European Tour: Bruins Edition

Screenshot_20190817-175154-01 (1)(Photo Credits: NHL Twitter)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

As the NHL looks to expand its outreach to the European markets, many players were welcomed back to the third annual NHL/NHLPA European Player Media Tour. Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (Czech Republic) was invited once again to participate in the event. Bruins own Joakim Nordstrom (Sweden) also represented the Black and Gold during the Media Tour for another edition of Bruins #BearTracks.

SWEDEN

Since its inception in 2017, the tour is held in Stockholm, Sweden at the headquarters of Viasat- where the NHL’s international media rights are held. The tour features 23 European-born players being interviewed by dozens of media outlets as a means of promoting  NHL Games. To help the leagues effort to appeal to the growing European fanbase, the NHL purposely changed start times of many weekend games, so that fans will get to enjoy watching them at a more reasonable time (prior to the change, games with start times of 7:30 PM in the U.S. would be aired at 1:30 AM in Sweden). With new earlier start times in the U.S., games would fall into prime evening hours for Europe.

(Photo Credits: NHLPA)

With the NHL continuing to grow the game through Europe and in China, their efforts have garnered much buzz, especially if you consider that this year will the mark the third time professional teams will travel to Europe to play regular season games. On October 4th, the Chicago Blackhawks play the Philadelphia Flyers in the Czech Republic, while on November 9th,  the Buffalo Sabres face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Stockholm, Sweden.

Joakim Nordstrom served as “tour guide” as he hosted Pastrnak in his native Sweden. Both players participated in photo shoots and interviews for the event. Not one to shy away,  the 22-year-old Pastrnak was all smiles in front of the camera-there’s also that video showing off his “dance” skills… Please enjoy:

SLOVAKIA

In his hometown of Trencin, Slovakia Bruins Captain and age-less wonder Zdeno Chara continued with his charitable contributions. In a partnership with New Balance, the 42-year-old defenseman has collected and donated shoes that help benefit those in need throughout  Boston and Slovakia. Chara first partnered up with organization this past March along with Soles4Souls-a Nashville-based non-profit organization that aims to give those in need a pair of shoes. To date, Soles4Souls have donated over 35 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries. Fans were able to donate new or used shoes to New Balance stores or at the Warrior Ice rink. The Bruins also held a shoe drive this past March at the Garden.

(Photo Credits: Sole4Souls.org)

The Bruins #BeartTracks followed Chara as he headed back to Slovakia, bringing a portion of the donated shoes that were collected at the TD Garden.  The 42-year-old Slovak-native was seen delivering shoes to many children in his hometown:

And while Bruins fans eagerly await for the puck to drop officially in October, rest assured the guys are gearing up and getting back into fighting shape. Not to be outdone from last year’s  insane workout session in Slovakia, this time Chara did not skip a beat while hanging out in his native country. In case you’re wondering, he’s still a beast:

Bruins’ Fourth Line Look To Lead The Bounce-Back

( Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, AP )

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

As the Stanley Cup Final shifts back to Boston for Game 5 on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins will be looking to recapture the momentum in what’s been a back-and-forth series through four games.  While the Bruins will need much better performances across the line-up, you can bet the fourth line will be itching to lead the bounce-back as they played nowhere near their usual standard in Game 4’s loss.

The fourth line of Sean Kuraly,  Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari can usually be relied upon to drive possession and help tilt the ice in the Bruins favor.  The line starts the majority of its shifts in the defensive zone and quite often skates to the bench having earned an offensive zone face-off.  That’s exactly what you’re looking for from your fourth line.

There has been an added bonus from the line so far in the Stanley Cup Final-production.  Kuraly (2G-2A-4Pts, 2GWG’s), Nordstrom (1G-3A-4Pts), and Acciari (1G-1A-2Pts) have combined for 10 points in the first four games of the Stanley Cup Final.  The worrying trend for the line, however, is that their 5-vs-5 Corsi percentage has been steadily declining as the series has progressed and culminated with some horrendous numbers in Game 4.

Let’s take a closer look at what the line has produced over the first four games.   As a reminder, Corsi % is a reliable possession metric which measures shot attempts for against shot attempts against, expressed as a percentage and for 5-on-5-play.  A measure of 50% means a team is generating an equal number of shot attempts for and against while that player is on the ice.  Therefore, as a baseline, positive Corsi is viewed as a percentage greater than 50, and more often than not, players and teams generating Corsi percentages greater than 50 are more successful.

Corsi % through four games, stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com:

CF % (5v5) Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4
Kuraly 45.0 28.6 53.8 15.0
Nordstrom 44.4 32.0 31.2 9.5
Acciari 45.5 34.8 34.8 10.5

As the table above shows, the trend has been going the wrong way, and that’s a worry if you’re the Bruins.  Game 4 was a particularly rough night for the trio as they were held off the score sheet for the first time in the series and gave up the game’s opening goal on their first shift at the 0:43 mark.

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

St Louis took full advantage of home ice to get the match-ups they were looking for in Game 4.  The Bruins started with the Bergeron line and St Louis interim-Head Coach, Craig Berube, countered with his fourth line.  After a stoppage, 29 seconds in, Bruins Coach, Bruce Cassidy, sent the Kuraly line over the boards for a defensive zone face-off.  The Blues countered with the Ryan O’Reilly line, and they quickly capitalized with an opening minute goal that energized the building and the Blues.  All in all, not the start the Bruins were looking for or needed on the road in a hostile environment.

As the Corsi numbers show, the Bruins fourth line was over-matched all night in Game 4, generating just 2 shot attempts for, while giving up 12 (14.29 CF%) in 7:58 of 5-on-5 ice-time.  The Bruins as a whole were out-attempted 49-30 during 5-on-5-play.  The difference can be somewhat attributed to the negative numbers put up by the Kuraly line, but you can’t hang the loss entirely on them.  The reality is that the Bruins need more across their line-up.  They are yet to receive a goal at 5-on-5-play from anyone in their top two lines.

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

There is no question that the Bruins have enjoyed a significant special teams advantage through four games of the Stanley Cup Final.  Boston has gone 6 for 16 with the man-advantage, good for a 37.5% clip, and have added a short-handed goal.  The Blues, on the other hand, are just 1/12 on the man-advantage, translating to an 8.3% rate with a short-handed goal allowed.  The reality is, however, that as the Stanley Cup Final goes deeper and deeper, history has shown that players adjust and as the pressure amps up, discipline is preached, often leading to fewer power play opportunities.  The Bruins are going to need to be better at 5-on-5-play moving forward as they may not be able to count on receiving four or five power plays per game.

All is certainly not lost, and the Kuraly line has proven it’s worth time and time again in the regular season and playoffs and certainly with its contributions in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final.  Coach Cassidy will be expecting a bounce-back performance from the trio in Game 5, and they will play an important role if the Bruins are to overcome adversity and go on to win the Stanley Cup.  The fourth line is in no way the scape-goat here, the Bruins need the contributions to come from the top.  This is something they are aware of, but if the fourth line can rebound and help tilt the ice Boston’s way, that in itself will be a major contribution.  Helping the top lines get offensive zone starts may be just what the Bruins need to turn this around.

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

No one said it was going to be easy.  The Bruins find themselves in an enviable position, heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final tied 2-2.  It’s now a best of three, and they have two games at home to get the job done.  A win in Game 5 will go a long, long way to making that happen.   The Bruins’ fourth line has been vital throughout this playoff run, ever since Kuraly returned from injury for Game 5 of the opening round series against Toronto.  A strong performance from Kuraly, Nordstrom, and Acciari will help send this series back to St Louis with a chance to clinch the Bruins’ seventh Stanley Cup championship.

Bruins Joakim Nordstrom Taking Large Strides in Stanley Cup Finals

1144676348.jpg.0

PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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

Tonight, the Boston Bruins have a chance to lead the Stanley Cup Finals three-games-to-one over the St. Louis Blues. Following a brief look at the roster, many can attribute the success found in the 2018-19 season to many different sources. Goaltender Tuukka Rask and the first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak are four obvious choices while the defensemen of Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Zdeno Chara played equally important roles in not only getting to the postseason, but achieving the Prince of Wales Trophy.

Going back to October, one of the main topics of concern for the Bruins roster was the depth scoring, or lack thereof. Everyone was well aware of the powerhouse top line that dominated the previous playoff run, more specifically against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but after that, the consistent scoring was simply in question.

David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk had chemistry together but they had troubles gelling with a player on the right wing. Numerous players were tested with them, even Pastrnak at some points but the need for a top-six winger was on the Bruins’ radar. Further down the lineup, the third and fourth lines were decent, but they weren’t expected to produce numbers that are needed from your bottom-six in today’s NHL.

Fast forward to now and the Boston Bruins are being talked about for their resilient, hard-working depth that has carried them through the scoring droughts and struggles of the more well-known Bruin forwards. Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Noel Acciari had a fantastic fourth line throughout the season. The addition of both Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have been tremendous boosts for the team and Danton Heinen has found a success role on their wing.

When Chris Wagner fell out of the lineup this postseason due to an injury that resulted from a blocked shot, the Bruins turned to Joakim Nordstrom to help the bottom line with Kuraly and Acciari. Nordstrom had been bounced from the third line and fourth line all season long and was deemed a healthy scratch quite often during the regular season due to the poor play he had shown.

During those times of scratches and long (and I mean long) scoring droughts, many believed that the two-year signing of Nordstrom in the 2018 NHL Free Agency period was a waste of money. His lack of production and value to the team was mentioned everywhere and it was apparent that the coaching staff felt the same way. Yet, that did not and will not alter the mindset of the 27-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden native.

joakim-nordstrom-850x478.jpeg

PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Nordstrom started off the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Toronto with one goal in the opening four games. In that span, he averaged only 11:33 of ice time and was a -2 rating. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy scratched Nordstrom for Game Five, a loss for Boston, then went back to Joakim with their backs against the wall in Game Six in Toronto. Nordstrom played less than nine minutes in the win, recording only one hit and sat in the box for two minutes.

Now on home ice, Nordstrom scored the first goal of the game in Game Seven and helped out later in the game with a secondary assist on Sean Kuraly’s third period goal. Joakim Nordstrom finished the series with 2-1-3 numbers – not fantastic, but a definte improvement from his sub-par season. Unfortunately, he failed to score a single point in the entire six-game series against the Blue Jackets and he ended the Eastern Conference Finals sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes with only one assist.

Then came the Stanley Cup Finals and a new Joakim Nordstrom. During his two-year stint with the Chicago Blackhawks, Nordstrom played in three games over the course of the entire playoff run, but did get to raise the Stanley Cup over his head with the 2015 Hawks. With the experience of hoisting the Cup in the past, 2019 became the first time that Nordstrom got the opportunity to play in the Finals and he has taken that chance and has ran with it.

In the opening three games of the best-of-seven series against the St. Louis Blues so far, Joakim Nordstrom has one goal and three assists for four points to go along with his six blocked shots and +5 rating. All of a sudden, Nordstrom is one of the biggest factors to Boston’s winning lineup. In Game Two, the forward recorded five blocks, including this remarkable effort on an extended penalty-kill late in the second period to keep the game tied.

Earlier in the same game, Nordstrom squeaked a clean shot five-hole past Jordan Binnington to restore Boston’s one-goal lead only forty seconds after Robert Bortuzzo tied the hockey game in the opening frame. While Boston lost the game in overtime later in the night, the quick goal from Nordstrom prevented the momentum from drastically being in St. Louis’ favor.

As mentioned previously, the Bruins are on the road for Game Four tonight. With a 2-1 series lead on the Blues, Boston can take a stranglehold on the series with a win – giving them a chance to win the Stanley Cup at home on Thursday. Coming off of a stellar 7-2 victory in St. Louis on Saturday night, the momentum appears to be in Boston’s favor now.

However, in order for the winning team on Monday night to be wearing Black and Gold, players such as Joakim Nordstrom need to continue the admirable efforts on the ice. Of course, the best of the best to wear the Spoked-B this season need to show up as well, but as the history has shown in 2018-19 – it all comes down to depth. Will Joakim Nordstrom continue to silence the doubters on this Stanley Cup run and help lead the B’s to another victory? Puck drop for Game Four is scheduled for 8:00pm EST from St. Louis, Missouri tonight.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 2: St. Louis at Boston: 5/29/19

Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues mixes it up with Jake DeBrusk and Connor Clifton of the Boston Bruins during the second period in Game 1 of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on May 27, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Boston Bruins

Away: St. Louis Blues

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

St Louis’s Lineup

Forwards

Schwartz – Schenn – Tarasenko

Blais – O’Reilly – Perron

Fabbri – Bozak – Maroon

Barbashev – Sundqvist – Steen

Defense

Edmundson – Pietrangelo

Bouwmeester –  Parayko

Gunnarsson –  Bortuzzo

Goalies

Binnington

Allen

First Period

A game one win for the Bruins that had featured plenty of fireworks set up for an epic game two. David Backes got right into the fray after a bust game one, this time with Patrick Maroon just 2:04 in front of Tuukka Rask.

The first power play came following a Sammy Blais collision with Rask. Charlie Coyle made it hurt and scored 49 seconds into the power play. Coyle’s seventh of the playoffs was assisted by Jake DeBrusk (5) and David Pastrnak (9). Their power play struggled in game one, but set the tone early thanks to Coyle’s five-hole goal.

The Blues didn’t waste too much time before they responded off of a Robert Bortuzzo shot that snuck by Rask and in. The puck deflected off of Matt Grzelcyk before finding its way to the back of the net.

But wait, there’s more. Joakim Nordstrom buried one on the backhand. Another five-hole goal, Nordstrom’s third of the playoffs, was a product of Sean Kuraly’s fifth assist.

Yet another response goal came with around five minutes left. Rask made the save initially, as did Chara afterward, but Vladimir Tarasenko buried the third chance to tie the game at two.

Oskar Sundqvist went off for two minutes as a result of an iffy hit from behind on Matt Grzelcyk and a large scrum ensued. Grzlecyk left the ice and went to the locker room with the assistance of his teammates and Head Athletic Trainer Don DelNegro. The Bruins failed to convert on the power play before the end of the period.

The Blues outhit the Bruins 18-9 and outshot them 10-8. It was a rollercoaster of a period that ended in suspense as a result of the Grzelcyk injury.

Score: 2-2

Second Period

Tarasenko went to the locker room within the first minute of the period after sliding awkwardly into the boards with Nordstrom in pursuit — not what the Blues wanted. Grzekcyk was not on the Bruins bench to start the period.

In better news, Bill Belichick went out of his way to talk to Todd Angilly after he waved the banner before the game.

Connor Clifton was the first to head to the box in the second for interference with 16:26 to go. St. Louis didn’t convert. Backes is not messing around when it comes to getting amongst the physicality and tension with his former team.

Tarasenko returned to the Blues bench, Grzlecyk did not return to the Bruins bench. Similar to what happened between Clifton and Edmundson happened with DeBrusk and Edmundson, with DeBrusk on the receiving end and Edmundson going to the box for tripping. Edmundson also gave DeBrusk a stinger beforehand with a slash. No dice on the power play for the Bruins.

Zdeno Chara was not pleased with the effort level in the period, as the Bruins were getting outplayed.

The penalties kept coming, this time in the form of a Clifton high-sticking penalty on Tyler Bozak that drew blood. The Bruins had a double minor penalty to kill of before the end of the second period.

Nordstrom did his best Gregory Campbell impression on the power play, eating two huge shot blocks. Just past halfway into the extended St. Louis power play came a goaltender interference penalty against Jaden Schwartz, creating a 4-on-4.

Torey Krug found himself with his helmet off again, this time he was tangled up with Colton Parayko. In the final seconds, before the Bruins pulled the goalie with 1.2 seconds left, Krug was amongst a scrum in front of Jordan Binnington being an agitator. Known agitator Brad Marchand was doing his thing at the end of the period too.

The Blues advantages in the first two periods in hits and shots stayed true through the second. The hits were 15-10, and the shots were 14-6 in the period, bringing the totals to 33-19 and 24-14 respectively. The Bruins needed a response in the third period. The absence of Grzelcyk was hurting them, amongst other things.

Score: 2-2

Third Period

Grzelcyk was not on the bench for the third period either, leaving the Bruins shorthanded on the back end again. Also, Clifton blocked a shot with his forehead and Krug made a huge defensive play to stop a cross-crease chance.

The plays the Bruins were trying to make in the second period and into the third just weren’t very cohesive for the most part, and St. Louis was not letting up on them.

An opportunity for a momentum shift came in the form of a power play with 6:38 left in the period. Brayden Schenn helped snap Noel Acciari’s stick in the middle of a shot, along with the flex on the stick. Some chances came and went for the Bruins, but nothing concrete and the game remained tied.

A hectic end to the period followed and no one scored, leading to overtime.

Third period: Hits: 12-12, Shots: 9-9

Regulation: Hits: 45-31 St. Louis, Shots: 33-23 St. Louis

Score: 2-2

Overtime

Bad news came during the intermission and free hockey ensued.

The Blues had the Bruins pinned in their own zone for the large majority of the first three minutes. Shortly after Brandon Carlo drew a delayed call, a Carl Gunnarsson slapshot from the point beat Rask through an Alex Pietrangelo screen to end it. The Blues had four shots to zero for the Bruins and won thanks to their suffocating forecheck and zone pressure. Rask made 34 saves on 37 shots and was a huge reason as to why the game made it to overtime.

Game three in St. Louis is up next on Saturday at 8 PM ET. The Bruins will need to be much better going forward.

Final Score: 3-2 St. Louis

Kuraly Plays Key Role in Bruins’ Success

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By: Carrie Salls | Check me out on Twitter @nittgrl73

Sean Kuraly did not score in the Bruins’ 4-0 Eastern Conference Championship-clinching game on Thursday. In fact, he recorded just one shot.

Although the fourth-line center did lead all Boston centers in the game with 18:16 of time on ice, only four fewer seconds than top TOI forward Brad Marchand, one of Kuraly’s biggest contributions to Thursday night’s win may have actually come from his play in the first few games of the series against the Carolina Hurricanes, namely game three.

According to a Tweet from Brian Messenger of NBC 10 Boston, Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff used the play of Kuraly and the other fourth liners as a teaching tool for the team’s first line, frequently dubbed “The Perfection Line.”

The results of that coaching move were evident, as the first line returned to dominant form in the series clincher.

It’s not particularly surprising that Cassidy turned to the game tapes highlighting Kuraly and his linemates to provide some inspiration to first-line stars Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and David Pastrnak. The coach has long sung the praises of the ability of 26-year-old Dublin, Ohio, native Kuraly’s speed and his ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone and maintain possession.

Cassidy has also turned to Kuraly’s line on numerous occasions to start games, relying on the line’s high-energy, physical nature.

Throughout what is to date the Bruins’ most successful campaign since 2013, Kuraly’s teammates have recognized his skill and importance to the team, as well.

Of course, Kuraly is no stranger to the playoffs and big-game success. Most Bruins fans got their first real look at just what the former Miami University captain can do in high-stakes games when he burst onto the scene to score the game-tying goal and game-winner in the second overtime period of the first-round playoff game against the Ottawa Senators in April 2017.

Kuraly’s playoff success continued with four points in the 2017-2018 postseason, which ended when the Bruins lost in the division finals round to the Tampa Bay Lightning. So far in the team’s 2018-2019 playoff run, Kuraly has amassed five points, including two goals and three assists, despite the fact that he missed the first four games of the Toronto series while recovering from a broken hand suffered blocking a shot late in the regular season.

Some of number 52’s big-game magic was evident during the regular season this year too, highlighted by the game-winning goal scored against the Buffalo Sabres in the final game in 2018, the eventual game-winner scored in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks and a memorable three-point night against the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Jan. 12.

After coming back from the hand injury, it didn’t take long for Kuraly’s big-game presence to be felt in Game 7 against the Leafs, as he scored a crucial goal that gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead and seemed to turn the tide of momentum solidly in Boston’s favor.

In just his second full season as a Boston Bruin and still in the first year of a three-year contract signed in July 2018, Kuraly’s teammates and coaches, and Bruins fans, certainly have reason to be excited about Sean Kuraly’s non-stop energy and big-game prowess.

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

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

By: Liz Rizzo  | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

It’s been a wild first round that saw the early exit of big heavy-hitting teams and the Bruins are one of those teams still standing. After a nerve wrecking victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7  this past Tuesday, the Bruins are now gearing up to face a new foe in Round 2.  For the first time in either teams history, the wild card team Columbus Blue Jackets and the league’s second-place Boston Bruins will face each other.

Boston has had little rest from Tuesday’s bout with the Leafs while the Blue Jackets had 10 days off after a stunning sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the first time in their history Columbus has advanced to the second round. Surpassing all Vegas odds and, pretty much anyone that watches hockey, the Blue Jackets will be looking to strong arm Boston at the TD Garden. The last time these two teams met on April 2nd, Boston defeated the Blue Jackets 6-2. Columbus  has won 11 out of 12 games in the regular season and swept the Lighting in four games.

Image result for BOSTON BRUINS VS BLUE JACKETS(Photo Credits: WCVB Boston)

For Boston, the continued emergence of the fourth line will hopefully once again show up tonight as they face a heavy, tough Columbus team. Sometimes rest isn’t always the best thing and that can bode well for the B’s. They’ll be looking to carry over their momentum from their Game 7 win to tonight’s game. If you look back to last postseason, the Bruins defeated Toronto and were able to defeat the Lightning in Game 1 of the second round, winning 6-2. But as history has it, the Bruins were unable to carry that energy over to the rest of the series.

“I hope we’re ready. I can’t guarantee how it is. Eight or nine days off, I think we can say all the right things as I’m trying to do right now, but it comes down to the players being mentally ready. To me, its not a physical ready, its a mental readiness as far as ready to elevate your compete to start a series.”-Columbus Coach John Tortorella

Both Boston and Columbus had the best power play in the league postseason, with the Jackets in first and Boston in second. The Bruins power-play was instrumental in key victories over the Maple Leafs. For the Blue Jackets, their power-play was a huge factor in their winning sweep over Tampa Bay.  If you wanna talk stats, the Bruins were shorthanded 16 times in seven games, while Columbus was shorthanded six times in four games.

Image result for BOSTON BRUINS VS BLUE JACKETS(Photo Credits: NESN.com)

The Bruins will need to be mindful of the heavy forechecking by Columbus’s Josh Anderson, Nick Foglino and rookie Alexandre Texier.  Boston’s secondary scoring issues was hot topic during the regular season, however come postseason, has been a different story. In the pivotal Game 7, it was Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Marcus Johansson that got the Bruins on board. Although the first line has been quiet (aside from Marchand who’s been steadily producing), the team will  need all lines on deck for this series. Columbus’s Matt Duchene leads the team in points, goals and assists, while Brad Marchand leads in points, goals and assists.

Boston’s Chris Wagner and Connor Clifton will be back in the lineup tonight.

For Columbus, here are the projected lines for tonight:

Artemi Panarin – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Oliver Bjokstrand

Ryan Dzingel – Matt Duchene – Cam Atkinson

Alexandre Texier – Nick Foligno – Josh Anderson

Riley Nash – Booner Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky

Zach Werenski – Seth Jones

Markus Nutivaara – David Savard

Scott Harrington – Adam Clendening

Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo

Expect Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky in their respected nets.

WHEN TO WATCH: Tonight at TD Garden with puck drop at 7:00 PM

WHERE TO WATCH: NBCSN

 

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 7: Toronto at Boston

cut (41)

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

Tonight, it ends. The first-round matchup between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs see yet another Game 7. Both teams have had strong games, weak games, and everything in between. For one team, they move on to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round Two, the other heads home for the offseason.

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (3-3)

Away: Toronto Maple Leafs (3-3)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 4-2

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Everything remains the same for the Bruins after Sunday’s Game 6 victory in Toronto. Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen are the starting goaltenders for Boston and Toronto.

First Period:

Right out of the gate, the Bruins attacked the Leafs defence with some quick shots and a close wraparound shot by David Pastrnak. Frederik Andersen seemed a tad bit slow on the wraparound but makes the save nonetheless. Boston looking not too bad to start off this Game 7. Not too long after, Tuukka Rask makes a large save for himself on Auston Matthews right in the slot.

Later in the early stages to the period, the Bruins with some solid shots on goal or some that just miss by a hair. Torey Krug lightens up the crowd even more than they already are with a huge hit on Trevor Moore that knocks his helmet off. After a solid Game 6, Krug is looking to have another big playoff game tonight.

As the period continued, Boston seemed to relax a little or Toronto just had their legs more. Both teams commit numerous icings consecutively but the Leafs are the ones getting shots and pressure on the Bruins defence. Tuukka Rask has made some good stops including some huge saves on Mitch Marner but the B’s need to be better defensively.

With around five minutes to go in the opening frame, the Bruins fourth line strikes first. Noel Acciari picks off a breakout pass by the Maple Leafs just on the line, feeding it to Sean Kuraly. Kuraly drives the puck in deeper, getting a shot on, but it is Joakim Nordstrom that somehow beats Andersen right in front of him. The puck found the smallest gap imaginable and quite frankly, I’m not sure Nordstrom even saw that opening. No matter what, Bruins are up 1-0 late in the first.

With the crowd going crazy in the TD Garden, Jake Gardiner makes a terrible turnover behind his own net with Kuhlman close behind him, leading the puck to Marcus Johansson who spins and shoots the puck past Andersen. Johansson finally gets on the board for his first goal of the postseason and Boston takes a big 2-0 lead late in the frame. With the constant pressure on the top-six by the Leafs, the Bruins’ bottom-six needs to show up and so far, they are.

As the final seconds tick away, Boston nearly strikes again with some good chances by DeBrusk, (who is all over the puck tonight) and Pastrnak. However, Andersen makes a big toe save and we enter the first intermission.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 11 TOR: 12

Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Nordstrom (2) Assists: Grzelcyk (4), Kuraly (1); Johansson (1) Unassisted

Second Period:

In the first five minutes, Bruins get some chances off a long airborne pass to Pastrnak but some fanned shots don’t result into anything. Exactly 3:54 into the period, John Tavares comes onto the ice, gets the puck, and snipes one far-side on Tuukka Rask to cut into Boston’s lead. Tyler Ennis does a great job taking the puck away from the Bruins player – resulting in the goal. 2-1 Bruins early in the second.

The goal for Toronto gave them tons of momentum as the Matthews line puts hard pressure on with some high-quality shots and chances but with the help of Rask’s play in net, Boston keeps it 2-1. The Bruins need a big hit or preferably, another goal to shift the momentum once again.

Eight minutes into the second, Zdeno Chara does a great job pinching to keep the puck in the offensive zone. As a result, Danton Heinen rips a wrist shot at Andersen’s chest, leaving a juicy rebound for Brad Marchand. Marchand shifts the puck to his backhand but cannot lift the shot over the sprawling Andersen. Extremely close opportunity to extend the lead to two goals again.

In a net-front battle, Brandon Carlo cross-checks the back of Andreas Johnsson and the officials are not going to have it and Carlo goes to the box for two minutes. I personally think it is a weak call, but it is called so Boston heads to the penalty-kill. The Maple Leafs get some close calls with the scary threats of Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Rielly but a lot of missed shots keep it a one-goal game. Boston successfully kills off the penalty.

Even though the game is back to 5-on-5, Boston is allowing the Leafs to walk all around their zone and they fully rely on Tuukka Rask in the net. Fortunately, Rask has made some big saves but the five skaters on the ice wearing the Spoked-B are chasing the Maple Leafs and cannot form any sort of breakout whatsoever.

Eventually, the Bruins get some offensive control of their own and the team is able to make a successful line change while in Toronto’s zone. In the final six minutes or so, the B’s have been able to shut down a lot of the chances against Rask and they have looked a bit better since the goal by Tavares.

With all of that, the second period ends there – only twenty minutes remain in Game Seven. The Boston Bruins finished the frame with a lot better pressure and much better control. Not as many shots, but a good end to the period. Also, some post-whistle pushing and shoving before we head into the second intermission.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 19 TOR: 25

Score: 2-1 Bruins – Goals: Tavares (2) Assists: Ennis (2)

Third Period:

Twenty minutes to go… and the Bruins strike early. Noel Acciari leaves the puck for Sean Kuraly in the neutral zone. Kuraly weaves into the Leafs zone with slick hands and snipes it clean past Rask. The clutch play by Sean Kuraly in the playoffs continue with this massive insurance goal less than three minutes into the third period. He has been a key player for Boston in the two games that he has returned.

With 14:41 to go in the third, the linesman catches the Bruins with six players on the ice – too-many-men – a bench minor that will put Boston to the penalty-kill for the second time tonight. Boston kills off the penalty will almost ease and it is back to 5-on-5, impressive to be honest.

As the minutes go by, the Bruins play gets better and better. All of a sudden, the Maple Leafs are having trouble entering the zone, especially Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Boston is not laying back, but not taking risks either. It is a calm style of game for the Bruins right now and it is exactly what they want.

Toronto did not have many great opportunities to score in the final regulation period, except for a close call that took a weird bounce off of the post. Mike Babcock pulled Andersen with roughly three minutes to go in the game and Sean Kuraly makes a nice play to allow Krejci to find Charlie Coyle who buries it in the open cage. Bruins take a 4-1 lead and are only minutes away from round two. Bergeron added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to make it 5-1.

And with that, the Boston Bruins eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games and advance to the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 32 TOR: 33

Final: 5-1 Bruins – BOS wins series 4-3

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 28 Saves, .970 SV%

2nd Star: BOS F Sean Kuraly – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots, 50% Faceoffs

3rd Star: BOS F Joakim Nordstrom – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots

Boston Bruins: Four Games, Two Wins, Three Lines

Screen Shot 2019-04-18 at 10.35.48 AM

Photo Credit: Frank Gunn/AP

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

It doesn’t take a brilliant hockey mind to understand that the Bruins stole Game 4 from Toronto thanks to some big games from big names.

 

The Bruins, despite twice going up by two or more goals in the game, never seemed to have complete control, and their feeble attempt at staving off a Toronto comeback effort demonstrated how unstable their leads can be. Tuukka Rask allowed a bad goal, but he also played an outstanding hockey game. Game 4 was probably the strongest offensive effort the Leafs put together, pouring in four goals and matching their series high. Yet even as they were charging late having stolen every ounce of momentum, Rask was equal to the task (I hate that I just used that line), slamming the door on both the Leafs and Game 4.

The Bruins got solid games from their top defensive pairing and Brandon Carlo on the back end, with their top line and Charlie Coyle playing well up front. Outside of this group (and Rask) the Bruins played a “meh” hockey game. Maybe even “meh-minus.”

For the third time in four games, Toronto played a better hockey game than the Bruins. If not for the grace of Boston’s top dogs, the Bruins would be coming back to Boston down 3-1 with their backs secured firmly against the wall.

What’s encouraging about this scenario for Boston, is that they’ve essentially played four games (winning two of them), with just three lines. Butch Cassidy’s fourth forward unit of Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari, and Chris Wagner has been, to put it nicely, disappointing. While Nordstrom was able to score an empty netter with the game already decided last night, and even drew a critical penalty in the opening minutes of the game (which lead to a Charlie McAvoy BINGO), the unit as a whole put together another underwhelming game.

 

Kuraly, Please.

The string of playoff performances that this fourth line has compiled sheds a lot of light on just how valuable Sean Kuraly is to not just the fourth unit, but also the team as a whole. Sean Kuraly is the straw that stirs the fourth line drink. With Kuraly in the lineup, his speed makes the entire fourth unit faster and opens up the ice North/South. His ability to carry the puck with speed through the neutral zone drives offensive zone possession for Boston, something that is invaluable, especially coming from a fourth unit. Kuraly’s speed also allows him to be first on a lot of pucks that are dumped behind defensemen. While certainly this bodes well for Boston’s offense and scoring chances, it also (and almost more importantly) creates tougher minutes for Toronto’s defensemen. Forcing Toronto to play in their own end limits their energy and ability to bypass the Bruins’ forecheck with smooth and simple breakouts. Without Kuraly, the Black and Gold forecheck has been noticeably weaker (aside from Game 2). When examining the forechecking efforts of the fourth line specifically, they seem to lack the necessary speed to apply pressure in certain spots (Wagner, Acciari), and lack the necessary physicality to disrupt possession in others (Nordstrom). Kuraly will bring both physicality and speed to Toronto’s front door, and Game 2 showed just how important that is for the Bruins to succeed. To paraphrase the great Destiny’s Child, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

 

Kuraly’s role might be as significant to this team’s success as any fourth liner that I can remember. His presence on the fourth line makes the entire lineup deeper, and it opens up chances for other lines because it forces opponents to play tougher minutes. Toronto has shown that it is incapable of playing 60 solid minutes when presented with physicality and aggressiveness.

Having #52 rejoin will not only signal Kuraly’s return to the lineup, but it also signals the return of the fourth line to the Bruin’s rotation. Having Kuraly back means that Bruce Cassidy will have another line he can trust to put on the ice regularly, which will save the legs of the Bruins top scorers and open up the game for them to play as they are capable of. We got a glimpse of how good they can be in the playoffs on Wednesday night in Game 4. Imagine how good they will be when Kuraly’s line eats up some of their tougher minutes.

Put your Kuraly caps on! (I’ll see myself out.)

Moving Forward

As far as what the fourth line will look like upon Kuraly’s return, I think it’s anyone’s guess. While the Wagner-Acciari-Kuraly line had a lot of success during the year, it will be interesting to see if Cassidy doesn’t leave Nordstrom in for either Acciari or Wagner. While Nordstrom did outplay both of them, Acciari and Wagner’s chemistry with Kuraly might prove to be too significant to ignore.

If it were up to me, the fourth unit would feature Kuraly-Acciari-Kuhlman. Admittedly, while part of me thought that a “KKA” (pronounced “Ca-Caw”) line would have a cool nickname and be fun for Cassidy to shout when their time had come to grace the ice, I also think that this grouping brings the best balance of speed, skill, and physicality to the fourth line. And that’s a combination that the Bruins have been in dire need of for more than a week now.

In all likelihood, we will probably see either the WAK line or Nordstrom with Kuraly and Acciari. Either way, there’s no scenario in which Sean Kuraly returns and the Bruins’ fourth unit isn’t immediately miles ahead of where it was just days before.

Screen Shot 2019-04-18 at 10.53.12 AM

Photo Credit: Brad Penner/ USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins just got their swagger back. And are back on Garden ice. Uh-oh.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 4: Boston at Toronto

USATSI_12549978.jpg

(Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Toronto Maple Leafs

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen

DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak

Johansson – Coyle – Backes

Nordstrom – Acciari – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Moore – Grzelcyk

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Toronto’s Lineup

Forwards

Hyman – Tavares – Marner

Johnsson – Matthews – Kapanen

Marleau – Nylander – Brown

Ennis – Gauthier – Moore

Defense

Reilly – Hainsey

Muzzin –  Zaitsev

Gardiner – Dermott

Goalies

Andersen

Hutchinson

First Period

Shortly after Zdeno Chara flattened Mitch Marner right after the puck dropped, Joakim Nordstrom drew an early penalty on Connor Brown. Charlie McAvoy made no mistake off of a one-timer from Patrice Bergeron’s office in the slot to give the Bruins a one-goal lead early, McAvoy’s first of the playoffs. Charlie Coyle’s first assist of the playoffs, and Matt Grzelcyk’s third made it happen. Three former Boston University Terriers in on the goal, solid start for the Bruins.

That wasn’t all, the simplification of the Bruins’ game continued. Effective puck pursuit and smart passing set up Brad Marchand’s second goal of the playoffs. Two goals in 3:35. Bergeron (1) and Heinen (2) had the helpers. 2-0 lead less than seven minutes in.

Fast forward to the 6:31 mark and Bergeron found himself in the box for interference. Toronto was held to just one shot and no goals on their first power play, but their second power play came in close proximity to the end of their first one. This time in the form of an interference call on McAvoy.

Toronto failed to score on either power play, but Zach Hyman managed to get a piece of a Morgan Reilly shot and deflect it past Tuukka Rask. This came shortly after the second power play and cut the Bruins’ lead to one with 2:05 remaining in the period.

The Bruins managed to hold a one-goal lead heading into the room, but needed to find a way to stifle Toronto’s momentum in the second frame. Overall, Rask played well in net and the team came out on a mission, but there will still 40 minutes to go. The shots were 14-12 Bruins in the first period.

Score: 2-1 Boston

Second Period

Auston Matthews wasted no time capitalizing on Toronto’s momentum from late in the first period, tying the game at two.

David Pastrnak responded 2:09 later, redirecting a feed from Marchand past Andersen and in, regaining the lead for the Bruins. Pastrnak’s first of the playoffs assisted by Marchand (3) and Bergeron (1).

More good fortune came their way, not for McAvoy, but for the team in the form of a roughing penalty on Matthews. Persistence in the vicinity of Frederik Andersen from the Bruins’ first power play unit led to a second goal for Pastrnak, giving the Bruins a two-goal lead. Marchand’s fourth assist of the playoffs was the lone assist on the goal.

Despite holding a two-goal lead again, things were not peachy for the Bruins. Toronto did not slow down offensively and generated some solid chances. Amongst these chances was a huge stop by Rask on Connor Brown.

By the final two minutes of the period, the Bruins had 18 blocked shots to the seven for the Leafs. One of those came in the form of Marcus Johansson going slowly to the bench off a big block on a Travis Dermott shot from the point. Despite chances coming from Toronto, the Bruins remained resilient.

Although they were outshot 14-8 in the period, a huge response from David Pastrnak and the Bruins had them back on top by two heading into the final frame.

Score: 4-2 Boston

Third Period

The Bruins’ wise leader, Zdeno Chara took his time at the blue line and made it a three-goal lead for the Bruins 5:39 into the period, a huge, unassisted insurance goal. The goal marked Chara’s first of the playoffs.

At the 8:18 mark, Hyman took a high stick from McAvoy, putting McAvoy in the box for a second time. Matthews got on the board for a second time early in the power play, making it 5-3. During their next offensive zone stint, Toronto saw a couple more near goals come their way, but Rask said no.

Dermott cut the lead to one on a second chance opportunity from the point. Toronto was thriving on the momentum, the Bruins needed a response. Mike Babcock pulled Andersen with less than two minutes to go with a comeback on his mind.

After a hectic final two minutes, Nordstrom buried an empty netter with two minutes left to seal the deal. Nordstrom’s first of the playoffs was assisted by David Krejci (1).

The series is tied at two heading towards game five on Friday at 7 PM at TD Garden.

Final Score: 6-4 Boston

Bruins Could Really Use…Sean Kuraly?

(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP)

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

The Boston Bruins skated off the ice at Scotiabank Arena last night, left to lick their wounds and contemplate what it will take to recapture the momentum in their best-of-7 opening round playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Much of the attention following the loss was focused on the lack of production from the top-line trio, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.   Having opened up last year’s opening round series with a combined 20 points in the first two games at TD Garden, the line has only managed to amass a combined 6 points through three games in the series.

With much of the fan base and media speculating that the answer is now to split up the top line by moving Pastrnak down to David Krejci’s right wing, a close look at some of the indicators through three games suggests the Bruins true woes may be found a lot further down the lineup.  One of the Bruins strengths in the regular season was the relatively effective play of its fourth line, a line that when healthy features Sean Kuraly centering Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner.  Kuraly went down with a hand injury suffered on a blocked shot in a game against the New Jersey Devils on March 21st.  The Bruins had indicated that Kuraly was expected to miss at least 4 weeks with the injury.

As the Bruins made their way through the regular season and skated to the second best record in the Eastern Conference, they were buoyed by the solid play of their fourth line.  Often sent out to match up against the opposition’s top line, the Kuraly line has proven particularly effective at hemming opposing teams into their own zone, being strong on the puck and providing valuable wear and tear on opposing defense corps.  In turn, by spending their shifts 200 feet from their own goal, despite often starting in the defensive zone, they were effective in neutralizing opposing scoring threats while creating favorable matchups for the Bergeron line.

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

With Kuraly currently sidelined, that line now finds Acciari centering Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom.  Through three games of the current series against Toronto, the play and effectiveness of the so-called fourth line have been highly effective in Boston’s Game 2 win and far from it in their two losses.

One indicator of a player’s effectiveness (I won’t debate the merits of the metric here, but it is generally accepted as a reasonable measure despite some limitations) is his Shot Attempts Percentage (SAT%, also known as Corsi).  The SAT% is the percentage of shot attempts that the team takes out of total shot attempts.  The calculation of SAT% = SAT For/(SAT For + SAT Against).  As a general indicator players are looking to be above the 50% mark in this metric, considered to be above average.  As mentioned there are limitations but generally speaking, the indicator is reliable.

A look at this analytic through three games in the series tells an interesting story about the Bruins fourth line.

Regular
Season SAT%
Playoff SAT%
Through 3
Games
Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Acciari 49.96 50.00 36.4 64.3 30.4
Wagner 49.78 48.57 42.3 73.9 27.6
Nordstrom 50.04 45.31 43.5 53.6 22.7
Kuraly 49.74

(Stats courtesy of hockey-reference.com and NHL.com)

Nordstrom’s regular season SAT% is slightly higher than that of Acciari, Wagner, and Kuraly and this is attributable to his having played further up the line up for much of the season and a higher percentage of offensive zone starts.  Nordstrom starts in the offensive zone for 49.17% of draws compared to the others taking only about one-third of their draws in the offensive zone, averaging 34.51% between them.  Starting shifts in the offensive zone gives a greater chance of accumulating shot attempts for, hence their effect on this statistic.

So What Does It All Say? 

In a nutshell, the Bruins success in Game 2 was in direct correlation with the effectiveness of the fourth line.  Coach Cassidy’s decision to start them against the Tavares, Marner, Hyman line had Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock pulling his line from the ice in the opening seconds and setting a tone that would have the game played on the Bruins’ terms all night.  The Corsi numbers for the Boston’s fourth liners was off the charts in Game 2, Acciari at 64.3, Wagner at a mind-boggling 73.9, and Nordstrom at an above average 53.6.  As a result, the Bruins exerted pressure on the Maple Leafs defense all game long, forced turnovers, and forced their best players to play far more in their defensive zone than they would prefer.  By playing with the lead most of the night, all three players were able to log minutes in line with their regular season average.

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

In Boston’s two losses in this series, however, the fancy stats are far less glamorous for the fourth line.  In Game 1, Acciari was at 36.4, Wagner at 42.3 and Nordstrom at 43.5.  The result as we all know was a game played very much on Toronto’s terms.  The Maple Leafs were able to overcome an early deficit to play with the lead most of the night and used their highly publicized speed to create several breakaways and odd-man rushes that kept the Bruins chasing the game most of the night.

In game three, the effectiveness of the fourth line was even worse.  Acciari led the line with a SAT% of 30.4, Wagner was 27.6, and Nordstrom was 22.7.  Those numbers are simply not going to get the job done.  If the Bruins are going to be successful, I would argue that the key is not going to be breaking up the top line.  Rather, they need a more effective contribution from the bottom of their forward group.  If the fourth line can re-establish their identity as a hard-working, effective, forechecking group and force the Maple Leafs back into their own zone, effectively helping tilt the ice, the Bruins are going to be just fine in this series.  The middle forward lines have been effective thus far, and you have to feel that the top line is not going to be held in check much longer, they are simply too good.

A return to the line-up of Sean Kuraly would go a long way to getting the fourth line back on track.  Kuraly combines speed and strength and a bull-like tenacity to hunt the puck and contain it.  His energy is infectious and is arguably what has been lacking on the fourth unit in the two losses against Toronto.  If the Bruins are to regain momentum and bring this series back to Boston on even terms, the fourth line needs to lift.  It is unknown when Kuraly may return to the line-up, but he will unquestionably be a welcome addition when he does.  In the meantime, the Bruins are looking for an effort reminiscent of the one provided in Game 2.  Anything less and the return of Kuraly to the fold may be too little, too late.