Boston’s Goaltending Strategy Extending Into The Playoffs

( Photo Credit: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

 

After Tim Thomas solidified a championship-winning run for the Boston Bruins in 2011, he took a longer than expected sabbatical from the NHL leaving Tuukka Rask the keys to the kingdom. Rask has been the Bruins sole beneficiary to their successful season since 2012. A recent question to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy by The Athletics’s Fluto Shinzawa has made Bruins fans wonder, how long until teams are using the same goalie tandems they’re using in the regular season in the playoffs?

Fluto Shinzawa’s question to Cassidy centered around how goalie tandems are so heavily used in the regular season, but perish in the playoffs entirely. Fluto asked if and when we will see the same regular-season timeshare used in the playoffs. “I don’t know if it will be this year. But I think eventually, if they’re structured that way during the regular season, then why would you necessarily change it in the playoffs? So I could see it happening, definitely. Absolutely,” Cassidy said during one of his pressers. For years, the NHL has relied heavily on one goaltender to carry a team throughout a playoff run. Martin Brodeur led his New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cups; two of which he had played over 70 games in the regular season.

Dominik Hasek had played in 65 games before his first cup with Detroit. Jonathan Quick led his Los Angeles Kings to two cups, playing in 69 and 49 regular-season games in their respective years. Tim Thomas played in 57 regular-season games in 2011, before hoisting the cup in June 2012. Starting goaltenders have always been expected to play most of the regular season, and continue that regularity into the playoffs. Recently, the NHL has seen goalies’ workload split almost evenly between starter and backup in the regular season. Teams have been focusing on finding reliable backups who can give rest to their star keeper. It’s only a matter of time before we see this continue into the postseason.

Andrei Vasilvesky is Tampa Bay’s young promising goaltender, who has already won the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender in the regular season) at the age of 24. He was part of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s historic run last year when Tampa roared through the entire NHL racking up 128 points. The 2018-2019 Lightning won 76% of their games, in large part due to their lethal offense and stingy defense and goaltending. Vasilevsky played in 53 games last season. The Lightning were not only heavy favorites to sweep the Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs, but was predicted to walk into the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning (and the rest of the NHL) were stunned to see the Columbus Blue Jackets sweep the series four games to none. Vasilevsky’s regular-season timeshare was questioned and many wondered if he was overused.

The 2019 Stanley Cup Final was represented by two goalies: Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington. Binnington at one time played for the Bruins’ farm system as an emergency loan before ultimately starting for the St. Louis Blues. The Blues were at the bottom of the standings by Christmas and were viewed as heading for a rebuilding year and sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. Jordan Binnington received the call-up because their current goalie, Jake Allen, sported a 2.83 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Binnington sparked a winning streak in the Blues and appeared in 32 regular-season games and eventually carried his team to the Final. Binnington’s usage during the regular season had been a unique situation, but the message stays the same: goalies who have more rest during the regular season enter the playoffs fresh. They fare extremely well the deeper the playoff run extends.

Tuukka’s situation was more common. He had never had a strong backup who could handle a larger workload. They swung and missed on numerous back-ups including Malcolm Subban, Zane McIntyre, and Nicklas Svedberg. Anton Khudobin seemed to handle the backup role quite well, but was given a two year, $5 million raise from the Dallas Stars and the Bruins were unwilling to match for a perennial backup. In the 2018 off-season Don Sweeney, current General Manager of the Boston Bruins, signed former New York Islander starter Jaroslav Halak to take on Rask’s backup duties. He was signed to a $5.5 million deal over two years, which exceeds Khudobin’s raise.

The difference here is that Halak was a long-time starter for the Canadiens, Blues, and Islanders. He had the resume that could withstand a long season with dependable starting opportunities, which is something the previous backups lacked. Halak most recently guarded the Islanders’ goal from the 2014-2017 seasons. The Islanders had a strenuous 2017-2018 season allowing the most shots on goal in the entire NHL, making Halak’s job harder than it already was. He posted a weak 2.80 goals-against average on Long Island. Halak came into Boston giving Rask something he wasn’t used to a reliable backup who can handle a substantial amount of starts appearing in 40 games in the 2018-2019 season. Halak was back to his old form in the black and gold posting a 2.34 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

 

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Halak’s reliable play put Tuukka in a fantastic situation to tend the twine deep into the playoffs. It, unfortunately, did not gain the Bruins a championship, but Rask was often the best player on the ice throughout the playoffs, which can be attributed to his regular-season rest. The closest we’ve seen to a team using a goalie tandem in the playoffs was the Pittsburgh Penguins during their historic run winning back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, Marc-Andre Fleury was one of the team’s biggest stars, which is a high accolade playing alongside Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang. Fleury played in 58 games in the regular season, with a promising young goalie prospect, Matt Murray, only providing rest for 13 games.

Jeff Zatkoff played in the remaining 11 games. Fleury, a three-time Cup winner, was injured in the second game of the playoffs, ceding the crease to Murray. Behind some impeccable offensive firepower, Murray and the Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup championship. The following season the two net-minders split time almost evenly. The Penguins gave Fleury the starting nod come playoff time. Fleury was a force in the first two playoff series, ensuring his team won both. He was eventually pulled in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals after allowing four goals on nine shots. Murray started the rest of the way, earning the franchise’s fifth championship.

The goalie tandem is not unheard of in the NHL but has not been viewed as best practice. Certain circumstances have shown that it is necessary. If a goalie in the regular season benefits from a reliable backup, what’s stopping that same philosophy in the playoffs? The Bruins are set up to be one of the best teams to test this theory, given they essentially have two starting-caliber goalies and a coach who is not afraid to play the hot hand, regardless of a player’s salary. These upcoming playoffs could come with an interesting twist if Cassidy decides that Halak and Rask can co-exist in the sport’s most crucial time of the year.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 153 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!!

Bruins Issue Update On Senyshyn, Recall Frederic

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Photo Courtesy Of Yahoo Sports

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced this morning that forward Zach Senyshyn suffered a lower body injury in the B’s game against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night and will be reevaluated in four weeks. Sweeney also announced the team has recalled forward Trent Frederic from Providence. Senyshyn has skated in four games for Boston this season, posting two assists. He’s also appeared in 12 games for Providence, recording a goal and two assists. Frederic has tallied five assists in 12 games for Providence. This will be his first appearance in Boston this season.

Frederic appeared in 15 games in Boston last year, going scoreless and making his debut on January 29th against the Winnipeg Jets. Frederic skated in 55 regular season games for Providence last year, posting 14 goals and 11 assists for 25 points. He also appeared in four playoff games, posting two assists. The St. Louis, Missouri native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the first round (29th overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

On one end this is tough news for Senyshyn who seemed to be finding his footing at the NHL level on his second career call up but it’s obviously great news for Frederic who will make his second appearance in Boston since being drafted and may make his season debut tomorrow night in Toronto. The B’s continue to have the injury bug especially in their bottom six but it’ll be interesting to see what Frederic and bring to the table. Also here’s hoping Senyshyn can return to the NHL again this season after his return from injury.

Bruins Recall Senyshyn, Place Lindholm on IR

NHL: Boston Bruins at Minnesota Wild

Photo Courtesy of NESN.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced this morning that the team has placed forward Par Lindholm on injured reserve and recalled forward Zach Senyshyn from Providence. Lindholm suffered an upper body injury during the B’s 7-4 win over the Rangers on October 27th. Lindholm has skated in seven games for Boston this season, recording a goal. Senyshyn has posted two goals and an assist in 12 games for Providence so far this season.

Senyshyn skated in two games for Boston last season, scoring his first career goal in his first game on April 4th against the Minnesota Wild. Senyshyn appeared in 66 regular season games for Providence last year, recording 14 goals and ten assists for 24 points. He also appeared in four playoff games going scoreless. The Ottawa, Ontario native was drafted by the Bruins in the first round (15th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Lindholm signed in Boston as a free agent this summer after spending time in Winnipeg and Toronto. The Kusmark, Sweden native was originally signed by the Leafs as a free agent in May 2018.

This is Senyshyn’s second recall of his career and he could potentially play tonight against the Canadiens. Lindholm’s placement on IR continues the rash of injuries the B’s have suffered especially in their bottom six. If Senyshyn does indeed slot into the lineup tonight, it’ll be interesting to see where he’s put and what he can do.

Bruins Call Up Hughes, Send Down Cehlarik

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Photo Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced this morning that the team has assigned forward Peter Cehlarik to Providence and recalled forward Cameron Hughes. Hughes has skated in 13 games for Providence this season, posting two goals and four assists for six points. Cehlarik has appeared in two games for Boston this season going scoreless and has appeared in seven games for Providence scoring six goals and adding four assists for ten points.

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Cehlarik has appeared in 39 career games at the NHL level, posting five goals and five assists for ten points. Cehlarik skated in 20 games with Boston last season, posting four goals and two assists for six points. The Zilina, Slovakia native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the third round (90th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Hughes appeared in 52 games for Providence last season, posting 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points. Hughes also played four seasons at the University of Wisconsin, posting 23 goals and 69 assists for 92 points in 139 career games. The Edmonton, Alberta native was originally drafted by Boston in the sixth round (165th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

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Hughes suffered a facial injury during the Prospects Tournament in training camp which cost him ice time during the preseason but did impress the coaching staff. With the recent spate of injuries the Bruins have had there’s a very strong chance that Hughes makes his NHL debut tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins playing on the fourth line. It’ll be interesting to see what’s next for Cehlarik who has had a hard time sticking in Boston but has proved he belongs at the NHL level.

Bruins Early Season Play Still Sparks Trade Rumors

Image result for boston bruins david pastrnak jersey 4 goals(Photo Credit: LA Times)

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

“Hands Down”… the Boston Bruins have started the season playing some of the most successful and spirited hockey in all of the league (hence why the team’s 7-1-2 record with 16 points is towards the top of the standings early on).

Yet, according to the popular puck YouTube blogger Hands Down Hockey, the strong start hasn’t quieted the sometimes deafening Bruins Trade Rumors about (take a guess):

  • ADDING A TOP SIX FORWARD / SECOND LINE WINGER
  • MOVING A BOTTOM PAIRING DEFENSEMAN
  • FIGURING OUT WHAT TO DO WITH PENDING UFA TOREY KRUG

 

To say this speculation is newsurprising or even unfounded would make any of us who follow the team consistently a bit dumbfounded. All of the above bullet points are a consistent topic of conversation within B’s Nation. But, with the recent injury to David Krejci combined with a complete lack of production from anyone not named David Pastrnak, you can see why GM Don Sweeney is not wasting any times “working the phones” as the video blog suggests.

Heck, we all know the likelihood of a trade happening before the deadline in 2020 is akin to Sweeney purchasing Michalengelo’s David (while we’re on the subject of “name dropping”). It’s a longshot. But, with potential other names like Taylor Hall and Alex Tuch and Jason Zucker being bandied about, it would be remiss of Sweeney not to put a tentative plan in place.

He’s already going to have some difficult decisions when Kevan Miller and John (not Josh as the blog mispronounces) Moore return from injuries to aid the back end — and that’s not even factoring in what will happen with Torey Krug, especially if the B’s hot start and consistent play fades by February. Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy breaks down the likelihood of this happening:

What is actually happening re: Boston hockey right now? Nothing to complain about, fret about or worry about, despite the lack of secondary scoring and at times suspect D-zone coverage. Because point production, great goaltending and entertaining wins offset a lot of concerns in this game, not to mention speculation. But, that’s what being a Bruins fan (and blogger) is all about! It can be fun to play the “what if” game in between the real games. And it’s never really too early to do so, as Hacks with Haggs enjoys.

Now, you don’t have to agree with any of the above clips, tweets & posts — or even deem them worth of your time and attention. But, if they’re catching the attention of the B’s top brass and could, be it now or later this season, put this team over the top with a real chance at making another Cup run, then why not pay attention.

This truly is the best time of year for sports fans, and you can Bet(online.ag) on it! Isn’t it the SPORTS EQUINOX anyhow?

 

Bruins Place Krejci On IR, Recall Bjork

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins

Photo Courtesy Of NBC Sports Boston

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced on Tuesday morning that the team has placed forward David Krejci on injured reserve and recalled forward Anders Bjork from Providence on an emergency basis.

Krejci has recently been sidelined due to an upper-body injury suffered on October 14th against the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins second line center has recorded just one assist in five games this season after matching his career high in points a year ago. Meanwhile, Bjork has appeared in seven games for Providence this season and leads the team in scoring with three goals and five assists for eight points.

Bjork, the Mequon, Wisconsin native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the fifth round (126th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The young forward has appeared in 50 career games in the NHL, recording five goals and ten assists for 15 points. Unfortunately his previous two seasons have been cut short due to injury, but so far this season he’s shown tremendous growth and initiative and has greatly earned this recall. It’ll be interesting to see where Bjork slots into the lineup and he should make his season debut tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bruins Announce More Transactions

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Photo Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced on Tuesday afternoon that the team had assigned forward Peter Cehlarik and defenseman Jakub Zboril to Providence. Sweeney also announced that forward Joakim Nordstrom will start the season on IR. Cehlarik had recently cleared waivers yesterday.

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Cehlarik appeared in 20 regular season for the B’s last season, posting four goals and two assists for six points. Cehlarik also appeared in 53 regular season games for Providence last year, posting 12 goals and 26 assists for 38 points. He also appeared in four playoff games for Providence, scoring a goal. Zboril, the former first round pick of the B’s in 2015 appeared in two regular season games for the Bruins last year. He appeared in 56 games for Providence last season, recording four goals and 15 assists for 19 points. He also appeared in four postseason games, going scoreless.

Nordstrom signed with the Bruins in the summer of 2018 as a free agent. He appeared in 70 regular season games in Boston last year, posting seven goals and five assists for 12 points. The Stockholm, Sweden native appeared in 23 playoff games for the B’s last season recording three goals and five assists for eight points. These moves shouldn’t be a huge problem for the Bruins as the team has plenty of guys to step in for Nordstrom. There’s also a very good chance both Cehlarik and Zboril see time in Boston yet again this season.

Report: Bruins Sign D Alex Petrovic To One-Year Deal

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(Photo Perry Nelson / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

UPDATE: The Bruins have officially announced the deal. You can read the official press release here as well as Max Mainville’s latest piece on the additional breaking news.

As reported by Matt Porter of The Boston Globe, the Bruins have signed veteran defenseman Alex Petrovic to a contract. According to CapFriendly.com, Petrovic’s deal is for one-year with a $700,000 NHL salary and a $375,000 minors salary; it is also a two-way contract. Boston has also reportedly waived the right-shot skater with the purpose of assigning him to Providence. If he clears waivers, he will report to P-Bruins training camp.

The Bruins invited Petrovic to training camp on a professional tryout (PTO) as an unrestricted free agent, and he has apparently performed well enough to earn a contract. The 27-year-old was drafted in the second round (36th-overall) by the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. In 254 NHL games with the Panthers, the veteran recorded 5-44-49 totals to go along with a minus-three rating and 348 penalty minutes.

Last season, the Edmonton, Alberta, native was dealt from the Panthers to his hometown team, the Oilers, in the middle of December. The 6-foot-4, 216-pound bruiser only suited up in nine games for Edmonton, due to both a concussion and lack of usage under former Oilers interim head coach Ken Hitchcock. In those nine games, Petrovic tallied an assist and two penalty minutes, registering a minus-seven rating as well.

The reported addition of Petrovic’s presence to the Bruins organization is another low-risk, depth signing by Don Sweeney and the Boston brass. He’ll bring another veteran presence to a young, developing Providence Bruins team and will likely be a fine injury replacement if Boston needs him in a pinch.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 146 that we recorded on 9-22-19 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!

Bruins Announce More Training Camp Cuts Ahead Of Preseason Tilt With Devils

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(Photo: AP Photo)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced this morning that forward prospect Jakub Lauko has been assigned to Boston’s AHL-affiliate, the Providence Bruins, and defenseman Josiah Didier will report to P-Bruins training camp. Lauko was “assigned” since he is on his NHL entry-level contract whereas Didier will “report” to Providence because he is on an AHL deal.

Lauko was selected 77th-overall by Boston in the third round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft after standing out on the international stage with the Czech Republic’s U-18 squads. The highly-skilled, tenacious forward had a strong showing at camp this year, building off of what was an impressive camp and preseason for him last September.

Last season, Lauko posted 21-20-41 numbers in 44 games as well as 6-7-13 totals in 19 playoff contests with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL. Lauko is definitely one of the Bruins’ best prospects; keep an eye on him. The 19-year-old highlighted his time at training camp this year with this fantastic goal against Philadelphia on Monday night:

Didier has been a career AHL-er for the most part, but has also spent some time in the ECHL (4-5-9 numbers in 17 games). Selected in the fourth round (97th-overall) by Montreal in 2011, the University of Denver product has appeared in 195 AHL contests, recording 8–25-33 totals.

In 28 Calder Cup Playoffs games, Didier has 1-6-7 numbers. During his time in college, the right-shot defenseman registered four goals and 25 assists for 29 points in 148 NCAA games. The 26-yea-old had a solid camp with Boston and recorded an assist to go along with three hits in 15:55 of ice-time in Monday’s overtime win versus the Flyers; he is expected to bring a nice veteran presence to a young defense group in Providence.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 146 that we recorded on 9-22-19 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!

 

Bruins Announce First Training Camp Cuts

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(Photo: Angela Spagna)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced the first round of cuts from Boston’s training camp this afternoon. Axel Andersson and Wiley Sherman have been assigned to Providence while Cooper Zech, Samuel Asselin, Chris Breen, Alexey Solovyev, and Brendan Woods will report to Providence training camp. Andersson and Sherman were “assigned” to the P-Bruins since they are on NHL entry-level contracts compared to the others, who are all on AHL deals.

The 21-year-old Andersson was selected by Boston with the 57th-overall pick in the second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and will likely play his first season in North America this year, whether he skates with Providence or with Moncton of the QMJHL remains to be seen. However, returning overseas is also still an option for the Swedish defenseman.

Sherman was drafted by the Bruins in the fifth round of the 2013 entry draft (150th-overall). The Harvard product inked his ELC in the spring of 2018 and played his first full professional season last year, posting  2-3-5 totals with Providence as well as a minus-seven rating. The 6-foot-7 defenseman 33 total points (seven goals and 26 assists) in 137 NCAA contests.

Asselin (21) signed with Providence after a standout year with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL where he totaled 48 goals and 38 assists for 86 points in 68 games. Breen has been a mainstay on the Providence blue-line over the last five seasons, donning an “A” during each of the last four campaigns. During his tenure with the P-Bruins, the 30-year-old has 49 total regular season points as well as seven playoff points.

The Bruins won the bidding war for Zech, signing him to an AHL deal after the 20-year-old registered 8-20-28 numbers in 36 NCAA games during his first season with Ferris State. After joining the P-Bruins at the tail-end the season, the defenseman notched four assists in 12 games before tallying two goals in four playoff contests.

Woods, selected in the fifth round in 2012 by Carolina (129th-overall), has been a career AHL-er, posting 85 points in 262 regular season games between the Charlotte Checkers and the Utica Comets. The 27-year-old forward has seven penalty minutes in seven NHL games. Solvyev spent the last four years at Bentley University, where he recorded 46 points in 109 career NCAA games. The 25-year-old Russian is un-drafted.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 146 that we recorded on 9-22-19 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!