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.

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.

How the Boston Bruins Constructed their Stanley Cup Roster

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Jake Debrusk puts on a team jersey after being selected as the number fourteen overall pick to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

(Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

There’s no denying that this Bruins Stanley Cup roster is incredible, but how did they all get to the Bruins? Let’s take a look at their journeys to Boston.

Brad Marchand

Drafted by the Bruins in the 3rd round, 71st overall in the 2006 NHL Draft. The Bruins actually acquired this pick from the New York Islanders during the draft for their 4th and 5th round picks (who amounted to a whole lot of nothing).

Patrice Bergeron

Drafted by the Bruins in the 2nd round, 45th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27: David Pastrnak is selected twenty-fifth by the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

David Pastrnak

Drafted by the Bruins in the 1st round, 25th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Jake DeBrusk

Drafted by the Bruins in the 1st round, 14th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft.

David Krejci

Drafted by the Bruins in the 2nd round, 63rd overall in the 2004 NHL Draft. Krejci was actually another player the Bruins traded up to the draft. They acquired this pick during the draft for a 3rd, 4th, and 9th round pick.

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(Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

David Backes

Originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues 62nd overall in the 2003, Backes left the Blues and signed with Boston July 1st, 2016, signing a five year, $30 million deal.

Marcus Johansson

Originally drafted by the Washington Capitals 24th overall in 2009, Johansson was traded to the New Jersey Devils in the 2017 offseason for a 2nd and a 3rd round pick. He was then traded to the Bruins at this trade deadline in exchange for a 2nd and a 4th round pick.

Charlie Coyle

Drafted by the San Jose Sharks 28th overall in 2010. He was a key piece in bringing Brent Burns to San Jose, getting dealt to the Minnesota Wild with a 1st and Devon Setoguchi for Burns and a 2nd rounder. Right around the trade deadline this year he was dealt to the Bruins for Ryan Donato and a conditional 4th rounder.

Danton Heinen

Drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round, 116th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Joakim Nordstrom

Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 3rd round, 90th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. He was later traded to the Carolina Hurricanes before the 2015 season with Kris Versteeg and a 3rd rounder for a couple prospects and a 5th round pick. In 2018 he signed a two year, $2 million deal with the Bruins.

Sean Kuraly

Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 5th round, 133rd overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. He was traded to the Bruins before the 2016 season

Noel Acciari

Acciari was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Providence College in 2015.

Chris Wagner

Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 5th round, 122nd overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. After a small trade to Toronto and a couple of waiver claims later, Wagner ended up back on the Ducks. At the trade deadline last year he was dealt to the New York Islanders for Jason Chimera and after the season, he made his way to Boston, signing a two year, $2.5 million contract.

Karson Kuhlman

After four seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Kuhlman signed with the Bruins in 2018 as an undrafted free agent.

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(USA TODAY Sports Images)

Zdeno Chara

Originally drafted by the New York Islanders in the 3rd round, 56th overall in the 1995 NHL Draft. He was traded with Bill Muckalt and the 1st round pick that became Jason Spezza for Alexei Yashin. As a UFA in 2006, he signed with the Boston Bruins and has been with them ever since.

Charlie McAvoy

Drafted by the Bruins 14th overall in 2016 NHL Draft.

Torey Krug

Another undrafted free agent signed by the Bruins in 2012 after three years at Michigan State.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Brandon Carlo

Drafted by the Bruins in the 2nd round, 37th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Matt Grzelcyk

Drafted by the Bruins in the 3rd round, 85th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft

Connor Clifton

Originally drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the 5th round, 133rd overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Clifton never signed a deal with the Coyotes and elected to sign with the Bruins in 2018.

(James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

John Moore

Originally a 21st overall pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2009 NHL Draft. He was involved in a big trade when he went to the New York Rangers with Derick Brassard, Dereck Dorsett and a 6th rounder for Marian Gaborik. He was later dealt to the Arizona Coyotes with Anthony Duclair, a 1st and 2nd rounder for Keith Yandle and was signed by the New Jersey Devils in 2015. He finally made his way to Boston in 2015, signing a 5 year, $13.75 million contract.

Steven Kampfer

Kampfer was actually drafted in the 4th round, 93rd overall in 2007 by the Anaheim Ducks and ended up being basically gifted to the Bruins in a trade in 2010 for future considerations. After a couple years (and a Stanley Cup win) Kampfer was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Greg Zanon in 2012, and was signed by the New York Rangers in 2014. He was traded again later that year to the Florida Panthers for Joey Crabb and in 2016, was traded back to the Rangers for Dylan McIlrath. Kampfer was brought back to Boston before this season with a 4th and a 7th round pick for Adam Mcquiad.

(Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Tuukka Rask

We all know the story here. Originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs 21st overall in 2005, Rask was traded to Boston before playing a game with Toronto for Andrew Raycroft.

Jaroslav Halak

First drafted in 2003  in the 9th round, Halak spent a lot of time with Montreal until he was traded in 2010 to the St. Louis Blues for Ian Schultz and Lars Eller. He was then traded three times in 2014, the first being to the Buffalo Sabres along with William Carrier, Chris Stewart, a 1st and 3rd round pick for Steve Ott and Ryan Miller. Halak was then flipped to the Washington Capitals with a 3rd round pick for Michal Neauvirth and Rostislav Klesla. Finally, his FA rights were traded to the New York Islanders for a 4th round pick before free agency began. In 2018 he signed a two year, $5.5 million deal with the Bruins.

In all, this Bruins team is made up of 37% (nine) drafted players, 21% (five) acquired through trade, and 42% (10) free agency signings, although it is worth noting that four of the ten free agency signings were college free agents.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 2: St. Louis at Boston: 5/29/19

Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues mixes it up with Jake DeBrusk and Connor Clifton of the Boston Bruins during the second period in Game 1 of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on May 27, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Boston Bruins

Away: St. Louis Blues

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

St Louis’s Lineup

Forwards

Schwartz – Schenn – Tarasenko

Blais – O’Reilly – Perron

Fabbri – Bozak – Maroon

Barbashev – Sundqvist – Steen

Defense

Edmundson – Pietrangelo

Bouwmeester –  Parayko

Gunnarsson –  Bortuzzo

Goalies

Binnington

Allen

First Period

A game one win for the Bruins that had featured plenty of fireworks set up for an epic game two. David Backes got right into the fray after a bust game one, this time with Patrick Maroon just 2:04 in front of Tuukka Rask.

The first power play came following a Sammy Blais collision with Rask. Charlie Coyle made it hurt and scored 49 seconds into the power play. Coyle’s seventh of the playoffs was assisted by Jake DeBrusk (5) and David Pastrnak (9). Their power play struggled in game one, but set the tone early thanks to Coyle’s five-hole goal.

The Blues didn’t waste too much time before they responded off of a Robert Bortuzzo shot that snuck by Rask and in. The puck deflected off of Matt Grzelcyk before finding its way to the back of the net.

But wait, there’s more. Joakim Nordstrom buried one on the backhand. Another five-hole goal, Nordstrom’s third of the playoffs, was a product of Sean Kuraly’s fifth assist.

Yet another response goal came with around five minutes left. Rask made the save initially, as did Chara afterward, but Vladimir Tarasenko buried the third chance to tie the game at two.

Oskar Sundqvist went off for two minutes as a result of an iffy hit from behind on Matt Grzelcyk and a large scrum ensued. Grzlecyk left the ice and went to the locker room with the assistance of his teammates and Head Athletic Trainer Don DelNegro. The Bruins failed to convert on the power play before the end of the period.

The Blues outhit the Bruins 18-9 and outshot them 10-8. It was a rollercoaster of a period that ended in suspense as a result of the Grzelcyk injury.

Score: 2-2

Second Period

Tarasenko went to the locker room within the first minute of the period after sliding awkwardly into the boards with Nordstrom in pursuit — not what the Blues wanted. Grzekcyk was not on the Bruins bench to start the period.

In better news, Bill Belichick went out of his way to talk to Todd Angilly after he waved the banner before the game.

Connor Clifton was the first to head to the box in the second for interference with 16:26 to go. St. Louis didn’t convert. Backes is not messing around when it comes to getting amongst the physicality and tension with his former team.

Tarasenko returned to the Blues bench, Grzlecyk did not return to the Bruins bench. Similar to what happened between Clifton and Edmundson happened with DeBrusk and Edmundson, with DeBrusk on the receiving end and Edmundson going to the box for tripping. Edmundson also gave DeBrusk a stinger beforehand with a slash. No dice on the power play for the Bruins.

Zdeno Chara was not pleased with the effort level in the period, as the Bruins were getting outplayed.

The penalties kept coming, this time in the form of a Clifton high-sticking penalty on Tyler Bozak that drew blood. The Bruins had a double minor penalty to kill of before the end of the second period.

Nordstrom did his best Gregory Campbell impression on the power play, eating two huge shot blocks. Just past halfway into the extended St. Louis power play came a goaltender interference penalty against Jaden Schwartz, creating a 4-on-4.

Torey Krug found himself with his helmet off again, this time he was tangled up with Colton Parayko. In the final seconds, before the Bruins pulled the goalie with 1.2 seconds left, Krug was amongst a scrum in front of Jordan Binnington being an agitator. Known agitator Brad Marchand was doing his thing at the end of the period too.

The Blues advantages in the first two periods in hits and shots stayed true through the second. The hits were 15-10, and the shots were 14-6 in the period, bringing the totals to 33-19 and 24-14 respectively. The Bruins needed a response in the third period. The absence of Grzelcyk was hurting them, amongst other things.

Score: 2-2

Third Period

Grzelcyk was not on the bench for the third period either, leaving the Bruins shorthanded on the back end again. Also, Clifton blocked a shot with his forehead and Krug made a huge defensive play to stop a cross-crease chance.

The plays the Bruins were trying to make in the second period and into the third just weren’t very cohesive for the most part, and St. Louis was not letting up on them.

An opportunity for a momentum shift came in the form of a power play with 6:38 left in the period. Brayden Schenn helped snap Noel Acciari’s stick in the middle of a shot, along with the flex on the stick. Some chances came and went for the Bruins, but nothing concrete and the game remained tied.

A hectic end to the period followed and no one scored, leading to overtime.

Third period: Hits: 12-12, Shots: 9-9

Regulation: Hits: 45-31 St. Louis, Shots: 33-23 St. Louis

Score: 2-2

Overtime

Bad news came during the intermission and free hockey ensued.

The Blues had the Bruins pinned in their own zone for the large majority of the first three minutes. Shortly after Brandon Carlo drew a delayed call, a Carl Gunnarsson slapshot from the point beat Rask through an Alex Pietrangelo screen to end it. The Blues had four shots to zero for the Bruins and won thanks to their suffocating forecheck and zone pressure. Rask made 34 saves on 37 shots and was a huge reason as to why the game made it to overtime.

Game three in St. Louis is up next on Saturday at 8 PM ET. The Bruins will need to be much better going forward.

Final Score: 3-2 St. Louis

How The Boston Bruins And St. Louis Blues Matchup

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand defends against St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko (91) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Dilip Vishwanat)

(AP Photo/Dilip Vishwanat)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

With Game One just hours away, I thought it would be an intriguing idea to compare the lineups between the two teams in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues have been among the hottest teams in the NHL since the start of 2019 and play a similar physical style of hockey, so seeing how the lineups look against each other should be interesting.

1st Line Edge: Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Jaden Schwartz – Brayden Schenn – Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz has been an animal all playoffs long. He’s second to just Logan Couture in playoff goals with 12. After a shaky start to the playoffs, Vladimir Tarasenko has really elevated his play as of late, scoring three goals and adding five assists in six games against the San Jose Sharks. Couple these two players with a formidable 200-foot player like Brayden Schenn makes this one of the better 1st lines in the league, but not the best.

That award may well go to the Bruins top line, who have combined for 46 points in 51 games these playoffs. Brad Marchand is second in playoff scoring with 18 points, and after a mediocre first round, just like Tarasenko, Pastrnak has elevated his play as these playoffs have gone on. Last but not least, we have Patrice Bergeron, who has been solid offensively, but just incredible defensively. The defensive capability just pushes this line over the Blues’.

(Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

2nd Line Edge: Bruins

Jake Debrusk- David Krejci- David Backes

Sammy Blais- Ryan O’Reilly- David Perron

Getting Sammy Blais back from injury provided a jump this second line needed for the Blues. The 2014 6th rounder (who was the pick the Blues acquired from the Bruins for Wade Redden actually) has been a +5 in eight games since returning to the lineup. David Perron is following up on two great regular seasons with six goals and 13 points in these playoffs, and Ryan O’Reilly is St. Louis’ version of Patrice Bergeron.

On the other side, we have three players, all with playoff success. David Krejci is a bonafide star in the playoffs, leading the league twice in scoring.  As captain of the Blues, David Backes went through many playoff runs and always produced when needed, whether that was through his offense, through his physicality or through his leadership. Similar to Blais, since Backes has been in the lineup, it’s provided a real spark, adding five points in the 11 games he’s played.  Jake Debrusk had a great playoff run last season, and while he hasn’t been quite as good this year, he’s still playing really solid hockey. I’d say experience just barely gives the Bruins the advantage in this regard.

( Joe Puetz – USA TODAY Sports)

3rd Line Edge: Bruins

Marcus Johansson- Charlie Coyle- Danton Heinen

Patrick Maroon- Tyler Bozak- Robert Thomas

Both of these are exceptional 3rd lines and have striking similarities. The two have an influx of speed, size, and skill with all three players on each line having great two-way abilities. St. Louis’ trio has combined for 23 points and most importantly, four game-winning goals in 19 games. Despite how good that line has been, the Bruins’ third line has simply been better. Danton Heinen leads all forwards in +/- in the playoffs and Johansson, and Coyle have developed some great chemistry, combining for nine goals and 21 points in the 15 games they’ve played together.

Bruins and Blues share many qualities, which might make Stanley Cup Final epic

(Dilip Vishwanat / Associated Press)

4th Line Edge: Blues

Joakim Nordstrom- Sean Kuraly- Noel Acciari

Ivan Barbashev- Oskar Sundqvist- Alex Steen

I’m not sure two fourth lines in the NHL get more ice time than these two. The injury to Chris Wagner will certainly hurt the Bruins, but Noel Acciari has played well when he’s been in the lineup so the line shouldn’t fall off too much. Sean Kuraly is basically a playoff legend to Bruins fans at this point, and Joakim Nordstrom has proven to be worth every penny of his contract with his play in the playoffs. The Bruins may have the second best fourth line in the league, but it’s second to the Blues’.

To have a guy like Alex Steen on your fourth line shows that you have some serious depth. While age has caught up with the veteran a bit, he continues to be a force on both ends of the ice. He’s scored double-digit goals for ten straight seasons (aside from the lockout year) and continues to be a leader on and off the ice. Oskar Sundqvist has come out of nowhere and been a great depth piece for the Blues. He notched a career high in goals, assists, and points (with 14, 17, and 31 respectively) and has eight points in limited minutes in these playoffs. The last piece of that line is the youngster Ivan Barbashev, who similar to Sundqvist, has broken out this season, notching 14 goals and 26 points in the regular season and put up a respectable five points in these playoffs.

Nov 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) clears the puck away from St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

1st Pair Edge: Bruins

Zdeno Chara- Charlie Mcavoy

Joel Edmundson- Alex Pietrangelo

The Blues have a bit of a theme to their defense, and that theme would be the size. The shortest player on the Blues D is 6’2, and the average size is almost 6’4. This duo features the Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo (6’3) who has continued, year in and year out, to be a great leader and an even better player. He’s third in playoffs scoring from blue-liners and continues to eat up ice time, averaging almost 26 minutes a game. His partner is Joel Edmundson, who is another young player for the Blues that is blossoming in these playoffs.

The Bruins first pairing is basically take your son to work day with the age difference between Zdeno Chara (42) and Charlie Mcavoy (21). All jokes aside, this pairing has been excellent all season long for the Bruins. They continue to shut down stars every series they are in. Guys like John Tavares (two goals, -5 rating), Artemi Panarin (-3 against the Bruins) and Sebastian Aho (one goal, -1 rating) were all looking for more production after their series against the Bruins, largely in part to the job that Mcavoy and Chara were doing.

ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 23: Brandon Carlo #25 of the Boston Bruins defends against Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on February 23, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

2nd Pair Edge: Bruins

Torey Krug- Brandon Carlo

Jay Bouwmeester- Colton Parayko

Jay Bouwmeester still has it. Following a rough start to the regular season, becoming a healthy scratch for the first time in his 17 year career, the 6’5 defenseman has turned it up a notch, sporting a +5 rating and five assists throughout these playoffs. While his name may not ring much of a bell, Colton Parayko is turning into a stud. The 6’6 Alberta native is in his fourth year in the league and just continues to impress. As a defenseman, he already has a goal and ten assists to pair with a +6 rating in these playoffs. This massive pairing is a huge reason why St. Louis has been so successful.

It’s hard to have one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. It’s just as hard to have one of the best defensive blueliners in the league. The Bruins are lucky to have both on the same pairing. Similar to Parayko, people are starting to recognize how good Brandon Carlo really is. There isn’t much offense in his game, but he has been so good in his own end and just seems to never get beat when he’s on. Torey Krug has been in the top ten in points per game the past three seasons and with 12 points in 17 games, hasn’t skipped a beat in the playoffs.

( Photo Credit: Youtube )

3rd Pair Edge: Wash

Matt Grzelcyk- Connor Clifton

Carl Gunnarsson- Robert Bortuzzo

This matchup was honestly the hardest to decide. They are two very good, but very different types of third pairings. The Bruins have a young and mobile pairing. Matt Grzelcyk is one of the most underrated defensemen in the league, and Connor Clifton can mix his speed with his physicality and looks nothing like a rookie in these playoffs.

On the other side, the Blues have a pair of veterans. Again, it’s a big pairing with Gunnarsson being 6’2 and Bortuzzo being 6’4. Neither of the two has all too much offense in their game, (although Bortuzzo had a gem of a goal in the series against the San Jose Sharks) but the pair is as good as you can get from a shutdown third pair.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask makes a save against

(AP/Dilip Vishwanat)

Goaltending: Bruins

Tuukka Rask

Jordan Binnington

Here are Rask’s numbers thus far in these postseason games 12-5, 1.84 GAA, .942 Sv%.

Binnington has been an incredible story and has played great the entire season and throughout the playoffs but man, you just can’t beat what Tuukka Rask has done, the numbers just speak for themselves.

So I have the Bruins winning all but two of these “matchups,” but that doesn’t give the Blues even close to enough credit. Aside from the first forward line and maybe goaltending, every other matchup could’ve honestly gone either way. Both of these teams have incredible depth up front, and on the back end. I think the Bruins are a better team but by just a hair. It’s going to be an awesome series to watch, I’m picking the Bruins in seven.

Career Year for Bruins’ Chris Wagner

( Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

Boston Bruins forward Chris Wagner’s season seems to have ended last week, after he blocked a Justin Faulk slap shot, injuring his forearm in the process. If that is the case, the 27-year-old had himself a solid first season for the Black and Gold.

The Walpole, MA native signed a two year deal with the Bruins last summer, after spending most of his NHL career in Anaheim. The rugged forward was drafted by the Ducks in 2010 and remained part of the organization until he was traded to the New York Islanders in February 2018.

The Bruins had been criticized for lacking physicality after the 2017/18 season, and Wagner was bought in to address that. He’d been credited with 253 hits that season, the third-most in the NHL. Boston GM, Don Sweeney, cited the winger’s energy and physicality as the main reasons for adding him to the roster. Nicknamed the ‘Mayor of Walpole,’ Wagner certainly lived up to his side of the bargain, he led the Bruins with 247 hits during the regular season.

After showing some promise during his time with the Ducks, Wagner had been given an opportunity to shine for one of the best teams in the league, and boy did he take it. Not only was he the Bruins most active hitter, but the tireless fourth-liner bagged a career-high 12 regular season goals. He also added seven assists, taking his regular season points tally to 19, another career-high.

After being labeled a ‘depth signing’ by some, Wagner quickly won the fans over. Like most supporters, the Boston faithful appreciate hard work, something he displays every time he is on the ice. His energy, work rate, and physicality earned him NESN’s 7th Player Award, presented to the Bruin who exceeds fans expectations. Local players have not always worked out in Boston, but with the help of fellow New Englanders Charlie Coyle and Noel Acciari, Wagner is bucking that trend.

The 2018/19 regular season was undoubtedly Wagner’s best, but he didn’t stop there. He featured in 12 playoff games for the Bruins before his injury, scoring two goals, both in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. This was not Wagner’s first postseason rodeo, he had 21 playoff appearances for the Ducks, adding vital experience to the Bruins lineup. The B’s will certainly miss his tenacious presence and will look to the likes of David Backes, Zdeno Chara, and his replacement Noel Acciari to match his physicality. The fourth line has been a useful weapon for the Bruins all season, and Wagner was a key part of the ‘energy line.’

It looks almost certain that the injury to his forearm will end a fantastic season for Wagner. He will be very unlucky to miss out on the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Bruins are there, thanks in part to his efforts throughout the season. He is thriving in Boston and will be eager to return to the Bruins lineup as soon as he can. One thing is for sure, as first seasons with new teams go, they don’t get much better than this.

Bruins Return to Stanley Cup Final…This Time As Cup Favorites!

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

The Boston Bruins will open the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Monday, May 27th against the Western Conference champion St Louis Blues.  The modern Bruins fan has witnessed the 2011 team win the Cup, and now, in 2019, the Bruins’ third Stanley Cup Final appearance in nine seasons.

As everyone waits through the agonizing break until the puck drops to get this series going, I can’t help but notice how things feel a little different this time around.  In stark contrast to both 2011 and 2013, the Bruins enter the 2019 Stanley Cup Final as favorites (-157 currently, according to BetOnline.ag) against the Blues.  In both 2011 and 2013, the Bruins were the underdogs, going up against the NHL’s President Trophy winners from the regular season, upsetting Vancouver in seven games to capture the title in 2011 only to fall to Chicago in six games in 2013.

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Stanley Cup favoritism is not something that the Boston Bruins or their fans are accustomed to.  In fact, the last time the Bruins entered a Stanley Cup Final as the favored team was in 1990 when the Bruins had captured the regular season’s Presidents Trophy and the Eastern Conference championship en route to hosting the Edmonton Oilers for game one at the old Boston Garden.

( Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images )

Boston had finished eleven points ahead of Edmonton in the 1989-90 season and entered the series feeling very confident despite having lost to the Oilers just two seasons prior.  The 1990 Oilers no longer included Wayne Gretzky however, and the Bruins were poised to end their eighteen-year Stanley Cup drought that spring.  Of course, Bruins fans know that Glen Wesley missed an open net in overtime of Game 1, the longest game in Stanley Cup Final history, one that ended off the stick of Petr Klima, late in the third overtime period.  The Bruins would lose the series in five games, but there is no question the result could have been very different had the B’s prevailed in that series-opening game.  The drought would end up reaching 39 years before it ended in Vancouver in 2011.

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There will be no shortage of storylines in this year’s Stanley Cup Final.  From Jordan Binnington’s rookie brilliance and his connection to the Bruins through his loan to Providence last season; to Patrick Maroon trying to win for his hometown Blues; to the Bruins veteran core getting one more crack at Cup glory; to David Backes having the opportunity for a storybook win over his long-time and former team…this rematch of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final should garner plenty of interest and attention from all angles.

The Bruins finished this past regular season ranked third overall in the NHL, effectively tied with second place Calgary on 107 points.  The Blues started 2019 dead last in the NHL on New Year’s Day but banked more points than any other team from that point to the end of the season to not only make the playoffs with 99 points, but to set them up for a deep run that has culminated with their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 49 years.

Once the puck drops at TD Garden on Monday night, all that favoritism counts for nothing.  This series will feature speed, high-end skill, mobile defenseman and two red-hot goalies that have delivered for their respective teams in these playoffs.  The most important aspect of the Bruins so-called favorite status may well be the home ice advantage they will enjoy, having bested the Blues by eight points in the regular season.  In what may be a long, closely contested series, the Bruins can take some solace knowing that if it comes down to a seventh and deciding game, they will have the support of 17,565 raucous supporters at TD Garden!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECSF Game 6: Boston at Columbus: 5/6/19

David PastrnakPhoto Courtesy Of Boston.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Home: Columbus Blue Jackets (6-3)

Away: Boston Bruins (7-5)

Columbus’s Lineup

Forwards

Panarin-Dubois-Anderson

Dzingel-Duchene-Bjorkstrand

Foligno-Jenner-Atkinson

Texier-Dubinsky-Hannikainen

Defense

Werenski-Jones

Gavrikov-Savard

Harrington-Kukan

Goalies

Bobrovsky

Korpisalo

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Backes

Heinen-Coyle-Johansson

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

First Period

Charlie McAvoy showed no ill effects in the opening minutes of the game after taking a puck off of the skate late in Game 5. Neither team got any prime scoring chances in the first minutes as they both seemed afraid to make any mistakes. Tuukka Rask had to make a few saves in close in the opening moments to keep it scoreless. Pierre-Luc Dubois was called for goaltender interference with under six minutes left in the period after a hard drive to the net. The Blue Jackets killed off the penalty as the Bruins failed to get any shots on goal. Sean Kuraly appeared to score immediately after but it was called back for goaltender interference after the challenge by Columbus.

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The Blue Jackets seemed to get a jump after the challenge as they moved the puck with tremendous urgency. The Bruins fourth line responded with a very solid shift but didn’t result in much as the Blue Jackets continued to find their footing. The Bruins started to struggle getting scoring chances toward the end of the period as the Blue Jackets started to control the game and the tempo.

Both teams started to get scoring opportunities late in the period but both Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky made sure the game remained scoreless with some spectacular saves.

Score: Tied 0-0

Second Period

The Bruins were a bit sloppy in their own zone in the opening minutes of the period but good defensive plays by Torey Krug and David Backes didn’t allow the Blue Jackets to get an early goal. David Pastrnak was called for tripping early in the period which resulted in the Blue Jackets first power play of the night. The Bruins killed off the penalty and even got a good scoring chance against Bobrovsky. Both teams got some great chances including Dean Kukan hitting the crossbar but the game remained deadlocked.

The Bruins would go to the penalty kill again as Brad Marchand was called for slashing with 10:38 left in the period. Rask continued to have another strong game as he made a couple of huge saves on the penalty kill as the Bruins kept the game scoreless. David Krejci gave the B’s the lead shortly after the kill as he blasted home a one timer for his fourth goal of the postseason.

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Rask continued to have a great night with a few big stops late in the period to preserve the Boston lead. The B’s continued to be solid defensively especially in the neutral zone as they limited the Blue Jackets speed and didn’t let them establish momentum in the attacking zone. McAvoy was called for an illegal check to the head with under a minute to go in the period as the Blue Jackets looked to tie the game.

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Score: 1-0 Bruins

Third Period

The B’s killed off the penalty as Patrice Bergeron had a spectacular shift with a scoring chance and a couple solid defensive plays to maintain the Boston lead. The Bruins started the final period with a few good shifts in the attacking zone as they looked to extend their lead. Joakim Nordstrom was called for slashing with over 15 minutes remaining as the Blue Jackets looked to tie the game once again.

The Bruins killed it off once again as the Blue Jackets continued to ring the iron and not be able to beat Rask who was simply impenetrable. Marcus Johansson doubled the B’s lead nearly halfway through the third with a shot that busted through Bobrovsky’s glove.

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Backes made it 3-0 after a beautiful feed from Krug shortly after the Johansson goal as the Bruins started to impose their will with about nine minutes remaining.

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The Blue Jackets pulled Bobrovsky with about 3:30 to go as they tried desperately to get back into the game down by three goals. The Bruins held on as they advanced to the Conference Finals for the first time in six years.

Final Score: 3-0 Bruins

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Rask. Perhaps his best game of the postseason in this one. Number 40 picked up his first shutout of the postseason as the Bruins advanced to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2013.

Second Star: Krejci. The center had another strong night with two points and was probably the Bruins best skater in Game 6.

Third Star: Backes. Points in three straight games for the grizzled veteran who continued his strong play as of late.

Bruins Senior Core Vital to Playoff Success

( Photo Credit: John Tlumacki / msn.com )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

The Boston Bruins could secure their place in the Eastern Conference Finals tonight with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The resurgence of the B’s first line has underpinned the importance of their senior core.

After tweaking the lineup for most of the playoffs, head coach, Bruce Cassidy, restored one of the most formidable lines in hockey for game five against Columbus, and it worked. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined for a total of six points, three goals and three assists in the 4-3 win. Up until game five, the Blue Jackets had done a great job of neutralizing all three players.

Marchand and Bergeron led the Bruins forwards in ice time in game five, and the latter was hugely effective in the face-off circle, when he wasn’t tossed out anyway. Hockey is a team sport, but it is no secret that Boston depends on these two, especially against tough opposition like Columbus. Many suspect Bergeron has been playing with an injury like he has in the past, but he is still contributing to this team. We probably won’t find out if he is hurt until the B’s season ends, but injured or not, Bergy will be crucial for the rest of the playoffs.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are notoriously physical, David Backes has certainly bought the heat since returning to the lineup. The veteran forward has seen his role significantly reduced this season, but that hasn’t affected his effort. He has made a number of hits in the Columbus series and his physical style has been a real help to the Bruins. The former St. Louis Blues captain brings a lot of experience to the team, he is always vocal and that will be a boost for the younger players. He might not start every game, but Backes will play an important part if the B’s advance to the next round.

At 42 years of age, Zdeno Chara continues to defy time as a top pairing NHL defenseman. He has spent the third-most time on the ice of all the Bruins this postseason, and most of that time has been against the oppositions best lines. Chara is also an integral part of the B’s penalty kill. It’s common knowledge that he’s lost his speed, but he makes up for it with his reach and ability to read the game, which is often overlooked by his critics. Big Z has been the Bruins captain since 2006 and his leadership is second to none. He is an important part of a relatively young defensive group including Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk.

They say there are no easy games in the NHL, that’s especially true in the playoffs. When things haven’t gone well for the Bruins one man has bailed them out time and time again, Tuukka Rask. The Finnish goaltender continues to polarize the Bruins fan base, but he has been one of the teams best players during the postseason. The Bruins have come up against two great goalies in Frederik Andersen and Sergei Bobrovsky, but the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets will feel that they also met their match in Rask. NBC’s coverage has many critics, but hearing Doc Emrick shout “Saved by Rask” is extremely satisfying.

The Bruins need to win one more game against Columbus to advance into the Eastern Conference Finals. The Blue Jackets will not make it easy for them, but whatever happens moving forward, Boston’s senior core will be vital to their success.