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

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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?

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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?

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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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