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

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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

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(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.

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

David PastrnakPhoto Courtesy Of Boston.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Home: Columbus Blue Jackets (6-3)

Away: Boston Bruins (7-5)

Columbus’s Lineup

Forwards

Panarin-Dubois-Anderson

Dzingel-Duchene-Bjorkstrand

Foligno-Jenner-Atkinson

Texier-Dubinsky-Hannikainen

Defense

Werenski-Jones

Gavrikov-Savard

Harrington-Kukan

Goalies

Bobrovsky

Korpisalo

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Backes

Heinen-Coyle-Johansson

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

First Period

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

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

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

Score: Tied 0-0

Second Period

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

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

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

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Score: 1-0 Bruins

Third Period

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 3-0 Bruins

Three Stars Of The Game

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

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

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

No Better Time Than “Now” For Bruins

Image result for bruins columbus win(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe)

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

The Black N’ Gold should heed the lyrical advice of Tina Turner’s Goldeneye:

“But now my time has come and time, time is not on your side!”

Not perhaps for Zdeno Chara, 42, who is using EVERYTHING left in the tank to compete for the Cup in what could be his penultimate NHL season.

Not perhaps for the Davids — Krecji, 33, and Backes, 35, who know their mid-30’s are the period in a professional hockey player’s career where talents & abilities begin to fade and the skates don’t move as quickly as they used to, despite their impressive leadership qualities.

And perhaps not for, I hate to write it, Patrice Bergeron, 33, who continues to play through what many are speculating has to be a painful injury ala the way he has played in multiple previous injury-plagued playoff campaigns (one can only imagine the consistent & constant toll that takes on the no-longer-in-your-20’s body).

Yet, for all the worry & concern leading up to game four of the Columbus series — a game that many experts/bloggers/pundits/broadcasters/etc. were saying was a “must win” for the Bruins including this guy — all of the above players raised their games to match the already raised stakes. And did they ever lay it all out on the ice to get that “must win” — a rough & tumble 4-1 affair that saw Tuukka Rask play his most inspired netminding while not minding the fact that he was often left out to dry… especially on the B’s PP.

The series, as we all know, is now tied 2-2 and heading back to Boston where the barn will no doubt be burnin’ (proverbially speaking) after the B’s, and their social media supporters, stirred up plenty of puck-citement.

And needing now only 2-out-of-3 wins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals (with two of those games potentially coming on home ice), to match up against either the “Jerks” from Hartford, North Carolina or the Tavares-less Islanders from Brooklyn is it?, the Bruins find themselves in an enviable playoff position. After all, no one expected this series to be happening (Tampa’s bolt from the 1st round was indeed an eye-bulging surprise) nor the Caps & Pens to no longer be competing. The same can be said for the match-ups out West. Truly, there is no better opportunity for the B’s to gas up the engines and make a serious drive to the Stanley Cup Finals.

As most who follow the game recognize, the road to hoisting Lord Stanley’s coveted cup is the longest, bumpiest and at times most dangerous in all of professional sports. The B’s have overcame a mountain of impediments this season — injuries & aging among the most aggravating. Yet, here they are… poised for a run at a championship despite all of the above. And with a path to “the Cup” more passable (and attainable) than any recent playoff setup.

There’s another golden Goldeneye nugget that will behoove the Black N’ Gold:

“…how it feels to get so close and be denied.”

All of those valuable veterans who are fighting for each other (and perhaps even Father Time as well) know this feeling. And outside of the momentous Cup run that was 2011, they know it all too well. So, why not make the most of what’s in front of them? Why not realize there may be no better time than NOW to bring yet another championship back to Boston?

Image result for bruins win(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

Well, with age there also comes wisdom. And the B’s would certainly be wise to take advantage of where they are and where they want to go before this season ends.

Something’s Gotta Give: Pastrnak Bumped To Third Line

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photo credit: USA Today sports

By: Mandi Mahoney | Check me out on twitter @phoneymahoney

Bruce Cassidy needs to get his team going in order to prevent having their backs against the wall as they did for two games straight in the first round versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yesterday, the Bruins tweeted their practice lines, and to the surprise (and even dismay) of many, right wing David Pastrnak was playing on the third line alongside trade deadline acquisitions Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. Pastrnak’s playoff stats may not quite show it, but anyone who has watched even a period of Boston Bruins hockey this postseason can tell as plain as day that Pastrnak is seriously struggling to play at the level we are all used to seeing from him.

Since the beginning of the playoffs, Pastrnak has been turning the puck over constantly, taking weak shots, and totally missing the mark when passing. Even worse, he has passed the puck instead of taking shots on many scoring opportunities While this has been a problem through the Bruins’ top six, Pastrnak has looked to be struggling more than most.  In fact, his travails have led many people to assume he is concealing some sort of upper body injury, as his skating appears to be fine. This gluten-free Pasta is not getting it done, and the Bruins’ coaching staff must address the issues with his game.

Pastrnak has notched three goals and assisted on four for a total of seven points in nine playoff games. That’s a respectable number, but it’s not what the team or its fans have come to expect from Pasta. Typically, when the Bruins need a big goal, Head Coach Bruins Cassidy can put his top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Pastrnak on the ice and have a reasonably good chance to get the goal he needs out of them. The problem this postseason is that all three of them are struggling, and it’s been brutal to watch.

With Pastrnak skating on the third line instead of the first, two-way wing Danton Heinen will be skating in his place with Bergeron and Marchand. Some fans are wondering what playing on the third line will do for a guy who is having trouble finding his game, and the answer typically is that it will get him back to basics and help him simplify his game. If a scorer is having trouble putting the biscuit in the basket, then he needs to at least be playing strongly otherwise, and at the moment, Pastrnak is not. Playing with Coyle and Johansson will likely give Pastrnak a chance to do so.

This should not be looked at as a punishment in any way — coaches need to move players around the lineup when things aren’t working — and the top line isn’t working right now, so here we are. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got, right? As a fan base, we cannot complain about a coach’s unwillingness to change his lineup or move players from line to line (this was a gripe often heard about former Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien), and then complain about where those players end up at the same time. That’s a total double standard, so let’s give this a chance.

Another thing to consider here is that if Pastrnak plays on the third line and things aren’t clicking, Cassidy can always move him back to skate alongside one of the centers he’s used to, whether that center be Patrice Bergeron, or David Krejci. This is not permanent, nor is it a punishment. Cassidy has to make changes to his lines, or he’s cutting off his nose to spite his face. He cannot worry about players’ and fans’ feelings during a playoff run. Furthermore, Pastrnak will still be playing on the power play (and scored during a power play drill in practice), so the Bruins are still going to rely on him offensively. Third line duty will hopefully help him get his groove back, though.

Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson will likely benefit from having such a speedy, skilled wing on their line, as well. With Coyle’s defensively responsible grinding game, and Johansson’s silky-soft hands, putting the three together could turn out to be a match made in heaven. It will also make the lineup deeper and give the Bruins a more balanced attack, especially since that leaves energetic rookie Karson Kuhlman playing right wing on the second line, with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, who are not producing to their standards lately, either.

If the Bruins come out of the tunnel flying like they didn’t during game one, and Pastrnak can settle his nerves a bit and get back to basics, the Bruins can absolutely win game three against the Blue Jackets in hostile territory… even if there’s a cannon involved. Of course, if the Bruins don’t want to hear the cannon, they could always shut Columbus out. Hopefully these line changes help the offense get moving again tonight.

Round 2 | Game Two: Boston Bruins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

photo credit: USA Today Images

By: Mandi Mahoney | Check me out on twitter @phoneymahoney

The Bruins came out flying against Columbus, notching a 3-2 in overtime during game 1. They played like the Bruins team we had been waiting for, and never saw, during the first round series against Toronto. Goaltender Tuukka Rask was fantastic, and was only beaten by two total fluke goals: one that was deflected so many times that it was reminiscent of Larry Bird playing Michael Jordan for his Big Mac in the classic McDonald’s commercial, and one that hit the twin after deflecting off Pierre-Luc Dubois’ gluteus maximus.

It was the epitome of a playoff game and the atmosphere in the Garden was intense; the place was absolutely rocking. The Bruins came to play, and while the Blue Jackets didn’t make their best showing of the season, they were still a very worthy opponent. If Boston thinks this series is going to be a cakewalk, they are sorely mistaken. Columbus has some elite talent and those players won’t be silent for long. It should not be forgotten that this is the team that swept the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Speaking of silence, the chirping has already begun:

Pre-Game And Series Notes

Where / when: TD Garden, Boston, at 8:00PM.

The series: Bruins lead series 1-0

Last game: Boston, 3-2 OT

Scoring Leaders:

BOS: Brad Marchand, 9 points; Charlie Coyle, 5 goals

CBJ: Matt Duchene, 7 points, 3 goals

Goaltenders:

BOS: Tuukka Rask, 5-3, .927 save percentage, 2.25 goals against average

CBJ: Sergei Bobrovsky, 4-1, .929 save percentage, 2.17 goals against average

Lineups:

The Bruins’ lineup will likely include the usual suspects, as David Krejci was on the ice during the morning skate. Krejci may be deferring to playoff hero Charlie Coyle during power play faceoffs as he sustained some sort of upper body injury when former Bruin and Blue Jackets fourth liner Riley Nash checked him during game 1.

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Danton Heinen

Marcus Johansson – Charlie Coyle – Chris Wagner

Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton

Tuukka Rask

BOS INJURIES: Kevan Miller (lower body), John Moore (upper body)

Columbus is likely to roll the following lines – though deadline acquisition Ryan Dzingel appears to be questionable for tonight. According to the Blue Jackets’ Instagram, he will be in the lineup this evening. If he isn’t, expect to see Alexander Wennberg instead. We’ll see what happens there.

Artemi Panarin – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Oliver Bjorkstrand

Ryan Dzingel – Matt Duchene – Cam Atkinson

Alexander Texier – Nick Foligno – Josh Anderson

Riley Nash – Boone Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky

Zach Werenski – Seth Jones

Dean Kukan – David Savard

Adam Clendening – Scott Harrington

Sergei Bobrovsky

CBJ INJURIES: Ryan Murray (upper body), Adam McQuaid (head), Markus Nuttivaara (upper body), Vladislav Gavrikov (immigration issue)

photo credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Keys To The Game

If the Bruins want to come out on top, they’re going to need to continue to create traffic in front of Bobrovsky and put as many pucks on net as possible in order to create rebounds. They cannot let themselves be pushed to the perimeter, and they must bring their physical game. The Blue Jackets have a little bit of everything in their lineup, and the Bruins will need to be ready for it. Speed and physicality are going to be big factors throughout the series.

Boston hasn’t had much rest since their first round series went to seven games, and the Blue Jackets should be fairly refreshed, having enjoyed nine days off after vanquishing the Lightning in a quick four games. Hopefully the Jackets are a little bit demoralized after their rusty showing on Thursday (don’t bet on it), and the Bruins can continue to capitalize on the momentum they’ve built over their last three games. The only thing anyone knows about this series is that it’s going to be a lot of fun. With any luck, we will enjoy the result as much as we’re enjoying the journey.

Seven Key Bruins Who Need To Perform In Game Seven

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photo credit: Matthew J. Lee / Boston Globe staff

By: Mandi Mahoney | Check me out on twitter @phoneymahoney

For the third time in seven seasons, the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will be facing off in a seven game playoff series. The Bruins made a legendary comeback to win in 2013, and won again in 2018. Should the following players keep their heads in the game and perform to their capabilities, there is no reason the Bruins can’t advance to the second round again.

Tuukka Rask

Always a controversial topic among Bruins fans, Rask has had a whirlwind season. Things started off ugly with a blowout loss to the Washington Capitals, then there was a short leave of absence, followed by some streaky play. All in all, the Finnish goaltender has been solid, but not world class, this season, putting up a 2.48 goals against average, and a save percentage of .912. He was very good in game 5, but the rest of the team wasn’t, so the Leafs were able to take the series lead. His performance on Easter Sunday was masterful, and the Bruins went on to force game 7 by nothing a 4-2 win.

The Bruins will need another great performance out of Rask, as nothing takes the wind out of their sails like a bad goal can. Obviously the team defense has allowed Rask to be tested far more than he should be, but the Finnish netminder is going to have to overcome his skaters’ shortcomings if the Bruins are going to advance to the Conference Semifinals. It’s certainly not encouraging when the team is giving up breakaways to a star studded roster of forwards on the regular, but these goals need to be prevented nonetheless. However frustrating it may be, Rask has got to keep his head in the game, as he has for the last two games.

Torey Krug

Torey Krug is another player some Bruins fans love to hate. Sometimes their annoyance is understandable, especially during the last six games, as the puck has jumped over his stick at the blueline multiple times this series, causing a breakaway for the Leafs, or at the very least, squandering an offensive opportunity for the Bruins. Krug, however, is a double-edged sword: the Bruins employ a high-risk, high-reward strategy during the power play, and Krug is a vital piece when they’re on the man advantage. The Bruins also have trouble breaking out of their own zone cleanly when he’s not on the ice, so while he may leave something to be desired defensively, he is indispensable to this Bruins team.

If the Black and Gold want to be successful in game 7, Torey Krug will have to keep his nerves in check, and will have to try and avoid the blue line mishaps that have been his calling card lately. At the very least, he’s going to have to do what he does best: make up for his defensive gaffes by scoring or setting up goals. His offensive talent is fantastic, and he’s going to have to bring it tonight for the Bruins to get the win.

Brandon Carlo

As Torey Krug’s defensive partner, Brandon Carlo will naturally be responsible for a lot defensively. No good offensive defenseman can do what he does without a good shutdown partner, and Carlo is exactly that. Brandon Carlo has played very well in this, his maiden playoff voyage, and he’s going to need to be aggressive and keep his head in the game tonight. Toronto’s top two forward lines are no joke, and they’ve been jumping on breakaway chances repeatedly during this series. Carlo is going to have to do his best to keep the door to the crease closed tonight.

David Krejci

Having led the NHL in postseason scoring twice before, the Bruins’ second line center is known to have a lycanthropic streak, where he turns into am absolute beast once the postseason begins. Krejci Beast Mode is here again in 2019, and it needs to make its presence known in game 7. At this point, Krejci has scored 2 goals and assisted on two more in six playoff games. Four points doesn’t sound like much, but Krejci brings more than points to the table. He’s been playing the body all series, hitting anyone and everyone he can. The Czech center can also play well without the puck, so the Bruins are able to rely upon him a bit defensively, as well.

Ideally, Krejci will be centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak tonight. The combination of Pastrnak’s speed and shot combined with DeBrusk’s straight-line speed and love for crashing the net match perfectly with Krejci’s bizarre ability to slow the game down and allow his teammates to get to where they need to be before making the magic happen. If Krejci continues to play like a man possessed and he’s skating with DeBrusk and Pastrnak, good things will happen for the Bruins’ offense. Like they say, as David Krejci goes, so go the Bruins.

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photo credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

Jake DeBrusk

Jake DeBrusk is all heart, and is exactly the kind of player you want on your roster for games like this. He emits this “young Mark Recchi” aura, and it is wonderful. His going head-to-head with Nazem Kadri and causing him to be suspended for most of the series was entertaining, and actually pretty important. DeBrusk has only scored one goal and assisted on another in the six games he’s played in this series, though, and that will have to change if they’re going to make a run of this.

Playing alongside the Czech Davids is both a gift and a responsibility. DeBrusk has earned his ice time for sure, but he’s going to have to produce if he wants to keep it. DeBrusk will need to do what he’s best at – winning puck battles and crashing the net. If he continues to move his feet and fight for his ice like he did against Kadri, the goals will come.

David Pastrnak

In the first six games of this series, David Pastrnak has scored two goals, and has notched four assists. He hasn’t looked like his usual self through much of it, though — he’s tried to get cute and make the extra pass instead of shooting a few too many times this series — Pastrnak will need to get away from that and play his usual game. Pasta cannot let Toronto’s defense out-muscle him and force him to the boards. He will need to fight for the middle of the ice and put as much on net as possible. Krejci will undoubtedly be feeding him passes for one-timer opportunities, and DeBrusk will be in the crease to hit any rebounds home. If Pastrnak is able to put up with Toronto’s physical game and get as many pucks on net as possible, it should pay off.

Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron is the heart and soul of this Bruins team. He is far and away Boston’s best player. Bergeron is a gamer and will likely have a big game 7, as he typically does, and the Bruins need it, badly. Bergeron is their go-to when it comes to must-win faceoffs, and his line is typically the one Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy turns to when a big goal is needed. It is rare that Bergeron has consecutive bad or no-show games, but he has looked a little bit off this series.

Bergeron being engaged, healthy, and allowed to take important faceoffs (instead of being kicked out, as NHL linesmen seem to love doing to Bergy) are paramount to this Bruins’ team success. If Bergeron can play his game and not be neutralized by the Leafs, the Bruins will have a much better chance at a successful game 7. He and Brad Marchand, like David Pastrnak, need to put pucks on net rather than making the extra pass. Andersen needs to see as much traffic and as many shots and possible if the Bruins want to win tonight. Pray to the Hockey Gods that Bergeron comes up big tonight.