Report: Bruins Sign Goalie Maxime Lagacé

Lagace

Photo Courtesy of the Chicago Wolves

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

We learned over the weekend from The Athletic reporter Fluto Shinzawa that the Bruins would be in the goalie market come Monday. It looks like he was correct, according to TVA Sports hockey reporter Renaud Lavoie, the Boston Bruins have signed goaltender Maxime Lagacé to a one- year two-way contract worth $700,000.

Lagacé comes to the Bruins after spending most of the 2018-19 season with the Vegas Golden Knights affiliate Chicago Wolves. In 33 games with the Wolves, the netminder was 16-10-6 with a 2.43 GAA and a .914 save percentage. Lagacé’s only real significant NHL experience came in 2017-18 with the Vegas Golden Knights where in 16 games he was 6-7-1 with a 3.91 GAA and a .867 save percentage. Lagacé will likely spend most of the season in Providence, and be an emergency backup for Boston in case either Tuukka Rask or Jaroslav Halak get injured.

 

 

Unsung Hero: Bruins Jaroslav Halak

Image result for jaroslav halak(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

It’s time for reflection for the Boston Bruins as they prepare to face their final battle en-route to hoisting the Stanley Cup. It’s been a very long season and for many players, it’s sort of surreal.  What makes this team successful is simply put: they played for each other. In the sport of hockey, many times games are decided on which goalie won the battle in the net. And for one goalie, he has more than stepped up into that trusted role and kept a battle-worn Boston team in any given game. This season, Jaroslav Halak has rightfully earned his keep and has proven to be one of the biggest reasons that the Bruins have made it this far.

TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE

With Anton Khudobin leaving Boston for the Dallas Stars, the Bruins signed Halak as the back-up goaltender for Rask, who some say (ok, maybe many) plays better when he isn’t in the net as often. And with Halak, Rask has been able to do exactly that. And while there will always be polarizing arguments about Rask’s eliteness, the 32-year-old Finnish native has been playing nothing short of outstanding. And when it came time to rest his number one goalie, Coach Bruce Cassidy was able to rely heavily on Halak, all while keeping the team in contention for a Playoff spot.

“He played excellent for us, picked us up a number of times… when we were basically a two-headed monster in the net. Both guys, I think they had very similar numbers, Halak’s might have been better in the regular season. Kudos to him. Tuukka has taken the ball and run with it in the playoffs. We didn’t know how that would play out, were hoping we would get consistent goaltending every night. We have. But he was a big reason, Jaro.”

Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

Throughout the regular season, Rask played in 46 games, with Halak pulling up the rear. Jaro posted a 22-11-4 record with 2.34 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage at the end of the season. There have been times where Cassidy wasn’t afraid to “ride” the hot goalie, oftentimes calling up Halak to get the start. While the Bruins were hit with a stretch of injuries, and Rask taking a personal brief hiatus, Halak (much like the rest of the team) took the mantra “next man up” and ran with it:

“…In terms of, we knew Tuukka would be less than in previous years, closer to 50, 55-ish, somewhere in that number, depending on the injuries or anything like that…I think it helped him (Rask), I don’t know how much, only he can answer that. And that goes to Halak…he’s a big reason why we’re here. A big reason.”

Coach Bruce Cassidy

Image result for jaroslav halak boston bruins(Photo Credits; The Causeway Crowd)

Having two calm and well-poised goaltenders is a problem every NHL coach would love to have, and Boston is once again within the grasps of winning another Championship thanks to that very problem. Rask will get the start in net and is favored to win the Conn Smythe award for MVP of the Playoffs. Having Halak made it easier for the coaches to manage Rask’s schedule and that has not gone unnoticed:

“He’s been such a big part of our group, Jaro, all year. I’ve been on that side, not playing in the playoffs. He’s been, like I said, a really big part of our group. And I’m happy he’s my partner.”

-Goaltender Tuukka Rask

Bruins’ Tuukka Rask Having MVP Caliber Postseason

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes

( Photo Credit: CBSSports.com )

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

The Bruins are going on an absolute tear this postseason and are getting contributions from up and down the lineup. On Thursday night, the Bruins advanced to their third Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2011, and Tuukka Rask is a big reason why.

A lot has been said about Tuukka Rask and his inconsistency in the playoffs throughout his career in Boston (and I’ll admit, I was one of those people). It seemed as though he could not break through and become the performer that the Bruins needed to get past strong teams like the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018. That perception has all been changed this season, and Tuukka Rask has emerged as the clear Conn Smyth trophy winner as the MVP of the playoffs.

The Bruins this offseason went out and signed Jaroslav Halak, a veteran starting goaltender to split the time in the regular season with Tuukka Rask. The two goaltenders split the regular season virtually equally with Halak getting 37 starts and Rask with 45 in order to keep Rask fresh for a deep playoff run – and boy has that worked out well. A lot of folks also think the signing was to have a solid Plan B if Tuukka struggled at all during the postseason.

In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuukka Rask and Frederik Anderson went head to head which was a great goaltending battle. Despite the Leafs taking the Bruins to a game seven again, Tuukka Rask stood on his head in the final game of the first round and defeated the Maple Leafs with 32 saves on 33 shots for a .970 save percentage and a 5-1 victory.

In the Eastern Conference second-round series, Tuukka and the Black ‘N Gold saw the Columbus Blue Jackets and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Another monster goaltending matchup and Tuukka stole the show. After game five, Blue Jackets coach stated that his team “dented” Tuukka Rask with three late third period goals. However, when game six came around, Tuukka Rask was clearly unfazed by the coaches comments and posted a 39 save shutout that propelled the Bruins into the Eastern Conference Finals.

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In Tuukka Rask’s career Conference Finals, he has not lost a single game in his career. In 2013, Rask and the Bruins swept Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East Finals to move on to the Stanley Cup Finals. On Thursday night, Rask would continue his Eastern Conference Finals dominance and remains a perfect 8-0 and becomes just the seventh goaltender in NHL history to win at least eight straight games in the conference finals.

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In Game three against Carolina in Raleigh, the Hurricanes came out buzzing, and Tuukka stood on his head once again for the Bruins as the Hurricanes peppered Rask with 20 shots in the first period but did not beat number 40 in Black ‘N Gold. Rask gave the Bruins a chance to take a three nothing series lead, and they might be playing a game five on Saturday night if it wasn’t for Tuukka’s performance in game three.

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In series-clinching games in these playoffs, Rask stopped 90 of 91 shots with a 5-1 win against Toronto in game seven, a 3-0 shutout against Columbus in game six, and a 4-0 shutout in game four against Carolina.

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Rask’s play has been nothing short of amazing this postseason and who better to compare this year’s Tuukka Rask to 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff MVP Tim Thomas.

Through the 2011 Conference Finals, Tim Thomas posted a 12-6 record with a 2.29 goals against average and a .929 save percentage along with two shutouts. Through the 2019 Conference Finals, Tuukka Rask has posted a 12-5 record with a 1.84 (!!) goals against average and a .942 save percentage with two shutouts. Rask also passed Gerry Cheevers and Tim Thomas with three series-clinching shutouts that are the most in Boston Bruins history.

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Tuukka Rask has by far been nothing short of incredible this season and has shown up all the Rask haters and doubters in which I will admit, I had doubted him before. But, I am so proud to admit that I was wrong and happy for Tuukka and the Bruins. He is the clear-cut favorite for the Conn Smyth trophy thus far, and it really isn’t even close. Whoever the Bruins face in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, it will be a tough matchup for the Bruins, but if Tuukka Rask plays like he has been this postseason, the Bruins have a very good chance of hoisting Lord Stanley.

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A Look Back On The Boston Bruins’ 2018-19 Regular Season

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press)

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

With the final game on April 6th, the Boston Bruins officially ended their 2018-19 regular season and now look ahead to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, starting Thursday, April 11th in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against none other than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The regular season was a long, winding roller-coaster for the Bruins. Injuries, droughts, streaks, and points were all in the recipe that created the story that was this season and somehow, the fans of the Black and Gold did not fall to the ground numerous times throughout this time due to the constant breath-taking events.

Standings & Team Statistics

Looking at face value, the Boston Bruins ended the 82-game season with 49 wins, 24 losses and nine more losses in post-regulation play. Their 107 points earned them the third spot in the entire league, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning who dominated with an incredible 62-16-4 record – winning the President’s Trophy and the Calgary Flames, who finished with same points as Boston, but managed to finish with three more regulation plus overtime wins (ROW).

The Bruins scored the 11th most goals in the league, tallying a total of 257 goals for an average of 3.13 goals-for-per-game. On the other side of the puck, the goaltenders of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak helped the Bruins finish in the top 3 for least number of goals allowed in the entire season, allowing just 212 goals against, an average of 2.59 goals-against-per-game. More specifically, the Bruins trailed only the New York Islanders for least even-strength goals against (148).

Specialty teams were one of the biggest strengths for Boston and they remain that way heading into the post-season. Boston concluded the ’18/’19 campaign with a 25.9% success rate on the power-play, the third best in the National Hockey League. However, the B’s did allow a league-leading 15 short-handed goals against, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The penalty kill was not terrific for a top-3 NHL team, but that could also be due to the large mass of injuries to the blue line that hindered the defensive consistency of Boston. The Bruins have the 16th-best PK percentage, killing off just under 80% of the penalties they took. Regarding on penalties, the Bruins took the second-highest penalties-per-game, averaging 9.7 penalty minutes during the course of the season, behind only the New York Rangers.

Player Statistics

Even with all of the injuries throughout the regular season, the Bruins still managed to do quite well on an individual basis as many skaters and goaltenders set new career-highs and played some of the best hockey of their NHL career. Players that are included within the following section are players that are likely to play in the first-round series or have had an impact on the team. AHL players and some rookies, as well as traded players, will not be included.

Forwards:

  • Brad Marchand – 79GP – 36-64-100
  • David Pastrnak – 66GP- 38-43-81
  • Patrice Bergeron – 65GP – 32-47-79
  • David Krejci – 81GP – 20-53-73
  • Jake DeBrusk – 68GP – 27-15-42
  • Danton Heinen – 77GP – 11-23-34
  • Sean Kuraly – 71GP – 8-13-21
  • David Backes – 70GP – 7-13-20
  • Chris Wagner – 76GP – 12-7-19
  • Noel Acciari – 72GP – 6-8-14
  • Joakim Nordstrom – 70GP – 7-5-12
  • Charlie Coyle – 21GP – 2-4-6
  • Karson Kuhlman – 11GP – 3-2-5
  • Marcus Johansson – 10GP – 1-2-3

Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron all set new career-highs in almost every category and that line proved that even with the absence of some of them, can produce at a high-level and they are truly one of the best lines in all of hockey today. Below that, David Krejci assisted on 53 goals and Jake DeBrusk nearly hit the 30-goal mark. Both of those two can add some much-needed depth scoring in the playoffs.

Trade deadline acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have not been as amazing as may be hoped, but both have had to deal with a brand new system and brand of hockey in addition to Johansson missing games due to a lung contusion. Forward Karson Kuhlman has been great, scoring five points in eleven games and has been reliable for replacing the injured forwards on the roster.

Defencemen:

The devastating injuries ran hard through the defensive core of the B’s, forcing the club to use twelve different defenders throughout the year, with only one of them playing more than 70 games (Brandon Carlo – 72GP). Even heading into the best-of-seven series against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins will be without John Moore and Kevan Miller for a good portion of the series.

  • Torey Krug – 64GP – 6-47-53
  • Charlie McAvoy – 54GP – 7-21-28
  • Matt Grzelcyk – 66GP – 3-15-18
  • Zdeno Chara – 62GP – 5-9-14
  • John Moore – 61GP – 4-9-13
  • Brandon Carlo – 72GP – 2-8-10
  • Kevan Miller – 39GP – 0-7-7
  • Steven Kampfer – 35GP – 3-3-6
  • Jeremy Lauzon – 16GP – 1-0-1
  • Connor Clifton – 19GP – 0-1-1
  • Urho Vaakanainen – 2GP – 0-0-0
  • Jakub Zboril – 2GP – 0-0-0

Torey Krug has been what he has been for the last few years – a good offensive defenseman that is deadly on the power-play. Krug is the quarterback of the Bruins man-advantage and he knows how to feed the forwards on the ice, a characteristic represented by his 47 assists on the season.

Other than that, when the players have been healthy and on the ice, they have been pretty good for the most part. It seems that health will be the biggest deciding factor for the Bruins’ defense versus Toronto.

Goaltenders:

I recently wrote an article on the Black N’ Gold Hockey website about the work of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak and how the combination of the two could be the biggest advantage that the Bruins have against the Leafs for the postseason series. You can check out that piece HERE.

  • Tuukka Rask – 45GS – 27-13-5 .912 SV% 2.48 GAA 4 Shutouts
  • Jaroslav Halak – 37GS – 22-11-4 .922 SV% 2.34 GAA 5 Shutouts

Both Rask and Halak have statistics in the top ten of the league in all of the main goaltending categories including goals-against-average and save percentage. While Tuukka is the deserving starting man in between the pipes, Halak is a great second option if the play of Rask falters at all throughout the series.

Boston Bruins vs. NHL

With one win shy of 50 wins on the season, the Boston Bruins picked up victories over every single team in the NHL except for two – the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks. Other than that, the Bruins had at least one victory over everyone, with some of them being clean season series sweeps.

Boston won the season series over the Ottawa Senators (4 games), New York Islanders (3 games), Vegas Golden Knights (2 games), San Jose Sharks (2 games), Minnesota Wild (2 games), Los Angeles Kings (2 games), Chicago Blackhawks (2 games), Arizona Coyotes (2 games), and the Anaheim Ducks (2 games).

Boston found success over the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs, sealing 75% of the possible points in the season series when it was all said and done. In fact, Boston ended the season matchups with four of the five other Original Six franchises with an above .500 point percentage, with only the Detroit Red Wings beating Boston in the four-game series in 2018-19.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins scored the majority of their goals in the second period, tallying 93 total goals in the middle twenty minutes. Aside from that, they allowed the most goals in the third period (79).

When the B’s managed to score the game’s first goal, they found great success, finishing the season with a 34-7-5 record. Looking at the other side of the coin, Boston had a 15-17-4 record when the opposing team scored the first tally of the contest, something to be noted heading into the playoffs.

Injury Report (April 10th)

  • F Sean Kuraly – Hand – Will not play Game 1, could return later in series
  • D John Moore – Upper-Body – Will not play Game 1, could return later in series
  • D Kevan Miller – Lower-Body – Unlikely to miss the start of the postseason
  • F Chris Wagner – Lower-Body – Cleared for Game 1

Without further ado, that is the entire 2018-19 NHL regular season all wrapped up and finished. The Boston Bruins begin their road to their first Stanley Cup since 2011 Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. For a full preview on the best-of-seven series, check out fellow BNG Site writer, Yanni Latzanakis’ article HERE.

May the best team win.

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Rask & Halak Combination Biggest Advantage For Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Boston Globe)

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

In the sport of ice hockey, goaltending is one of the most important aspects of the game. Quite often, in the National Hockey League, games are won specifically because of a solid performance in net by the goalie. This season, we have seen that numerous times throughout the league for many different teams.

In Boston, Tuukka Rask has been the number one goalie for the majority of the past decade and he has, for the most part, been a solid goalie, earning that spot over many solid seasons. Following the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup run that resulted in them winning the prestigious trophy, Tuukka Rask took over from Tim Thomas – the Conn Smythe winner.

Rask has played in 494 games in the Boston Bruins sweater after being traded to Boston in 2006 in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs that sent Andrew Raycroft to the capital city of Ontario. Rask made his NHL debut against the franchise that drafted him in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, stopping 30 of the 32 shots he faced that night.

Since that initial taste of NHL experience, the 32-year-old Finnish goaltender now has 265 wins, 150 losses, 58 ties/shootout/overtime losses, and 45 shutouts. Among that, Rask holds numerous franchise records including most career wins (265), most career saves (12,591), and save percentage (.922). Tuukka is also in the top ten for the majority of the major statistical categories that are being tracked.

In the 2018-19 season, Rask has a 27-13-5 record with a .912 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against-average in 46 games started. Tuukka has only one game played against the Maple Leafs this season – stopping 30 of the 32 shots against him in a 3-2 win over Toronto on January 12th. While Rask has had a solid season, he has had a few games, like every goaltender, that are below average.

On five occasions, Rask allowed five goals in a single game and was pulled from the net in two of them. On the flip side, Rask has four shutouts and an impressive eleven games allowing only one goal. In each of those games, the Bruins won or lost in overtime or a shootout.

Early on, Rask failed to find his consistent game that we are used to seeing, but thankfully, the Bruins had some serious help behind him – Jaroslav Halak.

Halak joined the Bruins on the first day of free agency in this past offseason, signing a two-year deal worth $2.75 million annually. It confirmed that Halak will play in his 13th NHL season – the first in Boston. Within the 40 games he’s played in, Jaroslav has helped the Bruins earn 46 points in his 22 wins and four post-regulation losses in addition to his 11 regulation losses that he amounted to this year.

At 33 years of age, Halak is having his best season in the net since the 2009-10 season when he finished the year with a 26-13-5 record, a .924 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA with the Montreal Canadiens. The Bratislava, Czechoslovakia native is top ten in both of the main goalie stats in the entire league and he is continuing to play at that level, picking up his fifth shutout of the season in Thursday’s 3-0 win over the Wild.

With a quick trip over to Toronto, their goaltending situation right now is not nearly as sturdy as the Bruins appear to be. That fact only got more interesting on Friday when news that backup goaltender Garret Sparks’ equipment is no longer in the Leafs’ dressing room and Toronto Marlies goalie, Michael Hutchinson was recalled by the organization to play in the big leagues.

Put all of that into the same idea that starting netminder Frederik Andersen has not been consistently good for the past couple months and the worry can begin to form for the Maple Leafs with the playoffs only about a week away. Frederik Andersen is expected to get every single one of the starts in-goal if it goes seven games, that could be an issue if say, injuries or poor play take control.

Andersen started in sixty games in 2018-19, the eight most of all goaltenders in the National Hockey League. Andersen did win 36 games this season with 16 regulation losses and seven shootout or overtime losses. The Herning, Denmark native played in the least amount of games in a single season for the Leafs after two consecutive seasons with 66 games in the crease.

With that, Andersen finished the year with the worst save percentage (.917) of his three-year career in Toronto along with a 2.77 GAA and only one shutout on the campaign. In the last ten games, however, has been where Maple Leafs fans have been in a little doubt. Andersen has a 3-3-3 record with a .881 save percentage and allowed 35 goals, an average of 3.50 goals against per game. In three of those games, ‘Freddy’ allowed five or more goals and only allowed two or less goals four times in those ten games.

Andersen has had some rough games in the postseason as well, but still has a winning 22-16-0 record combined over five seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs. In the Blue and White, Andersen has lost eight games, winning four. Three of those wins came against the Bruins last year, the other against Washington in the 2016-17 first round.

On five different occasions, Andersen allowed five or more goals against in the playoffs, three of which coming with the Maple Leafs – two against Boston. Andersen can be very hot too as he remains one of the better goaltenders overall in the NHL, but his consistency causes some concern for management and the fans alike. The Bruins cannot take him lightly as he can very well steal a few games at any point in the series.

In the past, Tuukka Rask has had some questionable games and has needed to be better in times as well. All goalies in the NHL must deal with having a rough outing, but need to have the adversity to bounce back the very next game and win it for the himself and more importantly, the team.

In Boston, however, if Rask fails to meet the standards that will need to bet met against Toronto, then the hope is that Halak can come in and “save the day”. While it would be preferred that Rask does not falter, it is always great to have a Plan B. There could also be the reality that Rask plays all seven games (if needed), even if he does have a few stinkers. That was the case last season, but it seems like Bruce Cassidy has higher trust in Halak than he did with Anton Khudobin last season.

The Maple Leafs are solely relying on Frederik Andersen. With the not-so-distant memories somewhere in his head, the pressure is clearly on him. He needs to be on his very best game and then some and everyone knows it. The same goes for Tuukka and Jaroslav. The two, three, or even four goaltenders in this series need to have the right frame of mind to come out victorious and get into the second round against either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Columbus Blue Jackets. Whoever is on the winning side of the handshake line, will have won because of the man in between the posts.

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston @ Minnesota: 4/4/19

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(Photo Credit: David Berding-USA Today Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Minnesota Wild

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

DeBrusk – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Johansson – Coyle – Senyshyn

Heinen – Frederic – Kuhlman

Nordstrom – Acciari – Backes

Defense

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Miller

Clifton – Kampfer

Goalies

Halak

Rask

Minnesota’s Lineup

Forwards

Donato – Staal – Kunin

Zucker – Eriksson Ek – Fiala

Greenway – Sturm – Rask

Foligno – Fehr – Brown

Defense

Suter –  Spurgeon

Brodin – Hunt

Bitetto – Pateryn

Goalies

Stalock

Dubnyk

First Period

This one featured plenty of storylines coming into it. For the Bruins, it marked the NHL debut of 2015 first-round pick, Zach Senyshyn. Additionally, Trent Frederic was called back up, and David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, and Chris Wagner sat to rest before the quickly approaching first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The goaltending matchup was Jaroslav Halak vs. Alex Stalock.

Additionally, Charlie Coyle’s first game as a Bruin in Minnesota was set to get underway, as well as Ryan Donato’s first game against the Bruins as a member of the Wild. Minnesota had a debut of their own, as former Clarkson University captain Nico Sturm joined the team on an entry-level deal as an undrafted free agent following the conclusion of Clarkson’s season.

It was a milestone game for Bruce Cassidy, as this marked his 300th NHL game behind the bench. His record coming in was 163-98-38. Steven Kampfer also hit a career milestone with his 200th NHL game.

Good chances came on both sides throughout the first period, but no one could break through. Part of this on the Bruins end was undoubtedly due to the roster fluctuation ahead of the postseason. Sensyhyn showed a willingness to get amongst the action in the first period. With good chances and tempo, it’s a little surprising that we didn’t see any scoring on either side. The shots were 9-8 in favor of Minnesota.

Score: 0-0

Second Period

The second frame got off to a rough start early on as Kevan Miller and Jordan Greenway brushed shoulders and Miller slid awkwardly into the boards. He was helped off the ice.

The Bruins came out hard to start, outshooting Minnesota 6-2 throughout the first six minutes of the period. It was just a matter of breaking through.

That all changed with a persistent forecheck from the Bruins fourth line, and good puck movement on the blue line. Joakim Nordstrom eventually buried his seventh goal of the season, assisted by Noel Acciari (8) and Matt Grzelcyk (15).

The first penalty of the game came against Luke Kunin for roughing with 5:05 to go in the period.

Good news came late in the period as Miller returned for the Bruins. For Minnesota, well, Alex Stalock was having quite a bit of fun. Here are a couple of examples.

That wasn’t the only time he went far out of his crease to play the puck, he did so on the defensive zone boards to his left. Oh yeah, he even did a bunny hop in his crease too.

Stalock’s antics were quite the spectacle. Otherwise, the Bruins took control and doubled the Wild’s shots at 18-9 for the period. Despite such domination in the shots on goal and scoring chances categories for the Bruins, their lead sat at just one.

Score: 1-0 Boston

Third Period

The plot thickened for Kevan Miller as he was not seen on the bench to start the third period.

Brandon Carlo and Kunin both went off for roughing just less than two minutes in, neither team scored with the extra space to operate on the ice. Clifton then went off for interference about four minutes later, no dice for Minnesota.

Besides the Nordstrom goal, neither goal was giving an inch. Karson Kuhlman did ring the post one time, but the goaltending battle commenced. This was until David Pastrnak buried his 38th of the season to make it 2-0 towards the end of regulation. Jake DeBrusk (15) and Patrice Bergeron (48) had the assists.

Zach Senyshyn scored his first career NHL goal on an empty netter set up by Marcus Johansson (17) and Steven Kampfer (2).

The final shots were 35-26 in favor of the Bruins. The last game of the regular season is up next for the Bruins when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town for some matinee hockey at 1 PM on Saturday.

Final Score: 3-0 Boston

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My Pick for Bruins’ 7th Player Award

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( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

The NESN’s 7th Player award is presented annually to a player on the Bruins roster who has performed above and beyond expectations this season. The award has been given out since the 1968-69 season when Ed Westfall won the award that season according to Fandom.com.

The award has been given out to Bruins players who have turned into legends. To name a few: Terry O’Reilly, Cam Neely, Barry Pederson, and Rick Middleton. Recently, the award has been given to Bruins players like Tim Thomas, Milan Lucic, David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy.

This year, the Bruins have been one of the best teams in the league and one of the most dominant at times. Their dominance has been in part from incredible performances from up and down the lineup. Of course, the Bruins top line made up of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak is a constant threat night-in-night-out. But, part of the Bruins success comes from unlikely heroes in the forward group, the defensive core, and both goaltenders. Also, a plethora of injuries this year has caused many different players to be called upon through the “next man up” mentality.

 

With the Bruins so successful, we can easily make a case for 4 or 5 players who deserve the 7th Player Award. Jaroslav Halak has been a huge surprise as a strong backup sharing the net with Tuukka Rask. David Krejci has not missed a game this season and is having his second best season based on points with 65 through 76 games. Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly could also be in the conversation who have both become fan favorites in the bottom 6.

My pick, however, is Brandon Carlo. In his third season, he has been a big part of the Bruins success this season. He has not done it in a flashy way though. He has been doing the right things in the defensive zone and neutral zone and at times jumped in the offense. He might not be the clear-cut frontrunner for the player who has gone above and beyond this season because his numbers are not outstanding. But, if you watch Brandon Carlo play on a nightly basis, his shutdown play can’t be missed. There have been so many times this year where I have said to myself “wow, Brandon Carlo has really stepped it up this season.”

Carlo has had a couple of good seasons before this one but nothing too incredible. He hit a couple bumps in the road towards the ends of the last two seasons. On April 8, 2017, Carlo suffered a concussion after a collision with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. This knocked him out for the playoffs as he missed all 6 games against the Senators in the 2017 post-season. Right before the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Carlo suffered a broken fibula in the third period of a game against the Florida Panthers. For the second straight season, Carlo would miss the entire playoffs.

These injuries have definitely hurt the Bruins defense in the playoffs and have set back Carlo’s development into a top-tier defenseman. This season, he has come back from the injuries stronger, better, and more confident. He is making the right plays and using his size to eliminate opponent scoring chances. But it’s not just his defensive abilities. He also has the awareness and confidence to jump into the offensive rush at the right times and contribute to scoring chances in the attacking zone.

 

Carlo is averaging just about 21 minutes of ice time this season. He has scored two goals and six assists for eight points this season while also compiling a +18 rating. His hockey IQ and his defensive awareness has made him into a top shut down defenseman for the Bruins who is really growing into his top-four role for the B’s. He has been arguably the most consistent Bruin this season. He did miss a few games earlier this season but has not let it hinder his play or his confidence.

If Brandon Carlo stays healthy for the Bruins throughout the playoffs, it will be huge for the team defense in their quest for the Stanley Cup. Whether Carlo wins the 7th Player award or not, he is still a huge force for the Bruins this season and is vital for the Bruins defense to combat the high-flying Maple Leaf offense that the Bruins will almost certainly face in the first round. Either way, the Bruins have multiple candidates for the 7th Player Award which is a great thing, and any of those candidates can take home the hardware.

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Bruins Game 77 Preview: New York Rangers

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Boston Globe)

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

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

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

Starting Goaltenders:

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

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

Who’s Hot

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

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

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

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

Who’s Not

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

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

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

Milestone Watch:

Boston Bruins:

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

New York Rangers:

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

Bruins vs Rangers Outlook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston at Florida: 03/23/19

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: BB&T Center – Sunrise, Florida, USA

Home: Florida Panthers (33-29-12, 5th in Atlantic)

Away: Boston Bruins (45-20-9, 2nd in Atlantic)

The Boston Bruins are back at it following another dominating performance on Thursday night over the New Jersey Devils, winning the game by a final score of 5-1. The team has won three consecutive games and with a win in any fashion tonight, the Bruins can clinch a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins enter the game with 99 points, six ahead of the Maple Leafs for third in the division.

The Florida Panthers have not had as good of a year as expected as they sit seven points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Florida comes into tonight’s contest with a 5-4-1 record in their last ten games including a 4-2 victory on March 21st over the Arizona Coyotes.

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Forward Karson Kuhlman comes back into the lineup Saturday to replace Sean Kuraly. It was announced earlier today that Kuraly suffered a fracture in his hand, causing him to miss at least the next four weeks. The injury came from a blocked shot in Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Devils in New Jersey.

Marcus Johansson, Matt Grzelcyk, Kevan Miller, and Torey Krug remain out of the Bruins lineup as well due to their respective injuries. Jaroslav Halak will start as the goaltender in between the pipes for Boston.

First Period:

It’s always important to take away any home advantage when you’re the road club and the Bruins did just that. Just over two-and-a-half minutes into the first, Connor Clifton dumps the puck in the zone where David Backes recovers down low. Backes makes it look like he is going around the net, but feeds it in front of the net for Noel Acciari who buries his 5th of the season.

Not very long following that, Panthers forward Mike Hoffman is sent to the penalty box for a two-minute roughing minor. Bruins are 1-for-10 on the power-play in their last ten attempts, looking to make it 2-0 early. Thirty seconds into the PP, Marchand to Bergeron leads to a ringer off the post, so close but no cigar. Florida kills off the penalty, back to even strength.

For the remainder of the opening period, both teams had some decent chances, but it could be argued that Boston had the best of them. Chances from Bergeron, Marchand, Backes, and others piled up around the halfway mark of the frame, but Panthers netminder Samuel Montembeault held his ground, stopping all of the shots against. Period ends with the lone goal by Accari, 1-0 Bruins.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 16 FLA: 12

Score: 1-0 Bruins – Goals: Acciari (5) Assists: Backes (12), Clifton (1)

Second Period:

Do you think the Bruins like goals early in a period? I think so too. Almost immediately into the middle regulation frame, Mike Matheson makes a bad pass behind his own goaltender, passing it right to Bergeron who feeds it right to Brad Marchand, his 32nd of the season and the B’s extend their lead to two goals.

Still within the first minute of the second, Mike Hoffman drives in on the right side of the ice towards Halak, but makes a reacharound pass around John Moore, right to Jayce Hawryluk who beats Halak for his fifth goal of the 2018-19 campaign. Florida gets the game right back to a one-goal difference only a mere sub-30 seconds after Marchand’s goal.

Florida’s tally seemed to wake them up from a slower first twenty minutes, building some quality chances within the Bruins zone. Just a little bit under five minutes into the second frame, Boston has seen very little offensive zone time and they are in a way, relying on Halak to keep them in the lead.

As many have said, defence often leads to offence and once again, it comes true for the Bruins. Charlie Coyle does a solid job keeping the puck in the offensive zone and makes a quick pass to Danton Heinen. Heinen throws the puck back, where captain Zdeno Chara skates into a beautiful wrist shot, scoring his 200th career NHL goal, the same day that it was announced that he agreed to re-sign with Boston on a one-year contract.

Florida is having issues making clean breakout passes, an issue that once hurt the Bruins earlier on in the season themselves and for Florida, it is turning into goals against. MacKenzie Weegar’s pass out of his zone gets intercepted by Karson Kuhlman in the neutral zone. Kuhlman dances around the defender and snaps a slick shot past Montembeault for his second goal this year and the Bruins all of a sudden have a 4-1 lead. Great attack pressure by Boston.

Kuhlman is back in the NHL on the B’s roster after an injury to forward Sean Kuraly in the win over the Devils, an injury that will keep Kuraly sidelined for four weeks due to a fracture in his hand. Kuhlman has done well for a player who continually finds himself tossed around the AHL and NHL.

The Panthers are not out of this game just yet, however, as Mike Hoffman once again has some space on the off-wing and rips one of his dangerous shots clean past Jaroslav Halak. Hoffman’s goal brings him to the 35-goal mark for the first time in his National Hockey League career. Florida is still dangerous and they seem fully prepared for a goal-for-goal type of game.

11:09 into the period, the Bruins go back to the man-advantage as Mike Hoffman is whistled down on a slashing minor against Danton Heinen. Unfortunately, Boston really struggled to get any life on the power-play as the Panthers PK units did a great job clearing the puck on any chances. The best chance came in the dying seconds when a David Krejci shot led to a rebound that just skipped over the stick of John Moore, penalty killed off by Florida.

Less than three minutes later, Jayce Hawryluk gets a stick caught in Brandon Carlo’s skates and he goes to the sin bin for a tripping infraction. Needing a refresher on the power-play, the Bruins want to add another goal on the board with this man-advantage. John Moore to Danton Heinen to none other than Steven Kampfer who goes post and in for his third of the season and the Bruins score five goals in a game for the third straight, 5-2.

On the ensuing neutral zone faceoff, Noel Acciari and MacKenzie Weegar agree to drop the gloves and the two exchange in a great fight, with Noel Acciari landing the harder, more accurate punches straight to the face of Weegar. Weegar tried to bring some energy to his team and the fans but he may have done the opposite there.

In the final five minutes of the middle period, the Panthers make a mistake on the line change and both Halak and Chara recognize that. Halak feeds it to the captain who makes a perfect long pass to Pastrnak’s stick. Pastrnak walks in, makes some dangles and buries Boston’s sixth of the night, 6-2. That is David’s 33rd tally of the year. That’ll essentially do it for the second.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 29 FLA: 23

Score: 6-2 Bruins – Goals: Marchand (32) Assists: Bergeron (42); Hawryluk (5) Assists: Hoffman (32); Chara (5) Unassisted; Kuhlman (2) Unassisted; Hoffman (35) Assists: Weegar (11); Kampfer (3) PP Assists: Heinen (22), Moore (9); Pastrnak (33) Assists: Chara (8), Halak (4)

Third Period:

Early in the final regulation period, Connor Clifton takes the first penalty against the Bruins, an interference minor. First time tonight Boston goes on the penalty-kill. With only nine seconds to go on Clifton’s minor, Vincent Trocheck fires a shot past Halak, cutting the lead in half, 6-3. The goal is Trocheck’s eighth of the season.

The boys look a bit slow to begin the third period, allowing quite a few shots by the Florida opposition. Nearly eight minutes in, Charlie McAvoy (roughing) and Vincent Trocheck (cross-checking) go to the box each for two minutes, resulting in some 4-on-4 time. Not much came about from it and we go back 5-on-5.

Aside from that, it was somewhat a lacklustre period from both teams until the 3-minute mark of the third. Zdeno Chara grabbed Aleksander Barkov behind his head and brought his own body weight down onto Barkov’s head that landed right on the ice. The Panthers Head Coach screamed for a penalty, but nothing comes from it as Barkov stays on the bench for some small repairs.

In the final minute, with the Florida goaltender pulled from the crease, Trocheck dives across the crease to stop the shot from going in the empty-net, but only a few seconds later, David Pastrnak to Patrice Bergeron makes it a 7-3 game and the Boston Bruins have clinched the playoffs.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 39 FLA: 34

Final Score: 7-3 Bruins

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS D Zdeno Chara – 200th Career NHL Goal, 1 Assist, +3 Rating, 25:07 TOI

2nd Star: BOS G Jaroslav Halak – 31 Saves, .912 SV%

3rd Star: BOS F Danton Heinen – 2 Assists, +1 Rating, 16:27 TOI

The Boston Bruins become the second team from the Eastern Conference to clinch a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and have won their fourth straight game. Up next, off to Tampa Bay for a road game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Puck drop scheduled for 7:30pm EST.

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

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If You’re A Gambler, You Might Want To Bet On A Bruins Championship

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( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images )

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

I don’t want to tell anyone how to spend their money. I am still just a few years removed from having a Velcro wallet (don’t make fun of it unless you’ve experienced its convenience and practicality first-hand). I’m the last person anyone should listen to for advice on what actions they might want to consider financially.

With that being said, here’s some financial advice for anyone who might be trying to make some money, and is willing to gamble to do so: put some money on the Bruins as soon as possible. Not on the next game, or the game after that, but on the outcome that they win the Stanley Cup.

Why?

The Bruins put away Toronto in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and were undermanned and too banged up to compete with a healthier and yes, more skilled Tampa Bay squad. At first glance, the road to the Stanley Cup Finals from the Eastern Conference again runs through Tampa Bay, a team that the Bruins would be slated to play in the second round of the postseason.

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( Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill/AP )

Certainly, Tampa Bay is a better team this year. Go ahead and glance at the standings. It’s obnoxious how successful they have been. But with their success, comes serious opportunity not only for the Bruins but for those who might want a strong Stanley Cup pick with high value and serious capabilities of knocking off the Cup favorites.

Lost in the tomfoolery that has been the months-long highlight reel of a season the Lightning (Bolts? What do we call them these days?), is the fact that the Bruins have strung together an immensely impressive season. Like, “the next best record in the league” impressive.

A lot of people will look at the disparity between the point totals of Tampa and Boston (the next closest team), and fill in their Stanley Cup brackets early, in pen, with Tampa as the champs (I tried to think of a Tamp/Champ pun here…don’t try, there isn’t one).

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( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/ USA TODAY Sports )

But I am not a lot of people. In fact, like most individuals, I am only one person. So as someone who has been able to track the successes of the Black and Gold this season, I’ve been able to note that they’ve been thriving despite ridiculous amounts of adversity.

Their top eight scorers have missed a combined 93 man-games. That comes out to more than 11 games per man, and this number would be even higher if not for the iron-man season that David Krejci has put together. Their top defensemen have missed a total of 136 man-games, which comes out to closely 20 missed games per defenseman. Their prized goaltender went down with a concussion midway through the season, and the Bruins needed to rely on the play of Jaroslav Halak (though it should be noted that he has been stellar this season).

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( Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images )

The Bruins’ lineup has been constantly in flux, with more than a dozen call-ups from Providence having joined the Bruins to serve as wads of gum plugging any proverbial holes in the lineup, while a more permanent fix had yet to be discovered.

Kevan Miller has been unable to stay healthy, which has forced a solid depth defenseman who brings toughness, leadership, and reliability to remain sidelined at times where the Bruins could have greatly benefitted from his play.

All this to say that the Boston Bruins have outperformed, in my opinion, all other teams, including Tampa, in the NHL. When taking into account the absurd amount of instability in their lineup, unparalleled susceptibility to the injury bug, and total man-games lost (not to mention how many of those man-games lost are those of key players), the B’s have rallied at the right times.

As things stand now, the Bruins appear to have outlasted most of their toughest times and are well on the road to total recovery in health in the next week or two. This leaves enough time for a completely healthy Bruins roster to find chemistry and togetherness just as the postseason rolls around. Not to mention, many of the players coming back from energy have saved themselves from the fatigue that accompanies the latter stages of each season. Fresh legs heading into the playoffs? Please and thank you.

While, yes, Tampa is a better team than they were last year, you are a fool if you don’t see the significant improvements in the Bruins’ team from last season. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak are all having career years in terms of points per game. For those who hate stats and don’t believe in numbers, these same players that make up the best line in hockey are also all one year hungrier.

Jake DeBrusk is hitting his stride at the right time of the season and has already significantly outscored his goal total from last year. We all remember what a hot DeBrusk looked like in the postseason last year. I could go for another helping.

The Bruins defensive unit and goaltending tandem, as a whole, are significantly deeper. The B’s no longer have to rely solely on the play of Tuukka Rask, as they have found themselves a safety net (who safeguards the net…anything?) in Halak’s play. If Rask falters, Bruce Cassidy has shown no issues with putting Halak between the pipes and letting him compete, something that has brought the best out of the bona fide NHL starter. Matt Grzelcyk’s play is head and shoulders ahead of where it was last year at this time, while a healthy Brandon Carlo improves a unit that has been rock-solid for the most part with his +17 rating, tops amongst Bruins defenseman.

If you want to see a healthy Bruins squad facing off against a healthy Tampa team looks like, then might I interest you in the 4-1 beatdown the B’s put on the Bolts on February 28th?

The B’s are slated to play the Lightning again in a few days. I would say it is a good measuring-stick game for them, but there’s no way to know if they will be fully healthy, especially given the horrible luck they’ve endured this season. Although it is worth noting that the Bruins have not lost a game in which Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have both been on the ice.

 

So if you like money, making money, having money, or enduring ridiculously high-stress levels to maybe make some money, then put a few bucks on Butch’s boys. They are underestimated, hungry, and ripe with talent.

And to close, I will now make a horrible joke about lightning never striking in the same place twice, despite that expression’s total irrelevance to the National Hockey League. Congratulations on making it through that.

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

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