Bruins Defensive Depth Could Be Tested Early On In The Regular Season

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round in the 2018 Stanley Cup play-offs at the Air Canada Centre on April 19, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Matt Grzelcyk(Claus Andersen)

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Ideally, this scenario never happens and we can resume peaceful existence, but there is a chance that Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are not in the opening night lineup for the Bruins. In this event, things need to be done in a certain way, in my eyes. This scenario also assumes that John Moore and Kevan Miller will be out of the lineup recovering from their respective injuries.

First defensive pairing; Chara-Clifton

Zdeno Chara and Connor Clifton have a little bit of experience with one another, but not much. I still think this is the ideal first pairing with a decimated defensive core. While I think there is a chance Chara’s playing time gets scaled back ever so slightly this season, this would not be the scenario to do so. A shutdown presence is very much needed in this case.

Clifton didn’t shy away from a larger role no matter where he played in the lineup last season, making him the best option in this scenario, with Matt Grzelcyk on his off side not being the worst thing either. But ultimately, I think Clifton should be the guy on pairing number one in this scenario.

Clifton’s physical presence, skating, and puck-moving abilities could really compliment Chara’s shutdown style pretty well.

(Video Credit: Tom Brady on YouTube)

Second defensive pairing: Krug-Kampfer

On the second pairing, Torey Krug and Stevie Snipes join forces to further stabilize the top-four. Torey Krug is a wagon and Kampfer really improved as the season progressed. He even scored a huge goal in game one against Carolina in the Eastern Conference Finals, earning himself the title of Stevie Snipes.

Krug’s defensive game took a step in the right direction, and Kampfer’s defensive and puck-moving abilities are solid enough to complement Krug’s game and potentially create a solid duo on the back end.

Third defensive pairing: Vaakanainen-Grzelcyk

This is where it get’s interesting. This pairing has the potential to be a puck possession, zone exit-entry monster pairing. Grzelcyk has seen time on his opposite side with Chara in the past, but I think putting him with Urho Vaakanainen could be very beneficial for Vaakanainen.

Who knows? Maybe Grzelcyk will be able to showcase his one-timer again on his opposite side.

(Video Credit: SPORTSNET on YouTube)

Despite being undersized, Grzelcyk’s been able to handle himself in the physical game fairly well, and he and Vaakanainen could very well create offense and facilitate plenty of puck possession through the neutral zone.

A good chunk of this pairing success hinges on how well Vaakanainen continues to adapt to the NHL in a second stint. His first stint this past season was cut short due to a concussion after an elbow from Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki. An elbow that netted Borowiecki a one-game suspension.

In this doomsday scenario, I would love to see what this pairing could do with one another.

What else is there?

Alex Petrovic is set to join the Bruins in camp on a PTO. There is also still a chance that the Bruins perhaps sign another defenseman to join the mix at camp and potentially provide reinforcement past a PTO.

There are also a few AHL options, god forbid it gets to the point so early in the season. Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and Wiley Sherman are the three available options at this point in time. Lauzon and Zboril have seen brief NHL time, Sherman hasn’t. Hopefully it doesn’t come to disrupting their AHL development in the event of more chaos on the back end for the Bruins.

In this scenario, things could be a lot worse, and I think this would be the best way to operate with McAvoy, Carlo, Moore, and Miller all potentially out of the lineup to start the season. The depth was tested for quite some time early last season, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I don’t think it will, but crazier things have happened.

Report: Bruins Re-Sign D Steven Kampfer To A Two-Year Deal

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

According to Frank Seravalli of TSN and other reports, the Boston Bruins have signed defenceman Steven Kampfer to a two-year contract extension worth an average of $800,000 per season ($1.6 million total).

The 30-year-old, Ann Arbor, Michigan native has had a solid history with the Boston Bruins over his seven-year NHL career. Kampfer began his tenure in Boston back in the 2010-11 season, playing 38 games after joining the club in March of 2010 in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. Kampfer recorded 5-5-10 totals in that time with Boston.

After ten games played in the 2011-12 season, Kampfer was traded to the Minnesota Wild and would not find himself in Boston until September 11, 2018, when he and two draft picks were sent to Boston in exchange for D Adam McQuaid. Within the 2018-19 campaign, Steven Kampfer played in another 35 games for the Bruins, recording three goals and three assists for six points, averaging 14:38 of time on ice.

The depth blueliner also found himself playing in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs – playing one game in three of the four series. Kampfer skated for 11:06 in Game Three against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round One and played 14:56 in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, scoring the first goal of the hockey game.

Kampfer played a key role throughout the season for the Bruins, bringing some experience to the depth blueline players, especially when injuries or suspensions prevented the top players on Boston’s backend from playing. Even though the plus/minus statistic is typically looked down upon, Kampfer was never once a minus player in the postseason, further confirming that he can be trusted on in those important games.

For the Bruins, this contract ensures that they have the depth on defence that they need quite a lot. It has already been announced that defensemen John Moore and Kevan Miller will be out of the lineup for some time to begin the 2019-2020 regular season, meaning Boston will have to fall back on guys like Kampfer to get those early-season victories.

Boston and the rest of the National Hockey League are only one week away from the free agency frenzy on July 1st meaning those key players that need contracts are going to need to sign with their current teams fast. Boston now has just over $13 million in remaining cap space with players such as RFA defenceman Charlie McAvoy, RFA defenceman Brandon Carlo, RFA forward Danton Heinen, UFA forward Noel Acciari and UFA forward Marcus Johansson, among others, expiring very soon.

This signing is a solid move for General Manager Don Sweeney as he locks up a reliable depth defenceman for under $1 million annually on a low-term deal. Heading into the next stages of the NHL offseason, the news and stories will be piling up and everyone here at Black N’ Gold Hockey will make sure that you get all of the latest information.

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast Episode 132 below!!

Everything You Need To Know About The Boston Bruins Break Up Day

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33), of Slovakia, lies on the ice after getting hit in the face with the puck during the second period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues Monday, June 3, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

( Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson/Associated Press )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

Break up day happens every single year, but this one obviously hurt more than the rest. You could tell that every guy in the room went through a ton throughout the entire year, here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Zdeno Chara

This news doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but Chara confirmed that he had multiple fractures to his jaw, and his expected recovery is 5-6 weeks.

Kevan Miller

It seems like we’ve been waiting forever to hear some sort of update on Miller’s injury, but it’s been confirmed that he broke his kneecap vertically in a regular season game against the Wild in April. He was reportedly close to returning in the Carolina Hurricanes series, but re-fractured it while rehabbing, capping off an absolutely brutal year for the defenseman.

Dec 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) takes a knee on the ice during the second period against the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

( Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper/ USA TODAY Sports )

David Krejci

No injury news or anything like that, but it’s worth noting that in an interview Krejci said that he hoped that there weren’t going to be many changes to the roster this offseason, “we are very tight, very close.”

Jake Debrusk

He didn’t say much about the topic, but it was clear that when Nazem Kadri cheap-shot Debrusk, it (likely a concussion) had lasting effects on him throughout the playoffs.

Brad Marchand

It was pretty obvious that something was up with Marchand in the playoffs, he revealed that he was dealing with a sprained hand (that he re-aggravated during their scrimmage), a strained groin and abdominal injuries.

( Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/Getty Images )

Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron dealt with a groin injury throughout the playoffs but won’t need surgery.

David Pastrnak

Pasta said that he re-aggravated his thumb during the Columbus series.

John Moore

This one surprised me a bit. Moore was hit from behind during a game in Tampa, and it blew out his shoulder and broke his humerus and could be out for four to six months. “I could barely hold a stick with two hands.”

Charlie Mcavoy

Finally, some good news, when asked about his future with the team he said, “I don’t want to go anywhere. This is the best place on Earth. This has become home for me. I want to be here forever.” Hopefully, this bodes well in contract negotiations.

Boston Bruins’ Marcus Johansson was hospitalized after an enormous hit by the Hurricanes’ Micheal Ferland sent him flying to the ice during Tuesday’s game.Â

( Photo Credit: Getty Images )

Marcus Johansson

Some more good news. Johansson continued to say that he loved his time in Boston and is very eager to hear what the Bruins have to offer, “hopefully they can work something out.”

Noel Acciari

The 4th liner played with a fractured sternum and also injured his foot while blocking a shot in game seven against St. Louis that will need to be evaluated.

Steven Kampfer

The upcoming UFA noted that he wants to stay but realizes that the defense is “a bit of a logjam.”

David Backes

Backes was very vague when talking to the media and knows that there is a lot of uncertainty about his future, but reiterated that he wanted to stay in Boston.

Torey Krug

One of the biggest question marks of this offseason is “definitely very aware of the situations and scenarios that can play out” but also “wants to be here forever.”

Hypothetical: Losing McAvoy Might Shake Up Bruins’ Pairings Quite A Bit

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( Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/ Getty Images )

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

The Bruins, for the second time in the span of two weeks, closed out a hard-fought playoff series against a solid, skilled playoff opponent. The hard-earned victory did not come without its share of physicality, an aspect of the series in which Bruins’ defenseman Charlie McAvoy was more than involved.

Examining the series as a whole, McAvoy’s game has been elevated as the playoffs have progressed. McAvoy’s one outlier (performance-wise) came in Game 2, in which some questionable pinches and late-game defense by McAvoy found Boston relying on Tuukka Rask to make some saves that were not only large but were also in charge (I am hilarious, big credit to me). Aside from that one game, McAvoy has made a consistent case to be considered as the Bruins’ top defenseman…and if Brandon Carlo had chosen to be a basketball player as a young man, McAvoy would indeed be the Black and Gold’s top blue-liner. Fortunately for the Bruins, Carlo stuck with hockey.

At any rate, McAvoy’s aforementioned physicality led to him taking a brief dip in some hot water. McAvoy’s hit on Josh Anderson at the end the second period of Monday’s Game 6 against Columbus warranted a penalty, and many a Jackets fan (and hockey fan) thought warranted even more of a response.   Regardless of McAvoy’s meeting with the Department of Player Safety on Tuesday afternoon, the scenario that McAvoy misses some time is a difficult one that the Bruins need to be ready for (regardless of how his absence comes about). While the Bruins have used defensemen Steven Kampfer, John Moore, and Connor Clifton at different times as members of the team’s third D-pairing, the absence of McAvoy might shake up the lineup much more than a fluctuating third-pair.

 

For instance, McAvoy has been crucial to the lineup as a partner for Zdeno Chara, who (as much as it pains me to say) has begun to look more and more his age as the playoffs have progressed. Having McAvoy’s athleticism, skating ability, hockey sense, and physicality on the back end provide a much larger safety net for Chara than, say, Steven Kampfer might. I’m not bashing Kampfer, and I’m not bashing Chara. But it’s important to recognize the limits and capabilities of each defenseman in order to adequately address any potential lineup shifts.

Changes

With that being said, what would a potential Chuck-less lineup look like?

Certainly, Bruce Cassidy would be wiser than to put a seventh or eighth defenseman alongside Zdeno Chara. It is likely that this means Brandon Carlo or Connor Clifton see themselves flanking the big man in the event that McAvoy is sidelined (press-boxed).   While Kevan Miller would be a more than serviceable replacement for any right-handed defenseman in the lineup currently, his health remains an issue. This leaves Cassidy taking his pick of potential insertion into the lineup from Steven Kampfer or John Moore. While Kampfer might be the logical choice to fill the void of a missing right defenseman, I am of the camp that the best players should play, regardless of their handedness (a reason why I was baffled that Chara remained on the ice for the final minutes of Game 5… which is neither here nor there).

 

Unfortunately, I don’t think John Moore has separated himself as a better replacement than Steven Kampfer. For as much depth as the Bruins have in terms of actual bodies, the depth of their ability on the back-end is somewhat limited. And, while the Bruins have a considerable amount of Black Aces ready to play from Providence, the fact remains that Kampfer’s playoff experience, though limited, trumps that of any potential young prospect fresh out of Providence.

In the event that McAvoy does come out of the lineup for any reason (suspension, injury, etc.) I think it’s fair to expect Cassidy to go with the following pairings on the back end:

Krug-Carlo
Chara-Clifton
Grzelcyk-Kampfer

These pairings, while limited in their offensive capabilities, bring about the least amount of change to the lineup (Carlo pairing remains untouched) while balancing the amount of skating ability, defensive commitment, and experience to field an effective defensive corps.

 

As much as I’d like to be positive about the hypothetical pairings I just created in response to a potentially negative scenario, there’s no getting around that Charlie McAvoy’s removal from the B’s lineup hurts.

A lot.

Bruins’ Miller Being Out Is A Bigger Loss Than You Think

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( Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/ USA TODAY Sports )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Most nights, when Kevan Miller is healthy and suited up for the Bruins, he’s the toughest guy in the rink. Unfortunately, Miller has been injured for the better part of the season. Having played in almost exactly half of the Bruins’ regular season games, naturally, the team was looking forward to having him back in the lineup for the playoffs.

I count myself among the many Bruins fans who were anticipating Miller’s return for playoff hockey, only to fall for the oldest trick in the book: Miller getting hurt. I got got. You got got. We all got got.

 

While Kevan “Not So Meek Mill” Miller (TM) again finds himself sidelined with important hockey to play (this time with a knee injury), the pain of his absence has been assuaged by the steadiness of replacement Connor Clifton’s play. With Miller again watching his teammates from the press box, the Black and Gold will turn to either Clifton or Steven Kampfer (which is a whole different story) to slot into the right spot on the B’s third defensive pairing.   I won’t address the possibility of Kampfer beginning the Toronto series ahead of Clifton right now, because it’s early and it will do nothing but ruin my day.

While Kampfer would not be my choice of replacement for Miller over Clifton, his presence likely won’t have enough of an impact on the series to make a sizeable difference. Quite simply, I don’t see Toronto stealing any wins because of Steven Kampfer and his (likely) 12 minutes a night.   But unlike many Bruins fans that have come out of the woodwork to voice their approval of Connor Clifton’s play, I am still less comfortable with “The Connor Clifton experience” than I am with what Miller would bring to the table. Clifton is a solid young defenseman, good even. But he doesn’t heal the wound that Kevan “Killer” Miller’s absence has created, and I personally think this will matter if Miller can’t return to the B’s within the next two weeks.

Size and Toughness

Clifton is sized at 5’11”, 175 lbs. That means he gives up three inches and 35 pounds to Kevan Miller. While I am very much a proponent of skating as an asset on the defensive side of the puck, Miller’s toughness is not going to be replaced by Clifton. Certainly, Clifton plays a tough game for a somewhat undersized first-year player, with a propensity to throw some solid hits.   Clifton’s hits are the types that are made through his skating ability.

He has smart gaps coming back on the defensive, and he is able to close these gaps with just a few strides. With that being said, it is the toughness that Miller brings in his own end that is not getting replaced by Clifton. And like it or not, the Bruins will be spending a decent amount of time in their own end, especially against the Toronto forward units. Miller’s strength and toughness is such that he can manhandle opposing forwards and move them off of pucks, creating turnovers and helping the Bruins relieve pressure.

Skating

Connor Clifton is a great skater. Better than Kevan Miller even. Guess what, though? Kevan Miller is also a strong skater. And Miller’s skating has improved in every single season he has played with the Bruins. Having worked on the skill side of his game with Adam Oates, there has been an improvement in just about every facet of Miller’s game since he joined the Black and Gold. These improvements are not at all limited to his skating, as his puck-moving abilities have gotten exponentially better, while he has become much more confident in all three zones (when healthy). This has, amazingly, happened without him abandoning the gritty, tough style of hockey that he came into the league with.

Protection

With Miller out of the lineup, the Bruins are much more vulnerable as a unit. That’s just a fact. Last year, the Bruins saw Nazem Kadri throw a cheap shot at forward Tommy Wingells, who missed time due to injury. Admittedly, there are probably better targets for Kadri’s attention, but Kadri’s presence remains, as does the presence of a quicker-paced, more physical brand of hockey that comes around each spring during the playoffs. Having Miller in the lineup is crucial for the protection of the Bruins’ lineup against incidents like the one above. His ability and willingness to drop the gloves to restore some order in the game and protect his teammates serve the Bruins well, especially with the star power in their first two forward lines, and how important they’ve been.

 

The fans that yell “shoot” when the Bruins cross the offensive blue-line will say that Miller’s absence is fine because Zdeno Chara will drop the gloves for the Bruins. To that, I say, “wake up.” Zdeno Chara does not best help the Bruins lineup by sitting in the box for five minutes. His playoff experience and defensive pedigree (while not what it used to be) needs to be utilized on the ice… you know… playing hockey. The Bruins can afford for Miller to sit for five minutes as a third-pairing defenseman because his toughness and the tone that he sets for the game more than makes up for his brief absence.

Overall

Should the Bruins use Steven Kampfer as Miller’s replacement, then they are giving up skill, skating ability, toughness, playoff experience, and veteran leadership. Should the Bruins use Connor Clifton as Miller’s replacement, then they are again giving up toughness, leadership, and experience, and Clifton’s skating is not enough of an asset to counterbalance those sacrifices. Kevan Miller’s brand of hockey is tailor-made for the playoffs, and the Bruins’ should be rubbing their rabbit’s feet in hopes of his return for the second round.

 

Either way, Kevan Miller being injured is a loss and a much bigger one than many of the fans who never played hockey will realize.

Fortunately, I don’t think it will matter in the first round. And it will only serve Connor Clifton well down the road to gain some playoff experience.

 

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Health Will Be A Key Attribute For Bruins Playoff Success

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(Photo Credit: AP Photo)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

The Bruins’ struggles to stay healthy as a team for extended periods of time this season have been well-documented. However, as luck may have it, the Bruins are entering the playoffs with a relatively clean bill of health–the exceptions being Sean Kuraly (fractured hand), Kevan Miller (lower-body), and John Moore (upper-body). Not having Miller in the lineup could still prove to be a huge loss, but things certainly look better compared to what else the Bruins dealt with this season.

After dealing with a lower-body issue in the final week of the regular season, it looks like Chris Wagner will be ready to go for Game One. Also, after missing the last two playoff runs with injuries sustained in the final games of the regular season, Brandon Carlo will finally get the chance to suit up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Sure, one might read the title of this piece and chuckle, saying “anyone could tell me that,” but staying healthy has nagged the Bruins all year long; it may just prove to be their Achilles heel in the playoffs. Just look at the last two years the Bruins were in the playoffs: in 2017 versus Ottawa, the B’s were forced to lean on guys like Joe Morrow, John-Michael Liles, and Tommy Cross because of a depleted defense; in 2018, Brandon Carlo was missing again, while Rick Nash was clearly not 100% on the ice, among others.

Luck has not always been on the Bruins side this season; that’s for sure. Below you can find some examples of the injuries to key players that the Bruins have dealt with this season–just a few instances, of course:

Considering the frustrations between losing multiple big-time players coupled with the Bruins’ offensive struggles earlier this season, what the team was able to do this season is nothing short of spectacular. While it is no secret that the roster has been extremely depleted at times, the depth within the system has been able to step up and hold the fort when regulars have been out of the lineup for extended periods of time–from Karson Kuhlman to Jeremy Lauzon to Connor Clifton and so on.

The young guys and the depth players proved that they could step in and excel as needed, or in a pinch, during the regular season, but the playoffs a different animal where experience usually matters. Any team is able to handle some inexperienced guys in the lineup during the playoffs, but if Boston’s bottom-six or defense looks like the Providence Bruins like they did at one point or another this season, the team could be in big trouble.

So, for the Bruins to be successful and meet the expectations that the team not only has of itself but also the fans’ expectations, the team must find a way to stay healthy for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just look at the 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning two weeks ago as proof–check out Mike Cratty’s recap of that game to get the rundown on everything that happened. Up front, the Bruins were without Kuraly and Marcus Johansson; however, things were a lot worse on defense as the B’s were without Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, and Miller. The effects of a depleted defense, along with a lackluster effort in the third period, were what led to the Bruins’ third-period collapse on March 25th.

Considering the attack that the Toronto Maple Leafs boast–the three-headed monster in Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner (let’s not forget Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau)–the Bruins would certainly be in for a tough matchup if they were to lose a few guys to injury, especially on the backend. Should the Bruins end up in a meeting with Tampa Bay in the second round, the odds would be stacked against Boston even more if the team is down several players due to injury as the Bolts showcase guys like Art Ross-winner Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Tyler Johnson, to name a few.

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The playoffs will certainly be exciting in Boston; fans and the Bruins themselves should like the team’s chances this year. However, health could prove to be a deciding factor in how deep the Bruins can take this playoff run.

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How to Treat Bruins Defensemen As Playoffs Approach

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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/ USA TODAY Sports

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

The Bruins have been hurt all year. You’d be hard pressed to recall a game in which their regular roster was 100% healthy. If you can in fact recall such a game off the top of your head, then you are likely someone with a strangely strong memory who would probably weird me out if we were to meet in person. The point is, these games have been few and far between.

No one position in the lineup has been immune to these injuries. The list of injured Bruins players includes… well, just about everyone. Big ups to David Krejci for not only staying healthy all year, but for staying positive when all his friends were licking their wounds and putting band-aids on their boo-boos.

But as we approach the playoffs, an area that draws significant focus in terms of game management and recovery for players is the defensive unit of the Bruins. The man-games lost to injury among Bruins defensemen alone has been astounding. So much so that I used the word astounding just now, and I took a vow to never use that word without just cause.

At the tail end of a pretty significant stretch of games where the Black and Gold have been undermanned at the defensive position, things are starting to look hopeful at the right time. Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller are all rejoining the Bruins’ lineup within one week of each other. Undoubtedly, some rust is to be expected out of these three as they return (Krug only had 2 assists in his return from injury, yuck). But on the whole, the Bruins will be a much better and more well-rounded team with half of their regular defensive unit back in action.

A dilemma that Bruce Cassidy might be faced with, however, is how to treat the other half of the defensive unit. This would be the half that has helped keep the team afloat when a weaker team might have folded. This is the half that has been tasked with playing significant minutes in the absence of their compatriots, in order to minimize the amount of pressure and responsibility placed on the defenseman mitigate the negative affects of a beaten up D-core replete with AHL callus and press box regulars.   Specifically, it will be interesting to see how Cassidy will handle the playing time and workloads of Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, and perhaps most importantly Brandon Carlo over the final five regular season games.   Chara is 42, and despite being in remarkable physical condition, some rest might be crucial to entering the postseason in top form. Carlo has been solid all year long, yet went down in the later part of the regular season last year, and his absence was more than noticeable against Tampa Bay. McAvoy, despite being relatively healthy for at least the latter half of this season, has been tasked with shouldering the load as far as ice time is concerned, averaging around 23 minutes throughout each of his past five games.

 

Unfortunately, there McAvoy struggled in the third period of a game against Tampa Bay on March 25th, a result that could very well be linked to fatigue and overuse (McAvoy played nearly 27 minutes in that game).

All this to say, the balance between effective rest and harmful idleness is one that Cassidy will have to find for the three aforementioned D-men. Certainly any coach would like to rest the legs of those on whom he will have to rely in the playoffs (as well as protect them from injury), but it is important to keep them fresh and primed as the postseason approaches. This balance is one that is going to have to be found by calculating the right amount of minutes per night for each of the defensemen, as well as how many games they will actually dress for.

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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/ USA TODAY Sports

What does coach Cam do?

If it were up to me (and it won’t be), I would play all 6 of my regular defensemen in the final game of the season. Sure, this game comes against Tampa, whose run-and-gun style is one that could potentially place some stress on the Bruins defensively. While this might factor into a potential decision to use the game as a rest for some of the B’s defensemen, I would leave them all in. Toronto is a lock for the Bruins as a first round matchup, and the closest thing that resembles the star-power the Bruins defensemen will be facing in the first round is the star power of Tampa’s forwards in Point, Kucherov, and Stamkos.

For the four games leading up to the (regular) season finale, I think it would be wise to play Miller, Grzelcyk, and Krug as much as possible. Conversely, Bruce Cassidy would be wise to allot 3 games to Chara, McAvoy, and Carlo as the season comes to a close. Apart from the final game, find two others for each defenseman to skate in, and have Connor Clifton and Steven Kampfer fill in as needed. If all goes well, maybe John Moore will even be healthy by the time playoffs roll around.

 

This is all speculation and opinion from someone who writes with more confidence than he ever played hockey with. But to me, it seems pretty clear that the Bruins D-core could benefit from some balance and rest as the season comes to a close, so that they are not decimated by injuries as was the case at the heartbreaking end of last season.

 

Don’t worry. I’ll have my guy talk to Butch. They text a lot.

 

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Spin Zone: The Bruins’ Injuries Might Be The Best Thing For Them

( Photo Credit: Winslow Towson/ USA TODAY Sports )

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

 

There are no typos in that title. I typed all of those words on purpose.

David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Kevan Miller, Marcus Johansson, and most recently Matt Grzelcyk have been sidelined with injuries during the Bruins’ impressive stretch of hockey over the last month and a half. While thankfully none of these injuries are all that severe, they did leave the Bruins shorthanded.

Certainly, many human beings with brains will look at the short term impacts that these injuries have on the roster and say it made the Black and Gold a weaker team. To those people, I offer this: Duh. But as a Bruins homer and a semi-rationally-thinking hockey fan, these injuries have been a blessing. They are perfect injuries, and I love them.

“But Cam, tell us why! We want to know!”

Relax. I’m getting to that. Don’t interrupt me.

As I was saying, I am truly proud of the Bruins’ ability to get injured in just the right ways. When compared to the severity of injuries that Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug underwent in the tail end of last season, the Bruins’ have learned from their mistakes and are getting injured in a much smarter way.

All of the Bruins that have been injured in the last month or so have done so in a way that only sidelines them for at most a month. The use of the expression “at most” is misplaced here, but I really enjoy the expression. Obviously, David Pastrnak has been out for a month already so he might have singlehandedly (nice) voided the credibility of my use of the expression. But he’ll be back soon, so I’ll allow it.

Here are the three reasons why these injuries, to important pieces of the Bruins lineup, are crucial to the team’s playoff success.

1. Secondary Scoring/Depth

David Pastrnak’s injury in the second week of February effectively removed the Bruins’ leading scorer at the time. For a team that had been plagued by a lack of depth until recently, this loss might have seemed more grave at the time than it ended up being. Pastrnak’s absence (his Pastrnabsence, if you will) thrust the responsibility of scoring onto the rest of the lineup. And the rest of the B’s, since his injury, has not only added key deadline pieces to address their secondary scoring but have answered the bell and then some (see: ridiculous point streak). A team that can survive, and even thrive without debatably their most lethal offensive threat, will only be that much stronger when they get him back. Very nice (Borat voice).

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images )

2. Saving Legs

While the injuries come to key cogs in the machine that is the Bruins’ lineup, their ability to keep the machine running effectively in the absence of these cogs has been impressive. The aspect of so many key players being out for brief hiatuses is that despite being injured, they are also saving their legs for the playoff stretch. While some rust can certainly be expected from each Bruin upon their respective returns, they will have just enough time to dust off the cobwebs and get back to midseason form come postseason time.

The timing of this “rest” is auspicious given that it is coming in the dog days of the season when the Bruins begin a stretch where they essentially play every other day for a month. If the team can keep winning while some of your top dogs lick their wounds, then expect to win more when they rejoin the pack (I got really into dog metaphors for a minute).

3. Accountability

Undoubtedly, injuries bring added pressure to the regulars in the lineup, as they are subsequently tasked with shouldering the load that their fallen comrade might have been expected to carry. This is true of any team. But what Bruce Cassidy has done in the absence of Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Johansson, Miller, and now Grzelcyk has been interesting—he’s shortened the bench even more.

While the injuries to the aforementioned Bruins already shorten what would be a healthy bench, Cassidy went even further in a few games by sitting players like Peter Cehlarik, Charlie Coyle, and John Moore.  While none of them had been playing all that poorly, Cassidy sent a clear message that if players weren’t putting their best effort or product on the ice, then they were no longer going to see the ice. Fortunately, it seemed like these instances of Cassidy sitting guys down paid off, and the Bruins found ways to win with their shortened bench.

While there is certainly a school of thought that might scrutinize players having too short of a leash, Cassidy has proven time and again that he knows how to get the best out of his players. The heightened responsibility created by the Bruins injuries has placed many of the remaining healthy B’s under the microscope. The focus on their play in the absence of important players has only worked to make them more accountable as a unit and as individuals.

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images )

So there’s your spin zone. Obviously, most players will play better in the short term if their lungs aren’t bruised, or their hands aren’t broken, blah blah blah. And a healthy team will be better in the short term with healthier players. But in the case of the Bruins, I think it’s reasonable to expect that this most recent period of success combined with adversity will be looked back on as a turning point in the season.

All the teams in movies have one.

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Cassidy Issues Update On Bruins Defenseman McAvoy

charlie-mcavoy-3392b301691bf8f5Photo Courtesy Of Boston Sports Extra

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced this morning that Charlie McAvoy will miss tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils with an lower body injury sustained most likely in the Bruins most recent game against the Carolina Hurricanes last Sunday.

 

McAvoy recently returned from a long absence due to a concussion suffered in October and will now likely miss a little more time. McAvoy has skated in 17 games this season for the Bruins, posting a goal and ten assists for 11 points. The 21-year-old made his NHL debut in Game 1 of the Bruins first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators in the spring of 2017. McAvoy was drafted by the Bruins in the first round (14th overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft after two successful seasons at Boston University.

The Long Beach, New York native skated in 75 career games for the Terriers, totaling eight goals and 43 assists for 51 points. With the returns of Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, and Jake DeBrusk it’s not necessarily a huge problem for the Bruins having McAvoy out as it isn’t a serious injury but it will nice to finally see this team at full health. With the Bruins only two games away from the Winter Classic next week, the team hopes McAvoy will be healthy in time.

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What Does The Bruins Lineup Look Like When Healthy?

( Photo Credit: Zimbio.com )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Mer On Twitter @lucaspearson_

The Bruins finally look to be getting fully healthy. With Jake Debrusk, Zdeno Chara and Kevin Miller all nearing their returns, the Bruins will have quite a few lineup and roster decisions to make. With the addition of the four injured players, the Bs will have 14 F and 8 D, with only 21 slots for skaters on the roster, the Bruins would have to make a tough roster decision.

Who gets sent down?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

We recently learned that Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vaakanainen have been sent down to the AHL which makes sense. They’ve both stepped in and played very well when they’ve been asked to, at this point the two are no better than any of the Bruins current top 7 and would be better off getting a lot of minutes in the AHL.

The only players on the Bruins that don’t need to go through waivers when sent down are Charlie McAvoy, Jake Debrusk, Ryan Donato and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. The first two obviously don’t have a chance to get sent down. With the very strong play and increase in confidence and the strong play of the latter two, I don’t want to see either of them going back to Providence. However, there is a decent chance of JFK getting demoted. I’d say that leaves Noel Acciari, Colby Cave, JFK, and Steven Kampfer as the final “contenders” of getting sent down.

This decision is based on if Cassidy wants an extra D or forward. Cave has found his groove and is really stepping up his game as of late with his two points showing against the Canadiens last Monday. We’ve seen a lot more offense and consistency from Cave and would be a lot more attractive for another team to claim on waivers than a guy like Acciari who has one point all year. I’d like to see the Bruins hang on to Kampfer rather than Acciari because it seems the back end is a lot more prone to injuries than the forward group. Chances are JFK gets sent down simply based on the fact that he doesn’t have to get through waivers, but for the good of the Bruins right now, he’s deserved a spot on the big club over Acciari.

Forward Lines

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(James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

So now that I’ve speculated on the roster moves, it’s time to move onto the lineup. I think it would be worth a shot to entertain the option of keeping Krejci on the top line, but ultimately, I think the Bergy-Marchy combo may be too much. Now that the two are continuing to build on their chemistry, I’d like Pasta and Krejci to stay together on the second line with Debrusk when he comes back. That obviously leaves a hole on the first line, and a couple players can fill that role.

There are two options, if they are lacking in scoring, I think Ryan Donato who has looked much better since getting recalled should be given a look on the first line. We’ve seen that Bergeron and Marchand can elevate anyone’s game and I think it could do wonders for Donato’s. If the Bs are looking for more of a two-way style, Danton Heinen could fit very well. He filled in last year on the top line for a few games when Marchand was suspended and filled in well, again it could be great for Heinen to develop his game with some of the best.

With that as the top 6, the third line starts to take shape. JFK has looked a lot more comfortable as of late and seemed to have taken a bottom six center job, but with Bergeron back, he was just recently a healthy scratch for two straight games. The young Swede might have to take a seat in the press box. The Bruins have entertained the option of having Joakim Nordstrom play center, but due to his sub-par face-off percentage, he’s likely to continue to play wing. As I previously said, Colby Cave has earned a spot on the team with his strong two-way game and sparks of offense, he would be a solid option on the third line for now. David Backes, who has looked great recently, would be a good fit on the line as a defensively reliable “bodyguard” type of player for the younger players on the line.

That leaves Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, Nordstrom and JFK vying for 4th line minutes. Nordstrom has been outstanding all year and has been a swiss army knife for Cassidy with all of the injuries, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be playing. Wagner and Kuraly have played very well together and have garnered some chemistry so I think the two should fill out the 4th line. That all leaves JFK as the 13th forward to fill in wherever is needed. I think if any forward anywhere in the lineup goes down or needs a quick rest, Cave and Nordstrom can fill in admirably, Cassidy should just ride the hot hand for the rest of the year.

Defensive Pairs

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(FRED KFOURY III/ICON SPORTSWIRE/GETTY IMAGES)

With the forwards done, it’s time to look at the defense. There are four D that should play every night without question. Those being Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, and Brandon Carlo. The first pairing of Chara and McAvoy proved last year in the playoffs that they could shut down the best of the league, leaving the Maple Leafs and the Lightning (for most of the series) looking for more out of their stars. Krug’s offense cannot be replicated on the blue line, and Carlo has really come out of his shell this year, adding more grit to his game and continuing to improve on his already sound defensive game.

The final defensive pair would consist of two of John Moore, Matt Grzelcyk and Kevin Miller. I think Grzelcyk and Moore have been the Bruins unsung heroes this year. They both proved they can play very well in roles playing 25+ minutes a game and a more condensed role will only make them look better. Kevin Miller brings a physical side of the game that the majority of the roster can’t match and while I think the Bruins don’t need to go out and get an enforcer, that grit is incredibly important on the blue-line. For this final pair it will probably go on a game by game basis, whoever is playing the best gets to play unless Cassidy wants to play Miller against more physical teams but may want a bit more offense and play Gryz and Moore. If I had to pick the final pair I would choose Gryz and Miller, I think Grzelcyk’s hockey sense is too good to sit in the press box.

With all that being said, the Bruins lineup decisions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. With all of the depth on the back-end, Cassidy can pick and choose his matchups on a day to day basis and know that he will always have a solid six guys to roll out there. For the forwards, they have a lot of flexibility. Backes has been really solid as of late and can fill in any of the four lines. If Cassidy needs a goal, he can put Pastrnak back with the top line and switch the rest of the lineup accordingly. All four lines have big strengths to their game, and I feel if the Bruins get enough out of their younger players, this lineup has the potential to do wonders. What do you guys think?

FULL LINEUP

Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen/Donato

Debrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Heinen/Donato-Cave-Backes

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

JFK/Acciari

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller

Moore-Kampfer

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