shot and would throw off the right-left balance between Kampfer and Connor Clifton – a balance that is consistent with the rest of the defense.

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Another option would be for Cassidy to insert Bruins rookie standout Urho Vaakanainen into the lineup. Urho would solve the right-left shot balance as he is a left-handed shooting defenseman. However, this could be a risky move as Vaakanainen has only played two regular season games in the NHL.

The third option for Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff is to roll eleven forwards and seven defensemen. This, of course, would mean that a forward would be scratched in order to make room for the seventh defenseman which would likely be David Backes as he was often the odd forward out in the earlier rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Karson Kuhlman was with Krejci and DeBrusk on the second line. The Blues have beaten the Bruins twice this series, and both times the Bruins have lost defenseman for a big chunk of the game when they lost Grzelcyk in the first period of game two and Chara at the beginning of the second period of game four.

On Wednesday, the practice lines looked like this:

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes
Johansson – Coyle – Heinen
Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari
Moore – McAvoy
Krug – Carlo
Kampfer – Clifton
Grzelcyk – Vaakanainen
Rask
Halak

As of Wednesday, Cassidy stated that Grzelcyk still needs to be cleared which he is possible to get cleared tomorrow. It appears that Kampfer would play with Clifton in game five, but that will ultimately depend on if Cassidy wants to remove a forward and go with the seven defensemen, if Grzelcyk is cleared, or if Vaakanainen gets the call over Kampfer. Good news is that Grzelcyk looked well on the ice and that he skated with the second powerplay unit indicating that he is close but still needs to be cleared.

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All in all, Cassidy is in for a series of crucial tough decisions for the all-important game five at TD Garden on Thursday night. If Chara is unable to go for game five, the Bruins will undoubtedly miss his leadership on and off the ice.

Bruins’ Fourth Line Look To Lead The Bounce-Back

( Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, AP )

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

As the Stanley Cup Final shifts back to Boston for Game 5 on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins will be looking to recapture the momentum in what’s been a back-and-forth series through four games.  While the Bruins will need much better performances across the line-up, you can bet the fourth line will be itching to lead the bounce-back as they played nowhere near their usual standard in Game 4’s loss.

The fourth line of Sean Kuraly,  Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari can usually be relied upon to drive possession and help tilt the ice in the Bruins favor.  The line starts the majority of its shifts in the defensive zone and quite often skates to the bench having earned an offensive zone face-off.  That’s exactly what you’re looking for from your fourth line.

There has been an added bonus from the line so far in the Stanley Cup Final-production.  Kuraly (2G-2A-4Pts, 2GWG’s), Nordstrom (1G-3A-4Pts), and Acciari (1G-1A-2Pts) have combined for 10 points in the first four games of the Stanley Cup Final.  The worrying trend for the line, however, is that their 5-vs-5 Corsi percentage has been steadily declining as the series has progressed and culminated with some horrendous numbers in Game 4.

Let’s take a closer look at what the line has produced over the first four games.   As a reminder, Corsi % is a reliable possession metric which measures shot attempts for against shot attempts against, expressed as a percentage and for 5-on-5-play.  A measure of 50% means a team is generating an equal number of shot attempts for and against while that player is on the ice.  Therefore, as a baseline, positive Corsi is viewed as a percentage greater than 50, and more often than not, players and teams generating Corsi percentages greater than 50 are more successful.

Corsi % through four games, stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com:

CF % (5v5) Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4
Kuraly 45.0 28.6 53.8 15.0
Nordstrom 44.4 32.0 31.2 9.5
Acciari 45.5 34.8 34.8 10.5

As the table above shows, the trend has been going the wrong way, and that’s a worry if you’re the Bruins.  Game 4 was a particularly rough night for the trio as they were held off the score sheet for the first time in the series and gave up the game’s opening goal on their first shift at the 0:43 mark.

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St Louis took full advantage of home ice to get the match-ups they were looking for in Game 4.  The Bruins started with the Bergeron line and St Louis interim-Head Coach, Craig Berube, countered with his fourth line.  After a stoppage, 29 seconds in, Bruins Coach, Bruce Cassidy, sent the Kuraly line over the boards for a defensive zone face-off.  The Blues countered with the Ryan O’Reilly line, and they quickly capitalized with an opening minute goal that energized the building and the Blues.  All in all, not the start the Bruins were looking for or needed on the road in a hostile environment.

As the Corsi numbers show, the Bruins fourth line was over-matched all night in Game 4, generating just 2 shot attempts for, while giving up 12 (14.29 CF%) in 7:58 of 5-on-5 ice-time.  The Bruins as a whole were out-attempted 49-30 during 5-on-5-play.  The difference can be somewhat attributed to the negative numbers put up by the Kuraly line, but you can’t hang the loss entirely on them.  The reality is that the Bruins need more across their line-up.  They are yet to receive a goal at 5-on-5-play from anyone in their top two lines.

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There is no question that the Bruins have enjoyed a significant special teams advantage through four games of the Stanley Cup Final.  Boston has gone 6 for 16 with the man-advantage, good for a 37.5% clip, and have added a short-handed goal.  The Blues, on the other hand, are just 1/12 on the man-advantage, translating to an 8.3% rate with a short-handed goal allowed.  The reality is, however, that as the Stanley Cup Final goes deeper and deeper, history has shown that players adjust and as the pressure amps up, discipline is preached, often leading to fewer power play opportunities.  The Bruins are going to need to be better at 5-on-5-play moving forward as they may not be able to count on receiving four or five power plays per game.

All is certainly not lost, and the Kuraly line has proven it’s worth time and time again in the regular season and playoffs and certainly with its contributions in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final.  Coach Cassidy will be expecting a bounce-back performance from the trio in Game 5, and they will play an important role if the Bruins are to overcome adversity and go on to win the Stanley Cup.  The fourth line is in no way the scape-goat here, the Bruins need the contributions to come from the top.  This is something they are aware of, but if the fourth line can rebound and help tilt the ice Boston’s way, that in itself will be a major contribution.  Helping the top lines get offensive zone starts may be just what the Bruins need to turn this around.

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No one said it was going to be easy.  The Bruins find themselves in an enviable position, heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final tied 2-2.  It’s now a best of three, and they have two games at home to get the job done.  A win in Game 5 will go a long, long way to making that happen.   The Bruins’ fourth line has been vital throughout this playoff run, ever since Kuraly returned from injury for Game 5 of the opening round series against Toronto.  A strong performance from Kuraly, Nordstrom, and Acciari will help send this series back to St Louis with a chance to clinch the Bruins’ seventh Stanley Cup championship.

Can B’s D-men Improve Any “Moore” In SCF?

Image result for john moore boston bruins(Photo Credit: Boston Globe)

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

“Next man up.”

This phrase should probably be printed on all 2018-19 Bruins gear, emblazoned above the B’s locker room door, bannered onto the forefront of the TD Garden and artistically etched onto the ice right below Stanley Cup Finals. It’s literally the motto — and mantra — for a bruised Black N’ Gold team that’s taken pride in players truly stepping up when called upon. Now, it appears, yet another member of your three-wins-away-from-winning-it-all Bruins will have one “Moore” chance to make his teammates and the city proud.

That’s right, it’s likely John Moore’s turn to take the place in game three for an untimely injured Matt Grzelcyk (who, if you reluctantly remember, was boarded by the now-suspended Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in game two). Moore, who hasn’t played since he slotted in for an injured Zdeno Chara in the B’s series-clinching win against Carolina two weeks ago, is without a doubt eager to make an impact in a pivotal road contest that could easily change the course and momentum of the series.

Much in the same way Steve Kampfer injected some energy and, if you can believe it, timely goal scoring when he “next-man-upped” himself into action for game one of the ECF against the Hurricanes, Moore hopes to help his team both on the blue line and on the score sheet if he can. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will take either, but his primary thinking of choosing Moore over Kampfer, to most likely pair with Connor Clifton, is the versatile veteran’s left leaning (blue)lining.

As for the rest of his squad, Moore certainly has the support and confidence from his teammates, all of whom expected him to be a more permanent fixture on the back end all season long until injuries and depth chart-jumping forced him out of the lineup for extended stretches this year. However, NOW is the most important time of the year for the Bruins and that’s all that matters — to the team, to management, to the fans and to Moore. He knows opportunities like this don’t come around that often and making the most of them could result in the ultimate prize: hoisting the Stanley Cup high over his head for the first time in his career.

Image result for john moore boston bruins(Photo Credit: Spokesman-Review)

If he helps the B’s to a game three victory, then guess what? The new next man up will only have two “Moore” wins to go!

For Bruins, The “Best” Is Yet To Come… Maybe?

Image result for boston bruins stanley cup(Photo Credit: Boston Herald)

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

For the Bruins’ best, is the best yet to come, as the old adage goes?

At the start of this series against the Western Conference Champion St. Louis Blues, many who follow this talented team — myself included — definitely thought YES. After all, the B’s were coming off a sweep of the high-flying Hurricanes, one in which their top line topped the entire score sheet in a clinching game four victory. But with game three of the Stanley Cup Final on the horizon (and on the road), now many of us are not so sure — again, myself included.

Now, I wouldn’t call the Blues an “inferior” team by any means, but there may be a bit of truth to the Black N’ Gold’s perfection line showing perfectly obvious signs of rust after not only the week plus layoff, but also the layman-like play these first two games of the series. It’s fair to ask this (Paula Cole cowboyless) question: where have Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand & David Pastrnak gone? Regrettably, not to the net enough or to the bench enough celebrating those big, timely goals — you know, the kind your best players tend to score?!?

So, how exactly do the Bruins’ best intend to “clean up” those aforementioned details in time for a pivotal game 3 in St. Louis? Will Head Coach Bruce Cassidy tweak his top line — as he’s done in every previous playoff series at one point — to spark his struggling stars? Even in his most somber of post game press postures following game two’s gut-wrenching OT loss, he still pointed out an important solution to the most noticeable problem No.’s 63-37-88 seem to be suffering from (…again):

Yet, for all the criticism he and his team have faced in the last few days (coming off a more than impressive 8-game playoff winning streak, mind you), I think the man affectionately known as Butch was butcheringly blunt: the B’s need to remind themselves of how they’ve been successful in every round, and against every opponent, during these extremely favorable Stanley Cup Playoffs:

“Rebounding pucks, getting second chances, forcing [the other team] to defend. Usually, ya know, [it] results in penalties as well so that’ll be a point of emphasis.” — Bruce Cassidy

And speaking of penalties earned and thus power plays given… here’s a given: the B’s will not be hoisting Lord Stanley’s coveted silver chalice in the next week or so unless they can consistently make the most of the PP minutes they’re drawing from the sometimes beleaguered and belligerent Blues. And that especially goes for the top unit which includes, at times, all of the illustrious players alluded to earlier and pictured below.

Related image(Photo Credit: Zimbio)

Sure, the Bruins have scored a goal with the man advantage in a near record-setting six consecutive playoff games, but it’s no exaggeration to state they easily could’ve scored multiple PP goals in every game dating back to the Carolina series. You may get away with a missed “one up” opportunity here or there during the regular season and during the early rounds of the playoffs, but certainly not in the SCF where every shift, change, shot, point & goal matters. I mean, how many teams wish for a penalty to be called in a tie game in the third period with under ten minutes to go in the finals (and to take a stranglehold 2-0 lead in the series)!?!? EVERY ONE–if they’re lucky to get there. The B’s most certainly were in game two and yet…

I guess we were all singing the blues (sorry, Blues [capitalized]) after that. But, if there’s anything this wonderfully watchable run of hometown hockey has taught us this year, it’s that the B’s know how to respond to adversity. Especially on the road. And fittingly, their best players are all on the same page when it comes to the respective response.

That certainly sounds like someone who “B”lieves the best really is yet to come in this now best-of-five game Stanley Cup series.