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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Bruins Vaakanainen Added To Team Finland For World Junior Championships

NHL: OCT 23 Bruins at Senators

PHOTO CREDITS: (Boston Sports Journal)

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

The Boston Bruins will have another prospect representing them in the 2019 World Junior Championships from Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. According to many sources, including Chris Peters of ESPN, defenceman Urho Vaakanainen will be joining his native Team Finland for the tournament.

This is a huge addition to Finland as they gain a big defender with some National Hockey League experience under his belt. Vaakanainen was Boston’s first-round draft selection (18th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The six-foot-one, 185-pound Joensuu, Finland native has played the majority of his hockey career in the Liiga hockey league.

In 109 career Liiga games played, Vaakanainen has tallied 7-16-23 totals, including another four points in twenty-three postseason games. Prior to being selected by the Bruins in 2017, Urho had some success on the international stage with Finland. In the under-18 World Championships, he posted three goals and three assists for six points in five games.

The Bruins management decided to play Vaakanainen in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins to begin the 2018-19 season. After only six games where he put up two assists, Vaakanainen was recalled by Boston due to the number of injuries to the NHL Bruins’ blue line. All of a sudden, Vaakanainen went from playing out in Finland to playing on an NHL roster.

Unfortunately, the young d-man only played two games before an elbow by Mark Borowiecki nailed him in the head, giving him a concussion. At the time of the injury, Vaakanainen was averaging roughly nine minutes a game, with a 60.7% Corsi For percentage.

In response, the NHL’s Player Safety suspended Borowiecki for one game and was forced to forfeit just over $6,000 for the elbow. It was a very unlucky situation for Vaakanainen who was seemingly just finding his game. Since this occurrence back in October, Vaakanainen has been out of the lineup and has not been cleared by doctors due to that concussion until now.

With Boston continually winning games and players such as Chara and Miller making strides to returning to the lineup, it would seem selfish for the Bruins not to lend Vaakanainen to Finland for the World Juniors. Experience on the world stage is something that most players do not have the opportunity to play in so for Urho, it may be quite crucial to the development of his evolving game. Below are some prospect analysis quotes from different people.

“An intelligent, two-way defender…reads the play really well, has his head up all the time and makes quick decisions with the puck, Futureconsiderations.ca 2017″

“He has good puck moving ability and strong offensive upside. He is also a good skater and can rush the puck up ice with confidence, Hockeyprospect.com 2017″

Finland’s first game of the 2019 World Junior Championships is on Boxing Day against Sweden in Victoria, B.C.

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Carlo Nearing Return For Bruins

brandon-carlo-4f43212a02a78923(Photo Credit: Gerry Broome AP Photo)

By: Jamie Gatlin     | Follow Me On Twitter: @JamieGatlin1217

On Saturday night it appears the Bruins will see a key piece return to the lineup. After missing nine games due to an upper-body injury, Brandon Carlo is probable to return against Detroit. It is welcoming news for a defensive core that has been besieged by injuries and recently lost Kevan Miller for at least the next five weeks. It will be a huge upgrade as before Carlo’s injury he was arguably having the best season of his career.

In Sixteen games this season Carlo has yet to score a goal and has only two assists. He has never been known for his offense as he has just six career goals. His job first and foremost is to defend which he has excelled at this season. Before his injury, Carlo’s skills as a shutdown defenseman were becoming more evident. After an up an down Sophmore season he has been key for the Bruins this year.

Carlo’s improved play is reflected in his ice time. He is averaging a career-high 20.58 minutes a game after averaging 19. 14 last year. When healthy the former second-round pick has had better puck control and been an effective penalty killer. This is critical as he attempts to grow into the role of a shutdown defensive. With Zdeno Chara injured that is the role, Carlo will be asked to play upon his return. It is a job he seems prepared to handle.

So far this season Carlo’s defense has improved partly due to his physicality. After recording a total of eighty-nine hits last season he already has thirty-five this year. His eleven takeaways are only fifteen less than his career high. In Carlo’s absence, the Bruins have gone 4-2-2 and their defense has been one of the best in the league. It will only improve as this team gets healthier and getting Carlo back is a big step.

Even though Carlo has not been impactful offensively he has improved. His two assists already put him on pace to pass his total of six from last season. He does not have the high-end offensive capability like Torey Krug, but the Bruins have challenged him this season. His offense is not as natural as his defensive game but it is growing. Even a slight increase in production would make him a more dynamic player.

His impact, however, does not always show up on the stat sheet. His awareness has bailed out the Bruins goaltenders multiple times. Swatting the puck out of the crease appears to have become his specialty. Plays like this can shift the momentum of a game. That is what makes Carlo so valuable.

With Carlo’s return, the Bruins will be getting back one of their best defensemen. That, however, does not take away from what his replacements have done. Losing a player of his caliber is never easy especially with injuries seemingly mounting everywhere. This team showed it’s character in the face of adversity and now the toughest part is over.

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Bruins Give Update On Kevan Miller

boston-bruins-kevan-miller-10117Photo Courtesy of NBC Sports Boston

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

The Bruins announced an update to Kevan Miller’s injury, suffered during Monday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Miller was admitted to a Toronto hospital on Monday after sustaining a throat injury in the first period. The initial x-rays were negative.

 

Miller underwent a CT scan in the hospital which revealed a cartilage injury to the larynx, which was reviewed and re-confirmed upon his return to Boston. The Bruins announced that Miller will be out and re-evaluated in about five weeks. Miller had just returned from a broken hand injury last Wednesday that kept him out for about a month. Miller has played in only 11 games for the Bruins this season, totaling two assists.

Miller has played 296 games in his career, all with the Bruins and has 12 goals and 50 assists in his six years in Boston. The former Vermont Catamount was undrafted and signed an amateur contract with the Providence Bruins during the 2010-11 season. Miller made his NHL debut on November 21, 2013 in Boston in a shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues.

Miller’s injury creates more opportunity for the Bruins young defensemen to prove they belong. The likes of Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton have done an admirable job so far and it looks like they’ll be getting more opportunities.

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The Bruins Week Ahead: Wild Card Edition

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photo credit: Eric Canha/CSM/Cal Sports Media/AP Images

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Check Me Out On Twitter @phoneymahoney

At the moment, the Boston Bruins are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 30 points. It may be too early to talk about the postseason, but they currently inhabit one of the Eastern Conference’s Wild Card slots right now. They are sandwiched between their rivals, as they currently sit two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, and three points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens.

Last week, the Bruins racked up an overtime loss in Detroit against the Red Wings, and a win at home on Black Friday against Pittsburgh, followed by one in Montreal on Saturday night. With Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara out of the lineup in addition to Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Urho Vaakanainen, the Bruins have had a little bit of trouble finding chemistry with their lines so jumbled. Losing their best center, who is also their best player without the puck, has been a bit of an issue for the Bruins.

Luckily for the B’s, defensemen John Moore and Kevan Miller, both of whom have been playing very well this season, returned from injury this week and have helped immensely. Tuukka Rask has also been fantastic in net since returning from his leave of absence.

There are three games coming up this week, and two are against teams in the super competitive Atlantic Division.

Monday, November 26: at Toronto

The Bruins and Maple Leafs have met once this season, with the Bruins winning 5-1. Monday night they will meet again at Scotiabank Arena. Naturally, the Leafs will want to come out flying as they would not be pleased to drop another contest to the B’s, after last season’s first round exit, and getting blown out in their first meeting with Boston this season.

Toronto is third in the Atlantic Division (and fourth in the NHL) with 32 points. The Bruins are fourth in the division (7th in the NHL) with 30 points. Their top center, Auston Matthews, is still out due to a shoulder injury, but has resumed skating and may be returning in the first week of December. The Leafs are still without William Nylander, as the two sides have yet to work out a deal (the Bruins should make Nylander an offer, but that’s a story for another day).

With Matthews out of the lineup, leading the way for the Maple Leafs is 2015 fourth overall draft pick Mitch Marner, who looks no older than your average eighth grader. Marner has scored 30 points in 24 games, with 6 goals, 24 assists. Superstar center John Tavares and defenseman Morgan Rielly are tied for second in points with 27 apiece.

Toronto’s defense remains questionable, but the Leafs’ goaltending has been excellent so far this season. Frederik Andersen is 12-7 in 19 appearances, with a save percentage of .931 and a goals-against-average of 2.24. Backup Garret Sparks was between the pipes for the first game against the Bruins this season. He is 4-1 in 5 games and has put up a Save% of .925, and a GAA of 2.57 – pretty solid.

The Leafs’ power play is 9th in the NHL and is converting at 23.8% (Bruins are third at 28.4%). The penalty kill is 12th in the NHL at 81.3%, while the Bruins are 19th at 78.4% (ouch). Despite Toronto’s defense is their weakness, they don’t allow many goals. Currently, they’ve let in third fewest goals per game in the league, with only Nashville and the Bruins allowing fewer.

The Bruins are going to have to be particularly solid in their own end against Toronto, as the Leafs are a pretty fast team and are skilled offensively. Stretch passes could be an issue if Boston can’t hold onto the puck or handle passes – the Maple Leafs made it obvious last season that they could cause problems for the B’s this way.

Thursday, November 29: vs. New York Islanders

Former Bruins captain Rick Middleton’s number 16 will be retired in a ceremony before Thursday night’s game against the Islanders. Islanders fans are probably happy about this since Nifty enjoyed much more success for the Bruins than he did when he played for their crosstown rival, the New York Rangers.

Despite the loss of star center John Tavares, the Islanders have put together a decent first two months of the season, and are third in the Metropolitan Division with 26 points, good for fourteenth in the NHL. Thursday will be their first game against the Bruins this season.

The Isles have gone 3-2 in their last five games, which include a win and a loss against the rival New York Rangers, who are nipping at their heels in the standings at fourth in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders are 12-8-2, while the Rangers are 12-10-2. They also beat the Devils 4-3 in overtime on November 23, with the game winner being scored by center Matt Barzal, who Bruins fans are either obsessed with or tired of hearing about – no in between.

The Islanders are about as healthy as the Bruins, as they are currently without Casey Cizikas (lower body), Andrew Ladd (leg), Matthew Lorito (undisclosed), Matt Martin (upper body), and Linus Soderstrom (shoulder). There is a possibility Cizikas might be back for Thursday’s matchup, which would be huge for the Islanders. Matt Martin may be suiting up as well.

The Islanders are scoring 13th most goals per game with 3.18, while the Bruins are tied with Dallas for 21st in the league at 2.83 goals per game. The Isles are in the middle of the pack as far as goals allowed per game, with 2.86, good for 14th in the NHL.

Right wing Josh Bailey is leading the Isles in scoring with 7-14-21 totals, followed by Mat Barzal with 3-17-20 totals. Brock Nelson and Anders Lee have 18 points each, and Valtteri Filppula will be a player to watch on both sides of the puck, as he’s reliable defensively and can score as well.

Saturday, December 1st: vs. Detroit Red Wings

This will be the Bruins’ third meeting with Detroit this season. The absolutely routed the wings 8-2 in October, with David Pastrnak notching a hat-trick. Last week, the Bruins took on the Wings in Detroit and lost in miserable fashion during overtime. A key faceoff was lost, not one, but two Bruins were unable to strip Andreas Athanasiou of the puck, and of course, he scored a beauty of a gamer winner with a fancy spin move that would have been totally stoppable had anybody opted to play defense. Oy.

The Red Wings are 2-2-1 in their last five games. Three of those games have gone to overtime. The Wings won two of those games (Bruins and Devils) and lost to Buffalo in a shootout. Winning this one in regulation would be a good idea, as it’s very clear that the Red Wings are not to be underestimated. They still have speed and firepower in players such as Dylan Larkin, Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, and UMaine alum Gustav Nyquist.

Jimmy Howard has been good in the crease, with a GAA of 2.55 and a Save% of .925. Their backup, Jonathan Bernier, had a rough start, as his stats are 3.54 and .897, respectively, but has been finding his game recently, and had a couple of very solid games last week. Bernier made 49 saves in a single game against Carolina. That statistic should make it pretty obvious that the Red Wings are among the NHL’s worst regarding shots allowed per game (29th in the NHL, at 38.4/game).

An important key to this game will be for the Bruins to get as much offensive zone time as possible and capitalize on the many opportunities the Red Wings are probably going to serve up for them. The Bruins should take as many shots as possible, and create traffic in front of the net if they want to be successful. It seems they’re finally starting to find a little bit of chemistry in the new lineup sans Bergeron. Hopefully, they can keep it up.

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Bruins Game 22 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)

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

It is Black Friday 2018 and while shoppers frantically buzz around stores across the continent looking for the best deals out there, the Boston Bruins are back out on the ice in Boston, Massachusetts for a game against the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 EST. The two teams met last year on Black Friday, a game that saw the Bruins take a 4-3 victory.

The 11-6-4 Boston Bruins are coming off of a tough overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. The loss wrapped up a four-game road trip for the Bruins, who went 1-1-2 on the trip. Boston currently sits in fourth place in the NHL’s Atlantic division, only five points behind the leading Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has not had a successful start to the 2018-19 season and just recently, the tough beginning to the season will become even more difficult. The Pens are tied for dead-last in the Metropolitan division with a record of 8-8-4. Even though the Penguins have scored the fourth-most goals on a game-to-game basis in the league (3.45 goals-for-per-game), they have allowed the eighth-most goals-per-game out of any other team.

Who’s Hot

Even though it has only been two goals, forward Jakub Forsbacka Karlsson has two goals in his first six games in the National Hockey League. He scored his second goal against the Red Wings loss, opening up the scoring in the first period. The Bruins coaching staff has clearly noticed JFK’s work so far, rewarding him with first-line minutes alongside Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have had to put the team on their shoulders with the absence of locker room leaders Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron and they have continued to play good hockey. Marchand assisted on the game-winning goal by Jake DeBrusk in the Bruins’ only win on the road trip on Saturday, November 17th against the Arizona Coyotes.

Jaroslav Halak remains statistically the best current goalie on the Bruins roster. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced earlier in the day that the Bratislava, Slovakia native will get the starting role in Boston versus the Penguins. In twelve starts this season, Halak has a 7-2-2 record with a 2.07 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage. Jaro Halak also has wins in four of his last five starts, with his last loss coming on November 14th against the Colorado Avalanche, allowing six goals against.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NESN.com)

Evgeni Malkin has been on fire as usual for Pittsburgh. Malkin has eight points in the last five games for the Pens, bringing his 2018-19 season totals to 8-20-28 in only twenty games – the highest on the Penguins roster. Phil Kessel leads Pittsburgh in goals, with ten on the year for twenty-five points.

Sidney Crosby (did you guess?) is coming off of a three-point night in the Wednesday night 5-1 over the Stars. The offence for the Penguins really showed up in that game and Crosby was right in the thick of it all. Sid the Kid now has 9-13-22 totals in 17 games this season.

Who’s Not

With Matt Murray on the injured reserve due to a lower-body injury, the Penguins will be forced to rely on goaltender Tristan Jarry. Jarry has been playing the entirety of the ’18/’19 season in the American Hockey League with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, having a season record of 4-5-1, a GAA of 2.89, and a save percentage of .909. Jarry did go 14-6-2 in the 2017-18 campaign, but while in the midst of a poor AHL season and making his first NHL start of the year, it will be a challenge for him against the Bruins.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Getty Images North America)

Jack Johnson, who signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract with Pittsburgh in this past offseason has not lived up to the signing as of this point of the season. In 20 games, Johnson has 1-5-6 totals but has the worst plus/minus rating on the Pens with a -10 rating.

Danton Heinen has still not yet found his permanent groove with the Bruins so far this season, scoring only five points in the nineteen games that he has skated his thus far. Heinen will once again get another opportunity in the top-six with Patrice Bergeron out of the lineup, playing on the left side of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

Bruins vs Penguins Outlook

This is the first of three meetings between the Penguins and Bruins this season, with the next one coming on December 14th in Pittsburgh. Both teams have had their good moments and poor moments but will be looking to get a big win over the opposing team and carry that forward heading into the final month of 2018.

The Bruins announced today that defencemen Kevan Miller and John Moore will return to the lineup tonight while Steven Kampfer and Anders Bjork will be the scratches. This will be Miller’s first game since October 18th, missing the time due to a hand injury. Moore, on the other hand, has been out for three games with a lower-body injury. While Miller or Moore are not top-tier defencemen such as Charlie McAvoy or Zdeno Chara, but at this point, any man returning to the lineup is a positive for Boston.

Colby Cave will get the third-line centre role and JFK will man the first-line role as previously mentioned. It will be interesting to see how both do tonight.

The Bruins will need the goal support to shake Tristan Jarry early and hopefully decrease his confidence for the remainder of the game. With Moore and Miller back in the lineup, the blueline looks a lot better for Boston and it will be pivotal for the team to shut down the powerful Pittsburgh offence. Nonetheless, it will be a good game for all fans of the sport.

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Bruins Game 21 Preview: Detroit Red Wings

Pastrnak Red Wings

(Maddie Meyer, Getty Images)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

It’s almost time for turkey, but before we can celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, we have a Boston Bruins game to watch. The B’s will be in Detroit on Wednesday night to take on the Red Wings.

The Bruins enter play with an 11-6-3 record and a plethora of injuries. They recently lost Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron for long stretches of time which will greatly impact how Bruce Cassidy delegates ice time. However, Kevan Miller is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday which is definitely a shining light amidst a lot of bad news. Meanwhile, the Red Wings are 9-9-2 and are relatively healthy compared to Boston.

Who’s Hot?

Jake DeBrusk scored a goal against the Arizona Coyotes over the weekend, his eighth of the season. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson also notched a goal – the first of his NHL career. The rookie’s tally was assisted by Noel Acciari, making the winger the last Bruin to register a point this season.

DeBrusk Red Wings

Credit: Associated Press

Matt Grzelcyk has done a solid job in the absence of many of Boston’s defensemen, namely Charlie McAvoy. With McAvoy’s offensive production on hold, Grzelcyk has been able to carry some of the weight. Combined with Torey Krug’s offensive tendencies from the blue line, it seems that Boston’s transition game is in good hands for the time being.

Dylan Larkin leads the Red Wings in scoring and has four points in his last five games. The 22-year-old is already taking on first-line duties and is set to be Detroit’s next great centerman if his upward trend continues. With 24-year-old Mantha on his right wing, who has six goals and three assists in 20 games, Detroit’s top lines can be lethal. They could very well take advantage of a shattered Bruins defense if they bring their A-game.

Gustav Nyquist and Andreas Athanasiou have also come up with some production on the Red Wings’ second line. The two have combined for nine goals and 18 assists (27 points). Centered by Frans Nielsen, who has no goals but 10 assists, Detroit’s top-six have some offensive capabilities.

Who’s Not?

Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen continue to struggle one-fourth of the way through the season. Heinen has only tallied five points while Bjork has just three to his name. Bjork will be getting time on the first line alongside David Krejci and David Pastrnak, however. Perhaps the extra minutes and skilled linemates can give him an offensive boost and the ability to execute.

 

Steven Kampfer has been decent for the Bruins thus far but needs to work on his discipline. The defenseman is only behind Brad Marchand (66) and Torey Krug (19) in penalty minutes, committing nine minors for almost a full period’s worth of time in the box. What he has done well is mentoring young defensemen, specifically Jeremy Lauzon whom he has been playing alongside.

Detroit’s goaltending is certainly a sore spot for the boys in red. Jimmy Howard currently sports a record of 6-6-2 with a .922 SV% and 2.64 GAA. Meanwhile, Jonathan Bernier has a 3-3-0 record accompanied by a .901 SV% and 3.59 GAA. It is projected that the Bruins will be facing Howard tonight as they’ll look to add on to his losing record.

Bruins vs. Red Wings Outlook

The Bruins are certainly dealing with an injury bug. Luckily, the young defensemen that have been called up to fill the void have been up to the challenge. Connor Clifton had a strong presence in his first NHL game against Arizona, receiving his first NHL major penalty for fighting. Lauzon has also done well holding down the fort on the third defensive pair and has failed to become a liability.

The Red Wings will try to put those young defensemen in their place. They may not need too much from their offense tonight in order to net themselves a win. Boston is currently ranked 3rd in goals against with 49 but just 22nd in goals for with 58. However, the Bruins’ offense can be deadly, especially with DeBrusk finding his game to compliment that of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

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Injuries Pile Up During Bruins’ Road Trip

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photo credit: NHL.com

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Check Me Out On Twitter @phoneymahoney

Zdeno Chara injured his left knee Wednesday night during the second period of a loss to the Avalanche in Colorado. Chara cut his road trip short, traveling back to Boston to be evaluated by team medical staff. When Chara was injured, the Bruins were already without Charlie McAvoy (concussion), Kevan Miller (hand), and Brandon Carlo (upper body).

The Bruins played in Dallas last night with three rookie defensemen in the lineup, two of whom were on emergency call-ups, making their National Hockey League debut. Boston lost 1-0 in overtime, in a back-and-forth, competitive game. While half of the Bruins defense consisted of players who were playing in the AHL last week, they were better defensively than most imagined that would have been.

That said, Zdeno Chara was sorely missed.  Chara was diagnosed on Friday, and today the Bruins announced that he sustained an injury to his left MCL and will miss 4-6 weeks of hockey. Surgery is a possibility, unfortunately. Chara is not the player he was when Boston won the Stanley Cup in 2011, but he is still a very important part of the team, and remains an effective shutdown defenseman.

Defenseman John Moore missed Friday’s game in Dallas as well, with a lower-body injury purportedly sustained in Colorado, as he was unable to participate in Friday morning’s skate in Dallas. Moore cut his road trip short as well and returned to Boston for rest and evaluation. Moore’s absence on top of Chara’s, gave Jakub Zboril and Connor Clifton the opportunity to debut for the Bruins last night. Moore is listed as day-to-day.

During Friday’s game in Dallas, Stars center Radek Faksa rode Patrice Bergeron into the boards awkwardly during the second period. Bergeron appeared to injure his shoulder and returned to the Bruins’ locker room. Eventually, he returned to the game but was not able to be as effective as he usually is, and he didn’t play a shift during overtime. Bergeron returned to Boston and will be evaluated by the team.

There hasn’t been any word from the Bruins about what kind of timeline to expect regarding Bergeron’s return to the lineup, as his injury only occurred last night, and there hasn’t been any communication as to how severe his injury is. Bergeron’s loss will be felt, as it was causing all sorts of upheaval in the Bruins’ forward lines, as well as on the power play and penalty kill.

Without team captain Zdeno Chara or alternate captain Patrice Bergeron in the lineup, the Bruins will be tolling with three alternate captains tonight in David Krejci, David Backes, and Brad Marchand.

The Bruins forward lines will be affected greatly: Krejci will be centering the top line, with Anders Bjork and David Pastrnak on his wings, while Joakim Nordstrom will be the second line pivot, skating with Marchand on his left and Jake DeBrusk on his right. The third line will consist of Danton Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Noel Acciari, while Sean Kuraly will play center for Chris Wagner and David Backes.

Regardless of what the results of Bergeron and Moore’s evaluations tell us, the Bruins are going to feel the loss of Chara through the end of the year (and hopefully that’s it). The Bruins really need  Bergeron and Moore to return to the lineup sooner, as icing three rookie defensemen cannot be ideal when a team is looking to win. It’s going to be a rough few weeks.

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