Khokhlachev And His Bruins Comeback

( Photo Credit: Richard Wolowicz )

By: Michael Robert   Follow me on Twitter: @b_blackandgold

 

Heeeellloooooooo everybody. A little nod to the Spittin’ Chiclets crew to start my first article with Black N Gold Hockey. Let’s not waste any time before we dig into a bit of a hot topic, even though it’s been thrown into the shadows for years now. Along with it, lies the question that’s plagued the Bruins since the days of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton stinging like bees, but not necessarily floating like butterflies while flanking Krejci on the wings.

The question: Who can play in that second line right wing spot and be a steady winger with Krejci and Debrusk?
The answer: Enter the Julien era Russian cast away, Alexander Khokhlachev.

With that, let’s take a look at a bit about him and his consistent point producing at every level he has ever played at. First, his days in the OHL of putting up points. Secondly, his journey heading into the Bruins system with Providence. Third, his journey back to his motherland. And lastly, why the Bruins need him back more than ever.

Khokhlachev was taken with the 40th pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft. Touted as a good skating offensive juggernaut, with creative playmaking and even better finishing, he came into the Bruins with high hopes for himself, from the Bruins brass, and from the fan base as well. This is all with good reason when we dig into the numbers.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

His first real entrance onto the scene came at the 2009-10 U17 tournament. He posted a stat line of 5-8-13 in six games to lead his team in scoring. Granted, an early tournament for projections, but a pretty good one for seeing raw talent, especially when it stands out. His 13 points there put him in the mix with players such as Toews, MacKinnon, Keller, Tavares, and Caufield. This piqued some interest, and once his OHL career started, this kid took off. Playing his major junior career with the Windsor Spitfires, in 2010-11 as a rookie, he posted 34-42-76 in 67 games.

He continued on with 25-44-69 in 56 games the following season. He also appeared at the World Juniors that year for Russia posting a respectable 4-1-5 in seven games. In 2012-13, he split time with KHL Moskva, OHL Spitfires, and AHL Bruins. In his 29 games with Windsor, he cranked it up, posting a scorching 22-26-48. His first glimpse in the AHL saw him with three points in 11 games. At that point, it’s fine. A big step up from juniors, and to this point in his hockey journey, he has been everything the Bruins knew him to be when they picked him.

Now, as he starts into the Bruins system, there are two pieces we will pay attention to the most, neither of them a secret. Cassidy running the bench with Providence and his knack for developing good working relationships with young players. Also, how he was ok with letting them go out and do what they do, while still playing in the very two-way offensive and defensive systems in Providence. The other side of the organization is with the big boys club in Boston. It’s no secret at all that Julien steered heavily to defense first play.  He was also no slouch when it came to giving the ice time to veterans while the young guns got stashed away in the corner and subdued. Add to it, a distaste for players across the pond.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Onto this part of the adventures of Koko. In 2013-14 he barely got a sniff, playing one game with Boston basically riding the pine. He heads to Providence where he does his thing, 21-36-57 in 65 games. That gets him some attention again from the big club. In 2014-15, he got a three-game look if you can call it that. His total ice time way under 10 minutes through all the games, and playing on the fourth line. Again, back to Providence where he goes 15-28-43 in 61 games. The 2015-16 season starts with another leftovers offering of 5 games and limited minutes in Boston again. Back to Providence where he gets pinned an assistant captain and has something to prove now, putting up a blistering 23-45-68 in 60 games. Under Cassidy, he was let off the leash and absolutely dominated. Julien didn’t give him the time of day. A younger player with offensive instincts. Julien’s nemesis.

His frustrations peaked publicly many times, where he stated the obvious. He was producing and not getting a chance at the NHL level. And when he does get his crumb tossed to him, he is thrown on the fourth line, and his skates barely touch the ice. This has him pack his bags and head back to the motherland. His first season back in the KHL with Petersburg isn’t his norm. 5-5-10 in 25 games. His 2017-18 season, he lands with Moskva and piles up 50 points in 52 games. The next season again with Moskva, 37 points in 52 games.

With all these numbers and history, we can establish that he can not only play at the best levels in his age groups, but he can produce points and be an offensive threat anytime he is on the ice. In the Bruins organization, he flourished under Cassidy, and a good relationship was built there. He utilized Koko in the right way, and it turned him into the leading scorer in Providence for two seasons.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Of course, it is another big step up to the NHL, but his talent and skill don’t vanish. With some more time under his belt playing with men, and more prospects out of the way in Boston, the time is now to bring him back. He can play center and wing, a multi-positional player, a Boston plus. Boston desperately needs a steady wingmate with Krejci and some more scoring threats in their lineup. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Blues were able to contain the top line, and that was their demise. The league fits his style now more than ever, and with Cassidy behind the bench, the Bruins are more about speed and skill than ever before.   The second line of DeBrusk – Krejci – Khokhlachev would round out a very impressive top-six forward group. Adding him to the second power-play unit would also put a real scoring threat there too.

It has floated around the rumor mill that there is still contact between him and the Bruins, and Cassidy is in that mix, and that’s a huge help. His rights are there until he turns 27, so long as qualifying offers are made to him each year. The Bruins need him back. The revolving door of nothing working on that second line wing spot is over. The time is now. Get him there for a real look and turn him loose. Shout it from your social media mountains folks. It’s time, and I’ll start it… #bringkokoback

Some Koko highlights to enjoy.

Bruins’ Prospect Beecher Shined At World Juniors Summer Showcase

John-Beecher

( Photo credit Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images )

By: Ian Frazier | Follow Me On Twitter @ifrazier95

Boston Bruins fans must be feeling pretty good right now after reading the reports and watching recent YouTube videos about the team’s 2019 National Hockey League first-round draft selection John Beecher. The 18-year-old Elmira, New York native was labeled as a draft steal to some experts when he was selected 30th in late Junes NHL Entry Draft from Vancouver, British Columbia. The jury is still out on him, but with the way Beecher played in the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase held at the Team USA Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, the B’s scouting staff certainly got this one right when addressing future needs.

Beecher looked like an absolute beast compared to other prospects his age. As shown in the video above, he was able to win puck battles on the boards as well as score a couple goals down low. He also battled hard on faceoffs and generated a nice breakaway goal that was made possible by his fast acceleration down the ice beating two defenders. During his time at WJSS, he developed great chemistry alongside fellow Bruins’ prospect Curtis Hall showing their nice one-two punch that was on display during the domination of Finland 7-1. One of his biggest attributes on display was his overall team awareness. He knew exactly where his teammates were and was able to make crisp passes or be able to skate in and help contain the puck near the crease. From what he has shown so far, many hockey insiders believe his style of play is very similar to Sean Couturier with additional speed and size.

With Beecher showing flashes of top six potential, this should be great news for Bruins center David Krejci going forward. Krejci has had seasons where he struggled to have consistent scoring due to the lack of explosiveness on his right side and someone like Beecher could bring that explosiveness to the black and gold and could fill the much-needed position soon. The Bruins had a few prospects the last few seasons try out there with Jackob Forsbaka Karlsson being the most recent. JFK, however, decided to go back to Sweeden to help his development. In the meantime they found a solid replacement with Bruins forward Karson Kuhlman to hold down the fort until someone like Beecher is ready to be called up. Beecher is scheduled to transfer to the University of Michigan where he will play for the Wolverines during the 2019-20 NCAA season.

Over the past few seasons, players like this have been a much-needed asset for many teams and Beecher may be the next in line that fits that mold. One thing is for sure though, Bruins fans should be excited about him, and they should be happy knowing that Sweeney may have found a future solution at second-line right wing. We still don’t know for sure if Beecher is a long-time solution for the club down the road, but the future looks bright for this young man. Time will tell!

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 139 that we recorded on 8-2-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Sticher.

Do The Bruins Have Enough Coming Down The Middle?

( Photo Credit: Brandon Taylor/OHL Images )

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

The Boston Bruins, via Team President Cam Neely, identified a top-six winger as a position of need heading into the summer of 2019 following a largely successful 2018-19 campaign in which they finished in a tie for second overall in the NHL standings and advanced all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.  While the addition of a top-six winger clearly addresses a current need, should the Bruins be concerned with the long-term outlook at the center position?

The Boston Bruins have been blessed with a rock steady, 1-2 combination down the middle in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for the better part of the last decade.  Whilst there has been a revolving door of pivots on the third and fourth lines over that time, the Bruins have been led by one of the leagues’ top 1-2 center-ice combinations providing them with consistent scoring, defensive prowess, and abundant leadership.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Patrice Bergeron is a future Hockey Hall-of-Famer, all but confirmed with the recent selection of Guy Carbonneau to the Hall.  Long regarded as one of, if not the best two-way player in the game, Bergeron is coming off a career season in points production having amassed 79 points in just 65 games played.  He scored an equal-career high 32-goals as he topped the 30-goal mark for the fifth time in his career.  He also garnered an eighth consecutive Selke Trophy nomination and finished third in voting behind winner Ryan O’Reilly and runner-up Mark Stone in a closely contested vote.  Bergeron has previously won the award in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

In David Krejci, the Bruins have a center who is also coming off a career season production-wise.  Krejci scored 73 points, equalling his previous career-high set all the way back in the 2008-09 season.   He hit the 20-goal plateau for the fourth time in his career.  Krejci also had 16 points in 24 playoff games during Boston’s Stanley Cup run.  Twice in his career, Krejci had led the NHL in playoff scoring, back in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup as well as in 2013 when they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.  Krejci had a solid all-around season in 2018-19 finishing with a CF % (Corsi for) percentage of 55.98.  Bergeron, as a comparison, finished just slightly better at 56.77.

So we know that the Bruins have enjoyed a decade long luxury at the top of the center depth chart and for the most part have made things work with various options at the center depth positions.    There is a reality that the Bruins and their fans must start to consider here very quickly, however.  Both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are 33 years old.   In fact, Bergeron turns 34 this month.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Reality tells us that both of these career-long Bruins are well into the back nine of their respective careers.  The question for Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney is, what is the succession plan as the end approaches for Bergeron and Krejci?  It’s not something that Bruins fans like to contemplate, but these players won’t be here forever, and that endpoint is now beginning to approach.

If we look at the players’ respective contract statuses, Bergeron is under contract for three more seasons at $6.875M per season.  Krejci has two seasons remaining at $7.25M per season.  There has been much speculation that this off-season is the right time to move Krejci in a salary dump to provide cap relief.  There may be some merit to that argument as his trade value is likely as high as it is going to get.  With the possibility of diminishing returns and production next season, not many 33-year-olds have career-best seasons after-all, the trade Krejci argument is understandable.  On the other hand, if the Bruins believe they are still in a championship-contending window, and most of their fans believe they are, then trading David Krejci likely weakens your team, depending on the return, and puts you further from contending at a time that your two best forwards in Bergeron and winger Brad Marchand continue to progress into their thirties.   If winning now is still the priority, unless you can bring in a top-six center to replace David Krejci, I have to believe you need to keep him.

Getting back to the question of what happens in two and three years when their contracts expire and their play has inevitably tailed off, whom do the Bruins see as their top-six centers of the future?  Have they already acquired those pieces through the draft or via trade?  Or is this an area of need that, although not pressing, will reach out and bite the Bruins if they don’t begin to plan for it now.

Let’s consider the centers already within the organization and see if any project as a Bergeron or Krejci replacement.  For the purpose of this exercise, this will consider prospects whose rights the Bruins currently control, be it under contract or not.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Beyond Bergeron and Krejci, the current third-line center in Boston is Charlie Coyle.  Coyle is coming off a successful playoff after being acquired in a trade deadline move from the Minnesota Wild.  Coyle has one year remaining on his current contract at a reasonable cap hit of $3.2M.    Bringing good size and skating, the 6’3”, 220-pound Coyle slots well into the third-line center position and has been touted as a possible solution at second-line right wing heading into next season.  Such a move would put further pressure on the Bruins to find in-house options to fill out their center depth positions.    For the time being he gives the Bruins what they need centering the third line but his long-term future in Boston may well be tied to the type of dollars and term he seeks on a new contract as he heads towards unrestricted free agency next summer.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Bruins appear set for the foreseeable future at the fourth line center position with Sean Kuraly.  Kuraly is a key bottom-six forward for the Bruins, and his absence was noticeable for the first four games of Boston’s opening-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Kuraly’s return from injury in game five sparked the Bruins and helped stabilize the line-up as they went on to eliminate the Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes.  Kuraly could be an option to play in the third line center position if required, but his perfect role in the Bruins lineup would appear to be a fourth-line pivot.

The Bruins also appear to boast several depth centermen who appear capable of playing in the bottom six.  Some of their current wingers can also play center including Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, and Karson Kuhlman.  None of these players are likely options to replace Bergeron or Krejci however.  The same applies to David Backes, a player who could fill a role as a center or a winger up or down the Bruins line-up but at this stage in his career, he doesn’t factor into the conversation at hand.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The next place to look is at the Bruins current prospects who are yet to make an impact at the NHL level but maybe closer to earning that opportunity over the next couple of seasons.  The Bruins managed to get 15 regular-season games into Trent Frederic this past season.  While Frederic is still seeking his first NHL point, he may be the next Bruins prospect in line at the center position and will very likely see more NHL action in the 2019-20 season.    The question is how high in an NHL line-up does Frederic project?  While that remains to be seen, the common opinion seems to be that he projects to be a solid third-line center at the NHL level.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t help solve the issue of replacing Bergeron or Krejci in the top six.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Jack Studnicka is coming off a successful junior career as a member of the Oshawa Generals and Niagara Ice Dogs.   This past season he scored 83 points in 60 regular-season games and represented Canada in the World Junior Championships where he tallied four points in five games played.  Studnicka has many upsides but again, his ceiling is difficult to project.   The 2017, second-round selection will benefit from the opportunity to develop at the AHL level in Providence but has the potential to grow and develop into an option to challenge for a top-six role one day at the NHL level.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Boston’s most recent first-round draft pick, John Beecher, selected 30th overall from the US National Development Team in last month’s NHL Amateur Draft, may signal a recognition by the Bruins management that there is a need to address their lack of long-term options at the center position.  Beecher has tremendous size at 6-3” and 209 pounds and impressed onlookers with his speed and skating ability at the Bruins recent development camp.  Bruins fans shouldn’t get too giddy and hopeful of seeing Beecher in the black and gold anytime soon, however, as he has committed to play at Michigan this upcoming season and he should benefit greatly from playing in the NCAA ranks.    Beecher does, however, represent perhaps the glimmer of hope that the Bruins may have a bona fide center prospect who can play a meaningful and successful top-six role one day in the future.   Bruins fans have to temper the expectations on the 18-year-old Beecher however and realize he is likely at least a couple of years away and possibly more from a role in the NHL with the Bruins.

While there is hope that the Bruins may already have prospects that may one day fill the top six roles that have been held down for so long by Bergeron and Krejci, the reality may be that the Bruins may need to look outside their own organization to acquire at least one future top-six center, whether that be via free agency or trade.  It’s no secret that the Bruins’ depth strength is on the back end.  The Bruins may be best served by utilizing their depth on the back end to address their need at center.  This does not have to happen immediately.  The smart play, however, would be to have replacements ready to assume those roles once their existing contracts expire.  The reality is that Bergeron and Krejci can’t play forever, however, and the Bruins need to improve their organizational depth at the center position in order to be prepared for that inevitable day when they are no longer contributing at the level we have been accustomed to for such a long time.

Richardson: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night: Version One

bruinsteam

(Photo Courtesy of Winslow Townson / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Earlier this week fellow Black N’ Gold writer Mike Cratty had the idea to give out his ideal lineup Opening Night. He then posed the question to the rest of us and it’s turned into a nice series. Other Black N’ Gold writers Garrett Hayden, Max Mainville, and Yanni Latzanakis have followed suit giving their lineups. I have linked their respective articles at the end of this one so you can check them out if you have not yet.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

I am starting out pretty standard here with the Boston Bruins top line. When all three players are healthy this is one of the best lines in the entire league. While keeping this trio together seems obvious, there has been some debate amongst fans whether Boston should or not. This is because at times during this past season Pastrnak has been moved down to the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci.

David Pastrnak is arguably the most important player on the Bruins offense. In the past, I have been an advocate for moving him down to the second line. My reason for this was that I felt the team needed to spread the wealth and scoring between lines. However, the simple fact is the chemistry this trio has on the ice is unmatched by any line in the NHL. Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak set the offensive tone for the team and produce too much to break-up.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Coyle

The second line right-wing has been a position that the Bruins have been looking to fill for a few years now. Despite the carousel of players that have played on the right-wing, both DeBrusk and Krejci have produced at high levels. My solution is one that may be outside the box but I think Charlie Coyle is the answer to fix the right-wing. Coyle was acquired by the Bruins before the trade deadline last season in a deal that sent Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild.

Since then, he played excellently for our boys in black and gold especially during their run to the Stanley Cup Final. Adding him to the top six will strengthen it tenfold. DeBrusk and Krejci are locked into their position on the second line. Krejci, finally fully healthy had one of his best seasons in a long time. DeBrusk has proven to be very good in his first two seasons with Boston. Despite a less than stellar postseason that due in part to a concussion sustained in the first round, I fully expect him to bounce back and have a great 2019-2020 campaign. These line combinations would give the Bruins one of the best top six’s in the NHL.

Third Line: Heinen – Studnicka – Senyshyn

I know that some of you may think that I am absolutely insane for saying this. However, this line has the potential to be very good. Jack Studnicka is one of the Bruins top offensive prospects even though he’s only 20 years old. In 60 games in the OHL last season, he netted 36 goals and dished out 47 assists for 83 total points. He also played in Providence’s four playoff games netting one goal and dishing one assist for two points. He has the potential to be very good for Boston, and I think he takes a big step forward this year.

Zach Senyshyn is another guy who is debated a lot amongst fans. He’s spent two full years in Providence and some people are ready to call him a bust. I am not one of those people. I think the young speedster could make a huge impact on the Bruins this season. He has a ton of scoring ability (114-63-177 in 195 games in the OHL) while that hasn’t quite translated into the AHL or NHL yet, I think it will. He was able to get in two games with the big club last season and he looked good scoring a goal in one of the games. His speed combined with Studnicka’s ability could be lethal for Boston. Heinen was recently re-signed to a two year deal with Boston. He’s one of their best defensive forwards and he would pair nicely with this young line.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

This fourth line has the potential to be one of the best in the NHL. Joakim Nordstrom proved to be extremely valuable especially during their deep playoff run. He’s very good defensively, while also providing some offense when the opportunity presents itself. Sean Kuraly is one of my favorite current players. He had an excellent regular season and when he came back from injury in the playoffs, it was a spark the Bruins needed. He’s tenacious and a really good hockey player. He will be the one that makes this line go.

Chris Wagner’s production was a welcomed surprise for Bruins fans this past season. He also played well in the playoffs, but an injury cut his postseason short. He’s another guy who is always around the puck creating opportunities for Boston. As I said earlier, this line has the potential to be the best fourth line in hockey. They grind the opponents down and are quick to capitalize on any mistakes made by their opposition.

Extra Forwards: Lindholm – Ritchie

Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie were both signed once free agency opened earlier this month. Lindholm will provide good depth off the bench in case of injury. He has some decent offensively ability and can also play on the penalty kill which may end up being important this season. Brett Ritchie will likely provide some size for the lineup if it is needed throughout the season. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds he’s a big body that can throw a hit or two across the ice.

First Pairing: Chara – McAvoy

This is another one of those no brainers in the Bruins lineup. Zdeno Chara has been the number one defenseman and captain for over a decade. Even at the age of 42, the native Slovakian provides top-line minutes and ability. McAvoy, on the other hand, is the future number one defenseman for the Bruins. You could even argue that the way he played in the playoffs, that the torch has been passed and the Long Beach native is already the number one guy. Either way, this will without a doubt be the top pairing.

Second Pairing: Krug – Carlo

This is a perfect second pairing for the Boston Bruins. Brandon Carlo has been very good for the Bruins in his first three years as a true defensive defenseman. The Colorado Springs native really proved himself during his first taste of the playoffs. He was excellent and played a pivotal role in getting Boston to the Stanley Cup Final. Krug, on the other hand, is one of the better offensive-minded defensemen in hockey. The former Michigan State Spartan also runs the power play unlike anyone else. He perfectly complements Carlo’s game and completes the second pairing.

Third Pairing: Grzelcyk – Clifton

Matt Grzelcyk has proven to be one of the most consistent defensemen for the Bruins in every facet of the game. He had an excellent 2018-19 season and played very well during the run to the Stanley Cup Final. After being arguably the most improved playing in Providence this season, Connor Clifton emerged during the 2018-19 playoff run. The New Jersey native, like Grzelcyk, is very good in every facet of the game. These two young defensemen will make a great second pairing for the Boston Bruins.

Extra Defensemen: Kampfer – Moore – Miller

Steven Kampfer signed an extension at the end of last month. The Michigan native provides really good depth for the Bruins. The good thing about Kampfer is that he can sit out a few games, and be very solid starting when needed. John Moore will likely not be ready to start the season due to shoulder surgery he had once the season ended. Kevan Miller is another guy that likely won’t be ready to start the season due to a bad knee injury he sustained last season.

Goaltenders: Rask – Halak

Tuukka Rask was one of the main reasons why the Boston Bruins were one win away from being Stanley Cup Champions in 2018-2019. The Finnish goaltender was superb throughout the playoffs. One of the big reasons why he was so good during the postseason run was that he was able to rest a lot of games in the regular season because of how good Jaroslav Halak was. Tuukka Rask is at the top of his game come playoff time when he can start under 50 games during the regular season. Having Rask and Halak was essentially split the regular-season workload is something that makes Boston’s goaltending so good.

Other Black N’ Gold Writers’ Ideal Lines

Check out Mike’s article HERE.

Check out Garrett’s article HERE.

Check out Max’s article HERE.

Check out Yanni’s article HERE.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel!  We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel!

 

Mainville: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night: Version One

boston-bruins-celebrate.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (The Canadian Press)

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

Before I dive into this piece, I would like to credit fellow Black N’ Gold writers Mike Cratty (@Mike_Cratty on Twitter) for the idea and would also like to further you to take a look at both Mike’s and Garrett’s (@thesportsguy97 on Twitter) article on the same idea. Keep a lookout on the website for more opening-day article lineup ideas.

Click HERE for Mike’s article.

Click HERE for Garrett’s article.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Throughout the Bruins fan universe, the issues in the top-six typically fall on the right side. The duos of Marchand-Bergeron and DeBrusk-Krejci are near locks for opening night but the answers on the remaining pieces need to be found. Even though he showed struggles in the postseason at times, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy continued to slot David Pastrnak on the right side of the first line.

Without a doubt in anyone’s mind, Pastrnak will soon become the star of the Bruins’ offense for possibly the next decade and the more time he can play with Marchand and especially Bergeron, the more his value to the team and organization can skyrocket. That line, when hot, is one of the best lines in the entire National Hockey League and the thought of having that consistently is intriguing.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

During the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins relied heavily on their depth scoring, goaltending, and defense to help them last to the final Game Seven. Boston’s top six forwards failed to score points on a night-to-night basis and the lack of scoring in the elimination game was the reason for the loss on home ice.

Down 3-2 in the series, Cassidy threw a curveball at the St. Louis Blues in Game Six by placing speedy forward Karson Kuhlman on the second line and he played great. Kuhlman scored the third goal of the game with a blistering wrist shot past Jordan Binnington that gave Boston a 3-0 lead in the game.

Kuhlman’s 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame finally brought some speed and finesse to a line that was lacking those attributes when David Backes was alongside DeBrusk and Krejci. Similar to Pastrnak, time with a veteran like Krejci mixed in with the big-time experience that he already has under his belt, Kuhlman can be a good player on that line.

Third Line: Heinen – Coyle – Ritchie

This line is such a massive question mark on the right side yet again. At this stage, I put free-agent signing Brett Ritchie on this line for one reason – size. The 26-year-old Ritchie stands at six-foot-four and weighs 220 pounds. Throughout the different lineup predictions on the internet, Ritchie is commonly considered to be a depth forward and while that remains a possibility, I believe he has a better shot at making the lineup over some of the younger wingers in the system.

Alongside Ritchie, Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle had found some chemistry since Coyle’s entrance into the Boston Bruins roster around the trade deadline and that should continue. Heinen has proven to be a defensively responsible forward and with a consistent center that can play deep in the zone, it may only help the young forward more in the short and long run.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

If there was a line that was etched in stone – it’s this one. The fourth line of the Boston Bruins has been crucial for the better part of the last decade and in each of their Cup Finals appearances in 2011, 2013, and 2019, the Bruins have had a strong line that rounds out the forward core.

With Noel Acciari departing Logan International in Boston to Florida during the Free Agency Frenzy, it will be without a doubt that these three players will man the pivotal bottom line for a good portion of the 2019-2020 season.

Extra Forwards: Lindholm

Another one of the Bruins’ depth signings on July 1st, former Toronto Maple Leaf and Winnipeg Jet, Par Lindholm signed a two-year contract for $850,000 per season with Boston as a depth player. The Swedish forward adds versatile play with a penalty-killing ability that has value when injuries come along.

First Pairing: Chara – McAvoy

Franchise defenceman with future franchise defenceman. Zdeno Chara might be 42 years of age but his game does not represent that number. While he does often get caught frozen in time by the faster forwards in the league, he brings a presence that strikes fear into players even today. Chara will continue to mentor McAvoy this season as it could very well be the last season where that is an option.

Second Pairing: Krug – Carlo

The second pairing of Krug and Carlo is the type of combination teams dream of on their blueline. Torey Krug is one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL today, especially on the power-play. That said, Krug has had issues on the defensive side of the ice and even though he has improved recently, he is not fantastic in that role. Brandon Carlo, however, secures that pairing. Carlo was arguably the best d-man wearing the Spoked-B in the 2019 Playoffs and he is only 22 years old.

Third Pairing: Grzelcyk – Clifton

Matt Grzelcyk scored the only goal in the Game Seven loss to the St. Louis Blues, but he brought more than just that lone tally in the postseason. Grzelcyk is a solid defenceman in almost all facets and Clifton has matched that as well. Both young blueliners have come out of seemingly nowhere over the course of the past few seasons – earning them a roster spot for the start of the ’19/’20 campaign.

Extra Defensemen: Kampfer – Miller – Moore

Steven Kampfer recently extended his contract with the Bruins and rightly so – he adds good depth for when the inevitable injuries strike again, something every team requires to be successful. With no clear timeline on John Moore (shoulder surgery) and Kevan Miller (knee), we must assume that they are not ready for the opening night on October 3rd.

Goaltenders: Rask – Halak

Tuukka Rask carried Boston to the Stanley Cup Finals for much of the playoff run and that success could be attributed to the regular season play of backup goalie Jaroslav Halak. With the two netminders nearly splitting the 82-game season in half, Rask was able to get needed rest and not overwork himself like he has when the team does not have an adequate backup behind him. If the two can avoid the haunted injury bug, I’d expect another stellar season from the two goaltenders.

As the offseason continues to progress with more and more news as well as the upcoming NHL Training Camp, these lines could very well take a turn before puck drop against the Dallas Stars.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel!  We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel!

Potential Unrestricted Free Agents Worth A Look For Bruins

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

(Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Check me out on Twitter @nittgrl73

It’s certainly no secret that the Boston Bruins’ biggest hole to fill this offseason is second-line right wing. In fact, team president Cam Neely addressed that very issue himself recently.

Whether the right fit will come from a trade, free agency or a player already in the Bruins system remains to be seen. However, faced with difficult decisions regarding the future of free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Marcus Johansson, and Danton Heinen, a solution may not be as readily available as management and fans would like.

In addition, questions still remained heading into the National Hockey League draft regarding the exact amount of cap space available to each team. Coupled with the fact that very lucrative contracts have already having been awarded to players like Kevin Hayes and an oft-injured Erik Karlsson, overspending looks to be a quickly developing trend.

As a result, it may behoove the Bruins to take a look at some potential unrestricted free agents that can boost the team’s forward depth without breaking the bank. While it would be great to see the front office figure out a way to keep key pieces such as McAvoy and Carlo and still sign a “bigger-name” forward to play alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, there are a handful of players set to become free agents that could be diamonds in the rough.

Alex Chiasson

Chiasson played the 2018-2019 season with the Edmonton Oilers, a team that’s personal issues have been well-documented throughout a season during which former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was fired from that same role in Edmonton. Chiasson, who will turn 29 on Oct. 1, put up 22 goals and 16 assists for the Oilers this season, possibly providing the shoot-first mentality that Neely said he’d like to see more of on Krejci’s wing. Chiasson is coming off a $650,000 2018-2019 contract.

Brett Connolly

OK, hear me out, Bruins fans. Yes, Connolly already played a somewhat average 25-point year for the Bruins during the 2015-2016 season, in addition to two assists in five games the season before, but a case can definitely be made for a second look at the 27-year-old forward. He is coming off a career year with the Washington Capitals, potting 22 goals and 24 assists with an impressive plus-13 rating.  Connolly’s most recent contract with the Caps featured a relatively low $1.5 million cap hit. Granted, with teams seemingly willing to pay bigger bucks for players of Connolly’s caliber and given the fact that he had a stellar year and won a Stanley Cup in 2018, it’s likely Connolly could be too expensive for the Bs. If not, he’s an intriguing option.

Wayne Simmonds

Simmonds’ name came up often as a potential fit for the Bruins before the 2019 trade deadline in February. Although Simmonds was instead dealt by the Philadelphia Flyers to the Nashville Predators, he still remains a possible candidate to fill a second-line right wing spot in Boston. Simmonds is a bit older than the other possible signings listed here, he’ll be 31 in August, and his cap hit last season was higher than the others at $3.975 million. Still, Simmonds is almost certainly not going to be a Predator when October rolls around. Talk of late has the Pittsburgh Penguins extremely interested in Simmonds. If he is still available on July 1, he could be a good short-term investment for Boston in an attempt to make another run at the Cup while the Bruins’ veteran core is still intact.

Riley Barber

Although admittedly a dark-horse contender, Barber has spent the past four seasons in the Washington Capitals organization, primarily with the team’s Hershey Bears American Hockey League affiliate. After scoring 30 goals and amassing a total of 60 points for Hershey in 2018-2019, the 25-year-old Barber made it known at the end of the season that he did not plan to re-sign with the Capitals after being called up for only two brief stints in the NHL in his professional career and only seeing playing time in one of those call-ups. Barber may be taking the lead of former Miami University teammate Austin Czarnik, who chose to sign with the Calgary Flames following the 2017-2018 season after seeing only sporadic playing time with the Bruins.

If NHL General Manager of the Year Don Sweeney follows the usual Bruins storyline of looking for solid value rather than overspending on a superstar, he could well have a few decent under-the-radar options when free agency rolls around.

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 132 below!

Bruins David Pastrnak Wins Award

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

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN OTHER NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

Boston Bruins: Keys to Win Game 7 Over St. Louis

cut (5).jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

How are your nerves? Are your fingernails still intact? No? That’s alright, it’s normal – expected at this time of year. Tonight, the Boston Bruins will meet the St. Louis Blues for the final game of the 2018-19 NHL season with a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice while the Blues look to lock in their first ever Stanley Cup in their 52-year history.

Before the best-of-seven series began, it was well noted that these two franchises were near exact mirror images of one another. Great goaltending, solid players on the blueline and a forward core that brought a combination of toughness, hitting and goal scoring throughout all four lines. Many people, including myself, felt that this series was destined to go the distance and as we found out on Sunday, it sure will.

In Sunday’s Game Six in St. Louis, Missouri, Boston took a huge 5-1 win on the road to force this seventh game. Tuukka Rask was beyond stellar in net for the Bruins while third period goals from Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman and David Pastrnak sealed the deal before Zdeno Chara’s empty-net goal. The Bruins managed to quiet the roaring St. Louis crowd once again and made the series a true toss-up again.

Following Game Five, the Bruins had lost their second-consecutive game in the series and due to the fact that it was heading back to the Blues home arena, it seemed like the momentum was in St. Louis’ favor. Now, once again, there is no real momentum nor favorite to win Game Seven in TD Garden.

The entire series so far has been fascinating to watch. Boston overcame a two-goal deficit to win Game One only for the Blues to take an overtime win in Game Two. The B’s exploded back when the series debuted in the Enterprise Arena with a crushing 7-2 victory only for the Blues to win both Game Four and Five to take a 3-2 series lead. After the Game Six performance where the top-six of Boston finally woke up and played at the level that we are used to seeing while Rask continued to be elite – a reoccurring theme in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

All across the spectrum, the Bruins and Blues have an equally strong chance to hoist the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night in Boston. Neither team has let set downs hold them down long-term. As we know, the Blues were once dead-last in the National Hockey League on January 2nd and look where they are now. So, for the Boston Bruins, what needs to happen during the three periods (and maybe more) in order to win Stanley Cup number seven?

1. Tuukka. Rask.

As previously mentioned, Tuukka Rask has been one of the sole reasons for being Eastern Conference Champions and having three wins in the Finals as of this point. Going way back to the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Rask was key in numerous wins including a dominate Game 7 performance, stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced to send Boston to the second round.

Against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Rask finished the six-game series with a .948 save percentage and a 1.83 goals-against-average, closing out the series with a phenomenal 39-save shutout in Game Six. That dominance continued in the Conference Finals over the Carolina Hurricanes, allowing only five goals in four games with another shutout in the final elimination game.

In every game during the Stanley Cup Finals, Rask has allowed over one goal but no more than three goals except for Sunday’s win where he allowed only one goal against on 29 shots. Tuukka was by far Boston’s best penalty-killer in Game Six and crushed the momentum for the Blues. Rask is now 3-0 in elimination games in the 2019 postseason with a 1.34 GAA and .953 save percentage.

St. Louis has had great success with their forecheck against Boston’s defense and that is likely to continue, but if Tuukka Rask can be as dominate as ever, he will be the biggest factor to a Bruins win if it does happen and they need him to perform at that extreme level.

2. Shut Down The Neutral Zone

Part of the reason for the success in the 5-1 win three days ago was the strength in the neutral zone. The Bruins did an excellent job at making the Blues offense work hard for their zone entries and make it a difficult task to dump the puck in deep. Boston’s second line of Jake DeBrusk, Karson Kuhlman and David Krejci did a particularly good job at that while the defensive pairings managed to retrieve the loose pucks on the dump-ins.

Boston’s third goal of the game came from Kuhlman, but was created off of a neutral zone turnover by St. Louis. For the majority of the game, the Boston players were quite aggressive on pucks and gave the Blues very little room to work. This was evident on this goal as DeBrusk goes after his man who turns it over to David Krejci. Krejci quickly brings it into the zone and feeds Kuhlman who snipes one far-side.

Boston cannot back down when the Blues go for their zone exits and rushes up the ice. St. Louis has big forwards such as leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly who can blast down the ice and get hard drives to the net that create scoring opportunities. Limiting the space that St. Louis has to exit the zone will force more mistakes and allow Boston to pounce on the resulting chances.

However, Boston cannot make mistakes of their own while doing this. If a player misses a check and gets them self out of position, then the Blues could have an odd-man rush going the other way. Calm, but tenacious hockey in the neutral zone is what will win this for Boston.

3. Win The Smaller Battles & Trust Leaders

Once again, the Bruins found the success that they did in Game Six because of the smaller plays. It was not until the third period where Boston scored goals two, three, four, and five. From the 8:40 mark of the first period to just over two minutes into the third, Boston managed to maintain a one-goal advantage on the scoreboard. That was in part, due to the victory of smaller battles throughout the entirety of the game.

As showed above, Boston did a much better job controlling the neutral zone to adequately shut down the chances St. Louis had coming down the ice. Also, Boston did a solid job winning the battles along the boards, in both the offensive and defensive zones and that allowed the Bruins to score goals and also keep the Blues to the outside and forced them to take point shots that were either blocked, intercepted, or stopped by Rask in between the pipes.

On David Pastrnak’s goal that gave the Bruins a 4-1 lead in the third, forward Sean Kuraly used that same concept to drive into the zone, pressure the St. Louis defence, make a clean pass to Marchand who made an equally impressive feed to an open Pastrnak to beat Binnington. The rest of the players in the blue jerseys were unable to come back and defend the play because they were expected a pass up the ice and because they were finishing up a change. The tenacious effort on pucks will be crucial for Boston to claim victory.

In addition to that, the 2018-19 Boston Bruins are much different from the 2010-11 Bruins that won the Stanley Cup. The 2011 Bruins were filled to the rim with veterans of the game who had the experience to guide them to the championship. This time around, a lot of the key players – David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Karson Kuhlman, Jake DeBrusk, etc. – are leading the team. However, they will need to listen to the guidance and expertise of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Brad Marchand who have been there before and have won before. Every piece of advice and knowledge may be the ultimate difference maker.

Regardless of the outcome, at the end of the day, very few individuals in the hockey community expected the Boston Bruins to be one win away from the Stanley Cup this season. The same could be said for the St. Louis Blues as well. After all, the Tampa Bay Lightning were by far the best team in the regular season and they were swept early. When the final buzzer rings tonight, the winner will be the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions. The only question remains – will it be the Bruins or Blues hoisting the Stanley Cup above their heads?

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECF Game 3: Boston at Carolina

USATSI_12703779.jpg

(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Carolina Hurricanes

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Carolina’s Lineup

Forwards

Svechnikov – Staal – Teravainen

Niederreiter – Aho – Williams

Foegele – McKegg – McGinn

Ferland – Wallmark – Maenalanen

Defense

Slavin – Hamilton

Pesce –  Faulk

Fleury –  de Haan

Goalies

McElhinney

Mrazek

First Period

Round one in PNC Arena came with high stakes for both teams. Would the Bruins go up 3-0, or would Carolina put the pressure on?

Things started off on a sour note for the Bruins, as the Canes established offensive pressure early, and Teuvo Teravainen somehow missed a wide-open Bruins net. Brandon Carlo then inadvertently gave them a power play as a result of a delay of game call. The power play came just 55 seconds into the period.

The first scrum of the game came after the first whistle on the power play as some real estate in the Bruins heads could be beneficial in making this series interesting. The Bruins killed off the power play in large part thanks to two huge saves by Tuukka Rask in front of the net at the end of the power play on Micheal Ferland and Justin Williams

Carolina’s power-play struggles continued, moving to 5 for 46 after the conclusion of their first man advantage of game three. But, the Canes definitely pushed the pace early on, and Rask stood tall.

The shots were 11-1 Canes through about six and a half minutes. That’s not what you want if you’re the Bruins. At this point, Torey Krug and Justin Williams went off on matching minor penalties, holding for Krug, roughing for Williams, 4-on-4 hockey commenced for two minutes.

The Bruins started to see some good chances come their way at the conclusion of the 4-on-4. The energy was high on both sides in the first period. The high-danger shots were there for Carolina, tasking the Bruins with limiting those going forward if they wanted any chance of winning.

A scoring chance from David Backes, a scrum, and a video review ensued around the halfway point of the period. The principal point of discussion was how the puck crossed the line, but the call stood in favor of the Canes. Shortly after, Williams ate another poop sandwich and was the only one in the penalty box after another altercation with Krug.

Just 45 seconds into the power play, Jake DeBrusk went off for slashing, creating a 4-on-4 for 1:15. That wasn’t all, as six seconds later, David Krejci made it 4-on-3 thanks to a high-sticking penalty. Even after the man advantage became a 5-on-3 for a little bit, the Canes failed to convert, and Rask looked solid again.

A big scrum ensued after another huge save from Rask, keeping with the trend, on Maenalanen. Former Minnesota Wild teammates Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter even went after it. Coyle, Krug, and Maenalanen went to the box following the scrum, Carolina came out with a 5-on-4. Stop if you’ve heard this before, Rask played awesome on the penalty kill and held the Canes scoreless.

The Krug and Williams fiasco extended into the final two minutes, as Williams intentionally went up high and Krug and sat for two as a result.

The Bruins failed to score on the man advantage before the end of the period, but had the 27 remaining seconds bled into the second period for the Bruins. Overall, it was an ugly period, with the final shots sitting at 20-6.

Here’s a visual:

Not great, despite the Bruins winning 61% of the faceoffs. I can’t imagine Bruce Cassidy was very happy with anyone in the locker room, besides Rask.

Score: 0-0

Second Period

The Bruins gave themselves and Rask a pick me up early in the second period. Joakim Nordstrom took a hit to make a play, leading to Sean Kuraly finding Chris Wagner out front to give the Bruins a one-goal lead. The goal made Wagner and Matt Grzelcyk the co-leaders in goals for the series, on both teams — just as everyone expected. Wagner’s second was assisted by Nordstrom (3) and Kuraly (2). What a shift from the fourth line.

Good fortune continued to come the Bruins’ way in the form of a Niederreiter high-sticking penalty on Krejci.

The Bruins made no mistake this time on the power play. Brad Marchand walked into the slot and backhanded on off of Calvin de Haan and in. Marchand’s sixth made it 2-0 Bruins, assisted by David Pastrnak (7) and Krejci (6). The effort level in the second period took a big leap for the Bruins. Krejci’s assist gave him his 100th career playoff point, tying him with Rick Middleton and Johnny Bucyk for third-most in Bruins history.

Just seven seconds before the halfway point, Backes was high-sticked by Ferland to give the Bruins another power play.

Don’t let de Haan’s goal distract you from the fact that Rask did this. But that’s one that Rask wants back. 2-1 Bruins with 6:12 to go.

This happened too.

Things went much better in more areas than not for the Bruins this time around. The final shots for the period were 18-6 Bruins in the second, moving the totals to 26-24 Carolina overall. A huge third period awaited both teams

Score: 2-1 Boston

Third Period

This time, de Haan found his way into the spotlight for a tripping penalty 3:43 into the period. The Bruins were 1/4 on the power play heading into this one, with eight shots.

A point hammer from Krug found its way in, but DeBrusk made contact with McElhinney as a result of a collision with Jaccob Slavin as McElhinney was headed towards the outside of the crease. This had to have been a tough call for the officials, but they ruled in favor of the Canes. The score remained 2-1.

Make of that what you will.

The misfortune continued for the Bruins as Grzelcyk went off for interference with 14:22 to go in the period. Rask continued to make big saves and the Bruins killed off the penalty, making the Canes 0/5 on the power play.

Things were pretty back-and-forth for the rest of the period, at times. Wagner took a Justin Faulk slapshot off his hand and went to the locker room in the final three minutes of the period.

McElhinney was pulled for the extra attacker just around the two-minute mark. The final shots were 36-31 Canes, 10-7 in the period. The final tally was 35 saves for Rask in an epic showing from him, yet again. The Bruins take a three-game lead in the series in a hectic one. Next up is game four on the road again on Thursday at 8 PM ET.

Final Score: 2-1 Boston

The Quiet MVP: Bruins David Krejci

Screenshot_20190508-091222-01(Photo Credits: Causeway Crowd/Twitter)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

Ask any Bruins player and they will tell you that this team plays for each other- a key factor for their continued success in their quest for the Stanley Cup. Throughout the regular season, some have set benchmarks in Bruins history, whether it be Marchand’s 100-point season, to Tuukka Rask’s surpassing Tiny Thompson’s record of all-time wins by a Bruins goaltender. But there’s one player that has low-key been having one of his best seasons wearing a spoked-B jersey, so much so that Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney has called him the “underlying MVP to our season.”

Image result for david Krejci(Photo Credits: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

IT’S ALWAYS THE QUIET ONES

He may not be flashy on the ice, but David Krejci plays where it’s needed and with a gritty performance in Game Six against Columbus, the 33-year-old Czech native has accumulated 16 points in series-clinching games (second in Bruins history). And luckily for Boston, he has managed to play the entire season healthy and because of that, the team is able to get some great offensive play from the center-forward.  Whether it be a snipe pass to his ever-changing linemates, to setting up one-timers, Krejci is there. Quietly calculating his next move.

And let’s talk about the revolving door on that second line. Just who would be playing alongside his wing? Would it fellow Czech David Pastrnak? How about Danton Heinen or would it be Jake DeBrusk that’s slotted next to the veteran? Different line combinations were thrown Krejci’s way and he simply rolled with it. He scored, he set up plays, and did exactly what any good player would do in his situation: he adapted and it worked to the benefit of his teammates.

Image result for david KrejciKim Klement/USA Today Sports

Prior to this post-season run, Krejci tied a career-high with 73 points in 81 games. If you look back to 2011 and 2013, he led in scoring during the post-season (and as we all know the Bruins won the Cup in 2011). Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney offered some key observations about Krejci:

“He was healthy this year…working on his nutrition, working on his training and evolving as a player as you get older and that’s something you have to do…He deserves a lot of credit for where we are as an organization, and he’s generally played his best hockey in the playoffs, so that’s exciting for our group a well.”

Scoring depth has been a residual issue, particularly from last year’s post-season run that saw the Bruins exit the second round of the Playoffs. The Bergeron line led most of the team’s production, but as with many things, you need other lines producing in order to compete at a high level, especially when you’re talking Playoffs. With a healthy Krejci down the middle on the second line and coupled with the emergence of the fourth line, the Bruins are looking good. Really good.

MAKING SOME HISTORY

In the series-clinching Game Six against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Krejci got the Bruins on board, netting his 97th career post-season point. With that stat, he is now fifth in Bruins history to reach that marker and joins an elite group:

Ray Bourque (161)

Phil Esposito (102)

Rick Middleton (100)

Johnny Bucyk (100)

The Czech native now has 10 points in his last 11 games and as the Bruins continue to play further deep into the Playoffs, Krejci’s stats should only get better. Aside from his playmaking decisions, the 13-year veteran also has another special quality that the younger players can look up to. Offering more insight into Krejci’s mindset going into these games,  Head Coach Bruce Cassidy had this to say:

“I think it’s his composure. Guys are playing at a higher pace out there so its a higher physicality so everything is ratcheted up, there’s noise all night. He’s got that ability to block that stuff out…he can slow the game down. At this time of the year, it’s even that much more important to stay within yourself, stay composed and make the plays in front of you. He’s just real good at it.”

Image result for david Krejci(Photo Credits: Jay LaPrete, AP)

The Bruins have their eyes on the prize and as the pressure continues to mount, this team will need to play with a higher level of discipline and Krejci is that guy to deliver it:

“I just want to go out there and help the team whatever way it is to help the team win…we don’t need any heroes, we just want to do it as a team.”

Go B’s.