Biggest Questions Facing The Bruins As They Enter The 2020 Playoffs

Notes, Thoughts And Observations From Ondrej Kase's Bruins Debut ...
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By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

What is up with Kase and Ritchie?

There is a lot up in the air with the Bruin’s two most recent acquisitions. We know Ondrej Kase was the only player to not travel to Toronto with the team. It’s been said that the Czech Republic native will meet the team later, but if he’s healthy, what role will he have? He’s only played six games with Boston, and with younger guys (that will be mentioned later) getting more chemistry with the team, it will be interesting to see what type of role he’ll have when he’s with the team.

That same story remains true with Nick Ritchie. Despite traveling to Toronto with the team, Ritchie has just now made his first on ice appearance in Ontario’s capital, in an optional skate this morning. He wasn’t featured Bruin’s lineup in the exhibition game and it’s anyone’s guess as to when he’ll join the Bs for a game. The physical forward would be a really nice addition to the lineup, and his presence would be a welcome addition to the forward group.

How will the kids play?

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 26: Jack Studnicka #68 of the Boston Bruins warms up prior to the game against the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on November 26, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Bruins seem to have three players penciled into their lineup that have yet to play a playoff game in their NHL career. The trio of players are Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Jeremy Lauzon. I recently wrote an article about how I believe Bjork has a good chance to break out in the playoffs. He’s an incredibly skilled player that has had success in every league he’s been in. The Notre Dame alum has developed into a really good 200-foot player and is a guy I can totally see having a Marcus Johansson like run in the playoffs. 

As for Studnicka, it appears that he will get the start to the right of David Krejci on the second line and I love it. He’s done everything you want in a young player making the jump to the pros. He led the entire AHL in shorthanded goals and was within the top 15 in both total goals and points. Getting the chance to play in the top six in the NHL playoffs as a 21-year-old is not something many can do, especially for a President’s Trophy winning team. It’s been all praise from teammates and I’m really excited to see how he does after his promising showing in the exhibition game. 

We saw Connor Clifton take big steps in his NHL career last year as a rookie in the playoffs, and now Jeremy Lauzon is looking to do the same. The French-Canadian plays the perfect playoff style of hockey. The adjective I would use to describe him certainly wouldn’t be shy as he already has 10 fights in his short NHL career. He’s added a nice physical presence next to Matt Grzelcyk and that bottom pair has been a big part of the B’s success. Since joining the big club, the Bruins have had a 15-3-1 record in games Lauzon has played in.

Can Rask replicate last year’s playoff success?

Bruins' Tuukka Rask Reveals Item He Brought To Toronto, Game Plan ...
(Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Rask was excellent in the 2018-19 Playoffs. Saying anything but that would be idiotic.  Outside of the final game of the Cup, Rask was absolutely dominant in elimination and series clinching games. In five elimination games, the Finnish tender allowed just four goals to go with a .973 save percentage. And as crazy as it may sound, he was even better in series clinching games. He allowed ONE goal in the three games, good for a .990 save percentage and if you picked this up, well done, had more shutouts than goals allowed. Those are elite numbers. 

It will definitely be interesting to see how the time off will affect the B’s starter coming off of his best regular season since winning the Vezina in 2014. Luckily if Rask falters for any reason, they have one of the best backups in the league in Jaroslav Halak. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. 

Will the formatting of the playoffs hurt the Bruins?

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 16: Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins and Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins fight during the second period at TD Garden on January 16, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Well the immediate answer is yes. As they were six points up on the second place team in the league, Bs were poised to finish the regular season as the number one seed. They would’ve had home ice throughout the entirety of the playoffs but are now forced to play in a round robin to determine where they finish. If the Bs fail to maintain the top spot in the East they would end up playing a better team than they would have normally faced. Can you believe if they end up playing the Penguins in the first round instead of a team around the 7-9 seed? No disrespect to any of those teams, but that would be incredibly tough on the Presidents Trophy winning team. 

If there’s any pro out of this, it would be the fact that the Bruins now play high intensity games that matter, but without a lose or go home stipulation. Maybe if they don’t show up in the three round robin games it sends a message. Maybe if they DO show up it will give the team confidence and add a little swagger to their play. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

Can the veterans succeed after so much time off?

Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand - Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
(Photo Credit: Minas Panaglotakis/ Getty Images)

There’s no questioning if the leadership of the Bruin’s veterans will be there when the playoffs begin, it will. But will their usual great play be there as well? Zdeno Chara (42), Patrice Bergeon (34), David Krejci (33) and Brad Marchand (31) have all had amazing NHL careers, but without a proper training camp and so much time off, it may be tough to get back into the swing of things with the intensity of playoff hockey. Brad Marchand said earlier in quarantine that he thinks younger teams like the Maple Leafs and Lightning will have the advantage over teams with an older core. With that being said, you know Bruce Cassidy and co will have the Bruins ready to play when the time comes. 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! 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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What The Bruins Defensive Pairs Could Look Like In The 2020 Playoffs

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By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Bruins have arguably the deepest defensive core in the entire league, and that can never be a bad thing. It’s going to be very intriguing to see how each defenseman comes back from all the time off and will be very telling on who gets the nod when playoffs begin. I just recently gave my opinion on the Bruins forward group, and here are my thoughts on the defense.

1st Pairing: Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy

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

Starting out with a bit of a surprise, I really think the Bruins should keep the former Boston University pairing together. I talked a bit about it in my last article about how important speed is going to be in the upcoming playoffs, and here is exhibit A. Taking nothing away from the future first-ballot Hall of Famer that is Zdeno Chara, but he doesn’t have the legs he used to and I’m not sure how the time off will affect his game. Matt Grzelcyk should get a bulk of shifts with Charlie McAvoy.

He’s undersized, not very physical, and doesn’t put up crazy offensive numbers, but Matt Grzelyck may be the most underrated defensemen in the league. His importance to the Bruins is wildly understated, he just does everything right. The mobile defenseman always makes a good first pass and is excellent at the transition game.

The Charlestown native is an analytical darling. Among NHL defensemen with 40+ games, Gryz ranks third in even-strength goals per 60 minutes. He has a very solid 52.8 Corsi and 54.6 Fenwick. And did all of Grzelyck’s success halt in the playoffs? Nope. In last year’s playoff run, the 26-year-old totaled four goals and eight points. Despite being put in tough positions and starting in the Bruins’ end 53.4% of the time, Grzelyck still managed to post a 54.4 Corsi. It’s going to suck seeing him in Seattle…

Boston media was all over Charlie McAvoy at the beginning of the season. Pekka Rinne (yes the goalie) scored a goal before Chucky Mac did, but he was still playing good hockey. He’s constantly paired against his opponent’s top lines and has proven time and time again that he can take any task he’s assigned. McAvoy came to Boston as a teenager and averaged 26 MINUTES a game in the playoffs without a lick of NHL experience. He’s done a remarkable job against the likes of Steven Stamkos, Auston Matthews, and Nikita Kucherov in the playoffs and deserves to eat up as many minutes as Bruce Cassidy gives him.

2nd Pairing: Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Yin and Yang. The pairing just works. On the left, you have one of the most dynamic offensive defensemen in the league. On the right, you have a 6’5 defensive specialist who’s grown into an incredibly reliable player on the back end for the Bruins. 

When I think of playoff Torey Krug I think of two things. The first being his 2013 run where he was plucked out of Providence and lit it up for the Bruins. Watching him against the Rangers was special. He displayed a crazy amount of poise and skill, scoring FOUR goals in five games. The subtle things are what stood out. Getting into open space, a little footwork before scoring are just a few examples. The second thing is this.

Brandon Carlo is a defenseman every team wishes they had. He reminds me of Niklas Hjalmarsson. He’s not a player that will light up the scoresheet (although his offensive output has been far more impressive as of late) but he’s so hard to beat one on one, he blocks everything that comes his way and is the type of guy you need to win a cup (see Hjalmarsson’s three Stanley Cups). The 2015 2nd rounder has become a great skater, and he’s finally using his size against opponents. And the craziest thing is he’s still just 23. 

3rd Pairing: Zdeno Chara – Jeremy Lauzon

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 31: Jeremy Lauzon #79 of the Boston Bruins waits for a face off during an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils on December 31, 2019 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Devils won 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

I need to retcon a bit on having Grzelcyk on the first pairing. Maybe it’s a 30%-70% split, maybe it’s a 50%-50% split, but there are still circumstances where Chara needs to be with McAvoy because they are so effective in so many situations. In last year’s postseason, he had six times the amount of giveaways as takeaways and had a tough 46 Corsi, but he led the entire playoffs with a plus-11 rating and you can’t argue with the captain of a team that was a game (or a penalty call) away from winning the cup. He’s the ultimate competitor, not many people can break their jaw and play the next game. 

I had to deliberate a lot with the sixth man at the backend. Bruce Cassidy could go for experience and play John Moore (who I thought played very solid in the Cup), he could elect for someone to play on their strong side like Connor Clifton, or go with the “hot” hand (if you could call it that after all the time off) with Jeremy Lauzon, who I think should get the nod. 

Lauzon doesn’t have any playoff experience, but like we’ve seen with some of the aforementioned players, that may not be an issue. The French-Canadian has a whole lot of grit to his game, he already has two fights under his belt, one against the tough bastard that is Matthew Tkachuk, which is something you love to see from a young player. His style of play should mesh perfectly with the pace of typical playoff hockey.

Having John Moore, Connor Clifton, and even Steven Kampfer are huge luxuries to have and will all be big assets if Lauzon (or any others) look out of place. And of course, Tuukka Rask will be the starter, don’t need anyone to say otherwise.

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!

Boston Bruins: A Hat-Trick of Birthdays

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PHOTO CREDITS: (MADDIE MEYER/GETTY IMAGES)

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

Today, April 28th, 2020, three current Boston Bruins players all become a year older and celebrate their birthdays – David Krejci, Connor Clifton, and Jeremy Lauzon.

F David Krejci

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

David Krejci was born on April 28th, 1986 in Sternberk, Czechoslovakia. Krejci started his hockey career in the early 2000s playing with numerous U18 clubs in the Czech Republic – performing at over a point-per-game pace for each season. In 2003-2004, David scored 23-37-60 totals in 50 games with HC Kladno U20. This propelled him to the 2004 NHL Entry Draft where the Bruins selected him 63rd overall in the second round.

In the 2004-05 season, Krejci joined the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL to further his development as a new Bruins prospect. He played two seasons with the Olympiques, posting 49-95-144 numbers in 117 games as well as 12-29-41 numbers in 27 playoff games.

Krejci didn’t make his mark on the Boston Bruins organization until the following season when he scored 74 points in 69 regular-season games with the Providence Bruins in the AHL and scored the most playoff assists as a rookie with 13 helpers in 13 games during the ’06/’07 postseason. David played in six games with Boston but didn’t make a true impact until the next year where he skated in 56 games for the Boston Bruins.

Since then, Krejci has played in 911 regular-season NHL games, scoring 207 goals and 479 assists for 686 points. Krejci added a Stanley Cup to his resume as he led the NHL in playoff goals (12) and points (23) to help the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. Krejci’s 103 playoff points ties him with Patrice Bergeron for the second-most points in the postseason in Boston Bruins history.

This season, the 6-foot, 187-pound forward has 13-30-43 totals in 61 games before the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on the NHL. Recently, David Krejci stated that he would like to continue playing hockey when his current contract expires in July of 2021. Whether or not Krejci plays with the Bruins after the deal ends is yet to be seen, but he will go down as one of the better Bruins of recent memory. Happy 34th Birthday, David Krejci!

D Connor Clifton

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Billy Hurst / USA Today)

Connor Clifton was born on April 28th, 1995 in Long Branch, New Jersey, USA. Clifton started his hockey journey in various United States hockey programs including the EmJHL, EJHL, and USHL. Throughout those different leagues, Clifton never played a large number of games per season but kept working. In 2012-13, Connor played with the U.S. National U18 Team in the United States Development Program (USDP) where he scored 8-15-23 numbers in 66 games.

Following that, the 5-foot-11, 174-pound defenceman was drafted 133rd overall (5th round) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes. Being such a late draft selection, Clifton made his way to the NCAA to play for Quinnipiac University where he would spend the next four seasons ending in 2016-17. After two slow seasons, Clifton scored 28 points in 43 games for the Bobcats in 2015-16. That was the same season that Quinnipiac defeated Harvard to win the ECAC Championship, with Clifton winning the Tournament MVP.

Clifton captained the team in 2016-17, his final year in the NCAA, as he put up another 14 points in 39 games. After opting for free agency, Connor Clifton signed an AHL contract with the Providence Bruins and began his AHL career in 2017-2018. He posted 4-9-13 numbers in 54 games but went pointless in four playoff meetings. On May 3rd, 2018, the Boston Bruins signed Clifton to a two-year NHL contract, allowing him to play with the NHL team.

The New Jersey native played the bulk of the 2018-29 campaign in the AHL once again but did see 19 games of regular-season hockey with the NHL club, tallying one assist. However, it was on the Bruins’ 2019 Stanley Cup Finals run where he made an impact. “Cliffy Hockey” scored two goals and three assists in 18 playoff games and played a solid defensive game, laying heavy hits and making a name for himself with injuries on Boston’s blueline.

His performance earned him a three-year, $1 million AAV deal to re-sign with the Bruins in this past offseason. Unfortunately, though, Clifton only played 31 games in the NHL as he dealt with an upper-body injury for a large chunk of the season and then the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on the NHL season just as Clifton was finding his way back into the lineup. Regardless, Connor will be a future regular on Boston’s d-core. Happy 25th Birthday, Connor Clifton!

D Jeremy Lauzon

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Jeremy Lauzon was born April 28th, 1997 in Val-d’Or, Quebec, Canada. Lauzon’s young hockey career started in 2010-11, playing for a few different organizations in Quebec, Canada. In 2013-14, Lauzon joined the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), where he came out of the gate with 5-11-16 numbers in 55 games and four points in 9 playoff appearances.

Lauzon had a more impressive sophomore season in the QMJHL, putting up 36 points in 60 games as a defenceman. Those numbers did something for the Bruins organization who selected the 6-foot-2, 205-pound 52nd overall (2nd round) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

The following season, in 2015-16, Boston returned Jeremy to the QMJHL where he scored 50 points during the regular season, earning himself an entry-level deal from Boston in November of 2015. In the playoffs that year, Jeremy posted 1-7-8 totals in 9 playoff games as Rouyn-Noranda won the QMJHL Championship, booking them a spot in the infamous Memorial Cup tournament. Lauzon’s Huskies made it all the way to the Finals but fell short to the London Knights.

Following one more season with the Huskies in the 2016-2017 campaign, Jeremy Lauzon finally joined the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. Lauzon, unfortunately, missed 22 games with a concussion but still played in 52 games, scoring 7 points. Lauzon made his NHL debut in the 2018-19 season and scored his first career goal in that same year.

This season, Lauzon proved to be a solid piece of Boston’s depth defensive core as he held his own in 19 games played when the other blueliners were out with injuries. In February of 2020, General Manager Don Sweeney re-signed Lauzon to a two-year contract extension worth an annual average of $850,000. Happy 23rd Birthday, Jeremy Lauzon!

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!!

The Bruins’ Compliance Buyout Options

( Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi | Getty Images )

By: Will Montanez | Follow me on Twitter @Willfro3

Discretionary economic activity has effectively been halted as governments and individuals attempt to contend with a post-pandemic planet. The impact on the NHL is no less severe than any other sports league, as they encounter reduced revenues from all angles including promotions, concessions, and subscriptions. Part of the issue is that the NHL’s hard salary cap is, in part, a function of how much money the league makes in revenues. Declining revenues may mean a flat or even decreasing cap. For relief in both absolute dollar terms as well as cap related issues arising from good faith dealings made under the auspicious of future cap lifts, compliance contract buyouts may be provided to the Bruins, as well as the other teams across the league.

Compliance buyouts have most recently been utilized in 2013, following a labor dispute between the NHL and NHLPA. One of the provisions of the newest CBA was a year-over-year flat salary cap and in order to placate management teams, who argued that the former cap and projections therefrom impacted their decision making, each franchise was awarded the opportunity to buy out two players with no cap penalty during the off-season of either 2013 or 2014. While the Bruins declined to use either of their buyouts, albatross contracts across the league were wiped off of several teams cap spreadsheets. If compliance buyouts are awarded to help the league franchises cope with a flat cap, the Bruins may consider a move more seriously this time around, due to the roster decisions that will have to be made.

The Bruins are a team in transition, readying for a shift from the stalwarts collected and honed in the mid-oughts that dragged the franchise to repeated success all the way to the third decade of the 21st century. The Chicago Blackhawks have written the book on the tenuous maintenance of a championship-caliber team in the salary cap world and their modus operandi was the ruthless gutting of the supporting cast in order to preserve a pricey core. While the B’s have some of the most team-friendly deals in the league (warning: paywall), if they want to keep the majority of the band together, someone has got to go.

Barring any sort of trade, the likelihood of which could be reduced by the presence of the compliance buyout option, an amnesty buyout would make for a quick fix to the Bruins’ cap crunch. The deciding factor on who would be ousted would most likely be based on age, on-ice impact and contract.  While many B’s fans would love to see Tuukka Rask bought out, re-signed and bought out again, below are three of the most likely buyout candidates on the B’s roster.

John Moore

( Photo Credit: USA Today )

John Moore has, by all accounts, been a commensurate professional and decent fifth to sixth defenseman on the B’s roster. Originally signed to provide speed, first-pass capability in transition and defensive depth to a group that had been ravaged by injuries in the preceding two playoff appearances, Moore has found himself the odd-man-out on most nights with the Bruins’ roster healthy. In spite of his apparent skating ability, he has shown a lack of defensive awareness and attention to detail, at times.

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In the goal above, we can see the Tampa Bay attacker find the puck after an errant shot in the Bruins’ D-zone. After Patrice Bergeron pressures him to the outside, he finds open space behind the red-line and Bergeron releases him to Torey Krug. Krug attempts to strip the puck and as he fails, Moore vacates the front of the crease, his abandons his check and leaves his net-minder alone. The puck is dished to an open Lightning forward who makes no mistake about elevating the puck past Rask. It was by no means a defensive clinic by any Bruin on the ice, but it is the glaring mistake by Moore that led to this tally against and sealed the fate of the Bruins in the game, an eventual five-to-three loss to a division opponent. Further, the term and value of the contract make Moore the most likely pick.

After this season, Moore has three years of his contract remaining with $7.3 million due to him over that time. The total cost of the buyout would be $4.8 million (two-thirds of the remaining value) and would be spread out over twice the amount of time remaining. What the Bruins would be looking for is that $2.8 million of cap space, which is (give-or-take) one Anders Bjork and one Matt Grzelcyk when figuring their raises. The term of the deal also limits their Bruins’ ability to market the contract in some ways as well as reducing the flexibility of future negotiations with Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy down the line.

Connor Clifton

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Oh, how we barely knew ye. After impressing during his 19 game call-up last season as well as his playoff contributions which nearly doubled his time with varsity, Clifton has seen a slight step backward in his development. While not quite long in the tooth, the 24-year-old defenseman is simply running out of time to prove that he can handle an NHL workload as a sixth defenseman or spare component on the right side of the rink with regularity.

His offensive recklessness is not always accompanied by an enthusiastic back-check to regain positioning in the way Krug will demonstrate and the lack of will always be a hindrance against the bigger forwards in the league, especially if he is to be paired with Grzelcyk. In spite of the potential cost saving signing, there simply may not be room for him on the back-end and the fiscal impact of the maneuver would be a paltry $900k.

The depth chart favors the Bruins’ defense, there is no question there. Management has recently taken steps to strengthen that position further when they elected to sign Jack Ahcan and Nick Wolf to bolster a group that includes several unsigned prospects and a plethora of RFA’s that will be re-signed. This indicates that the team is planning on graduating at least one of Jeremy Lauzon, Urho Vaakenainen or Jakub Zboril to full-time duty or trading away a current roster piece and/or one of the above-mentioned skaters. If the Bruins are comfortable moving on from a regular, why wouldn’t it be Clifton whose ceiling may be lower than younger prospects in the wings? Remember that Cassidy opted for an injured Moore in the last game of the 2019 playoffs; that does count for something.

David Krejci

( Photo Credit: NBC Sports Boston )

After Tuukka Rask, there may be no other player on this team that receives more unjustified hate than the Bruins’ faithful Czech center-man.  A slick and quiet playmaker, Krejci doesn’t have Brad Marchand’s nastiness, David Pastrnak’s extroverted charisma or Charlie Coyle’s native heritage that resonates immediately with many fans. He is expected to dazzle on a nightly basis, in part because of his past performances and in part because he has the highest hit against the cap on the entire team. While he may end up a Bruin for life, the upward pressure from prospects is not only leading to job insecurity in the D-corps.

Don Sweeney and Co. have made it a point to acquire players that have the ability to play either center or wing. One player that has a chance to crack the B’s roster at his natural position is Jack Studnicka, the Bruins best and most prized prospect. His emergence is imminent. The skill he has displayed in the AHL as a 20-year-old is amazing, especially considering how he has taken a stranglehold of the top center position and plays in all situations for an Atlantic Division-leading Baby B’s squad. He ranks 13th overall in points league-wide and sits third on the leader-board for rookies. The combination of skill and cost may be what shakes Krejci off of his roster spot.

If the Bruins begin to pass the torch in a big way, they will consider trading the last year of David Krejci’s services. If no deal can be made then a buyout would be another option. While an unlikely way for management to end what has largely been an amicable relationship, cap space is cap space and if the B’s organization determines that Krejci’s on the outs, the cold-hearted move provides the ability to jettison the veteran forward. Krejci’s buyout cost, in terms of dollars, would be $4.7 million over two years, creating a potential cash flow issue that the Moore contract would not in spite of similar overall dollar cost.

Of each buyout option for the Bruins, John Moore’s contract seems to be the highest at-risk if amnesty was offered to management teams. It is also possible that one, or all of the players could be moved in the off-season in order to provide the GM flexibility to assemble a winning group. Regardless of the route the organization chooses to take, the Bruins would be wise to utilize whatever cap saving opportunities may arise as a gift from the NHL in order to preserve their winning core today and provide flexibility to reward their next wave of stars.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 175 that we recorded below on 4-19-20! 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!!

Bruins Clifton Ready To Join Boston After Conditioning Stint

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton may be ready for a return to NHL action as soon as this week. Per the official AHL transactions page and RinksideRhodeIsland.com’s reporter Mark Divver, the 24-year-old defenseman’s conditioning stint with the Bruins top minor-pro affiliate the Providence Bruins. Clifton sustained an upper-body injury in late December of 2019 in a 3-2 victory against Buffalo.

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In two games with the Providence Bruins, Clifton failed to register any points but his production on and off the scoresheet wasn’t important in this timeframe. In games against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Springfield Thunderbird that he played in almost a week apart, Connor got to stretch his legs and get back into game shape. In 30 NHL games this season prior to his late December injury the Quinnipiac University graduate posted two goals to bring his career NHL numbers to 2-1-3 in 49 games.

With this recall, it should be interesting to see how the Clifton fits in the defensive core moving forward with 22 games remaining in the regular season. If Connor is going to be that seventh, eighth, or ninth blueliner working in a rotation while Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy utilizes load management in an attempt to keep core members rested and ready for another long postseason run.

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Clifton, in my opinion, is an aggressive strong defenseman with the ability to transition out of his zone quickly and offers a decent pair of hands with it comes to offensive and puck protection attributes. Currently, under the last year of his entry-level contract for the remainder of the year, the Bruins see great potential in the young Connor as they locked him up at one million per season for the next three years. Potential departures on the backend over the offseason could pave way full-time opportunities for the 5′-11″ 174-pound New Jersey native on the backend.

I believe a low-risk high reward “show me first” contract like this was both beneficial to the player and organization moving forward. For the player, the landscape looks good as positions become available and for the Bruins club, his salary cap number allows the organization to add when needed if the forever need of cap space is available. Not saying he’d the heir apparent to a Zdeno Chara in a year or two but might make a solid replacement for a player like Kevan Millar and his uncertain future.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 166 that we recorded below! 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!!

Bruins’ Connor Clifton Assigned to Providence for LTI Conditioning Stint

( Photo Credit: Steve Babineau | NHLI via Getty Images )

By: Will Montanez | Follow me on Twitter @Willfro3

Connor Clifton, a right-shot defenseman for the Boston Bruins was assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, for the purposes of a conditioning stint on February 16, 2020. Clifton has been out of the line-up since he exited a December 29, 2019 game against the Buffalo Sabres and was subsequently placed on the injured reserve list on January 3, 2020. Clifton resumed full-contact practice with the varsity squad on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. The trip to Providence most likely represents an opportunity for Clifton to shake off the rust and also allows the Bruins salary cap and roster flexibility, as they are currently at the maximum number of skaters allowed.

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During this season, Clifton has mostly found himself on the bottom pair of the B’s D-corps with Matt Grzelcyk and serving as an occasional healthy scratch. While participating in 30 games he has accumulated two goals, 12 PIMS, 32 blocked shots, and 85 hits in 14:07 of average ice time per game (95.6% of which was spent five-on-five). He has been known to play the game with an air of recklessness which gave rise to the concept of “Cliffy Hockey.”  Compounded by his lack of production, Clifton’s possession metrics do not shine brightly.

Clifton has been attributed a Relative Fenwick-For Percentage (a measure of unblocked shots for and unblocked shots against) of -3.9, placing him at the bottom of the B’s defensive heap and implying that when he’s on the ice Tuukka Rask or Jaroslav Halak are more likely to see pucks headed their way than with any other D-man on the ice. His penchant for getting attempted shots through to opposing nets also ranks the worst among regular defense-men with a 38.5% shots through percentage.

Connor Clifton broke into the League during the 2018-2019 and featured in 19 of the Bruin’s regular-season games as well as 18 of their post-season games en route to the Stanley Cup Finals. While he registered a lone assist during the regular season, Clifton’s offensive contributions spiked a bit in the playoffs as he put up five points, including his first career NHL goal during the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes.

While Clifton may have been surpassed on the depth chart by young buck Jeremey Lauzon and ranks worse across the board against sixth/seventh options like John Moore, his handedness and aggressive style still make him an attractive alternative for Bruce Cassidy to send on to the ice, in spite of his unwillingness to play Clifton on special teams. Boston’s defensive depth has been tested in the recent past so it’s doubtful that the men behind the bench and management are complaining about the decisions that must be made to accommodate the plethora of blue-liners vying for ice time. Clifton, meanwhile, hopes to fight his way back into a roster spot and add to the internal competition which should help keep the B’s back-end sharp.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 166 that we recorded below! 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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Bruins Call Up Jeremy Lauzon From AHL, Place Charlie McAvoy On IR

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

By: Carrie Young | Follow me on Twitter @carrieyoung512

On Monday morning, the Boston Bruins announced that defenseman Jeremy Lauzon has been recalled from Providence on an emergency basis and Charlie McAvoy was placed on injured reserve.

Lauzon has been developing as a strong defensive defenseman for Providence this season. The 22-year-old leads the team in plus-minus with a plus-16 rating in 35 games. He has also set a personal record in points, recording one goal and nine assists. Lauzon has also shown that he can be an intimidating physical presence and a challenge to play against. At 6’1″ and 205 pounds, he has the tools to keep this up at the NHL level. He has logged 16 games with Boston, all coming during the 2018-19 season, recording one point (a goal against the Vegas Golden Knights), two penalty minutes, and a minus-1 rating.

Lauzon’s call-up gives the Bruins another opportunity to see how well the defensive prospect has been developing and test his NHL readiness. The Quebec native was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NHL draft, 52nd overall. This was the sixth Bruins pick of the draft, with Lauzon being the last of three defensemen taken in the first two rounds by Boston, the other two being Jakub Zboril (13th overall) and Brandon Carlo (37th overall). Lauzon, Zboril, and Urho Vaakanainen are widely considered to be the Bruins’ top defensive prospects and the best options for call-ups when injuries arise. That Lauzon got the call this time is a vote of confidence in his abilities by the Bruins’ coaching staff and front office.

McAvoy Placed on IR

Charlie McAvoy was injured on a hit by Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie on December 23rd. He has not played or practiced with the team since then. It has been officially listed as a lower-body injury, but the Bruins have not given a timeline for his recovery as of yet.

McAvoy has skated in 38 games so far this season, recording 13 assists and a plus-13 rating. The defenseman’s injury comes at an inopportune time as he has been pushing to score his first goal of the season and get the offensive part of his game moving. His move to IR shows that he might be out longer than coach Bruce Cassidy anticipated.

Injuries Piling Up

The addition of Lauzon adds a healthy body to a depleted Bruins blue line. Connor Clifton was injured last night in a matchup with the Buffalo Sabres. There has been no official report as of yet about the nature of his injury, but the Boston Globe’s Matt Porter reported on Twitter during the game that he did not return to the bench after the end of the first period. The Bruins later tweeted that he was officially ruled out of the game with an upper-body injury.

The Bruins face off against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Depending on which players return from injury and what the coaching staff decide, Lauzon could be making his 2019-20 debut with Boston.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 160 that we recorded below! 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!!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: New York Islanders at Boston: 12/19/19

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Photo Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Home: Boston Bruins (21-7-7)

Away: New York Islanders (22-8-2)

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Heinen

Bjork-Coyle-Wagner

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Backes

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

New York’s Lineup

Forwards

Johnston-Barzal-Bailey

Lee-Brassard-Eberle

Beauvillier-Nelson-Kuhnhackl

Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck

Defense

Pelech-Pulock

Toews-Mayfield

Leddy-Boychuk

Goalies

Varlamov

Greiss

First Period

After a turnover in front of the Islanders net, Anders Bjork buried his first goal in 12 games to give the B’s the early lead less than three minutes into the game.

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The Bruins started the game with a big possession advantage and looked to be ready to go right from puck drop. The Islanders were called for too many men with 14 minutes left in the period, giving Boston a chance to double their lead. New York killed off the man advantage as the Bruins failed to do much in the offensive zone. Connor Clifton was called for tripping about midway through the period as the Islanders got an opportunity to even the game on the power play. The B’s killed it off as they didn’t allow the Isles to get into a rhythm.

Toward the end of the period, the game took on a physical tone as each team seemed to finish every single check. Both teams seemed to find an offensive rhythm as the period drew to a close and the Bruins got the benefit of a late power play to try to extend their lead. The B’s were unable to score before the end of the period but still had a good chunk of time left on the man advantage.

Score: 1-0 Bruins

Second Period

The Bruins couldn’t find the back of the net on the remainder of the man advantage as they failed to get any significant scoring chances. Johnny Boychuk tied the game against his former team with a rocket of a shot from the point just 3:26 into the period.

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The Bruins started to get their offensive rhythm back with a couple of good shifts by the fourth line soon after the tying goal. The Isles responded with a number of good shifts in the offensive zone as they continued to keep the pressure on Tuukka Rask and the Bruins defense. The B’s went to the power play once again as Derek Brassard was called for a high stick past the midway point of the period. The Isles killed off yet another Boston power play as the B’s continued to struggle to find scoring chances.

The Bruins pushed hard to take the lead late in the period as they put a ton on pressure on the New York defense. Both teams traded chances at the end of the period and Matt Barzal gave the Isles the lead after a great setup in the offensive zone with over a minute to go in the period.

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Brandon Carlo was called for tripping in the final minute of the period, giving the Isles a chance to extend their lead. The B’s killed the remainder of the period but New York still had time left on the man advantage.

Score: 2-1 Islanders

Third Period

The Bruins began the period with a number of shorthanded scoring chances as they looked to get a cheap one to tie the game. The B’s killed off the man advantage despite some solid puck movement from the Islanders. The Bruins had no trouble getting the puck and holding onto it but they continued to struggle to string together significant scoring opportunities. The B’s picked up their fourth power play of the game as Brad Marchand got hit with a high stick in front of the Isles net with 13:28 remaining. About midway through the man advantage, Brock Nelson was called for delay of game, giving Boston a five on three. Seconds into the two man advantage, Torey Krug launched one past Varlamov to tie it.

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The Islanders killed off the five on four to keep the game tied but the crowd was back in the game after Krug’s goal. The Bruins and Isles went up and down the ice, trading chances past the midway point of the period as the game started to open up considerably. Both teams started to hunker down defensively toward the end of regulation as they were careful to not make mistakes especially in their own zones.

End Of Regulation: Tied 2-2

Overtime

Both teams traded outstanding scoring opportunities at both ends in the extra session but nobody was able to find the back of the net and the game went to the shootout.

Shootout

Both Jordan Eberle and Matt Barzal scored in the shootout for the Islanders while David Pastrnak scored for the Bruins but Varlamov denied Brad Marchand to end it.

Final Score: 3-2 Islanders

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Varlamov

Second Star: Boychuk

Third Star: Bjork

Breaking: Bruins Place Steven Kampfer on Waivers

Carolina Hurricanes v Boston Bruins - Game One

( Photo Credit: CBS Boston )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

The Boston Bruins announced today that the club has placed defenseman Steven Kampfer on waivers for the purpose of assigning him to Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.

Kampfer has played in four games this season for the Bruins posting no points. The 31-year-old Ann Arbor, Michigan native and was drafted in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins re-signed Kampfer this past offseason to a two-year deal worth $800,000 per season.

The news comes after the Bruins are gaining some defenseman back into their lineup as John Moore played his second game of the year after returning from offseason shoulder surgery which scratched Connor Clifton and Kampfer.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 156 that we recorded below! 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!!

The Bruins Have A Logjam On Defense

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(Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

In the 2016-17 playoffs versus Ottawa, the Bruins were forced to use both rookies like Charlie McAvoy and career 8-9 defenseman like Joe Morrow in games because their defense had been decimated by injuries. The next year it was guys like Matt Grzelcyk and Nick Holden in the lineup vs Toronto and Tampa. I can only assume that as the Bruins were being eliminated in Game 5 of their series against the Bolts, GM Don Sweeney was vowing never again to have a depth problem in the playoffs.

That summer he signed left-handed defenseman John Moore to a five-year deal. During camp, he dealt blue-liner Adam McQuaid to the Rangers but acquired the less expensive former Bruin, Steve Kampfer, in the deal along with a draft pick. That gave them proven NHL players in: Chara, McAvoy, Krug, Carlo, Moore, Miller, Kampfer. They also had Matt Grzelcyk, who had played well in 2017-18 as a rookie, not to mention promising youngsters like Vaakaneinen, Lauzon, Zboril. At the time, I remember the B’s faithful asking where all these defensemen were going to play. Apparently, Sweeney knew what he was doing?

In 2018-19, because of injuries, Boston ended up using 12 different defensemen over the course of the regular season and playoffs. All of the guys I mentioned above, plus a pleasant surprise in the form of free-agent signee Connor Clifton. A 5th round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013, Clifton was unable to come to a contract agreement with them after four years at Quinnipiac University. He ended up signing an AHL deal with Providence and performed well enough in 2017-18 to earn himself a two-year NHL deal. He ended up filling in admirably during the regular season after the usual myriad of injuries, playing 19 games. He played another 18 games in the playoffs as Boston went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

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(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Before the 2019-20 season would even begin, the Bruins depth on defense would again be tested. John Moore needed offseason surgery after he played through an injured shoulder in the playoffs last year. Kevan Miller, who ended last season on the injured reserve, would start there to begin the season. Neither Moore nor Miller has played a single game for the Bruins this year, but it appears that both are finally getting healthy, and could push for playing time within the next few weeks (Moore is closer). On the surface, this would appear to be a good thing for the Bruins, but it will force Don Sweeney and his staff to make some decisions.

The first hurdle for Sweeney was that he and head coach Bruce Cassidy would have to decide what to do with Connor Clifton, who has been quickly approaching the point where he would no longer be waiver exempt. The obvious advantage to Clifton maintaining his exempt status is that he could be sent down to Providence without another team being able to claim him when he went through the waiver process. It was something that the B’s front office must have been thinking about long and hard because Clifton sat out two of the last five games in favor of Steven Kampfer before Sunday. Apparently, the staff came to some sort of conclusion, because Clifton played his 60th NHL game against Montreal, which will mark the end of his “exempt” status.

Most people who follow the team thing it’s a foregone conclusion that Clifton would not make it through waivers if the Bruins attempted to send him down at this point. Sweeney is not going to just give an asset like Clifton away, so the logical assumption is that he is here to stay with the big club.

Other relevant news that was announced Sunday was that John Moore had been loaned to Providence of the AHL for the purpose of a “conditioning stint”. Moore played that afternoon in Providence’s 4-0 win over the Charlotte Checkers, where he recorded an assist and was a “plus” two for the game.

Moore has since been recalled and placed back on LTIR, but the Bruins have said he may be ready to play Thursday. The maximum amount of active players allowed on an NHL roster at any one time is 23. With David Backes being activated off the IR for the game against Montreal, and Gaunce sent down, the Bruins are at 22 right now. With Clifton’s waiver status changed, Moore supposedly ready to play Thursday and Kevan Miller getting closer to full health, something is going to have to give. The Bruins can add Moore to the roster and I believe they will be ok as long as Miller is still on the LTIR.

In the short-term, I would not be surprised to see the Bruins waive Kampfer. I think his ability to sit out for long periods and still play well when called upon is valuable, but I believe he would pass through waivers unclaimed (unlike Clifton). The problem is even if the B’s carry 8 D/13 F, when/if Miller returns someone is going to have to get moved.

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(Photo Credit: The Associated Press)

It would appear that the two most likely candidates for a trade would be Moore or Miller. The Bruins have won so far this season without them, so it makes sense one of them would go. The two guys are apples and oranges in my opinion. Miller is the more physical of the two, and that’s definitely something the team could use more of. On the flip side, Moore is a big body and a very good skater, but not overly physical. One advantage he has is that he is comfortable playing either side, whereas Miller is strictly a right side guy.

It’s going to be an extremely difficult decision for the front office, but one that has to be made because of the emergence of players like Grzelcyk and Clifton. It’s a good problem to have and one that 30 other NHL teams likely would not mind having.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 155 that we recorded below! 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!!