Six Thoughts From The Bruins First Six Games

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Photo Courtesy Of WCVB Boston

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

It’s a good time to be a Bruins fan. The hometown team is 5-1-0 in their first six games of the 2019-20 campaign and look every bit the squad that came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup last season. The B’s began the season 3-0-0, their best start in nearly 20 years back when Joe Thornton was in black and gold. The team has earned 10 of a possible 12 points to open the season and lot of it is due to the superb goaltending combination of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. The B’s first line has picked up where it left off last season with all three players off to great starts including David Pastrnak who scored four times on Monday against the Anaheim Ducks. There have been a few interesting developments in the first few games of the season and below I’ll take a look at six storylines I’ve noticed in the B’s first six games.

Goaltending Has Been Phenomenal

As I previously mentioned, the Bruins goaltending has been the main reason the team is off to their best start in years. Rask and Halak have each started three games and have looked very strong and look every bit the part of the elite tandem they were a season ago. Rask has started the season especially strong after having his fair share of issues in the early parts of the last few years. He’s 3-0-0 with a sparkling .957 save percentage and a minuscule 1.33 goals against average. Halak, meanwhile has been just as good and has already made a seasons worth of spectacular saves especially in his first start of the year against the Arizona Coyotes, a 1-0 shutout victory. It’s very clear that yet again the B’s have another elite goaltending tandem that is showing no signs of slowing down.

Pastrnak Scoring In Bunches

As evidenced by his four goal outburst the other day, David Pastrnak is an elite goal scorer. At 23, Pastrnak seems to top himself every season and perhaps his next feat is 50 goals in a season. Despite not scoring in his first two games of the season, Pasta has found the net six times in his past four contests and is now tied for second in the entire league in goals scored. The great thing about Pastrnak‘s game is it seems to get better and better by the season and there’s no reason to expect anything less in 2019-20.

Second Period Woes

Unfortunately it’s not been all positive for the B’s to open the year as a familiar monster has reared its ugly head. A common theme for the team in the early going of the season has been second period struggles as the Bruins seem to lose momentum and not play with the same intensity. For whatever reason it’s been a common issue for the team under Bruce Cassidy which certainly isn’t a knock on the coach but it’s something that happens pretty consistently. One could argue the B’s are still in search of their first win playing a full 60 minutes.

Kuhlman Doesn’t Look Out Of Place

I’ll preface this by saying Karson Kuhlman is not the ideal fit on the Boston second line. However, I do believe he’s the best they can do at this point in time. Kuhlman’s energy is pretty clear watching the first few Bruins games of the season, the guy is always hunting the puck and making plays utilizing his straight line speed. Because of that speed, he’s gotten numerous scoring chances and unfortunately hasn’t found the back of the net yet but the ability is clearly there. The B’s second line has been off to a bit of a slow start but Kuhlman is certainly not the reason why.

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Krug Limiting Turnovers

I’ll probably get serious heat for this but I’ve noticed Torey Krug has been pretty good in his own end in the early part of the season. Now certainly he’s not perfect and has made some mistakes but often he’s in the right place at the right time. The Bruins entire defense group do a great job denying scoring chances with their sticks and this is an area Krug has greatly improved in. He may never be an elite defensive defenseman but Krug does do a lot of things especially in his own zone that often go unnoticed.

Scoring Depth Needed

Perhaps the B’s biggest strength can also be categorized as a weakness in a way. With how dominant the first line is, it often masks issues the team has in getting consistent scoring from other players. It’s pretty clear that this may be the case this season if this continues. The Bruins are counting on the likes of Jake DeBrusk, Kuhlman and Danton Heinen to provide consistent goal scoring especially five on five. It’s a great thing that the first line is so dominant but it remains to be seen whether the team can get goal scoring from other places.

Many Questions Face The Bruins Before Regular Season Begins

NHL: New York Islanders at Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Hockey is oh so close to being back. The Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo contracts have been signed, and the Bruins are beginning to play actual hockey again. But even with the regular season less than two weeks away, many questions still face the Bruins entering the year.

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(Photo Credit: Paul Sancya/AP Sports)

How Healthy Is The Team Going to Be?

It seems like the Bruins, and the injury bug are becoming synonymous terms. Following the long and grueling playoffs, it’s not a major surprise that health is a concern, but the Bruins already have multiple regulars that are questionable to begin the year healthy. On the back-end, John Moore and Kevan Miller are already confirmed to be out for the season opener, and Zdeno Chara is questionable for the opener due to the jaw injury he suffered in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Patrice Bergeron has been practicing in a non-contact sweater and is also questionable for the opener. Luckily depth on defense isn’t a real issue for the Bs, but if the Bergeron and Chara injuries take a wrong turn, the Bruins may be in trouble.

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(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer-Getty Images)

What Kids Can Make The Team?

The Bruins have a plethora of NHL-ready prospects that are fighting for a spot on the team. They have talented players like Jack Studnicka, Oskar Steen and Zach Senyshyn looking for their first extended looks in the NHL as well as Anders Bjork, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman who are looking to add to their previous stints in the big-leagues. Obviously, the Bs just don’t have room for all of these guys with their already impressive roster, but I would not be surprised to see two or three cracks the opening night roster (as you will see me get more into later).

On defense, it’s unlikely that any youngsters can have an extended stay, but if Chara does end up missing some time, we may get to see a few games. Urho Vaakanainen has looked very comfortable in the pre-season and seems to be NHL ready. Jeremy Lauzon is another NHL ready defenseman we got to see last year and again, looked very comfortable in his 16 game stint last year.

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(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

Who Starts To Krejci’s Right?

So it seems Bruce Cassidy is sticking to his guns and keeping the top line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Bergeron together so we should see a revolving door of players auditioning on that second line. Cassidy has said that Brett Ritchie, David Backes, Anders Bjork, and Danton Heinen will all get looks on the line, but it seems that Karson Kuhlman, who had some success with the duo of Krejci and Jake Debrusk in the playoffs, may get the nod to begin the year. After four seasons (and one championship win) at Minnesota Duluth, Kuhlman was a bit of a surprise call-up last season but had a good amount of success in both the regular season and the playoffs.

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(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

How Does the Bottom Six Shake-Up?

The trio of Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle, and Danton Heinen have played together in this pre-season and looked to already have developed some chemistry (all three tallied a point in the game). Albeit a very small sample size, but if the group continue to play well, they are a very strong candidate to begin the season as the third line. If Kuhlman ends up on line two and line three stays as it looks to be, that leaves a sea of players still vying for 4th line roles.

If previously mentioned young players like Frederic, Senyshyn, and Steen can’t crack the top nine, I see no reason to give them minimal minutes on the 4th line, eating up a lot of minutes in the AHL would be a far better alternative. The one kid that is the biggest wildcard is Peter Cehlarik. Unlike the other fringe-NHL prospects, Cehlarik is the only player that is not waiver exempt, meaning that if the Bruins want to send him to the AHL, he would need to pass through waivers. While he isn’t a game-changer, losing a guy with the skill and size for Cehlarik for nothing would hurt. Maybe that pushes him over the edge over players like Kuhlman or Bjork who don’t have to go through waivers but all we can do it wait and see.

That leaves David Backes, Brett Ritchie, Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner Sean Kuraly and Par Lindholm all looking for 4th line minutes. Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Wagner partnered up to be one of the most effective 4th lines in the entire league last year, and are certainly a very good bet to start the season as the line.

Ritchie and Lindholm were both brought in this offseason as low risk, high(ish) reward players. Ritchie is a former 16 goal scorer and will certainly look to return to that form after two very lack-luster seasons. Lindholm was just under a point-per-game in his final season the SHL and will look to replicate that after a solid rookie year in the NHL.

Finally, we have David Backes, who I really think will come back and have a solid year. He’s obviously not the player he used to be in St. Louis. He is still an outstanding veteran presence with a lot to prove this season after the disappointing end of the playoffs. Both Bruce Cassidy and Don Sweeney still have their work cut out for them.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 146 that we recorded on 9-22-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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2019-20 Is A Year Of Opportunity For Bruins F Karson Kuhlman

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

The 2019 Boston Bruins Rookie Camp begins on September 5th and a week later on September 12th, the official Bruins Training Camp begins. During these two main events of the offseason, players break-out and impress the likes of Don Sweeney and the other members of Boston’s management staff while others fail to meet the expectations and are cut from the camp or are sent down to the American Hockey League.

Lately, on the Black N’ Gold Hockey website, my fellow teammates have been listing their top-10 prospects within the organization and there are some great names to watch out for in the future. Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka, Kyle Keyser, Oskar Steen, and John Beecher are in the minds of most Bruins fans while others such as Anders Bjork and Zach Senyshyn are the players just on the cusp of making it, with their fair share of doubters surrounding them. On my own personal list, forward Karson Kuhlman is always on the top, or close to it at the very least.

Karson Kuhlman first caught the eye of the Boston Bruins during his time with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs where he spent four seasons. After only one season with the Bulldogs, Kuhlman was handed the “A”, becoming assistant captain – a position he held for two seasons before being promoted to team captain in the 2017-18 season.

That campaign was a solid one for the Esko, Minnesota, USA native, as the forward scored 13-7-20 numbers in 44 games but it was during the NCAA Championship where he really had a successful run. Kuhlman was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 NCAA Tournament following a goal and an assist in the 2-1 win over Notre Dame to win the championship. The now 23-year-old center was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team and also won the NCAA Sportsmanship Award.

On April 10th, 2018, General Manager Don Sweeney announced that the Bruins had signed Kuhlman to a two-year NHL contract and that he would be sent to the Providence Bruins on an Amateur Tryout Agreement, playing only two games, but did record an assist in the process.

In this past 2018-19 season, Kuhlman spent the majority of the hockey year with the P-Bruins, scoring 12 goals, 18 assists for 30 points in 58 games played. At the same time, Karson scored an additional five points in eleven games up in the big leagues, scoring his first career goal in only his second NHL game.

Karson’s speed and dangerous shot earned him some playing time in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, playing in a combined eight games. Kuhlman recorded one assist in five games against the Maple Leafs in the opening round, scored another assist in Game Three against the Columbus Blue Jackets and would not play another postseason game for Boston until Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals against the St. Louis Blues.

The Bruins were down the series three-games-to-two and the play of David Backes on the second line was not up to the standards required so Head Coach Bruce Cassidy went faster and put the youngster in with Krejci and DeBrusk and stepped up to the plate and put up Boston’s third goal of the game with a total of 13:07 of time on the ice. Kuhlman displayed his rocket of a wrist shot and showed his chemistry with Krejci and DeBrusk as the line finished the do-or-die night with three points.

For a brief time, we saw that the trio of DeBrusk-Krejci-Kuhlman has the combination of speed and skill along hockey IQ that can bring some additional scoring to the line. It has been a long time since Krejci has had a legitimate offensive threat on the right-wing, some would argue that he never has had one, but Kuhlman could eventually grow into that player that is so desperately desired with that leadership and veteran experience of Krejci.

Earlier this offseason, I published an article that outlined by ideal opening night lineup for the Boston Bruins and I had Kuhlman in that competitive spot. This allows the Bruins to keep David Pastrnak on the first line in an effort to continue the dominance that was found with his linemates, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The fourth line can also stay the same, leaving the third line up for debate.

Having Kuhlman’s speed and skill on the second line would leave an opening for a young rookie on the third line alongside Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle. Whoever that ends up being will get the playing time but will not have the large responsibility as they would have in the top-six. Regardless, the upcoming Training Camp will be the time for these players to battle for their spot on the NHL roster. In my books, Kuhlman’s performance in the Finals was enough to earn him a little bit of an advantage over the other candidates listed above.

In addition, Chris Mazza from Dobber Prospects said the following about the center in April 2019 in a post on the site:

“Signed as a college free agent in 2018, Kuhlman enjoyed a successful first year of pro hockey, managing 30 points through 58 games with Providence in addition to five points in 11 NHL games while playing primarily on Boston’s second line. He captained the University of Minnesota-Duluth to the 2017-2018 National Championship, taking home tournament MVP honors in the process. Kuhlman’s offensive upside is limited, however, he has been touted as a strong leader everywhere he has played. He excels in board battles, has a decent shot and is seemingly always in position to make a play. Look for Kuhlman to push for a full-time role with the NHL Bruins next season.” – Chris Mazza

On my official Twitter page, (@tkdmaxbjj ), I posted a poll asking for your thoughts and opinions regarding the thought of throwing Kuhlman on the second line and the results were quite similar to mine. Either way, the efforts and production of the 2018-19 season for Kuhlman have created big opportunities – will he capitalize on them? Only time will tell.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 143 that we recorded on 9-2-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel!

Bruins’ Prospect Beecher Shined At World Juniors Summer Showcase

John-Beecher

( Photo credit Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images )

By: Ian Frazier | Follow Me On Twitter @ifrazier95

Boston Bruins fans must be feeling pretty good right now after reading the reports and watching recent YouTube videos about the team’s 2019 National Hockey League first-round draft selection John Beecher. The 18-year-old Elmira, New York native was labeled as a draft steal to some experts when he was selected 30th in late Junes NHL Entry Draft from Vancouver, British Columbia. The jury is still out on him, but with the way Beecher played in the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase held at the Team USA Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, the B’s scouting staff certainly got this one right when addressing future needs.

Beecher looked like an absolute beast compared to other prospects his age. As shown in the video above, he was able to win puck battles on the boards as well as score a couple goals down low. He also battled hard on faceoffs and generated a nice breakaway goal that was made possible by his fast acceleration down the ice beating two defenders. During his time at WJSS, he developed great chemistry alongside fellow Bruins’ prospect Curtis Hall showing their nice one-two punch that was on display during the domination of Finland 7-1. One of his biggest attributes on display was his overall team awareness. He knew exactly where his teammates were and was able to make crisp passes or be able to skate in and help contain the puck near the crease. From what he has shown so far, many hockey insiders believe his style of play is very similar to Sean Couturier with additional speed and size.

With Beecher showing flashes of top six potential, this should be great news for Bruins center David Krejci going forward. Krejci has had seasons where he struggled to have consistent scoring due to the lack of explosiveness on his right side and someone like Beecher could bring that explosiveness to the black and gold and could fill the much-needed position soon. The Bruins had a few prospects the last few seasons try out there with Jackob Forsbaka Karlsson being the most recent. JFK, however, decided to go back to Sweeden to help his development. In the meantime they found a solid replacement with Bruins forward Karson Kuhlman to hold down the fort until someone like Beecher is ready to be called up. Beecher is scheduled to transfer to the University of Michigan where he will play for the Wolverines during the 2019-20 NCAA season.

Over the past few seasons, players like this have been a much-needed asset for many teams and Beecher may be the next in line that fits that mold. One thing is for sure though, Bruins fans should be excited about him, and they should be happy knowing that Sweeney may have found a future solution at second-line right wing. We still don’t know for sure if Beecher is a long-time solution for the club down the road, but the future looks bright for this young man. Time will tell!

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 139 that we recorded on 8-2-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Sticher.

Mainville: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night: Version One

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PHOTO CREDITS: (The Canadian Press)

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

Before I dive into this piece, I would like to credit fellow Black N’ Gold writers Mike Cratty (@Mike_Cratty on Twitter) for the idea and would also like to further you to take a look at both Mike’s and Garrett’s (@thesportsguy97 on Twitter) article on the same idea. Keep a lookout on the website for more opening-day article lineup ideas.

Click HERE for Mike’s article.

Click HERE for Garrett’s article.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Throughout the Bruins fan universe, the issues in the top-six typically fall on the right side. The duos of Marchand-Bergeron and DeBrusk-Krejci are near locks for opening night but the answers on the remaining pieces need to be found. Even though he showed struggles in the postseason at times, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy continued to slot David Pastrnak on the right side of the first line.

Without a doubt in anyone’s mind, Pastrnak will soon become the star of the Bruins’ offense for possibly the next decade and the more time he can play with Marchand and especially Bergeron, the more his value to the team and organization can skyrocket. That line, when hot, is one of the best lines in the entire National Hockey League and the thought of having that consistently is intriguing.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

During the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins relied heavily on their depth scoring, goaltending, and defense to help them last to the final Game Seven. Boston’s top six forwards failed to score points on a night-to-night basis and the lack of scoring in the elimination game was the reason for the loss on home ice.

Down 3-2 in the series, Cassidy threw a curveball at the St. Louis Blues in Game Six by placing speedy forward Karson Kuhlman on the second line and he played great. Kuhlman scored the third goal of the game with a blistering wrist shot past Jordan Binnington that gave Boston a 3-0 lead in the game.

Kuhlman’s 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame finally brought some speed and finesse to a line that was lacking those attributes when David Backes was alongside DeBrusk and Krejci. Similar to Pastrnak, time with a veteran like Krejci mixed in with the big-time experience that he already has under his belt, Kuhlman can be a good player on that line.

Third Line: Heinen – Coyle – Ritchie

This line is such a massive question mark on the right side yet again. At this stage, I put free-agent signing Brett Ritchie on this line for one reason – size. The 26-year-old Ritchie stands at six-foot-four and weighs 220 pounds. Throughout the different lineup predictions on the internet, Ritchie is commonly considered to be a depth forward and while that remains a possibility, I believe he has a better shot at making the lineup over some of the younger wingers in the system.

Alongside Ritchie, Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle had found some chemistry since Coyle’s entrance into the Boston Bruins roster around the trade deadline and that should continue. Heinen has proven to be a defensively responsible forward and with a consistent center that can play deep in the zone, it may only help the young forward more in the short and long run.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

If there was a line that was etched in stone – it’s this one. The fourth line of the Boston Bruins has been crucial for the better part of the last decade and in each of their Cup Finals appearances in 2011, 2013, and 2019, the Bruins have had a strong line that rounds out the forward core.

With Noel Acciari departing Logan International in Boston to Florida during the Free Agency Frenzy, it will be without a doubt that these three players will man the pivotal bottom line for a good portion of the 2019-2020 season.

Extra Forwards: Lindholm

Another one of the Bruins’ depth signings on July 1st, former Toronto Maple Leaf and Winnipeg Jet, Par Lindholm signed a two-year contract for $850,000 per season with Boston as a depth player. The Swedish forward adds versatile play with a penalty-killing ability that has value when injuries come along.

First Pairing: Chara – McAvoy

Franchise defenceman with future franchise defenceman. Zdeno Chara might be 42 years of age but his game does not represent that number. While he does often get caught frozen in time by the faster forwards in the league, he brings a presence that strikes fear into players even today. Chara will continue to mentor McAvoy this season as it could very well be the last season where that is an option.

Second Pairing: Krug – Carlo

The second pairing of Krug and Carlo is the type of combination teams dream of on their blueline. Torey Krug is one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL today, especially on the power-play. That said, Krug has had issues on the defensive side of the ice and even though he has improved recently, he is not fantastic in that role. Brandon Carlo, however, secures that pairing. Carlo was arguably the best d-man wearing the Spoked-B in the 2019 Playoffs and he is only 22 years old.

Third Pairing: Grzelcyk – Clifton

Matt Grzelcyk scored the only goal in the Game Seven loss to the St. Louis Blues, but he brought more than just that lone tally in the postseason. Grzelcyk is a solid defenceman in almost all facets and Clifton has matched that as well. Both young blueliners have come out of seemingly nowhere over the course of the past few seasons – earning them a roster spot for the start of the ’19/’20 campaign.

Extra Defensemen: Kampfer – Miller – Moore

Steven Kampfer recently extended his contract with the Bruins and rightly so – he adds good depth for when the inevitable injuries strike again, something every team requires to be successful. With no clear timeline on John Moore (shoulder surgery) and Kevan Miller (knee), we must assume that they are not ready for the opening night on October 3rd.

Goaltenders: Rask – Halak

Tuukka Rask carried Boston to the Stanley Cup Finals for much of the playoff run and that success could be attributed to the regular season play of backup goalie Jaroslav Halak. With the two netminders nearly splitting the 82-game season in half, Rask was able to get needed rest and not overwork himself like he has when the team does not have an adequate backup behind him. If the two can avoid the haunted injury bug, I’d expect another stellar season from the two goaltenders.

As the offseason continues to progress with more and more news as well as the upcoming NHL Training Camp, these lines could very well take a turn before puck drop against the Dallas Stars.

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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.