Kuhlman Making An Impact For Bruins In Cup Final

( Photo Credit: Boston Informer )

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Oftentimes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, experience makes all the difference. Typically speaking, experienced players get more opportunities because of their past performance, and they are counted on much more than inexperienced players. The Boston Bruins are no stranger to playoff experience. Three of the most important players on the team, Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara have over 300 games of postseason experience.

These guys have been through all sorts of playoff battles and therefore are relied upon much more than any other players. David Backes is another example of a very experienced player who is a very respected player in the locker room. However, sometimes experience isn’t everything, and Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy made a huge decision that went against some people’s logical thinking. After scratching Backes in Game Five to play seven defensemen, Cassidy chose to insert rookie Karson Kuhlman into the lineup in favor of putting Backes back into the lineup.

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Rightfully so there were some folks unsure about Kuhlman’s insertion and unsure how he would react to playing on such an important stage, an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Final. Not only did Kuhlman play a decent game in Game Six, but he was also one of the best forwards on the ice. Playing on a big stage is nothing new for the former Minnesota Duluth Bulldog who just a year ago, helped the school win the NCAA National Championship and was named the Tournament’s MVP. Not to say the stage is the same, but you can’t deny that experience certainly helped him feel less nervous and probably not allow the nerves to affect him as much. Kuhlman showcased his best skills last night, skating, speed and his unparalleled hunger for the puck. Kuhlman is not the physical player Backes is, but he certainly more than makes up for it in the other aforementioned areas.

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Before you get the wrong idea, this is not an anti-David Backes article because myself I’ve been a fan of his since his St. Louis days. But sometimes a coach needs to recognize which skills are more useful in a certain situation. Backes certainly has made a positive impact for the B’s in the playoffs, but unfortunately, that was two rounds ago. When the Bruins trailed two games to one against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Backes was inserted into the lineup to combat the physical play, and he did just that and was one of the main reasons the Bruins ended up clinching that series by winning three straight games. Since that series, Backes has one point and hasn’t made much of an impact. The Bruins could get by with Backes in the lineup against Carolina but when playing a team that’s as physical as St. Louis, trying to match their strength isn’t the right way to go.

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Physical play is the name of the game for the St. Louis Blues, they play with grit, are hard on the puck and hit everything that moves. Interestingly enough, it perfectly describes the 2011 Boston Bruins, and yes, we all know what happened with that team. Getting down in the muck and trying to outhit and out physical, the Blues is a strategy that hasn’t worked for the Bruins in this series, and it hasn’t worked for them in the past(Tampa Bay last season). This isn’t to say the Bruins aren’t a tough team and can’t hit well, they are a physical team, but they are at their best when they play with pace and energy.

Inserting Kuhlman into the lineup seemed to inject energy into the second line, and they responded with their best game of the series. The more the Bruins can play with pace, the better chance they have to win, and at the end of the day, the goal is to give yourself the best chance to win. People might disagree about who should play, but we can all agree we want the team to win and want the team to put out the best lineup possible.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECSF Game 3: Boston at Columbus: 4/30/19

Boston Bruins vs Columbus Blue JacketsPhoto Courtesy Of The Boston Herald

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Home: Columbus Blue Jackets (5-1)

Away: Boston Bruins (5-4)

Columbus’s Lineup

Forwards

Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson

Foligno-Duchene-Anderson

Dzingel-Wennberg-Bjorkstrand

Dubinsky-Jenner-Nash

Defense

Werenski-Jones

Kukan-Savard

Harrington-Clendening

Goalies

Bobrovsky

Korpisalo

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen

DeBrusk-Krejci-Kuhlman

Johansson-Coyle-Pastrnak

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Acciari

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

First Period

The Columbus crowd was into it from puck drop as it was clear early on that the Bruins were indeed in enemy territory. The B’s had some solid attacking zone rhythm in the opening minutes as both Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy had good scoring chances. The Bruins had good jump in the first few moments as they were able to string together some solid shifts. Tuukka Rask appeared to be on his game in the opening period making a few important stops including a nice kick save on a shot by Ryan Dzingel.

The Bruins seemed to be more responsible especially in the defensive zone by blocking shots and not allowing Columbus to establish an attacking rhythm. The B’s picked up their first power play of the game as Nick Foligno was called for slashing with under nine minutes left in the period. Columbus killed off the penalty without much resistance as the Bruins failed to move the puck in the offensive zone with any efficiency.

Both teams began to find an offensive rhythm in their respective attacking zones but neither team could solve the opponents goaltenders who faced some pretty good chances. Boone Jenner gave the Blue Jackets the late first period lead with a wrist shot off the rush that beat Rask with 1:23 left in the period.

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Torey Krug tripped Artemi Panarin shortly after the goal, giving Columbus a chance to double the lead before the intermission. The B’s killed off the remainder of the period with the Blue Jackets still having over a minute left on the man advantage.

Score: 1-0 Blue Jackets

Second Period

The B’s killed off the rest of the Columbus man advantage without yielding any significant chances. The Bruins continued to get chances in the offensive zone but still were unable to solve Sergei Bobrovsky who kept the game scoreless early on in the second period. Rask also continued to have a solid game, making a quick succession of saves on Jenner and Seth Jones toward the midway point of the game.

The Blue Jackets continued to be incredibly physical in the second period which seemed to bother the Bruins who couldn’t get much of an offensive rhythm going. After a crazy scramble in front that nearly resulted in the second Columbus goal, Brad Marchand took a penalty for a stick which resulted in another Blue Jackets power play about midway through the period.

Matt Duchene buried a loose puck in front of Rask to double the Blue Jackets lead with over seven minutes remaining in the period.

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The Bruins responded with a good shift in the attacking zone but came away empty handed as they continued to struggle to get anything going offensively. Karson Kuhlman got a couple great chances after the goal as he continued his strong game back in the lineup for the first time in the series. Jake DeBrusk jammed home a loose puck with 39 seconds left in the period to give the Bruins some life.

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Score: 2-1 Blue Jackets

Third Period

The Bruins became a bit more physical early in the final period as they looked to impose their will to take over the game. The B’s did continue to get pucks to the net in the opening moments of the third as they looked to tie the game. The Bruins fourth line had a tremendous shift which nearly tied the game but Noel Acciari hit the post on a great chance from the slot set up by McAvoy.

The Bruins had very solid puck movement in the attacking but nothing more than they had previously in the game. Chances were there but again the Bruins had trouble converting them into goals. Rask continued his strong game with some nice stick play to deny chances for the Blue Jackets. Marchand drew a penalty with under nine minutes left as he was tripped skating down the slot. 16 seconds into the man advantage, Bergeron tripped Josh Anderson which resulted in a four on four.

The Bruins killed off the abbreviated power play and even got a few good looks at the net but still found themselves down a goal with over six minutes to go. The B’s continued to push hard for the tying goal seemingly ready to empty the tank to try to send the game to overtime. Rask went to the bench with about 2:20 to go. The Bruins failed to find the tying goal as the Blue Jackets took a 2-1 series lead.

Final Score: 2-1 Blue Jackets

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Bobrovsky. No doubt about this one as the Blue Jackets goaltender stole another game in the series, making 34 stops.

Second Star: Rask. The Bruin goaltender was nearly as good as Bobrovsky as he kept Boston in the game all night, withstanding a couple of big Columbus surges.

Third Star: Jenner. The fourth line for the Blue Jackets had a solid game, finding the back of the net and continuing to be incredibly physical.

Something’s Gotta Give: Pastrnak Bumped To Third Line

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photo credit: USA Today sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruins Look to Kuraly & Kuhlman to KO Leafs

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Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/Getty Images

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

In a playoff series that features an excess of star-power and offensive prowess, an appreciation for roster depth can often go by the wayside. The Boston Bruins, despite boasting arguably the best forward line in hockey, have proven to fall short of the Toronto Maple Leafs when considering world-class skill at the forward position. The collection of Marner, Matthews, and Tavares, when supplemented by several players that could slot in as top-6 forwards on most teams (Johnsson, Kapanen, Nylander, Marleau, Hyman), has outshined the forward units of the Black and Gold for the better part of the series.

The Bruins have been able to string together enough bounce-back wins to even the series at three games apiece, and have been lucky to do so, as they have struggled to find a lineup that provides them with their best matchup against a high-skilled Toronto squad. However, Game 6 on Sunday might have sparked some hope for the Boston faithful as the series concludes after Tuesday’s Game 7 in Boston.

For the vast majority of Sunday’s Game 6, the Bruins maintained almost complete control. They out-chanced the Leafs. They out-worked the Leafs. They killed penalties. They rallied for three unanswered goals after surrendering the game’s first tally. They created their own energy with their backs against the wall in a game on the road. To say the least (apart from the final 10 minutes of the game), Sunday’s effort was largely encouraging for the Bruins and their fans. It showcased the team’s most complete effort throughout the course of a 60-minute battle, and did so in the face of adversity and immense pressure.

Why?

Here’s a fun fact for hockey fans everywhere: The Boston Bruins have, in their entire history as an organization, never lost a playoff game in which both Sean Kuraly and Karson Kuhlman were in the lineup for Boston.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why this is the case. Is it because their last names begin with ‘K’? Is it because they both come from the Midwest? Is it because they both bring a workman style approach to each game?

These are all fair questions. Quite simply, the Bruins have never lost when both players take the ice in the playoffs (1-0-0, 1.00 Win %) because of the completeness of their game, and the versatility that each player provides.

While Kuhlman and Kuraly play somewhat different styles and have suited up among mostly different linemates during the 2018-2019 campaign, they both possess the necessary speed to compete with Toronto’s forward units. Their ability to get behind Toronto’s defensemen on the forecheck is invaluable in a series that, for the first four or five games, featured a Toronto defensive unit that broke the puck out of their zone with relative ease. While David Backes and Chris Wagner (the two Bruins relegated to the press box in lieu of Kuhlman and Kuraly) play a somewhat physical game, their deficiencies as skaters proved to be too much for Bruce Cassidy to continue to put them on the ice.

Kuraly’s game is mostly devoted to North/South trajectories and an ability to lug the puck from zone to zone, and Kuhlman’s game can also feature similar attributes. In a “grind it out” style of game, Kuhlman can use his legs and grit to be effective and keep things simple. However, in a more skill and creativity-centric game, Kuhlman also possesses the necessary skill set to make plays, and pass the puck well. The combination of puck possession and play-making ability between Kuraly and Kuhlman prove to bring much more to the table than the one-dimensional styles of both Backes and Wagner.

The Bruins’ lineup is deeper throughout with both Kuhlman and Kuraly on the ice. Cassidy has shown that he trusts both players in the later minutes of games, when he has shortened his bench during crucial minutes. The Bruins, especially in a Game 7, cannot afford to suit up forwards who can’t be trusted in crucial minutes and high-pressured situations. Wagner and Backes’s minutes in the late stages of their most recent playoff games reveal just how little Cassidy can trust their play, at least in this particular series. Having more bodies that can be effective on Cassidy’s bench is paramount in the latter stages of playoff games, as they will be able to provide Cassidy’s top players with adequate rest, so that they can continue to play at their highest level when the Bruins need them most.

 

It’s been said before, but it’s worth restating: The Bruins have never lost a playoff game in which both Kuraly and Kuhlman have been in the lineup for Boston.

I’m no rocket scientist (yet), but I don’t need to be in order to know that I wouldn’t bet against that combination of K’s as they look to KO Toronto in Game 7.

Kuhlman and Kuraly? That’s deep.

Boston Bruins: Four Games, Two Wins, Three Lines

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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.

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Photo Credit: Brad Penner/ USA TODAY Sports

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

David Krejci’s Success is Key for Bruins Stanley Cup Run

Krejci

( Photo Credit: BostonSportsExtra.com )

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

The Bruins are set to begin their quest for the team’s seventh Stanley Cup when they meet the Maple Leafs in round 1 for the second straight season. They have been one of the leagues best teams and a favorite of many to hoist Lord Stanley in June. In the middle of the Bruins’ success has been David Krejci – who had one of the most consistent and dominant seasons of his career.

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Since coming into the league in the 2007-08 season, Krejci has become an incredible offensive force and leader in the locker room for the Bruins. In his second season, Krejci put him 73 points in 82 games played. In his 12th year in the league this season, Krejci tied his career high with 73 points in 81 games played and has managed to stay healthy all year. And oh, by the way, he is about to turn 33 on April 28th.

Krejci has battled numerous injuries in the regular season and playoffs that have made fans overlook his contributions to the Bruins in the recent regular season and playoff campaigns. This season he has managed to stay healthy and only sat out one of the last regular season games to rest for the upcoming playoffs.

In 2011, Krejci began the playoffs having played 75 games that season and accumulating 62 points (13G 49A). He was healthy heading into the playoffs and was centering a line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. That line was killer to the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, and Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoff run. Krejci’s line scored huge goals in the playoffs that season including the game-winner in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the Conference Final. Nathan Horton scored the lone goal on a great feed from David Krejci that would ultimately send the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals with the 1-0 win.

Krejci led the entire playoffs that year in scoring with 12 goals (4 game-winning goals) 11 assists for 23 points in 25 games. Of course, the Bruins won the Stanely Cup against Vancouver that season and it’s no coincidence that David Krejci leading the playoffs in scoring was a huge part of that Stanley Cup.

In 2013, the Bruins returned to the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago. Again, David Krejci led the NHL in points during the playoffs by scoring 9 goals 17 assists for 26 points in 22 games. Along with Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, the playmaking of Krejci was instrumental in bringing the Bruins back to the Cup Finals.

When it comes down to crunch time in the playoffs where big faceoffs in the offensive or defensive zones can be crucial ones, the Bruins have the luxury of throwing Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci out there just in case one of them gets thrown out of the draw. If Bergeron is waved out, Krejci can step in and be a reliable faceoff guy who has a 50.8% career faceoff percentage, which is a great luxury that often gets overlooked in the fan-base.

In the past few years, the Bruins have struggled to find winger’s for David Krejci after the departures of Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. Last year, Jake DeBrusk came into the league and put up impressive rookie numbers in the regular season and even came up huge in the playoffs for the Bruins. Much of that success has to do with Krejci taking DeBrusk under his wing. They have brewed up nice chemistry, and both are having career years. It looks as though Karson Kuhlman will step in on the other wing with Krejci and Debrusk for Game 1 against Toronto. Kuhlman has played well with Krejci and DeBrusk in 11 games this season and could be the recipe for success on the second line that the Bruins have been looking for since 2014.

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According to Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney, #46 has been a quiet MVP for the Bruins: “I think David is an underlying MVP to our season, to be honest with you, really a catalyst for our group this year,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday. “Might not have gotten the prime attention that several other players deserved and merited, but it was a very consistent year for David, start-to-finish. You’re seeing the development of Jake DeBrusk, and the year that he had, and David, a lot can be attributed to that” (via Yahoo Sports).

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It is evident that if the Bruins want to get to the Stanley Cup Finals, David Krejci is an essential part of the team’s success. Krejci enters the 2019 playoffs with 87 points in 108 playoff games and has led the NHL in playoff scoring twice. Krejci is healthy and has an energetic Jake DeBrusk on his left along with a promising young Karson Kuhlman on his right and is gearing up for another successful playoff run. If Krejci stays healthy and continues his consistent play from the regular season, the Bruins will make some noise in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Boston Bruins Karson Kuhlman: Expect The Unexpected

( Photo Credit: Boston Informer )

By: Greg Aker  |  Follow Me On Twitter @akesNpains1

When it comes to name recognition, Karson Kuhlman isn’t your ordinary household name.  Outside of northern Minnesota and the greater Boston area, most hockey fans don’t know much about him.

 A 23-year-old from Esko, Minnesota, Kuhlman is starting to get the attention that he has long deserved.  A 2014 graduate of Esko High School, Kuhlman got his shot at some big-time hockey at a fairly young age. He rose through the youth ranks as a standout player and caught the attention of potential suitors further down the road on his hockey journey. Having played high school hockey in what is arguably the most competitive state from top to bottom in the entire country, Karson shined. He totaled 50 points as a freshman in only 25 games. After a stellar sophomore year, he headed south to get his feet wet in the United States Hockey League. He played the maximum amount of games allowed to retain his high school eligibility with the Dubuque Fighting Saints after he was selected 48th overall in the 2011 Future’s Draft.  With multiple appearances at national camps and countless games in elite leagues, Kuhlman had name recognition.

Following his junior season, Karson left for good. He jumped into the Fighting Saints lineup just in time to help his team win the 2013 Clark Cup, awarded to the USHL playoff champions. In his first full season playing with Dubuque, Kuhlman led the team in goals (25), was second in points (44), and earned a spot on the league’s Eastern Conference All-Star Team.  His former head coach, Jim Montgomery (and current head coach of the Dallas Stars), took a job as the head coach of the storied Denver University Pioneers and hoped to land him. After official visits to the University of Minnesota Duluth and the University of North Dakota, it was on the car ride home from Grand Forks, N.D. that Kuhlman told his father that he wanted to be a Minnesota Duluth Bulldog.

 In college, Kuhlman started to fly under the radar a bit, and many that know his story often question why. He was told by multiple NHL organizations that he was a potential draft pick. It never happened. Talking with Karson’s mother Jennifer, she mentioned Karson was and continues to be his biggest critic. Not being drafted by a professional club only further motivated him. He didn’t let it bother him, continued to work hard, and has always lived “in the now.” Nothing about his college career would jump out at you on paper.

He posted 80 points over the course of four seasons, a fairly modest total for a kid now jumping into an NHL lineup. Still, what makes Karson special is what doesn’t always show up on the point sheet. He was selected as an assistant team captain of the Bulldogs as a junior and captained the team as a senior.  His leadership qualities were so strong that head coach Scott Sandelin didn’t name a third captain after underclassman, and then assistant captain Adam Johnson left for the professional ranks within the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. Kuhlman played in every single game of his college career. 166 straight if anyone is counting. Former UMD assistant coach and 8-year NHL veteran Derek Plante had this to say about the current Bruin: “Karson is the hardest working player that I have had the pleasure to work with.

It comes as no surprise that he is continuing to have success at the highest level. He is the player that every coach wants on his team and is a joy to be around.”  His senior year as a collegiate player wasn’t promising to start. The Bulldogs were hoping to rebound from a devastating loss in the National Championship to the University of Denver the previous April. Onlookers didn’t have high expectations for the 2017-2018 UMD Bulldogs. Instead of accepting the predicted outcome by others, Kuhlman worked extra hard and instilled his leadership in his teammates. The end result was the program’s second-ever national championship.  You can probably guess who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. It was Karson Kuhlman.

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 Kuhlman attended professional development camps during his collegiate career in Winnipeg, Montreal, and Boston. Only four days removed from winning a national championship, Kuhlman signed a two-year NHL contract with the Boston Bruins. Kuhlman joined the Providence Bruins on an Amateur Tryout Agreement for the remainder of the 2017-2018 season, tallying a lone assist over the course of two games. Kuhlman has totaled 12-18-30 over 58 games for Providence this season, but it’s what he has shown at the professional level that has been most impressive.

He has played alongside virtually every forward in the Boston lineup over the course of 11 games. He has factored in the scoring column and sits at a +5. Karson Kuhlman is versatile. He kills penalties. He plays a tremendous two-way game. He plays instinctively and intelligently regardless if he has the puck or not. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. It’s these qualities that have gained the attention of Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, and rightfully so. Like he has proven time and time again throughout his life, he won’t let anyone out-work him. What he lacks in skill he makes up for it through dedication and hard work.

 Karson Kuhlman isn’t your ordinary household name, but the fact that he will play a factor for the Boston Bruins moving forward just might change that. 

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Bruins – Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One Matchup

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( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday, April 10th with five games slated for the postseason to kick off. The Bruins and Leafs have to wait to get their series started on Thursday at TD Garden. This will be the second straight season that the Bruins will face Toronto in the first round series and it certainly will not disappoint.

The Leafs come into the series with one of the league’s most potent offense. With former first overall picks Auston Matthews and John Tavares and a supporting cast of incredible young talent in Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Kasperi Kapanen, the Leafs were the second top scoring team in the league with 3.5 goals per game. The Bruins offense has been stellar this season as well led by the best line in the NHL with Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak but ranked 10th in the league with 3.1 goals per game.

Boston’s second line has seemed to find a jump this season compared to last year with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk putting up career numbers. Along with them, Karson Kuhlman will join them for at least game 1 and has earned his spot on that line putting up three goals and two assists for five points in 11 games this season.

On the back-end, the Bruins have arguably one of the best defensive cores in the postseason this year with a healthy Brandon Carlo at the forefront. Carlo is finally healthy to begin the playoffs after missing the past two post-seasons with late March and early April devastating injuries. Carlo has been one of the most consistent players this season and has really broken out to become a shut-down, high hockey IQ defenseman for the B’s. Along with Chara’s leadership, the quarterbacking of Torey Krug on the powerplay, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk, the Bruins are pretty deep in the defensive end.

Across the sheet, Toronto’s defense is not their strong suit. Last year’s playoffs were not good for Jake Gardiner who posted a -6 rating and got torched at times by the Bruins in the 2017-2018 first round seven-game series. With Ron Hainsey, Jake Muzzin, Travis Dermott, and Nikita Zaitsev, the defense should not scare the Bruins. However, Morgan Reilly has emerged as a Norris Trophy candidate this season thanks in part to his 20 goals 52 assists for 72 points in 82 games played, Reilly has become an incredible offensive defenseman but is really the only force on the blueline for the Leafs. The Bruins ranked third in goals against this year with 212 while Toronto ranked 20th with 249. For this series, I would give the defensive edge to Boston although they will have to be sharp against the Leafs offense.

In goal, the Bruins have arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league. Rask and Halak have helped the Bruins to the aforementioned third place in goals against and third in goals-against average. Rask has had a lesser workload thanks to Halak being able to step in and split time and do it well. Rask this season has posted a 27-13-5 record with a 2.48 goals against average and a .912 save percentage along with 4 shutouts. Rask had a rocky start to the year and even had to take a leave of absence but upon his return, has returned to form and even became the all-time Bruins winningest goalie after a 1-0 shutout of the Washington Capitals on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Leafs goaltending is also a position that they have struggled with this season. Just last week, the Leafs sent backup Garrett Sparks down to the AHL and called up Michael Hutchinson because of Sparks’ recent struggling play. Frederik Anderson is the number one in Toronto and has posted a 36-16-7 record with a .917 save percentage, a 2.77 goals against average and one shutout. However, he is not the most consistent goalie and has struggled at times against Boston. In last years playoffs, he posted a 3.76 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. Leafs fans had a scare when in the final game of this season, Andrew Shaw of the Canadiens bumped into Anderson’s head and many Leafs fans feared that he was injured although he finished the game in Montreal. I would again give the edge to Boston in the goaltending department but Tuukka Rask has got to stay on top of his game against the Leafs offense and make the necessary saves that the Bruins need.

Home-ice advantage is big for Boston and they were rewarded with that luxury this season in the opening round against Toronto. The Bruins went 29-9-3 on TD Garden ice this season and have taken the two previous series from the Leafs in game seven on home ice. In 2013, the Bruins came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to win the game 5-4 in overtime in all-time great game Bruins and NHL game seven. Last spring, the Bruins came back again on home ice and eliminated Toronto 7-4 in another home game 7 for Boston.

This series is going to be yet another great matchup. The Bruins need to continue their season-long shutdown defense, strong goaltending, and creative offense in order to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs. For the second straight year, this original six rivalry will heat up for a playoff series and it all starts April 11th at TD Garden.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

—–> Click Here To Get Your Boston Bruins First Round Stanley Cup Playoff Tickets From The Great Folks at SeatGiant! <—-

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Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Game Recap 3/27/19

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Sam Fryman  |  Follow Me On Twitter @sfryman20

Coming into Wednesday’s contest against Wilkes Barre/Scranton, the Bruins hoped to gain momentum from two huge pieces of news. For one, they had the opportunity to break a tie with the Hershey Bears for control of third place in the Atlantic Division. The bigger piece of off-ice news for fans is that Providence came to an agreement on a ten-year affiliation extension for the National Hockey League Boston Bruins. Providence has been the exclusive pipeline team for the Bruins since 1992 and in that time has developed over 200 players who have competed for the big club, including Boston’s head coach Bruce Cassidy. Providence was on the road Wednesday to treat the opposing fans to yet another win as the club continues marching towards their 22nd postseason appearance.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins (away)

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

First Period:

The Penguins have proved to be a very evenly matched opponent for the Bruins, and Wednesday’s contest started out no different. The game began later than usual due to a power outage in Mohegan Sun Arena, but the situation was remedied without a problem. Off of a great zone entry, Jake Luccini notched the first tally of the game for the Penguins, it was just his second goal of the regular season. In what has become somewhat of a theme for returning players, former Bruin Jimmy Hayes was able to pick up an assist on the goal.

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The shots remained even for the two teams through twenty minutes but not without a few extracurricular activities following the whistles. Chris Breen was called for a check to the head in the closing two minutes of the period, leading to a mini-scrum and the Penguins’ first power play of the game. Thankfully they would be unsuccessful as the first twenty minutes ended.

Score: 1-0 Penguins

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

Second Period:

With the captain Jordan Szwarz as well as the always aggressive Anton Blidh providing the physicality, Providence was poised to come back in the second period and get the score even. The two teams exchanged power plays around the halfway point of the period, but goaltenders Zane McIntyre and Tristan Jarry made sure none of the shots hit twine. The Bruins picked up the pace in the shot department as well as they held the Penguins to just five in the second period.

Score: 1-0 Penguins

Third Period:

Six and a half minutes through the third period, Wilkes Barre/Scranton was able to get a big insurance goal to double the lead. Penguins center Sam Lafferty kept in a Bruins clearing attempt which led to a great feed from Ryan Haggerty to Sam Miletic for his tenth goal of the season. With that final tally, the Bruins, unfortunately, did not have an answer as the Penguins picked up the victory and Tristan Jarry recorded his first shutout of the season. The win left the Penguins on 76 points, still out of a playoff position and three points behind the Bruins.

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Final: 2-0 Penguins

A few post-game notes: Tommy Marchin made his AHL debut with the Bruins and logged some solid ice time, mostly with Providence’s bottom six. Paul Carey was given a two year, two-way contract extension that should see him in Providence for a little while longer. Boston also announced that Karson Kuhlman had been reassigned to Providence which would certainly give the AHL club an offensive boost with Boston mostly in preparation mode for the playoffs. Next up for Providence will be a tilt with the Syracuse Crunch, who have already clinched their spot in the Calder Cup playoffs.

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Bruins Kuhlman Fits A Few Needs As Playoffs Approach

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( Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/NHLI via Getty Images )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Just to get it out of the way, Karson Kuhlman has one of the best names in professional hockey. You’ve got alliteration. You’ve got “K”s where you were expecting “C”s. The word “cool” fits in there somehow. Very impressive performance by his name, and big ups to his parents.

Somehow, Kuhlman’s contributions to the Bruins in the abbreviated time that he has been granted with the club have outshined the coolness/Kuhlness of his name. Just one season removed from an impressive collegiate career at Minnesota-Duluth, Kuhlman has shown that, as far as forward call-ups from Providence go, he might be as NHL-ready as any of them.

In his first stint with the Bruins in February, Kuhlman impressed as a relatively unheralded prospect. His solid, yet unflashy point totals in the AHL might be to blame for how deeply undersold he was as an effective contributor in the Bruins’ lineup. Kuhlman was able to grace the scoresheet in two of his first three games as a right-wing plug-in alongside David Krejci, providing points in two important games against formidable west coast opponents in Vegas and San Jose (both ended up being one-goal wins for Boston).

After tallying a silky goal in another Black and Gold win over Florida on Saturday night, Kuhlman’s potential as a contributing forward in the offensive end has been made clear. In the individual effort displayed during this goal alone illuminates Kuhlman’s skating ability, hands, and finishing drive. Not to mention how he is able to use his body to shield the puck from the defenseman he just breezed in order to create further separation on his way to the net. A quick snap of the wrist (low glove, thanks for coming), and bingo was his name-oh.

Goals are good. Points are great. Offensive tools are at a premium come playoff time. But I wouldn’t be doing my duty as someone who self-proclaims his duty to be an explanation of young Bruins talent if I didn’t shed some light on the depth of his game.

Kuhlman, in what has been so far just a little more than a handful of games with the Black and Gold, has shown that he is playing a 200-foot game that many young Bruins prospects have left to be desired. In his own zone, Kuhlman’s positioning is superb for a young player. Undoubtedly, he plays like someone who was a lead-by-example captain at the college level.

Kuhlman’s work ethic shines in corner battles and on the forecheck, where his being a novice to the NHL has been drowned out by his skating, tenacity, and grit. His ability to hunt pucks without compromising his positioning and playmaking potential make him useful on any line.

 

Why Kuhlman is Playoff Material

Last year, the Bruins’ season came to an end with Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo on the shelf, crippling a defensive unit that was searching for depth and struggling to maintain its health throughout the playoffs. David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, Noel Acciari, Riley Nash, and Zdeno Chara were also dealing with injuries during the playoffs and into the offseason.

Unfortunately, a depleted Bruins roster didn’t have the depth last year to make the “next man up” philosophy all that effective when tasked with taking on an opponent as formidable as Tampa. Certainly, there were players available to enter the lineup. But these players seemed to make more of a change on the lineup card then on the actual ice surface. And unfortunately, that’s where the games are played.

This is where Kuhlman makes a difference. As a versatile forward who can bring the skill to fill in as a top-six forward, and the discipline, grit, and skating to play among the bottom-six, he gives Bruce Cassidy significantly more leeway with his playoff roster than he had last year.

Currently, Kuhlman is holding Marcus Johansson’s place on the second line, but with MoJo’s return to the lineup closer every day, it’s quite possible that we see Kuhlman drop down to a bottom –six role while Sean Kuraly is injured. In all likelihood, this would mean Joakim Nordstrom gets removed from the lineup. Nordstrom seems like a great person, with a good work ethic, and a mediocre goatee. But if you object to his removal from the lineup, then we are no longer friends.

While Kuhlman’s short-term role might be more clear-cut, don’t be surprised if he sticks around to fill into spots that get vacated by ailing Bruins. I’d much rather see a healthy Karson Kuhlman than an injured forward not named Pastrnak, Bergeron, or Marchand. His presence alone allows Cassidy to give rest to players who might need it down the stretch without compromising the effectiveness of the lineup all that much.

And that’s pretty cool. Man.

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