Predicting The Future Performance Of The Bruins’ Next Core

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @LeonLifschutz

Introduction

Welcome back for Part Three of our series predicting the performance of the Bruins’ core players. In Part One we examined aging curves and decided on who made up the Bruins’ veteran and young cores. In Part Two we analyzed the past performances and trends of the Bruins’ veterans in order to predict what the future might hold for each player and the group as a whole. In Part Three we will take a look at the players the Bruins organization hope will make up their next wave of key players. These are players already making an impact on the team. The organization can only hope that their trajectory and longevity mimics that of the current veteran core. We will again use the same formula as laid it in Part One to examine player’s past performance and current career trajectories. We will then try and make some assessments. We will ponder if the young core is capable of helping the veteran core achieve greatness one last time. With some recent trade rumors in the air, especially in such an uncertain world, it will also be worth considering if this is a group capable of taking the proverbial torch and leading the Bruins’ franchise to success in the years to come.

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David Pastrnak

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Contract: $6,666,666 AAV through 2022-23

What we learned: Pastrnak grades out as one of the best players in the league and that was recently recognized in the form of Hart Trophy votes. As a teenager in a limited role, he showed he belonged in the NHL. Once he turned 20 and saw his responsibility increase, he blossomed. Over the course of his career his efficiency has continued to improve. He has driven play and generated opportunities consistently since that 20 year old season but he has become more lethal. His shooting percentage has increased year over year as does his ability to make dangerous plays.

Outlook: Entering his 24 year old season Pasta should be able to maintain his level of play for the foreseeable future. While aging curves suggest he has another year to get better, he already was the leagues co-best goal scorer this year. Even if Pastrnak’s shooting percentage regresses a bit he is still a threat to score 40 goals every season for a number of years. It is also evident he makes players around him better evidenced by the increased output from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand over the last few years. While not known for his defense, Pasta is capable in his own end. Pastrnak is a player you can build a team around. Barring any major injuries or issues Pasta is the future of the Bruin’s core.

Charlie Coyle

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Contract: $5,250,000 AAV through 2025-2026

What we learned: Coyle is the oldest of the young core. By hockey standards he is no longer young and coupled with his years of service in the NHL can be considered grizzled vet. Coyle’s trends have a little bit of noise to them. The first noisy piece is a decline in his mid 20s due to a diminished role towards the tail end of his time with the Minnesota Wild. Second, a tough start to his Bruins’ career after a late season trade over a small sample messes with the visual and trendlines. Having said that, he is most recent season’s numbers are on par with his performance earlier in his career. Coyle is done developing at least from an offensive standpoint as he approaches his mid 20s. He is also signed to a very long term contract.

Outlook: Coyle’s play this past year is pretty much career average and probably a clear indicator of who he was and is as a player. He is a bit of a swiss army knife under head coach Bruce Cassidy playing up and down the lineup as needed. In general, he is a solid middle-6 forward ideally suited for 3C, a slot he can really impact the game. At 28, Coyle will not see a spike in offense. However as a trusted player in Cassidy’s lineup, 15 goals and 40 points seems reasonable for the next couple of seasons. In the short term he provides great depth and can step up in the lineup when needed. If David Krejci moves on he can move up to 2C though he is better suited for the third unit. He also seems a quality professional with some leadership ability. However, as he enters his 30s Bs fans may end up regretting the length of his contract.

Jake Debrusk

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Contract: Restricted Free Agent

What we learned: Debrusk burst onto the scene three seasons ago and had instant chemistry with David Krejci. He increased his goal scoring output in his sophomore year largely on the back of a high shooting percentage. In year three his goals and points declined a bit as his shooting percentage regressed and the early career chemistry with Krejci faded. Throughout his young career Debrusk has been a bit on the streaky side. In other words, a little inconsistent. Debrusk has had a small but steady uptick in individual expected goals though that has not really translated into an increase in points.

Outlook: Debrusk is at a make or break point in his career. He has been given every chance to succeed with the Bruins playing on their second line, receiving favorable offensive zone starts, and getting time with the first and second powerplay units. Entering his 24 year old season, Debrusk must prove he is more than a middle-6 complimentary player. In all likelihood though Debrusk is what he is, a 20 goal, 45-50 point player. That is by no means bad but you always get the feeling Debrusk has the potential to be more.

Charlie McAvoy

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Contract: $4,900,000 AAV through 2021-22

What we learned: McAvoy has quickly become the Bruins top defender. The chart doesn’t show his increase in ice time or the difficulty of the competition he plays against night in and night out. He has done so the last couple of years with an aging Zdeno Chara (or occasionally the undrafted Matt Grzelcyk) and still managed to post positive numbers. The NHL media recognized McAvoy’s play recently in the form of votes for this season’s Norris Trophy. McAvoy’s offensive production though has not ascended to the level of other elite two-way defensemen. His numbers are stagnant partially because of a decrease in powerplay time after his first season. His percentages have also decreased despite generating more shots and individual expected goals.

Outlook: McAvoy is no doubt a number one defenseman currently playing on a bargain contract. Just turning 23, he also has a little time to round out his game. If McAvoy can add a little more quality to his offensive chances and get a little more opportunity on the power play he has the potential to enter the upper echelons of NHL defensemen and be part of Norris conversations for years to come. The Long Beach, NY native also showed some durability in 2019-20 after dealing with injuries and time missed in his first couple of seasons. If McAvoy stays healthy and can bump up his offense a touch he should be able to shutdown top lines and produce 40-50 points a season for the foreseeable future.

Brandon Carlo

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Contract: $2,850,000 AAV through 2020-21

What we learned: Carlo will never be known for his offense though he has shown some improvement in that area in his young professional career. Strong numbers his rookie year are the result of unsustainable percentages but his underlying offensive numbers have improved. The Bruins don’t need Carlo to develop into an offensive juggernaut. They need him to be a stopper, a guy that plays hard minutes against top-6 forwards and locks it down on the penalty kill. Carlo is an able penalty killer. His 5v5 possession numbers though regressed alongside Torey Krug this past season. Is this past season an outlier or is tough competition a little too much for Carlo to handle?

Outlook: Carlo is a big man and sometimes it takes players with larger frames a little more time to fill out and find their way. Entering his 24 year old season, and a contract year, it will be imperative for Carlo to figure things out. A little more offense would be nice but in particular he needs to show that the Bruins can drive possession while he is on the ice even against tougher competition. 20 Points isn’t unreasonable to expect from Carlo over the next few years. In all likelihood he will have a new partner next year as well which could help or hurt Carlo in the long-term. This year will either solidify Carlo as a reliable top-4 defender or make him expendable as a depth defender. Carlo’s history, coupled with just a little more development, suggest he can be the former.

Summing Up The Young Core

The Bruins have a current superstar in David Pastrnak and a budding star in Charlie McAvoy. Both have the potential to get even a little better and should be top players in the league for a number of years. Charlie Coyle will not carry a team but is an important player who can be relied upon in all situations, move up and down the lineup, and provide secondary scoring. Coyle should be able to provide that for at least the first half of his contract.

Jake Debrusk and Brandon Carlo are at career crossroads. Both turning 24, they must prove they are more than complimentary pieces and are integral to the team. Both have recently been linked to trade rumors suggesting the Bruins are questioning whether they are part of the organization’s long term plans or the time is right to sell high on their potential. In all likelihood, both can be useful players but are best suited to the middle of the lineup on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it all the way through our three part series, first of all thanks for reading! In Part Two of our series we surmised the Bruins veteran core is likely on it’s last year as a group with potentially three of the five players moving on in 2021. At minimum, only Bergeron and Marchand are likely to continue in their current roles beyond next season. When looking at our young core there are two star players in Pastrnak and McAvoy. Coyle is a very reliable veteran. All three can likely fill the void if the Krejci and Chara move move on or continue to decline. However, to be a true Stanley Cup team the Bruins will need a couple more pieces. This upcoming season will indicate if Carlo and Debrusk can reach their potential and prove they should be long term parts of the team’s core. Otherwise, the Bs will need youngsters like Jack Studnicka or others to show they can be the part of the future core or look towards trades and free agency. The Bruins will also need to find a replacement in net for Rask either at the end of this current contract or as his play declines in the coming years.

There is much lineup uncertainty beyond this year. The Bruins must assess which veterans to move on from and which young players can fill the void when they do. By 2021-22 the Bruins will have a new core but have some key pieces that could sustain success moving forward if surrounded by the right pieces. Having said that, the 2020-21 season should be win at all costs mode for the Bs with much up in the air in the very near future.

All data courtesy of Naturalstattrick, Hockey-Reference, and Puckpedia

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Zdeno Chara “Made For This” Bruins Docuseries Debuts!

(Photo Credit: NHLonNBCSports)

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

It feels like we’ve “seen it all” these past few seasons from the Boston Bruins. Heart-pounding games. Heart-breaking losses. Memorable moments. Forgettable flops. Truly, everything from A – Z!

Well, when it comes to the letter of a specific B’s sweater, one Black N’ Gold Captain can now share how he’s truly made for this… for the team, the town, the sport and perhaps even one more go-around at The Cup.

NBCSN debuted a brand new docuseries on beloved Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara entitled Z: Made For This. And to say it’s been a career in the making would be an understatement. More like a lifetime.

From the official press release:

Zdeno Chara: Made For This, a four-episode docuseries celebrating the historic career of Boston Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara and detailing his first-person account of childhood, family and on-ice leadership as a member of the Boston Bruins for the past nearly year-and-a-half, will premiere tonight at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, leading into the 2020 NHL Awards presented by Las Vegas program. An encore presentation of the episode will air following NHL Overtime at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Zdeno Chara: Made For This, produced by Shadow Lion, chronicles Chara’s journey to NHL stardom and followed “Big Z” throughout the teams run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, the offseason, as well as the 2019-20 regular and postseason, which has been a season unlike any other, with the NHL’s 142-day pause in play due to COVID-19.

The first episode features interviews with Bruins teammates Patrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak and Brad Marchand as they battle against the St. Louis Blues to a Game 7 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, but also touch on the passion and leadership of Chara on and off the ice.

A trailer for Zdeno Chara: Made For This can be viewed here.

Throughout the series, a number of Bruins teammates, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Chara’s family members are interviewed, who touch on the character of the Bruins captain throughout Boston and his native Slovakia.

The second episode will premiere on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, leading into a one-hour edition of NHL Live that begins pre-game coverage of Game 3 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Air dates for episodes three and four of Zdeno Chara: Made For This will be announced in the near future.

As the release notes, Part Two (in what will undoubtedly “B” an epic series) premieres before the start of game three of the Stanley Cup Finals this week. Future episode air-dates will be released at a later date. That certainly sounds like date-night viewing, in my humble hockey opinion!

Here’s to “Big Z”. Hopefully, unlike the eponymous alphabetical letter of the D-man-led docuseries, this won’t be the last time we get to see him in a Bruins jersey.

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Looking Back At The 2014 NHL Draft

( Photo Crediut: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )

By: Joey Partridge | Follow Me On Twitter @joey_partridge

When it comes to drafting, it can be very hit or miss in the National Hockey League. Scouts and general managers do extensive scouting and research on players that they feel can make an impact on their club in the near future.

When we as Bruins fans mention a draft a few years back, everyone points to the 2015 draft and how much of a “failure” that was. I personally believe it is still too early to call that a failure as Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Zboril still has the skill and have made impacts in Providence. However, it is a tough pill to swallow watching guys like Matt Barzal, Travis Konecny, and Kyle Connor making considerable contributions to their respective teams.

The reason I want to take a look back at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft is that the Bruins had a sneaky good draft for what was considered a “weaker” draft. Let’s look at the first round in general first. The first round produced only four all-stars to this point. The 2015 first-round had TEN all-stars to this point. So it is safe to say that 2014 was on the weaker end.

With the Bruin’s first-round pick, they took none other than David Pastrnak, and I can speak for everyone in saying that this pick turned out pretty good. He is arguably the best player in this draft, competing with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl for that honor.

( Photo Credit: John Tlumacki / Globe Staff Sports )

So yes, the Bruins stole a great player with pick number 25 in the first round, but they didn’t just stop there. In the second round, they drafted Ryan Donato, who made some contributions for the Bruins and got traded with a fifth-round pick for Charlie Coyle. I would be confident in saying that it is another successful pick.

Even in the later rounds, they found players who have made contributions in the NHL when even some of the first-round picks like Michael Dal Colle, Conner Bleackley, Nikita Scherbak, etc. have failed to make meaningful contributions in the big leagues. The Bruins selected Danton Heinen with their fourth-round pick and Anders Bjork with their fifth-round pick. They selected Emil Johansson with their seventh-round pick, and he has yet to make an NHL start. The Bruins also didn’t have a third and sixth-round pick.

( Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports )

All in all, they had a great draft. Four out of their five draft picks made NHL appearances for the Boston Bruins. David Pastrnak is a superstar, and there is no other way to say it. They nailed the first-round pick. They now have Charlie Coyle from Ryan Donato, and that is continuing to work well. Danton Heinen was a great two-way player for the Bruins until he was traded to Anaheim for Nick Ritchie. As far as the draft is concerned, that is a great pick. Anders Bjork is still with the Bruins, and even though he has yet to find his offensive game consistently, he is a great two-way player with great skill. As far as I am concerned, that is a fantastic fifth-round pick.

So while people can look so negatively on the 2015 draft, I like to look at the positives and say they had a stellar draft the year before. Can you imagine the Bruins without David Pastrnak? I sure can’t.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 195 that we recorded below on 9-21-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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Three Bruins Win NHL All-Star Honors

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By: Andrew Taverna | Follow me on Twitter @andrewtaverna

With the NHL Awards in the books this year, three Bruins have been given the NHL All-Star honor. David Pastrnak won first-team honors while fellow teammates Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask both received second-team honors. These awards mark the end of a relatively successful award season for the Bruins, with Cassidy winning the Jack Adams and the Rask/Halak net-minder combo winning the Jennings Award.

David Pastrnak – First-Team

David Pastrnak won first-team honors for the first time in his NHL career. He is only the second Boston Bruins right-wing in team history to win this award and joins the elite Ken Hodge, who received the honors during the 1970-1971 season and the 1973-1974 season.

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The 24-year old who earlier this offseason co-won the Rocket Richard Trophy with Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for leading the NHL in goals scored with 48, had a stunning regular season. In addition to his 48 goals, he had 47 assists totaling 95 points in a shortened 70-game campaign.

Brad Marchand – Second-Team

For the third time in his career, Brad Marchand won the All-Star honor, and the second time in his career, he has won the second-team honor.

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Named to the first-team in the 2016-2017 season and the second-team in the 2018-2019 season, his third win comes this season. Leading the team with 59 assists and contributing 28 goals, Marchand certainly provided plenty of upside to the Bruins offense this year with 87 points. Marchand also provided solid defensive play leading him to place 9th in voting for both the Selke Award and the Hart Trophy.

Tuukka Rask – Second-Team

Tuukka Rask has won his second All-Star honor. His first coming in the 2013-2014 season when he made the first-team All-Star. Rask played in 41 regular-season games during the 2019-2020 season with a record of 26-8-6. He finished the season with a .929 save percentage and a 2.12 goals-against average. The Bruins finished the season with the highest number of points, and Rask personally had the best goals-against average, making him a strong choice to win the award. As mentioned previously, in addition to winning his second-team All-Star vote, Rask and Halak won the William M. Jennings Trophy earlier this month for “having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.”

(Video Credit: BNG Hockey)

With all of Rask’s success this year, his win is another highlight in what has been an outstanding career. With a career .922 save percentage, Rask holds third place on the all-time career save percentage list. The only two goalkeepers ahead of Rask since shots have been recorded in the NHL are all-time greats Dominik Hasek and Johnny Bower.

There’s reason to believe that this team will continue to win for years to come, but with the core getting older and what is likely to be a wild offseason, it’s good to see the Bruins get recognized for their individual contributions to the team and the NHL as a whole.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 195 that we recorded below on 9-21-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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The Bottom Six For The Boston Bruins Needs To Be Top Notch

( Photo Credit: Charles Krupa / The Associated Press )

By: Matt Barry | Follow me on Twitter @oobcards

For the Boston Bruins to compete for another Stanley Cup, their offensive production will have to improve from all four lines, particularly in even-strength situations. The talk has mostly been about adding a capable scoring threat at right-wing for the second line with center David Krejci. This is a significant need along with a left-shot defenseman to potentially replace Torey Krug, who may not re-sign with Boston. However, the Bruins also need more production from the bottom two lines and will need to solidify who will play regularly in those roles.

A big question mark that needs to be answered entering into next season is whether young players such as Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman, and Jack Studnicka can progress into productive NHL players. The hope is that Studnicka can be the spark the second line needs and use his talents to become the next Bruins star. He might even be a fit on the top line with David Pastrnak moving down to play with Krejci. Kuhlman is a restricted free agent who has shown great speed and a decent skill set but needs to be more consistent to remain in the lineup. However, general manager Don Sweeney has to decide if Kuhlman’s potential is worthy of a contract. The feeling is that Bjork will get a long look as a third-line winger with Charlie Coyle at center.

If the makeup of the roster does not significantly change and management believes that holes can be filled with in-house prospects, then this is what I would like to see for line rushes as the 2020-21 season begins in December or early January:

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jack Studnicka
Jake DeBrusk (if re-signed)-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork-Charlie Coyle-Ondrej Kase
Trent Frederic-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner

Ondrej Kase was a midseason addition who did not produce as much as the team had hoped and then missed some time when the group entered the bubble. He never seemed to get himself into a rhythm, and his point production suffered. I think he may be better suited for the third line with Coyle as both players have had good puck possession numbers.

The fourth line is very intriguing and could be a real strength for Bruce Cassidy’s team. Wagner and Kuraly have both shown an excellent ability to hunt pucks and provide some offense while in the lineup. The addition of Frederic could ultimately complement them well. The former University of Wisconsin star has shown promise at the American Hockey League level with Providence. He is a grinding player who can play center and wing and has a feisty side which the Bruins would welcome on their roster. Frederic would replace unrestricted free agent Joakim Nordstrom, who will more than likely sign elsewhere. Par Lindholm is also in the mix with one year remaining on his deal. The time is now to see what the Bruins have in Frederic.

With all of the uncertainty facing the Bruins this offseason, the team may be in an excellent position to roll out two good bottom-six lines to begin next season. This will be paramount in terms of competing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who made significant changes to their bottom-six this past season. With talk that the Bruins may not spend to the cap limit going into the upcoming campaign, the organization’s player development program will be on full display in 2020-21 and could be the reason the window stays open one more season for the Boston Bruins.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 195 that we recorded below on 9-21-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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Is Pasta a 2nd Line Dish That Could Be Served For The Bruins In 2020/21?

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by Matt Barry | Follow me on Twitter @oobcards

When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, production was coming from all four lines. Even in 2019, the additions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson provided depth and solid 5 on 5 play from the third line. But the second line has provided inconsistent play and was a detriment to Bruce Cassidy’s team in the second round against a deeper Tampa Bay Lightning team this past season. A major offseason focus should be to finally get David Krejci a legitimate scorer on the right-wing. Could it be that the answer is already on the roster?

The “Perfection Line” of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak is widely considered one of the top lines in the National Hockey League. In recent seasons, the trio has dominated 5-on-5 play and had been a threat to score nearly every shift. However, this past season, the Bruins production numbers at even strength dipped which included their top line. The Bruins scored just five even-strength goals in their five-game series with Tampa Bay. The power play was excellent all season, but even-strength play will need to improve for the Black and Gold to get back to contending for a Stanley Cup.

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General manager Don Sweeney will certainly attempt to address this need in the offseason. The Bruins could look outside of the organization to fill the second line right wing hole or try to give Ondrej Kase more time to build chemistry with David Krejci. The more creative move might be to move Pastrnak, one of the top goal scorers in the league, to the second line and give Krejci his first real goal-scoring threat since Nathan Horton. If Jake DeBrusk is re-signed, Boston could have a second line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak. This would be more effective if someone like 21-year old Jack Studnicka, who showed flashes of being a top-six forward at the NHL level. The team could also deal DeBrusk and try to get a more consistent scorer who can possess the puck.

I would not advise the team to move third-line center Charlie Coyle up to the second line. Coyle has been terrific on the third line with his size and physicality. Ideally, Anders Bjork could continue to develop with Coyle or coach Bruce Cassidy could possibly slide Kase down to third-line duty. It will be imperative for Sweeney and team President Cam Neely to create more offensive attack across all four lines. The fourth line should still have Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly providing good puck pursuit and some scoring ability. Former University of Wisconsin star Trent Frederic could slot in on that line as Joakim Nordstrom will probably not be retained. Par Lindholm has one year left on his deal, but did not provide much offensive production.

Having Pasta play with Krejci on the second line could create the offensive balance the team seeks. Much of this scenario depends on Studnicka. The thought here is that the team gives Studnicka a long, hard look on the first line. If it works out, it could provide a much better result than the team could find elsewhere, and at a much cheaper cost. If not, the Bruins will need to use money and, possibly, resources to find a linemate for Krejci.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Potential Boston Bruins X Factor?

( Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )

By: Joey Partridge | Follow Me On Twitter @joey_partridge

All over social media, you’ll find rumors circulating around the Boston Bruins. Within the Boston media, this tends to happen. You’ll hear the Bruins are chasing this player or have expressed interest in this player. There will almost certainly be changes coming to the roster for the 2020-2021 season, but what if I said that a player that can make a huge impact is right under our noses?

By now, every Bruins fan knows who Jack Studnicka is. Studnicka was drafted in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in the 2nd round after the Bruins took Urho Vaakanianen with their first-round pick. Studnicka has been impressive ever since. In his first season after being drafted, he put up 72 points in 66 games as the Oshawa Generals captain in the Ontario Hockey League. After Oshawa was eliminated, he got a taste of the American Hockey League, putting up five points in five games with the Providence Bruins.

Jack Studnicka Oshawa Generals
( Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images )

It was at this point where Studnicka started to make some noise about competing for a roster spot. The problem, and it’s a great problem to have, is that the Bruins have a decent amount of depth, so it was challenging for Studnicka to crack the NHL roster at 19 years old.

He ended up getting sent back to juniors and didn’t miss a beat. He put up 83 points in 60 regular-season games between the Oshawa Generals and Niagara Ice Dogs. He even added a gold medal to his trophy case, winning the World Junior Championship with Team Canada.

Entering training camp again, he showed off his confidence. “My goal every year is to play in the NHL; it’s every player’s dream. I just want to be as comfortable as possible, limit my nerves, and play well,” Studnicka said. He got looks on the top line with Pastrnak and Marchand in some preseason games. Again, the depth was too deep for Studnicka to make an immediate impact, but he took some valuable lessons. “The leadership in that room speaks for itself, the older guys are really nice and made it really easy on the rookies and draftees. Being on a line with Marchy and Pasta was really cool, they were talking and trying different plays with me,” Studnicka said. “The biggest difference I noticed is the players, the pace is higher than juniors. It’s amazing how they just keep working and play at a high level so consistently. You can’t take a stride or two off otherwise, you’ll get beat.”

( Photo Credit: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images )

He ended up going back to Providence and having a tremendous 2019-2020 season in Providence leading the team with 23 goals and 49 points in 60 games. He played well enough to make his NHL debut and even added an assist in his two games in the big leagues. He even impressed so much in the bubble that he got into some playoff action.

Here is where I and every Bruins fan should get excited. The kid has raw talent that you just can’t teach. He kept up and even looked good in his NHL games. Keep in mind, he is only 21 years old. I like to compare his development to that of David Pastrnak’s. In no way am I setting some unreachable limit for Studnicka because that is a pretty hefty comparison, but let’s look as how far Pastrnak has come. Pastrnak spent some time in Providence and took to the NHL being smaller and having a tough time adjusting to the NHL level. Studnicka is in that same spot right now. What happened next? Pastrnak got older, gained experience, got bigger, and bloomed into a superstar. I think this offseason will be huge for Studnicka to get stronger and really be at that prime NHL level.

( Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press )

We all know Studnicka has the skill and the heart to succeed. I had the pleasure of talking to him in his junior days, and I can tell this player is confident, loves being in the Bruins organization, and wants to succeed. I firmly believe he can be a massive asset for the Bruins next season and the years to come.

Get ready Bruins fans, the future is here.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

A By The Numbers Look At The Bruins Second Round Defeat

(Photo Credit: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me on Twitter @LeonLifschutz

Well, here we are Bruins fans, forced to jump on the bandwagon of a new team now that the Bs have been vanquished by the rival Lightning. At least there is some consolation in the fact that the Maple Leafs and Canadians have also been bounced from the bubble.

My colleague Michael Digiorgio wrote yesterday about some of the stories and moments that led to the Bruins playoff exit. The topics include lackluster efforts in the round robin and game three against the Lightning and lineup decisions by head coach Bruce Cassidy that sparked heated conversations on #BruinsTwitter. In the aftermath of Boston’s defeat, questions abound about key players, especially long time captain Zdeno Chara, not to mention the longevity of the current core. With all that in mind, let’s take a step back and look under the analytical hood to better understand what went off the rails against a talented Tampa Bay Team.

Overall Metrics

Glossary of Terms

5v5CFCACF%SCFSCASCF%xGFxGAxGF%GFGAGF%SH%SV%PDO
Series26428448.18%11613446.40%8.1610.9842.62%51426.32%4.03%89.71%0.937
Data from Natural Stat Trick

At even strength the Lightning drove play substantially throughout this series. The Bruins came out in the red in shot attempts, scoring chances, and expected goals. More importantly they lost the goals for battle by a sizable margin. As we peel back this data a couple of items emerge.

In games one through three the Lightning were head and shoulders the stronger team. The Bruins could not handle the dual threat of Tampa Bay’s ability to carry the puck in or chip and retrieve it. However, in games four and five, Boston did a much better job in the neutral zone, slowing down the attack and creating more favorable circumstances. In general, they were more patient, clogging the middle of the ice and not allowing Lightning forwards to wind up with speed. In turn, the Bruins were able to better control the play with games four and five largely a wash from an analytical standpoint and extremely close on the scoreboard.

The other key stats are shooting percentage, save percentage, and PDO (a simple combination of shooting and save percentage). PDOs typically should be around 1.00. Higher or lower numbers suggest either immense talent or a string of luck. The Bruins in the regular season exceeded 1.00 on the backs of strong goaltending and talented shooters. In this series their PDO comes in at 0.937, a scary number. Part of this has to do with the 7-1 thrashing in game three but the even worse culprit is an even strength shooting percentage of 4.03%. While some of this can be blamed on variance and luck, quite a bit of credit has to be given to Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defenders. The Lightning goaltender made some big saves and for the most part his defenders kept the Bruins from second chance opportunities.

Heat Map

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As just mentioned, the Lightning defenders had an excellent series. In an ideal world you’d love to take every shot from right on top of the spoked B logo in the diagram. The Bruins did not get many opportunities from there at all. They also had few rebound attempts when Vasilevskiy did pop pucks back out. In contrast, the Lightning were able to penetrate the Bruins defensive posture. Their forwards combined quickness and toughness to win position in the center of the ice. In turn they scored a number of goals on screens, tips, and rebounds.

Key Players

David Pastrnak2 G, 4 A, 40% xGFNikita Kucherov2 G, 5 A, 71% xGF
Patrice Bergeron0 G, 2 A, 45% xGFBrayden Point1 G, 7 A, 70% xGF
Brad Marchand4 G, 1 A, 41% xGFOndrej Palat5 G, 2 A, 73% xGF
Charlie McAvoy0 G, 0 A, 39% xGFVictor Hedman4 G, 2 A, 52% xGF
Torey Krug0 G, 3A, 46% xGFMikhail Sergachev1 G, 2 A, 63% xGF
Jaroslav Halak3.12 GAA, .896 SV%, -2 GSAAAndrei Vasilevskiy1.79 GAA, .936 SV%, +2 GSAA
Data from Natural Stat Trick

In The Athletic, Fluto Shinzawa discussed how the Lightning’s top players were outshining the Bruins’ stars prior to game five. After game five, the contrasting play remained part of the story line. Tampa Bay’s top line drove play against every matchup. Cassidy tried several options throughout the series with David Krejci getting the assignment in game five. The “perfection line” (as NBC must have trademarked by now) was less than perfect when head to head against the Lightning’s top line or future Selke trophy candidate Alex Killorn. While the Bruins stars did get on the board, it was almost exclusively on the powerplay.

The second wave of offense further differentiated the two teams. Tampa Bay received contributions from the likes of Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman. They also got big contributions from their defenders who regularly walked the blue line and found seams to the net through heavy traffic. The Bruins, other than David Krejci, got virtually no secondary offense from their forwards or their defensemen.

In the goalie duel, Vasilevskiy is the clear winner. Halak put up his best effort in the elimination game, but at the end of the day his performance was not good enough. Despite some moments of strong play, reflections on his playoff run will largely be marred by a couple major guffaws. The Big Cat in Tampa’s net inspired more confidence and made big saves when needed.

Performance By Lines and Pairs

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A key caveat of the above chart is that it includes the whole time in the bubble, round robin and all. Having said that, it still has some value in assessing the Bruins’ demise. My colleague Lydia Murray recently did a great article on reading these charts and I encourage you to read it. For now, just know the upper right is the best and upper left is fine too. Lower on the chart is not where you want to be, particularity the bottom left.

The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line still ends up in the good quadrant but did not distinguish itself as much as usual. The line of Debrusk-Krejci-Kase performed well enough in their matchups but land in the dull quadrant as they didn’t necessarily move the needle much other than a couple big games against the Hurricanes. The Bruins fourth line struggled regardless of the musical chairs of players. You’ll also notice Charlie Coyle is not on the chart. That is because he had such a revolving door of wingers that no combination had enough minutes together to qualify. Coach Cassidy’s tinkering finally seemed to land on a winning combination in the final game with Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka, but it was a little too late to make a difference in the series.

The Bruins defenders struggled. The speed and tenacity of Carolina and Tampa Bay were too much for Chara and Brandon Carlo to handle. Torey Krug was exposed in a number of tough matchups against top talent. Charlie McAvoy did his best work in limited minutes with mobile puck mover Matt Grzelcyk but otherwise was on his heels defending the other team’s best players, alongside long time partner Chara.

Special Teams

Boston: 5 out of 17; 26:33 minutes; 21 shots; 3.14 xG; 5 goals

Tampa Bay: 4 out of 20; 33:28 minutes; 28 shots; 3.35 xG; 4 goals

Special teams is where the Bruins had the marked advantage coming into the series. They have a number of dominant players on both units. In general they performed alright. With the exception of a three goal output in game three, the Lightning only scored one other goal with the man advantage despite ample opportunity. The Bruins even had a number of chances while shorthanded. Boston scored a powerplay goal in every contest. In general, that is a key ingredient for the Bruins. They keep games simple, low-event, and close before finishing teams off with their lethal power play.

However, in this series, Tampa Bay’s advantage at 5v5 was just too overwhelming and the Bruins’ time in the bubble has come to an end.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Boston vs Tampa Bay Game Five Breakdown

(Photo Credit: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Leon Lifschutz | Follow Me On Twitter @LeonLifschutz

Sadly, this was it for the Bruins. It was not for lack of trying in this one. The players on the ice pushed hard. The coaching stuff tried to get the edge juggling lines going into and throughout the game. The Bruins played perhaps their most complete game of this round against a Lightning team shorthanded after star player Nikita Kucherov left the contest. It was not to be the Bruins’ night, or their year, and Boston will now exit the bubble after an eventful but abbreviated tenure.

The Recap

The two teams played a tentative first period that ended in no goals for either squad. The second period featured each side trading markers. Ondrej Palat tipped a Kevin Shattenkirk point shot past Jaroslav Halak. Later in the period, David Pastrnak finished one from his office after a clever David Krejci feed. Midway through the third, Anthony Cirelli got just enough of a Victor Hedman point shot to fool Halak and give the Lightning the lead. With the Bruins on the ropes, Krejci again played the hero finding himself in a perfect spot to finish off a deflected Zdeno Chara shot. One overtime period would solve nothing, but in the second a Hedman shot would find it’s way through traffic and burst the Bruins’ time in the bubble.

Check out the full RECAP from my colleague Liz Rizzo.

The Story Line

Their is the story line of the game and the story line immediately after the final goal crossed the line. In the game, the Bruins played well but as Coach Cassidy summed it up in his post game remarks, “they made one more play than we did.” That is one of the many beauties of hockey. One play can have such an impact.

Immediately after the game the story line quickly shifted to the future. In particular, speculation over Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara permeated the post game virtual scrums. It is evident that Krug is well liked and, despite some polarization among the fan base, he is a key cog in the Bruins powerplay and a top-4 defender. Chara, or Big Z, showed up in Boston and success followed. Despite his diminishing play, one gets the sense his presence still counts for something to the players and organization. Krug may very well walk in free agency. Chara may very well walk off into the sunset. Other personnel decisions are coming as well but the departure of the two defenders suggests a core that is starting to reach its swan song.

The Stats

Corsi (shot attempts), Scoring Chances, and Expected Goals

5v5CFCACF%SCFSCASCF%xGFxGAxGF%
P1111739.29%71041.18%0.660.462.04%
P2251365.79%14573.68%0.640.7147.43%
P3242153.33%111052.38%0.670.5952.88%
P4161748.48%6940.00%0.330.3151.63%
P5121642.86%5838.46%0.330.6932.46%
Game888451.16%434250.59%2.632.749.27%
Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick

This was a close game. Both teams had their share of momentum at times. A chance here or a chance there would have swung the underlying numbers one direction or the other just as one shot would decide this game on the scoreboard.

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Boston did two things better tonight reflected in this visual. They kept Tampa Bay away from the mid and high slots better than in previous games though they still had trouble tying up sticks in front. They also did a much better job of getting their shots on net not only controlling the attempts but also the shot clock. Andrei Vasilevskiy played a key role in this win for the Lightning turning away a number of good Bruins’ chances.

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It’s hard to sit here and reflect on who played well and who didn’t with the season coming to an abrupt end. But we are here to breakdown the game and so we will. In doing so, it’s also worth keeping a little eye on the future.

Bruce Cassidy went back to a combination he tried out earlier in the restart flanking Charlie Coyle with Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka. The trio drove play masterfully. Bjork and Studnicka’s ability to transport the puck down the wings along with Coyle’s ability to make heady plays and control possession low could be a standout combination for next season.

Beyond the Coyle line, it was mixed bag for the forward units. Doing heavy defensive zone duty the fourth line got hemmed in though they limited the damage on the scoreboard. The top line was never really able to break free at even strength in this series to the point Cassidy flipped Pastrnak and Kase in the third and overtime periods. This strikes as drastic for a line that has spent pretty much three years straight together showing the coach’s urgency. It is concerning that in an elimination game Karson Kuhlman produced more individual expected goals at even strength than any of the top trio. Cassidy seemed to agree, and though the strategy went alright, it failed to produce the deciding goal.

David Krejci had a big game on the scoreboard and he did so taking advantage of his limited opportunities. Cassidy gave Krejci the task of shutting down the Lightning’s top line. He and his line mates did an okay job surviving extended defensive zone shifts. However they created limited offense of their own. Nonetheless, Playoff Krech was clutch again sending this one to extra time.

Zdeno Chara had arguably his best game of these playoffs. The Captain was determined and managed to make something happen on the game tying goal even if it wasn’t exactly how the play was drawn up in practice. Brandon Carlo put together another decent effort after stumbling for quite some time in the restart. His ability to grow his game further and get more consistent will be a major need going into next season. His partner Krug also seemed more himself but was again on the ice for multiple goals against.

Halak was good tonight. His numbers will not reflect the quality of the saves he made. Though he was tested less than Vasilevskiy in quantity, the quality of some of the Lightning chances made up for it. Unfortunately he was undone by the relentless traffic created by the Lightning forwards for all three goals against, the subject of our video breakdown.

The Video Breakdown

For tonight’s video breakdown we will look at the season ending goal off the stick of Victor Hedman. It’s obviously a pivotal moment but also is reflective of all three goals scored on this night and a number of others in the series. Let’s take a look.

The Bruins defensive posture on this night was good. It is clear they wanted to take away the space between the hash marks from the Lightning. We can see this in how the white jerseys are structured here, all patient and all pushing Tampa to the outside.

The Lightning though were wise. They didn’t force anything and in turn moved the puck around the perimeter to try and create the best possible shooting lane. Shattenkirk did it on the first goal and Hedman on goals two and three. What was equally important is as the Lightning D and an additional supporting forward move the puck around, the other two forwards fought for position in front and in the low and mid slot. On the first two goals, the presence in the mid slot above the Bruins defenders allowed for impressive tips by Palat and Cirelli. On the game winning goal it allowed for a game altering screen by Patrick Maroon, pretty much what he was brought in to do.

It should also be noted that Hedman’s individual skill, as the video is captioned, is a key element in getting this puck through to the net and through Halak. It was a tremendous play, from a great player, in a big moment.

Moment of the Night

Our moment of the night goes to Big Z. The future is uncertain and this could have been his walking off into the sunset moment. If so, a bittersweet moment accompanied by high praise from his coach.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Boston Bruins Eliminated With 3-2 Loss vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning odds, picks and best bets
(Photo Credits: Sportsbookwire/USA Today)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

With their backs against the walls, the Boston Bruins knew they would have to bring everything they have if they wanted a fighting chance to move on. Despite the heartbreaking loss, no one can really say the Bruins didn’t go down without a fight. In the final game of their frustrating series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston would come from behind to tie the game, pushing the match-up to two overtimes. In the end, the Lightning came out the victor.

GAME BREAKDOWN

The Boston Bruins started the first period with a better jump than the last two games. Tampa had a few early chances with a missed shot that luckily hit the post. Boston’s defense had their sticks down as they continued to stop Tampa’s offensive rush. A missed opportunity for the B’s came way from the Krejci line. The Lightning tried to answer back as they pushed the puck up the ice, however Jaroslav Halak was there for a timely save. Boston’s Charlie Coyle has a potential one-on-one but was unable to send one in back of the net past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tampa would draw the first penalty for a high stick. Zdeno Chara would get the call as both he and Nikita Kucherov fell to the ice (Chara fell while blocking a shot). The Lightning were unable to produce any shots while on the man advantage during the four-minute penalty. The B’s would also draw a penalty as Tampa was called on a hooking call. No score on either side.

END OF FIRST PERIOD: BOS-0, TBL-0

SHOT ON GOAL: BOS-8, TBL-5

With the second period underway, Boston’s Brad Marchand had a potential goal early on. The battle continued down both ends as the Lightning’s Ondrej Palat scored on a tip-in, making it 1-0. The Bruins continued to make some quick maneuvers to throw the puck in the net, but were unable to score. Nikita Kucherov was sent to the penalty box for a tripping call and the Bruins would be on the power-play. After a fake shot by David Krejci leading to a pass to David Pastrnak, the Bruins’s right winger nailed the puck past Vasilevskiy.

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There were a few close calls down the Bruins end, forcing Halak to make some acrobatic saves. Boston continued to hack pucks at Vasilevskiy. Matt Grzelcyk would get called on a two-minute hooking penalty. It would be short-lived as Yanni Gourde was called for a matching hooking penalty. Neither team was able to score on the four-on four nor the power-play.

END OF SECOND: BOS-1, TBL-1

SHOTS ON GOAL: BOS-15, TBL-8

At the start of third period, Nikita Kucherov continued to sit out for Tampa (he sat out for most of the second period). The B’s first shift showed brief urgency in their play. Karson Kuhlman had a good look but unable to get the puck up over Vasilevskiy. A scary moment involving McAvoy and Cedric Paquette resulted in the defenseman going down to the dressing room. No call was assessed for the hit that send McAvoy into the boards.

Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli would score a deflection shot, making it 2-1. Zdeno Chara found the puck, sending it directly David Krejci. Number 46 would wrist one in tying the game at 2-2. Boston drew a power-play in the last few minutes of the game as it went into overtime.

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END OF REGULATION: BOS-2, TBL-2

TOTAL SHOTS ON GOAL: BOS-35, TBL-21

Overtime opened with Boston on a man advantage as they finished off their power-play with four seconds left. The Bruins continued to lay opportunities down Tampa’s end. Feverish play seen on both sides saw Boston’s defense come up with big plays. Krejci sat in the box on a tripping penalty with nine minutes left in overtime. With a little over five minutes on the clock, Charlie Coyle had a missed opportunity that dislodged the net, causing a little scuffle in front of Tampa’s net.

Vasilevskiy was forced to make some difficult saves against Boston. Poke checks were abundant in the last few minutes of overtime.

END OF FIRST OVERTIME: BOS-2, TBL-2

SHOTS ON GOAL: BOS-11, TBL-7

With the second overtime underway, Halak had his reflexes tested as Tampa swarmed the net. Tempers flared slightly as the Lightning tried to stuff the puck under Halak. There was high intensity play from the Bruins with fourteen minutes left in the overtime. With little signs of fatigue, both teams continued to create scoring chances as both goalies made nerve-inducing saves. Unfortunately, the Lightning’s Victor Hedman would score, thus ending the game. With the win, Tampa Bay will head into the Eastern Conference Final. The Boston Bruins season would officially come to an end in the bubble.

END OF SECOND OVERTIME: BOS-2, TBL-3

TOTAL SHOTS ON GOAL: BOS-47, TBL-35

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!