Bruins Look to Kuraly & Kuhlman to KO Leafs

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Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/Getty Images

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

In a playoff series that features an excess of star-power and offensive prowess, an appreciation for roster depth can often go by the wayside. The Boston Bruins, despite boasting arguably the best forward line in hockey, have proven to fall short of the Toronto Maple Leafs when considering world-class skill at the forward position. The collection of Marner, Matthews, and Tavares, when supplemented by several players that could slot in as top-6 forwards on most teams (Johnsson, Kapanen, Nylander, Marleau, Hyman), has outshined the forward units of the Black and Gold for the better part of the series.

The Bruins have been able to string together enough bounce-back wins to even the series at three games apiece, and have been lucky to do so, as they have struggled to find a lineup that provides them with their best matchup against a high-skilled Toronto squad. However, Game 6 on Sunday might have sparked some hope for the Boston faithful as the series concludes after Tuesday’s Game 7 in Boston.

For the vast majority of Sunday’s Game 6, the Bruins maintained almost complete control. They out-chanced the Leafs. They out-worked the Leafs. They killed penalties. They rallied for three unanswered goals after surrendering the game’s first tally. They created their own energy with their backs against the wall in a game on the road. To say the least (apart from the final 10 minutes of the game), Sunday’s effort was largely encouraging for the Bruins and their fans. It showcased the team’s most complete effort throughout the course of a 60-minute battle, and did so in the face of adversity and immense pressure.

Why?

Here’s a fun fact for hockey fans everywhere: The Boston Bruins have, in their entire history as an organization, never lost a playoff game in which both Sean Kuraly and Karson Kuhlman were in the lineup for Boston.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why this is the case. Is it because their last names begin with ‘K’? Is it because they both come from the Midwest? Is it because they both bring a workman style approach to each game?

These are all fair questions. Quite simply, the Bruins have never lost when both players take the ice in the playoffs (1-0-0, 1.00 Win %) because of the completeness of their game, and the versatility that each player provides.

While Kuhlman and Kuraly play somewhat different styles and have suited up among mostly different linemates during the 2018-2019 campaign, they both possess the necessary speed to compete with Toronto’s forward units. Their ability to get behind Toronto’s defensemen on the forecheck is invaluable in a series that, for the first four or five games, featured a Toronto defensive unit that broke the puck out of their zone with relative ease. While David Backes and Chris Wagner (the two Bruins relegated to the press box in lieu of Kuhlman and Kuraly) play a somewhat physical game, their deficiencies as skaters proved to be too much for Bruce Cassidy to continue to put them on the ice.

Kuraly’s game is mostly devoted to North/South trajectories and an ability to lug the puck from zone to zone, and Kuhlman’s game can also feature similar attributes. In a “grind it out” style of game, Kuhlman can use his legs and grit to be effective and keep things simple. However, in a more skill and creativity-centric game, Kuhlman also possesses the necessary skill set to make plays, and pass the puck well. The combination of puck possession and play-making ability between Kuraly and Kuhlman prove to bring much more to the table than the one-dimensional styles of both Backes and Wagner.

The Bruins’ lineup is deeper throughout with both Kuhlman and Kuraly on the ice. Cassidy has shown that he trusts both players in the later minutes of games, when he has shortened his bench during crucial minutes. The Bruins, especially in a Game 7, cannot afford to suit up forwards who can’t be trusted in crucial minutes and high-pressured situations. Wagner and Backes’s minutes in the late stages of their most recent playoff games reveal just how little Cassidy can trust their play, at least in this particular series. Having more bodies that can be effective on Cassidy’s bench is paramount in the latter stages of playoff games, as they will be able to provide Cassidy’s top players with adequate rest, so that they can continue to play at their highest level when the Bruins need them most.

 

It’s been said before, but it’s worth restating: The Bruins have never lost a playoff game in which both Kuraly and Kuhlman have been in the lineup for Boston.

I’m no rocket scientist (yet), but I don’t need to be in order to know that I wouldn’t bet against that combination of K’s as they look to KO Toronto in Game 7.

Kuhlman and Kuraly? That’s deep.

Coyle Proving The Doubters Wrong In Bruins Postseason

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( Photo Credit: The Athletic )

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

The Bruins received a major piece to their forward lineup ahead of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Charlie Coyle. The centerman, who played 47 playoff games for the Wild brings playoff experience and depth to Cassidy’s forward group. Many fans and media had questioned his effectiveness and fit in a Bruins uniform but, in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Toronto, he has raised some eyebrows.

The Weymouth, MA native was shipped up to Boston on February 20, 2019, in a trade that sent Ryan Donato and a fifth-round draft pick to the Minnesota Wild. Bruins fans and media were split in their reactions to the trade by Don Sweeney and did not know how well he would contribute to the Bruins offensive depth. In 21 games with his favorite childhood team, he put up two goals and 4 assists for six points along with a plus/minus rating of minus two.

Throughout the last few weeks of the regular season, Cassidy tried Coyle up and down the lineup on the center and the wing and was not able to really find a firm position in the lineup. In the playoffs, Cassidy started Coyle on the third line with Marcus Johansson and Danton Heinen on the wings in game one.

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After a disappointing loss in game one, Bruce Cassidy was looking to add more grit and intensity to the Bruins lineup. With Johansson out with an illness, David Backes drew back into the lineup and was slotted on the right wing of the Heinen and Coyle line. That line started off the game with intense hits and forechecking and began to go after the Leafs which the Bruins did not do much of in game one. At just about the five-minute mark of the first, David Backes finished a great forecheck behind the Toronto goal and knocked the puck loose and sent a pass in front to Coyle who buried his first of the playoffs and got the Bruins the much needed first goal of the game. Coyle logged 15:16 time on ice with a plus-two rating and had a strong performance.

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Similarly, on Monday night in game three North of the border, the Bruins found themselves in a 3-1 hole late in the second period. As the Bruins went on the powerplay, Coyle parked himself in front, and after a scramble from a Grzelcyk shot and a rebound from Heinen, Coyle rifled a shot past Andersen and got a huge goal for the Bruins heading into the dressing room. Along with that big goal, Coyle logged 17:17 time on ice and was named the games third star.

Coyle and Heinen have found great chemistry in this first-round series against Toronto. Charlie Coyle has arguably been the Bruins best player in this series which is both good and bad. Although consistency and scoring from Coyle on the third line are key for the Bruins, the team also needs its top two lines to get going and tie the series up in game 4 in Toronto. (Wednesday, April 17 7:00pm Scotiabank Arena on NBCSN and NESN)

Coyle’s size, strength, and skill fit right into the Bruins lineup, and it seems as though he has found his spot and confidence in a Bruins uniform. His chemistry with Heinen is developing before our eyes, and the veteran centerman has stepped up on the biggest stage for the Black and Gold. It is essential for the third line depth to contribute for Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins in this series against Toronto. With the matchup game for both coaches imminent in this series, Boston and Toronto’s top two lines are battling for every inch of ice which increases the need for bottom six contribution for both teams and especially Boston.

Charlie Coyle is beginning to prove his worth to fans and media with his strong play of late, but it needs to continue in order for the Bruins to take this best of seven series from the rivals in Toronto. However, although it is a great sign that Coyle is beginning to find his game with Boston, the Bruins are seeking contributions from the other top players on the team in their effort to get back into this series.

Bruins Need The Same Intensity And Execution As Game Two For Success

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(Photo: Adam Glanzman / Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Like my article on the Bruins needing to stay healthy in order to meet expectations in the playoffs this year, this title may seem pretty obvious to some. However, as obvious as it may be, it is true, after all. Just take a look at the footage from Games One and Three, the games that the Bruins have dropped in the series so far.

Game One saw the Bruins come out thinking it was going to be easy. Brad Marchand confirmed that after the game that this group thought it was going to be “easier than it was out there.” In that game, the Bruins came out of the gate buzzing, jumping out to an early lead on the power play.

Not long after, the game quickly shifted as the Bruins settled in and turned on cruise control far too early. Opportunities came and went on the heels of one or two passes too many rather than quality shots on Freddy Andersen. Lackadaisical effort and puck-management led to Tuukka Rask being hung out to dry on more than one occasion. Bruce Cassidy’s game plan of trying to slow down the Leafs, either through matching their speed with the Bruins’ legs or physicality, went completely out the window as Mike Babcock’s team was able to get through the neutral zone with complete ease and get behind the Bruins in several instances.

Looking at Game Three, the Bruins’ intensity was clearly there, for the most part–the B’s once again allowed Toronto to get in behind the defense too many times as a result of being caught flat-footed on the back-check–but the execution was lacking. Turnover after turnover and an inability to execute a clean breakout numerous times killed the Bruins, especially on the penalty kill.

Once again, the first line was a complete zero at even strength as Charlie Coyle was the best forward for the B’s once again, which is both a good and bad thing. It’s good since Coyle is producing and playing well; bad because Charlie Coyle of all people should NOT be the Bruins’ best forward. David Pastrnak is yet to establish himself in this series aside from a wonderful assist on Brad Marchand’s goal in Game Two.

The top trio of Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Pastrnak has combined for only two points at even-strength and four on the power play. They need to break through for the Bruins; their ability to contribute is far too important for the Bruins. Cassidy said it best: the top line is far to talented, far too talented to not be able to break through at some point this series.

Now take a look at Game Two at TD Garden on Saturday. The Bruins were a completely different team compared to Game One; Cassidy’s game plan was executed to perfection as the Bruins came out and absolutely manhandled the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The insertion of David Backes into the lineup and a Boston team that was playing angry after getting its lunch fed to it in Game One created the perfect storm for the Bruins to be able to dominate the Leafs. The B’s stifled the Toronto breakout and attack right off the bat and maintained strong layers of defensive support in front of Rask.

The Bruins flipped the script on the Leafs and played the way they knew how to, matching the expectations that the fans had of the team leading into the series, as well as the expectations they had of themselves. Boston’s effort and execution in Game Two should stand as the blueprint for the remainder of the series, especially tonight in Game Four.

The B’s have their backs against the wall big-time; as cliche, as it may seem, tonight’s game is a must-win. Well isn’t every game in the playoffs technically a must-win if you want to make it to the big dance? That may be so, but this team cannot afford to bring the series back to Boston in a 3-1 hole. The Bruins best chances of coming out on top like we know they can is to bring the same combination of intensity and execution that we saw in Game Two for the rest of the series, take tonight’s Game Four to tie things at 2-2 and go to war in a de facto best-of-three series.

Playoff Grit Returns to Boston

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

By: Greg Aker | Follow me on Twitter: @akesNpains1

How do you beat Toronto? Hit them in the mouth, both literally and figuratively. The Boston Bruins did none of that in Game One of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A disappointing 4-1 loss sent them to the locker room licking their wounds. In true Bruce Cassidy fashion, he was blunt and made it very clear that they were beaten in all aspects of the game. They were most definitely going to make changes. Changes they made.

From the drop of the puck, Game Two had a completely different feel than the first one of the series. Cassidy threw out his fourth line against Toronto’s finest right out of the gate. The game plan was clear: Let them know you are there.

A goal just 4:44 into the first period by Weymouth, MA native Charlie Coyle sent the TD Garden into an early frenzy. The entire roster had their skating legs going, and nobody finished a play without finishing a check (Boston registered 44 hits in Game Two versus 31 in Game 1). Scoring changes were heavily lopsided in Boston’s favor early and often. Usually, when the Bruins score first, especially on home ice, they win. During the regular season, the Bruins were 18-3-3 on home ice when scoring first. Additionally, the Bruins were 13-3-2 when tied after one period at home.

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Game One proved to be an anomaly. A nifty power play goal by Patrice Bergeron midway through the first period on Thursday night ended up being the Bruins’ only tally in what ended up a 4-1 loss. It was only the Bruins’ fourth loss over 25 home contests when scoring first. A penalty shot goal by Mitch Marner and a late breakaway goal by William Nylander in the 2nd period resulted in the Leafs taking a 3-1 lead into the dressing room after two periods of play in Game 1. Toronto has yet to lose (21-0-1) on the road when leading after two. We all know the end result from Thursday.

If one thing is known about the NHL playoffs, it is that no lead is safe. All one has to do is think back to a particular Game 7 in 2013, involving these same two teams. In Game Two, Boston never looked back. A beautiful finish by Brad Marchand on a slick behind-the-back pass from linemate David Pastrnak put the Bruins up 2-0 heading into the 2nd period. A Danton Heinen goal off of a Toronto miscue midway through the 2nd period resulted in a 3-goal lead by Boston. Toronto, as stated earlier, hasn’t lost on the road this year when leading after two periods. Inversely, they have never won on the road when down after two (0-12-3). Good starts matter in this series, for both teams.

Toronto’s lineup is littered with high-end talent and point production. With 10 players totaling over 30 points during the regular season, they have some of the best scoring depth in the entire league. Boston has the firepower of their own, but it was clear that the end-to-end pace of Game One favored the blue and white. Enter Bruce Cassidy.

I am one to think that Bruce doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being one heck of a hockey coach. The Jack Adams conversation rarely involves him. Names like Barry Trotz, Jon Cooper, and former Bruin Rick Tocchet dominate the headlines. Cassidy is lying in the weeds and getting excellent results. Over the stretch of 82+ games this year, he has had to constantly juggle the lineup due to injuries. Many felt that with aging veterans, the Bruins would see a down year compared to last. Instead, they finished second in the league in points only behind Tampa Bay and their record-setting season.

Adjustments are where Cassidy hangs his hat. The Bruins sustained losses in three straight games on only four occasions this year. Only twice did they go three straight games without earning a point. That defines consistency. Their top goal-scorer missed significant time with injury and Bruce helped orchestrate a run of 19-straight games of earning at least a point without him. The in-series adjustments have been fairly obvious thus far. Cassidy stated that his team needed to play more physical and with more emotion following the loss in Game 1.

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The return of David Backes into the lineup reflects this mindset. He knows they can’t sustain the up-tempo style that Mike Babcock wants to establish for 60 minutes each night. However, Cassidy will be the first to tell you that he wants his team to play fast too. The players answered the call. Puck battles were won all night on Saturday. Technical, responsible hockey was on display all while showing both speed and grit. There has to be established physical play for the Bruins to be successful and that is what we should see in the foreseeable future.

Game 3 will be telling in how this series looks to shift. The cat and mouse game has only just begun, but the playoff grit is back. Don’t blink.

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 2: Toronto at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Sportsnet.ca)

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

After losing the first game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Boston Bruins are back in the TD Garden on Saturday night for Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, down the series 1-0. On Thursday, Boston failed to generate good offensive opportunities and played poor on defence, allowing too many breakaways. Changes need to come in order to equalize this series.

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (0-1)

Away: Toronto Maple Leafs (1-0)

Last Game Result: Maple Leafs won 4-1

Bruins Gameday Lineup

David Backes enters the lineup for the first time in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and forward Marcus Johansson is out with an illness. Jake DeBrusk is, in fact, in the lineup after being a game-time decision earlier today.

First Period:

The Bruins needed to come out with something to play for in the beginning stages of Game Two and they did exactly that. Only five minutes in the game, Boston is in full control. Hard aggressiveness on the dump-and-chase with some hard hits on anyone and everyone. As many other fans are saying on Twitter, the Bruins are playing the most physical hockey to begin any game in 2018-19. Great start to this big game.

Boston’s hard, physical play early paid off when David Backes found Charlie Coyle close in front of the net, burying it past Andersen to take a 1-0 lead early for Boston. Great forecheck by Backes to win the puck battle behind the Toronto net to find Coyle who shot before Andersen managed to locate the puck.

On the opposite side, the Leafs seemingly can’t get an early edge on the Bruins defence who is taking control on their individual man and shutting down the offence. The numbers just around halfway through the opening period were well in favour of Boston and the frustration level may have started to set in for Toronto.

Nazem Kadri and Jake DeBrusk got into a scuffle on the ice, resulting in offsetting 2-minute roughing minors. The intensity and tenacity of both Original Six rivals are growing by the second in this Game Two, making for a brilliant game thus far. On the 4-on-4, Auston Matthews drives hard around Rask, going for a wrap-around, but Rask keeps his pad tight to the post, keeping it out.

Surprisingly, David Krejci has been great at laying hits himself early on. On one rush by Gauthier, Krejci puts him to his back with a clean check along the boards. Not long after that, Travis Dermott holds DeBrusk on the boards, no holding penalty called, but DeBrusk answers the bell with some shoving back. Kadri in the middle of it again. DeBrusk is fiesty and aggressive tonight and it’s working so far.

With around four minutes left to trail in the first, Torey Krug fires a pass up the ice, a pass that is missed by Jake Muzzin, going right to David Pastrnak. Pastrnak makes a beautiful 180-pass to Brad Marchand who fakes the shot and buries it past a sprawling Frederik Andersen. That is how dangerous that duo and that line can be together. 2-0 Bruins.

Just as we approached the final minute of the period, David Pastrnak lays a hard, heavy hit on Jake Muzzin along the end boards, but the referees around the hit noticed it was a charge and Pastrnak is off to the box for two minutes. Toronto can’t build anything on the limited power-play and the energetic first period comes to a close there.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 14 TOR: 7

Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Coyle (1) Assists: Backes (1); Marchand (1) Assists: Pastrnak (1), Krug (2)

Second Period:

Right away, the Bruins keep the hard play on Toronto, forcing mistakes including a Muzzin turnover that nearly leads to a Pastrnak to Marchand goal. Each and every time that Toronto tries to enter the zone, they are shut down and when they do get off a shot, it misses the net or is easily stopped by Rask.

Later in the frame, the hits keep on coming. Just as Pastrnak puts John Tavares to the ice, Jake Muzzin demolished Torey Krug into the sideboards as Krug’s helmet flew off. Krug’s head appeared to hit the boards and he stayed on all fours for an extended amount of time before needing help up to the dressing room. Krug tried to get up on his own, but he stumbles – does not look good at all.

Immediately after the TV timeout, William Nylander makes an atrocious error around his own net, leaving the puck right for Danton Heinen to tap it past a clueless Andersen. Nylander taps Andersen on the pads as he skates by as that is all his fault. Bruins make it 3-0.

The frustration of the Maple Leafs comes out, even more, when Freddy Gauthier goes to the box for roughing as some more pushing and shoving happens after the whistle. On the first power-play of the night for Boston, the B’s get many high-quality scoring chances on an exhausted Leafs penalty-kill unit. Right as the PP ended, David Krejci picks off a puck in the slot, but Heinen’s rebound on his shot is robbed by Andersen – huge save to keep it a three-goal game.

With less than five minutes to go in the second, captain Zdeno Chara flips the puck up and over the glass, causing the dreaded delay-of-game penalty and Toronto heads to a man-advantage of their own. Toronto only gets 1:20 of actual power-play time before Kadri gets called on a hooking minor and it will be 4-on-4 for 40 seconds before heading to a Bruins power-play.

Nothing happened on either opportunity, but when Kadri exits the box, he briefly strips Krejci of the puck before getting rocketed into the air by Jake DeBrusk. It looks like contact was to Kadri’s knee and he remains down on the ice before heading to the locker room. This game is getting uglier by the minute. With that, the period concludes – one more period to play.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 29 TOR: 16

Score: 3-0 Bruins – Goals: Heinen (1) Unassisted

Third Period:

Not letting off the gas, the top line of the Boston Bruins look to extend the lead to four early in the third, with Brad Marchand getting the best chance on the side of Andersen, but the Leafs goaltender sees him and makes a solid glove save to keep it 3-0.

Five minutes in, Krejci gets involved with some hard pushing after Tuukka makes a save, but he goes a bit too far in the eyes of the refs and the Bruins are going to the penalty box for two minutes. On the penalty-kill, the Bruins made some good plays and cleared the puck effectively, killing it off entirely.

Toronto had the pressure in the third, showing the desperate attitude they need and with 9:16 remaining, they finally strike. Kadri, who is back after his knee incident, perfectly deflects a Dermott point shot to score and make it a 3-1 game.

Another Bruin defenceman, Connor Clifton, leaves the ice and heads to the room after taking a shot from Kadri. Boston can’t afford to lose too many players on the blueline with Kevan Miller and John Moore already out of the lineup.

Later on in the frame, Kadri makes a dirty play, cross-checking DeBrusk square in the head, dropping Jake to the ice. A very dirty play from Kadri and like most agree, will be suspended for this. In response, Kadri is handed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

On the long power-play, Bergeron finds a rebound, firing the puck past the red line, making it a 4-1 Boston lead with over four minutes remaining on that man-advantage.

Frederik Andersen is still playing hard in this game, regardless of the score late in the third, as he robs David Krejci cold in front of the net with a sprawling glove save. The team around him is failing to help him out and you know Mike Babcock doesn’t like that from his squad. But, the Boston Bruins win Game Two, 4-1 the final score.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 41 TOR: 31

Score: 4-1 Bruins – Series Tied 1-1

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS F Brad Marchand – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 6 Shots, 20:00 TOI

2nd Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 30 Saves, .968 SV%

3rd Star: BOS F Charlie Coyle – 1 Goal, +2 Rating, 3 Shots, 16:00 TOI

Game Three is Monday in Toronto.

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Bruins Need to Right The Ship…Quickly

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( Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images )

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

Put plainly, the Boston Bruins did not do enough to win Game 1 of their matchup with Toronto on Thursday night. You can point to the shot total and fool yourself into thinking that they outplayed Toronto, but that’s exactly what you’d be doing…fooling yourself. The Maple Leafs finished the game with more scoring chances, more physicality, and yeah… more goals. To drop the first game of the series at home by three goals is about as disappointing to Bruins fans as it is to the team itself, but the manner in which the game was lost made it even worse. The Bruins, for the better part of the game, looked disinterested, unengaged, and soft.

Defensively

The Bruins surrendered far too many odd-man rushes. Amidst the myriad chances they allowed were a handful of breakaways, including a shorthanded breakaway, and subsequently a goal on a penalty shot. Boston’s neutral zone defense, which one might think would be a key point of emphasis against a team with Toronto’s speed and big-play potential, was absent. Stretch passes picked apart the defense. Gaps were poor. The speed of Toronto’s forwards wasn’t given the respect it deserved, and this became evident on several rushes.   While the Bruins’ play in their own zone was admittedly somewhat better, Toronto’s first goal was a result of a breakdown in defensive zone coverage. A tipped puck brought the attention of both Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy to the crease, leaving Mitch Marner with the entire slot to himself, and enough time and space to pump one past Rask. Chara and McAvoy did not look like a top defensive pairing last night against Toronto’s skilled forward units.

Defensive Fixes

It’s been said before, but Kevan Miller’s absence was notable last night. Aside from a big Connor Clifton hit in the first period, Toronto’s star forwards were able to navigate the ice sheet relatively undisturbed. For the Bruins to turn things around, this can’t continue. The Black and Gold defensive unit needs to inject a little grit into its game, and rough up the Toronto forwards at every opportunity. As good as the B’s skating on the back end is, they won’t outskate Toronto’s forwards. The fix to their Game 1 issues defensively will come in the form of smart gaps in the neutral zone and on transition, taking away time and space from Toronto in the Bruins’ own zone, and hammering them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

Soft hockey won’t win in the playoffs, regardless of how skilled a team is. Hopefully, last night’s game was enough of a wake-up call to the Bruins’ back end to light a fire under their collective back end.

Offensively

Too cute. Way too Cute. As easy as the Bruins’ first (and only) goal came in the first period, they looked as though they expected all of their goals to come as easy. Aside from Charlie Coyle, and David Krejci, very few Bruins forwards were driving offense and possession.

The Bruins had plenty of chances, and Frederik Andersen deserves a lot of credit for how well he played last night. But he didn’t steal the game from Boston. The Bruins simply didn’t put together enough sustained pressure to create the chances they needed to score on a good goalie. Anyone hoping for or expecting a recreation of the Bruins’ first-line dominance of last year’s series has a loose grip on reality.

Apart from the line of Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, and Danton Heinen, Boston’s attack was quieted by the Toronto defense and the subsequent sustained pressure of Toronto’s attack. Any time the Bruins started to roll and pick up some much-needed momentum, they gave up a big play that put Toronto right back in the driver seat.

Offensive Fixes

While the offense was not the reason why the Bruins surrendered an absurd amount of high-quality scoring chances, you can’t expect to beat a team like Toronto (or even a decent high-school team) by scoring just one goal. The aforementioned Coyle line drove much of the Bruins’ attack and accumulated a decent number of scoring chances, but was unable to bury the biscuit. The Bruins’ top two lines were essentially neutralized and unable to string together effective shifts. This can be attributed to the fact that these lines were relying too much on trying to make skill plays. The Bruins’ forwards are high-skill players, but playoff hockey is hard-nosed, fast-paced, and requires a willingness to keep things simple and get to the “dirty” areas (cliché much?) to win games.

While it wouldn’t surprise me if Bruce Cassidy tweaked his line combinations to move some players away from matchups that hurt them last night, I do think the Bruins can win without that response. A commitment to shots on goal and sustained pressure—things that the third line did well on Thursday—will help rejuvenate the Bruins’ offense for Game 2 and likely the remainder of the series.

As far as possible line tweaks go, if something does change, it will likely be David Pastrnak coming off of Patrice Bergeron’s line. Toronto matched up against that line well, so much so that whatever chances Pastrnak did have came on the powerplay. The Bruins are at their best when Pasta is contributing to their 5v5 offense, and my guess is that we’ll see him on Krejci’s right on Saturday. In all likelihood, this will see Danton Heinen on Bergeron’s right, while Karson Kuhlman will join Coyle’s unit.

Don’t be surprised if David Backes slides into the lineup to bring some grit and toughness to the Bruins fourth unit, either.

Goaltending

Get real. There was nothing wrong with the goaltending. We’ve seen Tuukka stop a million breakaways as a Bruin, but you can’t give up 5 breakaways and expect him to stop them all. To his credit, he did stop a large number of high-quality chances, including a John Tavares (47 regular season goals, cute pajamas) breakaway, an Andreas Johnsson chance in a prime scoring area, and a few Auston Matthews chances that made every Bruins fan hold their breath.

 

As far as goaltending goes, Tuukka’s performance was no cause for concern. He’s a competitor, and losing at home will, in my opinion, only motivate him to come out and build on a solid Game 1 performance as the B’s try to turn things around.

Spin Zone

For Bruins’ fans looking for anything to feel good about, welcome to my Spin Zone. Quite simply, as far as bad results go, this one was about as well-timed as it gets. It’s much better for the Bruins to lay down a stinker in the first game of the series, as opposed to the sixth or seventh. This way, the Bruins can clearly see where they need to improve their game early on in the series and have enough time to turn things around and win. With how relaxed they looked last night, a win might have almost been worse, as it would have positively reinforced that the series would be easy… we know now that it absolutely will not be. What a blessing for the Bruins to be shown exactly what they need to improve on so early on as far as systems, strategy, and mentality. For that, we say, “Thank you, Toronto.”

(I’m reaching. I’m reaching so hard.)

The Boston Bruins lost a few games last spring to this Toronto Maples Leafs club, and if anyone needs a reminder of the outcome of that seven-game series, I suggest you take a gander at the Youtube video below.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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The Anomaly Of Boston Bruins Patrice Bergeron

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

The NHL is getting faster and younger. Long gone are the days of Joe Sakic, Nicklas Lindstrom and Marty St. Louis continuing to dominate the league in their mid-30s. The league is now driven by youth, guys like Connor Mcdavid (22), Nikita Kucherov (25) and Nathan MacKinnon (23) have taken the league by force with their speed and skill. The infusion of young talent has transcended the NHL from a league that favored bigger, stronger players into a league that benefits the speed of the youth.

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In an incredibly well-done article on the aging curves in the NHL, we see that the average NHL player peaks around the age of 24 and continues to decline into their 30s. To back this up, let’s take a look at the 2003 draft class (where the majority of draftees are 33 years old as of now). Former Bruin Loui Eriksson, once a great two-way forward with three 70+ point seasons, has floundered these past few years and is on pace for just about 30 points this season. Corey Perry scored 50 goals in his age 25 season but like others has regressed to just ten points and a minus-14 rating in an injury-filled 29 games. Ryan Kesler, who Bruins fans know all too well, has fallen off the face of the earth after many seasons of incredible two-way, hard-nosed play. There are so many other players from that draft that have followed in very similar footsteps, David Backes, Jeff Carter, Dion Phaneuf, and Brent Seabrook among others.

And then we get to the anomaly of the bunch, the man, the myth, the absolute legend that is Patrice Bergeron. Despite the majority of his draft class falling off a cliff in these past few years and the league being as fast as ever, Bergy has done everything but decline. He’s actually having the best year (offensively at least) of his career.

Patrice Bergeron at practice in his rookie season.

( Photo Credit: BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF FILE )

Patrice Bergeron has always gone above and beyond what was expected of him. The 45th overall pick in the 2003 draft surprised all when he immediately jumped into the NHL, and at the ripe age of 18, was the youngest player in the league at the time. He had a great rookie season, scoring 16 goals, 39 points and finished 9th in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting.

The next season, even amidst the lockout, held even more achievements for Bergeron. He led the Canadian World Juniors team to a gold medal with a staggering 13 points in just six games. The following year, still at just 20 years old, led the Bruins in scoring with 73 points and set a career high that wasn’t matched for 12 seasons. But for whatever reason, after 12 years of great season after great season, after four Selke trophies, after battling injury after injury in the regular season and the playoffs, this was the year Bergeron has turned into overdrive.

Boston MA 02/03/18 Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first period action at TD Garden. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) topic: reporter:

(Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe staff)

The 33-year-old has exploded this year, lighting the lamp 32 times and adding 45 helpers to set a new career high in 77 points in just 62 games. Without his injuries, he could’ve reached the 100 point plateau and would certainly be in the heat of the MVP race.

Oh, and don’t act like this season has put a damper on his incredible two-way prowess. He continues to be one of the top faceoff men in the league, winning 56.5% of draws this year. His Corsi sits at 57.5, good enough for 11th in the NHL (for players with over 30 games played) and continues to marvel day in and day out with the way he sees the ice both with and without the puck. I’d say what he did in the Winter Classic in a span of 30 seconds or so sums up his season pretty well.

Whether his incredible season is due to an increase in scoring throughout the league, his amazing line-mates, or he just found a new pasta recipe, this may be the best we’ve ever seen Bergy. Well, I guess until the playoffs, where we all know that #37 turns into another animal.

I’m excited.

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

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Bruins Game 77 Preview: New York Rangers

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Boston Globe)

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

The Boston Bruins’ 2018-19 regular season is just about over and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are around the corner, but the eyes need to stay in the present as the Bruins can still lose home-ice advantage against the Maple Leafs for the opening round of the post-season. The Bruins are reeling after a 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, but still have a five-point lead on Toronto for second in the Atlantic.

The New York Rangers are twelfth in the Eastern Conference with an overall record of 29-33-13. The Rangers are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this season, marking the second consecutive season they will miss the post-season after clinching the previous seven seasons. The Rangers are 2-6-2 in their last ten games with a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins being their most recent game on March 25th.

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Jaroslav Halak 20-10-4 2.31 GAA .924 SV% Last Game: 31 Saves in 7-3 win vs FLA

NYR: Henrik Lundqvist (Likely) 18-20-10 2.99 GAA .909 SV% Last Game: 27 Saves in 3-2 loss to DET

Who’s Hot

Brad Marchand is closing out his best season of his NHL career to date the way he has been all season, on fire. Marchand has seven points in just his last three games for the Bruins, including a two-goal performance in the loss to Tampa Bay. The recent success brings Marchand’s season totals to 34 goals, 60 assists for 94 points. With six games left to go, Marchand needs to average a point-per-game to reach the 100-point plateau and it is very well reachable.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America)

Kevin Shattenkirk was brought onto the Rangers a few seasons ago to strengthen their back-end and to make a push for a long post-season. Well in 2018-19 the Rangers are not a playoff team, but Shattenkirk is still having a decent season. The 30-year-old defenceman has twenty-seven points on the year, three of which coming in the last four games. 

David Backes has been struggling for the Bruins for the good majority of the season, but on this final push to the post-season, the 34-year-old forward has been doing quite well. Backes has 1-2-3 numbers in the last three games and has been one of the hardest working forwards on the bottom-six. I personally have been impressed with his play and I truly hope he can continue that heading into the first round.

Who’s Not

Jimmy Vesey was once a highly-touted forward that many teams wanted their hands on. However, in August of 2016 he signed with the New York Rangers. In 2018-19, Vesey has 16-18-34 numbers in 76 games but more recently, is on a terrible 12-game pointless streak and boasts a -5 rating in the last five games combined.

Not many Bruins are struggling or having poor performances as of late, but the entire team fell off in the final period against the Lightning. Almost every player on the ice made some error that led to Tampa erasing Boston’s two-goal lead to win the game in regulation time. The Bruins looked unenthusiastic and absolutely drained. If there is one thing to work on from that game heading into tonight’s, it is playing a full 60-minute hockey game.

Chris Kreider has been one of those players that teams are well aware of when you play the New York Rangers but like everyone in New York this season, he is struggling to play at a high level. The Boxford, Massachusetts native has 26-23-49 totals in 73 games played and has not found his name on the score-sheet in five straight. On March 13th, Kreider had 15 penalty minutes and against a dangerous Bruins power-play, he cannot do the same tonight.

Milestone Watch:

Boston Bruins:

  • F Brad Marchand is one short-handed goal away (25) from passing Rick Middleton (25) for sole possession of most SHG in Bruins history

New York Rangers:

  • F Pavel Buchnevich is four points away (96) from 100 career NHL points

Bruins vs Rangers Outlook

The New York Rangers are one of only six teams in the NHL that Boston currently has a below-.500 point percentage against. The two Original Six teams have played twice before this season, both times going to the team from the Big Apple. On January 19th, the Rangers won 3-2 in regulation and won again a month later on February 6th in a 4-3 shootout. In that game last month, the two teams had a 3-on-3 overtime session that you just had to see.

Once again heading into tonight’s game, the specialty teams of the Bruins will most likely play a large role in the outcome. The Bruins have the third-best power-play at just over a 26 percent success rate, scoring 61 goals on the man-advantage this year. The Bruins penalty-kill has been solid as well. In the third against Tampa Bay, the B’s killed off a four-minute penalty brilliantly and was quite impressive. It is sitting at 81.5%, 10th-best in the league.

The Rangers aren’t as good, clearly. They have the 17th-best power-play, scoring 41 goals at just over 19% accuracy. On the penalty-kill, New York is the sixth-worst while short-handed, killing off only 78% of their league-high 10.1 penalty minutes-per-game.

Puck drop from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts is scheduled for 7pm EST. Below were the line rushes from morning practice for your Boston Bruins.

Forward Marcus Johansson and defenceman Torey Krug are likely to return to the lineup for the Bruins, some big pieces to get back for this contest. John Moore, injured in the last game against the Lightning, is week-to-week with an upper-body injury while D Matt Grzelcyk and D Kevan Miller are “probable for the weekend” according to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy.

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

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Game Preview: Boston Bruins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Image result for tampa bay lightning vs boston bruins(Photo Credits: Last Word On Hockey)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

The Boston Bruns continue with their road trip down south as they look to extend their winning streak to five games as they face the league’s number one team. Boston is coming off a 7-3 win over the Florida Panthers, clinching their ticket into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In their third meeting of the season, Boston lost their first tilt 2-3 against the Lightning, however, the Bruins would avenge that loss and defeat Tampa Bay 4-1 on February 28th. With the recent win over the Panthers, the B’s would reach the 100-point plateau for the 23rd time overall (most for any team in NHL history). As the team continues to deal with the loss of Sean Kuraly, Coach Bruce Cassidy had had to tweak up his fourth line. The new combination of Joakim Nordstrom, David Backes, and Noel Acciari have bode well for the team-they have goals in their recent road trip.

“Just three guys that have been looking for a spot to fit and guys are willing to work hard, be tough to play against and be simple and predictable to each other”-David Backes

Image result for tampa bay lightning vs boston bruins(Photo Credits: David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

As the regular season winds down to a close, the Bruins team are looking to once again regain some healthy bodies back. Marcus Johansson, who had been nursing a contused lung, joins the team in Tampa Bay and will be a game-time decision for tonight. Johansson did participate during Sunday’s skate at the Lightning’s Arena alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. 

Injured defenseman Torey Krug also skated Sunday in a gold non-contact jersey. Chris Wagner had a maintenance day on Sunday but is expected to play tonight. Both Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller joined the team and did practice some skating drills.

Right-winger David Pastrnak is returning back to form and still leads the team with 33 goals. His linemate Brad Marchand is right behind with 32 goals and leads the team in assists (60) for 92 points. The top line has had a successful reunion as evident in their recent 7-3 win with all three netting a goal. The Bruins are now 46-20-9, second in the Atlantic Division and third in the league.

THE BOLTS

The Lightning are having a ridiculous season and have reached an unprecedented 120 points with their 58 wins-tied for the fourth most in NHL history. Tampa Bay have three players that are nearing the 40-goal mark this season: Brayden Point, Steve Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov. Incredibly Kucherov has the same amount of points as the team at 120 points.  He leads the team in both points and assists with 83. Point leads the team with 40 goals. Steven Stamkos was recently named NHL’s Second Star of the week.

Image result for tampa bay lightning vs boston bruins(Photo Credits: Mike Carlson/Getty Images North America)

Tampa Bay is looking to start a new winning streak as they fell to the St. Louis Blues 3-4. They begin a two-game homestead at the Amalie Arena.  The Lightning recently clinched the President’s Trophy. The Bruins are 17-3-1 in their last 21 games. Stamkos has accumulated eight points in the last few games while Marchand has 21 points in his last 13 games. Expect Tuukka Rask in net tonight for Boston and for the Lightning expect Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Rask is now 26-10-5 with goals against average of 2.35 and a save percentage of .918. Vasilevskiy is 26-9-4 with goals against average of 2.33 and a save percentage of .928. Here are the projected lines for both Boston and Tampa Bay:

BOSTON:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Johannson

Heinen-Coyle-Wagner

Nordstrom-Acciari-Backes

Chara-McAvoy

Carlo-Clifton

Kampfer-Moore

Rask

Halak

 

TAMPA:

Palat-Stamkos- Miller

Johnson-Point-Kucherov

Killorn-Cirelli-Joseph

Erne-Paquette-Callahan

Hedman-Sergachev

McDonagh-Cernak

Coburn-Rutta

Vasilevskiy

Domingue

WHEN TO WATCH: Tonight with puck drop at 7:30 pm, Amalie Arena

WHERE TO WATCH: ESNP+, SUN, NESN

 

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

Click Here For The Boston Bruins 2018-19 Regular Season Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com

 

Bruins Game 74 Preview: New Jersey Devils

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

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

After a big 5-0 win over the New York Islanders, the Bruins are right back at it with a game against the New Jersey Devils tonight in New Jersey. Boston is 7-3-0 in their last ten games and have won each of their last two meetings. Boston holds a four-point lead on the Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division with 97 points on the season.

The New Jersey Devils are nearly the exact opposite from the Bruins right now and it may come as a surprise to many considering where they were last season. The Devils are 2-7-1 in the last ten games and have lost two consecutive games including a 4-1 loss two days ago against the Capitals. New Jersey is 14th in the NHL’s Eastern Conference with a 27-38-9 record for 63 points on the year.

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Tuukka Rask 25-10-5 2.39 GAA .917 SV% Last Game: 13 Saves in 5-0 Win vs NYI

NJD: Corey Schneider 5-11-3 3.13 GAA .901 SV% Last Game: 31 Saves in 3-0 Loss vs COL

Who’s Hot

Jake DeBrusk scored the fifth and final goal in Boston’s Tuesday night win over the Islanders and it has only been a continuation of his recent success, dating back to the games before his foot injury. In his last six games, DeBrusk has six points, four of which are goals and has been a consistent threat alongside David Krejci on the second-line. DeBrusk has 23-12-35 numbers in 59 games in 2018-19, eight short of his career-high of 43 that he reached last season.

Even though he has a record of 1-2-1 in his last four starts, goaltender Corey Schneider has not been extremely terrible in the past month or so for the Devils. On March 5th, he allowed one goal on 19 shots in an overtime loss to CBJ, allowed three goals on 43 shots in a loss to NYR on March 9th, allowed 3 goals on 39 shots against the Oilers on March 13th and more recently, allowed only two goals in the loss to the Avalanche. In each of those games, Schneider has been above a .923 save percentage while facing high numbers of shots against.

Patrice Bergeron has scored twelve points in his last 11 games played, including three points in the last two games combined. Bergeron has been great with Brad Marchand, which is no surprise given their long history of success with each other, but without Pastrnak on their right-wing, it has been a breath of fresh air to see him continue his production at such a rate. Patrice has 28 goals, 40 assists for 68 points in only 57 games and has a true chance to hit 70 points for the first time since the 2006-07 season (his 3rd NHL campaign).

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It is really hard to find any other positives for this New Jersey Devils team who has lost seven times in regulation over the last ten games. The Devils have only scored one goal in six consecutive periods this week and they have not shown any signs of scoring touch since losing Taylor Hall to injury and even before that.

Who’s Not

Kyle Palmieri does have the highest single-season point total of any Devil and the most points for him in the last three seasons, but without Hall in the lineup, he has the responsibility of carrying the offensive needs of the team going forward. Palmieri has only two points (1 goal, 1 assist) in the past eight contests and that is just not good enough for the 28-year-old forward.

In the last 13 games, Bruins forward David Backes only has two points for the Black and Gold and has not scored a goal of his own since January 17th versus the St. Louis Blues – an outstanding twenty-two games without a goal. Making $6 million a year, Backes needs to add more production on the Bruins bottom-six as we close into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The plus/minus statistic is not the most reliable stat nor does it provide an image of how well that player is doing, but when a player has a -21 rating on the season, that does show an issue and paints a problem somewhere on the team or the player individually. Damon Severson has a -21 rating and was on the ice for all three goals against the Avalanche and has zero points in the last three games played.

Milestone Watch:

Boston Bruins:

  • F Paul Carey is one game away (99) from 100 career NHL games
  • D Zdeno Chara is one goal away (199) from 200 career NHL goals
  • F Brad Marchand is one short-handed goal away (25) from passing Rick Middleton (25) for sole possession of most SHG in Bruins history

New Jersey Devils:

  • F Travis Zajac is one goal away (184) from tying Kirk Muller (185) form 5th most goals in Devils history

Bruins vs Devils Outlook

Tonight’s contest will be the third game between the Bruins and the Devils this season and it will also be the last one. Currently, the two teams are tied in the season series with a victory each. On December 27th, the Devils won by a score of 5-2, but the Bruins returned the favor earlier this month with a 1-0 win on home ice with Brad Marchand scoring the game’s only goal in his 666th career NHL game.

Power-Play:

BOS: 26.2% (3nd in NHL)

NJD: 17.5% (20th in NHL)

Penalty-Kill:

BOS: 81.3% (10th in NHL)

NJD: 84% (4th in NHL)

Puck drop is scheduled 7pm EST from Newark, New Jersey in the Prudential Center.

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

Click Here For The Boston Bruins 2018-19 Regular Season Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com