From Non-Factor to X-Factor: Bruins Third Line Coming Up Huge In Playoffs

thirdline

(Photo Courtesy of John Tlumacki / Boston Globe Staff)

By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

The Boston Bruins find themselves in the middle of a long playoff run, and while there are many different factors that have led to this, one of the biggest x-factors that fueled this run is the play of the third line, and the players that make up that third-line. Going into the season, if someone told you the Bruins would make it at least to the Eastern Conference Final, and that third-line was going to be a big part of that, you would probably think that person was nuts, but here we are. Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and Danton Heinen have played great hockey over the last few weeks, and they’ve really shown that they can hold the secondary scoring mantle. Secondary scoring was also a big problem for the boys in black and gold with many local and national media personalities telling us that while the first-line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak is elite, the team needed more balance on all lines.

With that balance needed, and the younger internal options never fully emerging the Bruins turned to the trade market to fortify the third-line. The guy that Boston turned to was Charlie Coyle. They traded Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Coyle. Then a few days later, the Bs traded a second and fourth-round pick to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Marcus Johansson. Now, Coyle looked strong, and the Bruins seemed to finally solve the third-line center position, but Johansson was initially tried out on the second-line. Then only a few games into his tenure with the spoked B he took a hard hit from Carolina Hurricanes’ winger Micheal Ferland, which bruised the New Jersey Devils’ lung. As a result, we never were able to fully see what Boston’s new additions could do.

Even after Johansson came back from injury, he still needed time to fully show what he could do. Heading into the playoffs, Charlie Coyle had fully stabilized the third-line center position, and Johansson was still working to find his niche on the team. Even after game one of the first round of the playoffs against Toronto, the Bruins sat the Sweden native for games two and three. Since then, however, both Coyle and Johansson have been a force to be reckoned with these playoffs. Conor Ryan of the Boston Sports Journal even pointed out that Johansson and Coyle combined in the playoffs have netted nine goals and dished out 12 assists for 21 total points, and they’ve generated 25 individual high-danger scoring chances. Individually, Charlie Coyle has netted six goals while dishing out six assists for 12 total points, Marcus Johansson has netted three goals while dishing out six assists for nine total points, and the final member of the third-line Danton Heinen has netted two goals while dishing out five assists for seven total points.

To top all of that off, over the past five games that they’ve played together the three players have netted a combined four goals while dishing out a combined nine assists for 13 total points. To take it a step further, the 13 points in five games accounts for 21% of the points scored in those games. All five of those games have resulted in a Bruins victory.  Not only are these guys scoring, but they are also driving play when they are the ice which is one of the most important things, especially in the playoffs. A lot of fans were critical of Don Sweeney at the trade deadline stating that the trades getting Coyle and Johansson would not be enough to get past Tampa Bay and win a Stanley Cup. Luckily for Boston, Columbus took care of Tampa Bay for them, and their acquisitions are playing a large part in the Bruins being two wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

The Boston Bruins third-line has gone from a non-factor to an x-factor this long playoff run. They’ve become such a big strength that you have to consider re-signing Marcus Johansson in the off-season if the price is right. It seems like whenever he has the puck, he has a chance of making a big play. The play of the third line has been an absolute joy to watch, and Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have become some of my favorite players to watch these playoffs. If Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle, and Marcus Johansson can keep up their high level of play, then the Bruins’ chances of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June are very good.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of this playoff run. Feel free to leave questions or comments on my Twitter and Go, Bs, Go!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECF Game 2: Carolina at Boston: 5/12/19

5SPR6NJXUZGTBA6SDF7ELNNFPAPhoto Courtesy Of MassLive.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Home: Boston Bruins (9-5)

Away: Carolina Hurricanes (8-4)

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Backes

Johansson-Coyle-Heinen

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Carolina’s Lineup

Forwards

Niederreiter-Staal-Williams

Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen

Foegele-Wallmark-McGinn

Ferland-McKegg-Martinook

Defense

Slavin-Hamilton

Pesce-Faulk

Fleury-de Haan

Goalies

Mrazek

McElhinney

First Period

The game got off to a hard hitting start as Micheal Ferland had a big hit on Matt Grzelcyk in the early going. The Hurricanes had a solid start to the game with a few chances against Tuukka Rask but the goaltender stood tall. The Bruins had trouble in the opening minutes with turnovers but the Hurricanes were unable to take advantage. The Bruins began to find a rhythm in the offensive zone after a flurry of chances by the Bergeron line. The Hurricanes continued to be physical from the start as it seemed to be their game plan for Game 2.

Carolina would pick up the first power play of the game as Zdeno Chara went to the box for tripping with about eight minutes remaining in the period. The Bruins killed off the penalty despite the Hurricanes solid puck movement on the man advantage. After a slick feed from Marcus Johansson, Grzelcyk slipped a wrist shot past Petr Mrazek to give the Bruins the late first period lead.

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The Bruins seemed to get a jolt from the goal as they looked to be a lot more comfortable especially in their own zone. Boston would pick up their first power play late in the period as Justin Williams went to the box. Jake DeBrusk made it 2-0 just six seconds into the man advantage as he buried a rebound in front.

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Score: 2-0 Bruins

Second Period

The Bruins would go back to the penalty kill just over a minute into the second period as Patrice Bergeron was called for tripping. The B’s would kill off the penalty as the Hurricanes failed to muster much offensive zone time on the man advantage. Connor Clifton made it 3-0 Boston after another outstanding setup by Johansson just under four minutes into the middle period.

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The Bruins continued to push incredibly hard after the goal as they looked to impose their will. The Bruins continued to be very solid defensively as they didn’t allow Carolina to maintain an offensive rhythm as they looked to get back into the game. The Hurricanes continued to try to be physical towards the end of the second period but didn’t seem to be making much of a difference.

Chris Wagner was called for holding with just over six minutes left in the period as the Hurricanes looked to cut into the lead. The Bruins killed it off as Rask continued to have another strong game with a couple big stops during the man advantage. Boston would then go to the power play shortly after the kill as Williams was called for roughing. Grzelcyk made it two goals on the afternoon with a sweet backhand shot past Mrazek to make it 4-0 on the power play with about two minutes left in the period.

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Score: 4-0 Bruins

Third Period

Mrazek stayed in the net to start the third period in a slightly puzzling move but it was clear the Hurricanes were willing to roll the dice. Just over a minute into the period, David Backes stashed in a loose puck to give the Bruins a 5-0 lead.

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About a minute after the goal, Bergeron was called again for tripping as the Hurricanes tried to desperately stay in the game. The Bruins killed off the penalty once again with almost no resistance and on the ensuing rush, Danton Heinen scored off of a great feed from Bergeron to make it 6-0.

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Williams made it a five goal game with a nice deflection on a shot by Justin Faulk with under nine minutes to go.

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After a bad misplay by Rask, Teuvo Teravainen buried the loose puck to give Carolina something to be happy about going into Game 3.

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Final Score: 6-2 Bruins

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Grzelcyk. Perhaps the best player on the ice in this game, the young defenseman was everywhere and even took advantage of some scoring chances as he scored twice.

Second Star: Johansson. Another great game for the winger from Sweden who continues to potentially play his way into a new contract with the Bruins.

Third Star: Rask. While not incredibly busy, Tuukka was very solid especially when the game was still in the balance.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECF Game 1: Carolina at Boston: 5/9/19

cutPhoto Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Home: Boston Bruins (8-5)

Away: Carolina Hurricanes (8-3)

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Backes

Heinen-Coyle-Johansson

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Defense

Chara-Clifton

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Kampfer

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Carolina’s Lineup

Forwards

Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen

Niederreiter-Staal-Williams

Foegele-Wallmark-McGinn

Martinook-McKegg-Ferland

Defense

Slavin-Hamilton

Pesce-Faulk

Fleury-de Haan

Goalies

Mrazek

McElhinney

First Period

The Bruins got off to a flying start with a few chances in the offensive zone and they looked to into the game right from puck drop. The Bergeron line had a great start to the game with a few good shifts in the attacking zone. Steven Kampfer, inserted into the lineup for the suspended Charlie McAvoy scored his first career playoff goal off a beautiful feed from Marcus Johansson about three minutes into the game.

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Sean Kuraly took a roughing penalty shortly after the goal and Sebastian Aho deflected in a shot past Tuukka Rask just seconds into the man advantage to tie the game.

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The Hurricanes got a huge swing of momentum after the Aho goal as they looked to build a lead early in the opening period. The Bruins responded to that with a few solid shifts of their own as they looked to return the momentum. Both teams started to settle in especially defensively as the scoring chances started to die down considerably. Charlie Coyle went to the box for tripping with under six minutes left in the period as Carolina looked to take the lead. The B’s killed off the penalty as Zdeno Chara took a shot off of his foot and appeared to be shaken up.

Immediately following the penalty kill, the Bruins went to the power play as Nino Niederreiter was called for slashing with about three minutes to go in the period. The Hurricanes killed off the penalty despite some good puck movement by Boston.

Score: Tied 1-1

Second Period

Brett Pesce nearly gave the Hurricanes the lead in the early moments of the period but hit the crossbar behind Rask which kept it a tied game. The B’s would be shorthanded yet again as Kuraly was called for a high stick about four minutes into the period. Boston killed off the penalty as Rask made a couple of huge saves. Both teams wasted no time renewing acquaintances with a ton of physical play and a few scrums after the whistle.

A crazy play in front resulted in Greg McKegg finding the back of the net before crashing into Rask after being pushed by Kampfer to give Carolina their first lead of the game.

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Rask made a few big stops after the goal to prevent the Hurricanes from extending the lead. The Bruins continued to have trouble generating offense as the Hurricanes began to dominate the possession game, making Boston tired from chasing the puck. The Bruins responded with a good shift from the Bergeron line as they looked to get back in the game. The Bruins picked up their second power play as Micheal Ferland went to box with three minutes remaining in the period. Carolina killed off the penalty despite some good scoring chances for the Bruins.

Score: 2-1 Hurricanes

Third Period

The Bruins got an early power play after Jordan Staal hit Chris Wagner from behind less than a minute into the period. Johansson found the back of the net towards the end of the man advantage on a loose puck in front to tie the game.

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The Bruins would receive another power play shortly after the goal as Dougie Hamilton went to the box for roughing. Patrice Bergeron buried a loose puck in front just seconds into the man advantage as the Bruins regained the lead.

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The Bruins went to the power play once again as Hamilton took another penalty, this time for interference as Boston looked to extend the lead. Carolina killed off the penalty as the Bruins struggled to maintain an offensive rhythm. The Bruins continued to respond after a trying second period as they had a strong period complete with chances from multiple lines. The Bruins also continued to be solid defensively in the final period as they anticipated several Hurricanes passes.

The Hurricanes pulled the goalie with about 2:45 to go as they looked to tie the game. Brandon Carlo scored on the empty net as the puck barely trickled into the net to essentially clinch the game. Wagner then made it 5-2 with goal off of a bad turnover to finish the game for the Bruins just seconds after Carlo’s goal.

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Final Score: 5-2 Bruins

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Johansson. The winger had one of his best games as a Bruin, totaling two points including an important tying goal in the third period.

Second Star: Rask. The Bruin goalie continued his incredibly solid play as of late allowing just two goals and make a number of key saves.

Third Star: Kampfer. The veteran defenseman looked very solid filling in for McAvoy and didn’t look out of place at all.

What The Bruins Need To Do To Get Back In This Series

Columbus Blue Jackets' Matt Duchene, top right, scores a goal against Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask, of Finland, during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in Nationwide Arena.

(JAY LAPRETE / AP)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

The Bruins have done a lot of what needs to be done to win a series. They’ve gotten really good goaltending from Tuukka Rask, they’ve gotten a lot of really important depth goals out of their bottom six, and overall, they’ve played pretty damn good defense. But clearly, they aren’t playing perfect hockey as they’re down 2-1 in the series. Here are a few important things the Bruins will need to do to come back in this series against Columbus.

Figure Out Bobrovsky

Captain obvious here but the Bruins need to find a way to get a couple past the Blue Jackets’ goalie. Sergei Bobrovsky has been incredible this entire playoff run, but his playoff struggles of the past can’t be forgotten. Even with his outstanding numbers this season (.937 save percentage and a 1.88 GAA) he has a measly .902 save % and a 3.08 GAA. If the Bruins can put up four or five on him in a game, then the nerves may start to kick in, and Bobrovsky could start to falter.

 

Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak, right, of the Czech Republic, controls the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno during an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. The Bruins won 6-2. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

(AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Fix the Powerplay

To say it has been bad would be an understatement. The Bruins are just 1/10 on the PP this series, and it seems that every time they get on the man advantage, it just kills their momentum. The first powerplay unit HAS to change. I think Marcus Johansson is incredible at gaining the zone which is very important to a powerplay, but he just isn’t the right guy to be in front of the net. I would rather see him on the second unit either in the bumper position (where Bergeron plays) or on the right side half-wall (where Marchand plays).

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It seems Jake Debrusk will move back up to the number one unit and take Johansson’s place, but I think a guy like David Backes, who looks to be entering the lineup next game, would be the best fit there. While age has been getting the better of him as of late, he still has a nose for the net and sees the puck really well. He’s got very good hand-eye coordination and could really be a nuisance for Bobrovsky and the Columbus defense to handle in front of the net.

 

Adam Glanzman / Getty Images

Have the First Line do… Something

Yikes. The trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak have one point this entire series, and that one point was a goal off of Pastrnak’s skate. The worst of the bunch has been the goal scorer Pastrnak. Maybe he’s playing through an injury, but everything, his skating, his shooting, his decision making, all of it has been off. Coach Cassidy tried to jump-start the struggling Pastrnak by putting him on the third line with the best two Bruins this series, Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, and it just ruined what the two had going before Game Three. Towards the tail-end of Game Three, the Czechman was reunited with his former linemates and had a few solid shifts to end off the game. Hopefully, that is a sign of things to come.

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Brad Marchand should try to stick to scoring goals and not his old devilish ways, or we might not see Marchy too much more this series. Patrice Bergeron hasn’t been bad. He’s had a lot of quality scoring chances and has done a good job neutralizing the Blue Jacket’s top line, but just like the rest of his linemates, he just looks off. Bruce Cassidy will stick with his guns and keep the “perfection” line together going into Game Four, hopefully, this major slump can only last so long

Stop Giving the Puck Away

Plain and simple, way too many costly turnovers.

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Round 2 | Game One: Boston Bruins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

By: Liz Rizzo  | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

It’s been a wild first round that saw the early exit of big heavy-hitting teams and the Bruins are one of those teams still standing. After a nerve wrecking victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7  this past Tuesday, the Bruins are now gearing up to face a new foe in Round 2.  For the first time in either teams history, the wild card team Columbus Blue Jackets and the league’s second-place Boston Bruins will face each other.

Boston has had little rest from Tuesday’s bout with the Leafs while the Blue Jackets had 10 days off after a stunning sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the first time in their history Columbus has advanced to the second round. Surpassing all Vegas odds and, pretty much anyone that watches hockey, the Blue Jackets will be looking to strong arm Boston at the TD Garden. The last time these two teams met on April 2nd, Boston defeated the Blue Jackets 6-2. Columbus  has won 11 out of 12 games in the regular season and swept the Lighting in four games.

Image result for BOSTON BRUINS VS BLUE JACKETS(Photo Credits: WCVB Boston)

For Boston, the continued emergence of the fourth line will hopefully once again show up tonight as they face a heavy, tough Columbus team. Sometimes rest isn’t always the best thing and that can bode well for the B’s. They’ll be looking to carry over their momentum from their Game 7 win to tonight’s game. If you look back to last postseason, the Bruins defeated Toronto and were able to defeat the Lightning in Game 1 of the second round, winning 6-2. But as history has it, the Bruins were unable to carry that energy over to the rest of the series.

“I hope we’re ready. I can’t guarantee how it is. Eight or nine days off, I think we can say all the right things as I’m trying to do right now, but it comes down to the players being mentally ready. To me, its not a physical ready, its a mental readiness as far as ready to elevate your compete to start a series.”-Columbus Coach John Tortorella

Both Boston and Columbus had the best power play in the league postseason, with the Jackets in first and Boston in second. The Bruins power-play was instrumental in key victories over the Maple Leafs. For the Blue Jackets, their power-play was a huge factor in their winning sweep over Tampa Bay.  If you wanna talk stats, the Bruins were shorthanded 16 times in seven games, while Columbus was shorthanded six times in four games.

Image result for BOSTON BRUINS VS BLUE JACKETS(Photo Credits: NESN.com)

The Bruins will need to be mindful of the heavy forechecking by Columbus’s Josh Anderson, Nick Foglino and rookie Alexandre Texier.  Boston’s secondary scoring issues was hot topic during the regular season, however come postseason, has been a different story. In the pivotal Game 7, it was Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Marcus Johansson that got the Bruins on board. Although the first line has been quiet (aside from Marchand who’s been steadily producing), the team will  need all lines on deck for this series. Columbus’s Matt Duchene leads the team in points, goals and assists, while Brad Marchand leads in points, goals and assists.

Boston’s Chris Wagner and Connor Clifton will be back in the lineup tonight.

For Columbus, here are the projected lines for tonight:

Artemi Panarin – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Oliver Bjokstrand

Ryan Dzingel – Matt Duchene – Cam Atkinson

Alexandre Texier – Nick Foligno – Josh Anderson

Riley Nash – Booner Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky

Zach Werenski – Seth Jones

Markus Nutivaara – David Savard

Scott Harrington – Adam Clendening

Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo

Expect Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky in their respected nets.

WHEN TO WATCH: Tonight at TD Garden with puck drop at 7:00 PM

WHERE TO WATCH: NBCSN

 

Why The Bruins Prevailed In A Grueling First Round Against The Maple Leafs

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

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

When a Boston-Toronto matchup comes to fruition in the playoffs, it is sure to be a battle — the last two, and now three playoff matchups between the two teams are indicative of that. For the third time in the past six seasons, the Bruins came out victorious in seven games over the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t a squeaky clean series from the Bruins, but they found a way to get it done in the end. Sure, the reasons I state aren’t the only reasons the Bruins prevailed, but they are important ones.

Deadline additions come in clutch

The acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson were orchestrated by Don Sweeney at deadline time. Coyle didn’t light up the score sheet as a Bruin post-trade deadline, but really helped a third line that saw ebbs and flows throughout the season.

Coyle broke out in the first round, big time. With three goals and an assist, his four points were good for fifth on the team in scoring. The stability of his presence on the third line never faded, and his ability to score and push the pace in all three zones really came through and was paramount in the team’s success. His empty netter last night sealed the deal on the series, but his lone assist of the series in the team’s game four wins was a huge one. Coyle’s importance can’t be overstated.

Despite only playing in five of the seven games, Marcus Johansson made an impact as well. Overall, he had a solid series, but he really came through last night with a huge goal to give the Bruins a two-goal lead. Not to mention a big blocked shot late in the second period of an eventual game four win — the Bruins were up by two goals at the time.

The fourth line came up big when it mattered most

Overall this season, the fourth line has seen its share of ebbs and flows, like the third line. They really got a boost when known buzzsaw Sean Kuraly returned from injury in game five. At times, the fourth line looked pretty rough, but they saw a resurgence when Kuraly’s presence and high-energy style was at its peak.

The bottom line’s most notable performance, with Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Acciari making up the line, came in game seven. In combining for two goals and three assists in the game, the fourth line pushed the pace and put the Bruins over the top to win when it all came down to it. Big-time players make big-time plays.

Tuukka Rask, plain and simple

Tuukka Rask was phenomenal in the first round, and has been for much of the season as a whole. He wasn’t perfect, but he made crucial saves when they were needed most in the end. After the game last night, Rask hinted at being his changed workload in the regular season helping, and he sure gave us a glimpse. Credit can certainly be given to the Bruins’ coaching staff and Jaroslav Halak for this, additionally. Rask finished this series with a 4-3 record, 2.31 GAA, and a .928 save percentage. Here’s arguably the best save he made, if you somehow haven’t seen it already.

Brandon Carlo was consistently excellent

A first playoff rodeo didn’t intimidate Brandon Carlo. Injuries in year’s past robbed him at a chance to show what he could do in the playoffs — this year, he got his shot.

In doing so, Carlo gave anyone watching a real glimpse of how much of a legitimate shutdown defenseman and leader he can be. Everything viewers could have expected and then some. He was the team’s best defenseman and got the recognition he deserved from media. Have a gander at this short thread for some more perspective, in a game six sample size.

Resilience shined through

Individual performances obviously shined through, but so did the resilience of this Bruins team as a whole. They had their backs against the wall after a game five loss with a game six in a hostile Toronto environment on the docket. They battled to win an extremely stressful game six, get back to home ice, and clinch the series on home ice.

Game six saw the Bruins down a goal in the first thanks to Morgan Reilly, but they battled back to eventually win 4-2. Scoring the first goal can often be crippling, especially in a must-win game — not this time.

Speaking of scoring the first goal, Nordstrom helped in that regard last night and the Bruins didn’t fall behind once, despite a dominant second period from Toronto. That resilience that was so huge in their success was huge in the end.

Also, I feel obligated to mention the fact that the camaraderie between Boston sports teams is something special. Most recently with Julian Edelman going crazy at the Garden last night, we also saw members of the Boston Celtics, coach Brad Stevens, and prominent Patriots players like Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, and James White, amongst others showing their support. All of this that we have seen recently, as well as over the years is too cool not to mention, and the players do appreciate it.

As I said, the importance of the Bruins’ stars and other players who didn’t get a mention in this discussion, obviously contributed to the team’s success as well. The lack of a mention isn’t meant to discredit them. But, these were the factors that stuck out to me the most. It was an epic series, and now the Bruins are on to Columbus.

Coyle Proving The Doubters Wrong In Bruins Postseason

Coyle

( Photo Credit: The Athletic )

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

The Bruins received a major piece to their forward lineup ahead of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Charlie Coyle. The centerman, who played 47 playoff games for the Wild brings playoff experience and depth to Cassidy’s forward group. Many fans and media had questioned his effectiveness and fit in a Bruins uniform but, in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Toronto, he has raised some eyebrows.

The Weymouth, MA native was shipped up to Boston on February 20, 2019, in a trade that sent Ryan Donato and a fifth-round draft pick to the Minnesota Wild. Bruins fans and media were split in their reactions to the trade by Don Sweeney and did not know how well he would contribute to the Bruins offensive depth. In 21 games with his favorite childhood team, he put up two goals and 4 assists for six points along with a plus/minus rating of minus two.

Throughout the last few weeks of the regular season, Cassidy tried Coyle up and down the lineup on the center and the wing and was not able to really find a firm position in the lineup. In the playoffs, Cassidy started Coyle on the third line with Marcus Johansson and Danton Heinen on the wings in game one.

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After a disappointing loss in game one, Bruce Cassidy was looking to add more grit and intensity to the Bruins lineup. With Johansson out with an illness, David Backes drew back into the lineup and was slotted on the right wing of the Heinen and Coyle line. That line started off the game with intense hits and forechecking and began to go after the Leafs which the Bruins did not do much of in game one. At just about the five-minute mark of the first, David Backes finished a great forecheck behind the Toronto goal and knocked the puck loose and sent a pass in front to Coyle who buried his first of the playoffs and got the Bruins the much needed first goal of the game. Coyle logged 15:16 time on ice with a plus-two rating and had a strong performance.

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Similarly, on Monday night in game three North of the border, the Bruins found themselves in a 3-1 hole late in the second period. As the Bruins went on the powerplay, Coyle parked himself in front, and after a scramble from a Grzelcyk shot and a rebound from Heinen, Coyle rifled a shot past Andersen and got a huge goal for the Bruins heading into the dressing room. Along with that big goal, Coyle logged 17:17 time on ice and was named the games third star.

Coyle and Heinen have found great chemistry in this first-round series against Toronto. Charlie Coyle has arguably been the Bruins best player in this series which is both good and bad. Although consistency and scoring from Coyle on the third line are key for the Bruins, the team also needs its top two lines to get going and tie the series up in game 4 in Toronto. (Wednesday, April 17 7:00pm Scotiabank Arena on NBCSN and NESN)

Coyle’s size, strength, and skill fit right into the Bruins lineup, and it seems as though he has found his spot and confidence in a Bruins uniform. His chemistry with Heinen is developing before our eyes, and the veteran centerman has stepped up on the biggest stage for the Black and Gold. It is essential for the third line depth to contribute for Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins in this series against Toronto. With the matchup game for both coaches imminent in this series, Boston and Toronto’s top two lines are battling for every inch of ice which increases the need for bottom six contribution for both teams and especially Boston.

Charlie Coyle is beginning to prove his worth to fans and media with his strong play of late, but it needs to continue in order for the Bruins to take this best of seven series from the rivals in Toronto. However, although it is a great sign that Coyle is beginning to find his game with Boston, the Bruins are seeking contributions from the other top players on the team in their effort to get back into this series.

Bruins Need to Right The Ship…Quickly

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( Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images )

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

Put plainly, the Boston Bruins did not do enough to win Game 1 of their matchup with Toronto on Thursday night. You can point to the shot total and fool yourself into thinking that they outplayed Toronto, but that’s exactly what you’d be doing…fooling yourself. The Maple Leafs finished the game with more scoring chances, more physicality, and yeah… more goals. To drop the first game of the series at home by three goals is about as disappointing to Bruins fans as it is to the team itself, but the manner in which the game was lost made it even worse. The Bruins, for the better part of the game, looked disinterested, unengaged, and soft.

Defensively

The Bruins surrendered far too many odd-man rushes. Amidst the myriad chances they allowed were a handful of breakaways, including a shorthanded breakaway, and subsequently a goal on a penalty shot. Boston’s neutral zone defense, which one might think would be a key point of emphasis against a team with Toronto’s speed and big-play potential, was absent. Stretch passes picked apart the defense. Gaps were poor. The speed of Toronto’s forwards wasn’t given the respect it deserved, and this became evident on several rushes.   While the Bruins’ play in their own zone was admittedly somewhat better, Toronto’s first goal was a result of a breakdown in defensive zone coverage. A tipped puck brought the attention of both Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy to the crease, leaving Mitch Marner with the entire slot to himself, and enough time and space to pump one past Rask. Chara and McAvoy did not look like a top defensive pairing last night against Toronto’s skilled forward units.

Defensive Fixes

It’s been said before, but Kevan Miller’s absence was notable last night. Aside from a big Connor Clifton hit in the first period, Toronto’s star forwards were able to navigate the ice sheet relatively undisturbed. For the Bruins to turn things around, this can’t continue. The Black and Gold defensive unit needs to inject a little grit into its game, and rough up the Toronto forwards at every opportunity. As good as the B’s skating on the back end is, they won’t outskate Toronto’s forwards. The fix to their Game 1 issues defensively will come in the form of smart gaps in the neutral zone and on transition, taking away time and space from Toronto in the Bruins’ own zone, and hammering them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

Soft hockey won’t win in the playoffs, regardless of how skilled a team is. Hopefully, last night’s game was enough of a wake-up call to the Bruins’ back end to light a fire under their collective back end.

Offensively

Too cute. Way too Cute. As easy as the Bruins’ first (and only) goal came in the first period, they looked as though they expected all of their goals to come as easy. Aside from Charlie Coyle, and David Krejci, very few Bruins forwards were driving offense and possession.

The Bruins had plenty of chances, and Frederik Andersen deserves a lot of credit for how well he played last night. But he didn’t steal the game from Boston. The Bruins simply didn’t put together enough sustained pressure to create the chances they needed to score on a good goalie. Anyone hoping for or expecting a recreation of the Bruins’ first-line dominance of last year’s series has a loose grip on reality.

Apart from the line of Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, and Danton Heinen, Boston’s attack was quieted by the Toronto defense and the subsequent sustained pressure of Toronto’s attack. Any time the Bruins started to roll and pick up some much-needed momentum, they gave up a big play that put Toronto right back in the driver seat.

Offensive Fixes

While the offense was not the reason why the Bruins surrendered an absurd amount of high-quality scoring chances, you can’t expect to beat a team like Toronto (or even a decent high-school team) by scoring just one goal. The aforementioned Coyle line drove much of the Bruins’ attack and accumulated a decent number of scoring chances, but was unable to bury the biscuit. The Bruins’ top two lines were essentially neutralized and unable to string together effective shifts. This can be attributed to the fact that these lines were relying too much on trying to make skill plays. The Bruins’ forwards are high-skill players, but playoff hockey is hard-nosed, fast-paced, and requires a willingness to keep things simple and get to the “dirty” areas (cliché much?) to win games.

While it wouldn’t surprise me if Bruce Cassidy tweaked his line combinations to move some players away from matchups that hurt them last night, I do think the Bruins can win without that response. A commitment to shots on goal and sustained pressure—things that the third line did well on Thursday—will help rejuvenate the Bruins’ offense for Game 2 and likely the remainder of the series.

As far as possible line tweaks go, if something does change, it will likely be David Pastrnak coming off of Patrice Bergeron’s line. Toronto matched up against that line well, so much so that whatever chances Pastrnak did have came on the powerplay. The Bruins are at their best when Pasta is contributing to their 5v5 offense, and my guess is that we’ll see him on Krejci’s right on Saturday. In all likelihood, this will see Danton Heinen on Bergeron’s right, while Karson Kuhlman will join Coyle’s unit.

Don’t be surprised if David Backes slides into the lineup to bring some grit and toughness to the Bruins fourth unit, either.

Goaltending

Get real. There was nothing wrong with the goaltending. We’ve seen Tuukka stop a million breakaways as a Bruin, but you can’t give up 5 breakaways and expect him to stop them all. To his credit, he did stop a large number of high-quality chances, including a John Tavares (47 regular season goals, cute pajamas) breakaway, an Andreas Johnsson chance in a prime scoring area, and a few Auston Matthews chances that made every Bruins fan hold their breath.

 

As far as goaltending goes, Tuukka’s performance was no cause for concern. He’s a competitor, and losing at home will, in my opinion, only motivate him to come out and build on a solid Game 1 performance as the B’s try to turn things around.

Spin Zone

For Bruins’ fans looking for anything to feel good about, welcome to my Spin Zone. Quite simply, as far as bad results go, this one was about as well-timed as it gets. It’s much better for the Bruins to lay down a stinker in the first game of the series, as opposed to the sixth or seventh. This way, the Bruins can clearly see where they need to improve their game early on in the series and have enough time to turn things around and win. With how relaxed they looked last night, a win might have almost been worse, as it would have positively reinforced that the series would be easy… we know now that it absolutely will not be. What a blessing for the Bruins to be shown exactly what they need to improve on so early on as far as systems, strategy, and mentality. For that, we say, “Thank you, Toronto.”

(I’m reaching. I’m reaching so hard.)

The Boston Bruins lost a few games last spring to this Toronto Maples Leafs club, and if anyone needs a reminder of the outcome of that seven-game series, I suggest you take a gander at the Youtube video below.

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Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Part 3: How These Two Combatants Are Different

( Photo Credit: JEFF CHEVRIER/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

Boston Bruins

In: Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, Joakim Nordstrom, Karson Kuhlman, Chris Wagner, Jaroslav Halak, Connor Clifton, Steven Kampfer, John Moore, Brandon Carlo (injury)

Out: Rick Nash, Adam Mcquaid, Tim Schaller, Tommy Wingles, Ryan Donato, Nick Holden, Brian Gionta, Anton Khudobin

Injuries: Sean Kuraly, Kevan Miller, John Moore

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Just looking at who the Bruins have added and subtracted from their roster since last season’s matchup, it’s clear that this is a better roster than last year. Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle have both been very solid pickups at the deadline. While they haven’t been lighting up the scoresheet, they have provided much-needed stability to the middle-six group of forwards both offensively and defensively. Neither has had incredible playoff success (Johansson with 30 points in 72 games and Coyle with 15 points in 44 games), but the experience is almost just as important as success in the playoffs.

One major addition (which isn’t technically an addition) is Brandon Carlo. Injured the last two post-seasons, this will actually be the first playoff action Carlo will play in his career. Last season, Charlie Mcavoy and Zdeno Chara shut down Auston Matthews, and the Leafs first line but other players like Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau were still able to have very successful series matched up against guys like Adam Mcquaid and Kevan Miller, who were better suited for a 3rd pairing role.

(Photo Credit: Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)

Karson Kuhlman and Connor Clifton have both had very successful rookie stints with Boston and will look to continue that in the playoffs. Kuhlman’s speed should fit well when playing against the high-flying Maple Leafs squad and Clifton’s physicality is a perfect fit for the playoffs. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom have both been pleasant surprises and have improved the Bs’ depth considerably.

In all honesty, the Bruins didn’t lose too much. Rick Nash had just five points in 12 playoff games last season. Wagner and Nordstrom have filled the roles of Tim Schaller and the rest of the depth the Bruins lost admirably and with the depth at D, Mcquaid and Nick Holden won’t be missed too much.

Toronto Maple Leafs

In: John Tavares, Jake Muzzin, Trevor Moore, Frederic Gauthier, Michael Hutchinson, Tyler Ennis, Igor Ozhiganov

Out: Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk, Thomas Plekanec, Roman Polak, Leo Komarov, Dominic Moore

Injuries: None

John Tavares led the Maple Leafs with 47 goals this season.

(Photo Credit: BRIAN BABINEAU / NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES)

So obviously the Maple Leafs won the John Tavares sweepstakes. With JT, Austin Matthews, and Nazim Kadri, the Leafs now boast arguably the best 1-2-3 center punch in the league. Along with improving their center core, the growth and success of the Leafs’ youth can really be seen as a major addition. The last series, we saw glimpses of the skill that youngsters Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen possess but throughout this regular season, they took major strides. They both had career years, boasting almost identical stat-lines with Johnsson notching 20 goals and 43 points in 73 games and Kapanen scoring 20 goals and 44 points.

Arguably more game-changing than the Tavares addition was the addition of Jake Muzzin. The Leafs traded for the former Kings defenseman at the end of January and has really solidified the Maple Leafs D-core. In 30 games in Toronto, Muzzin has scored five goals, adding 11 assists with a plus-11 rating.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Four

( Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images )

These additions didn’t come without a cost. The Leafs lost a lot of really good pieces that hurt their depth, but more importantly, it hurt their special teams. Losing guys like James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak has hurt their powerplay considerably. JVR’s 11 goals and 20 points, as well as Tyler Bozak’s 13 points, left considerable holes on their PP, dropping to 21.8% from their previous 25% success rate.

Along with that, the Leafs lost many of their best face-off men, which is crucial in the playoffs. Dominic Moore (54.3), Tyler Bozak (53.6) and Tomas Plekanec (57.9) all proved to be very valuable on the face-off dot and again will leave big shoes to fill. With this, the team’s penalty kill has also slipped from 81.4% to 79.9 and losing the veteran leadership from these guys, and Leo Komarov will certainly hurt come when they meet.

So have both teams improved since last year? Yea. Will the results change? Only time will tell. I still got Bruins in 7.

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Bruins’ Senyshyn Seny-shines in NHL Debut!

NHL: Boston Bruins at Minnesota Wild(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

And so it began… an NHL career on one hand and cell phones constantly posting to Twitter on the other — two separate and disparate occurrences coyly (and perhaps even Coyle-ly) connected thanks to the new No. 19 in Boston, Zach Senyshyn:

So, what SHOULD folks know about the B’s prized prospect both lauded & lamented simultaneously for what he’s never done yet and still yet to do in a Black N’ Gold sweater?

  • He was the 15th Overall Pick in 2015 NHL Draft
  • He was a scoring stud in the OHL
  • He was constantly scrutinized in the AHL
  • He was never given a chance in the NHL… until now

And in the hallowed hockey history of memorable Bruins’ debuts, I’d call Senyshyn’s nothing to shun. In fact, he shined in the limited but productive ice time he was given by head coach Bruce Cassidy.

What does “played pretty well” translate to, especially when paired with fellow newbie B’s Charlie Coyle & Marcus Johannson for most of the night? Well, outside of solid stick handling, puck possession & body positioning… how’s about scoring your first career NHL goal in game number numero uno in front of your fanning-out folks! Here’s a look from multiple angles from multiple tweets:

You down with ENG? Yeah, you know me! Or, at least him now. Him being Zach Senyshyn, all Seny-suited up following his memorable Minnesota debut, proudly profiling a picturesque puck of perfectly positioned portraiture seen below:

So, what does the future hold for a young man who now holds a more impressive one-game statistical resume than a certain other notable ’15 draftee, sarcasm set aside so we can slyly celebrate before reality sets in?

I bet we’re all hoping for something surreal… something that reminds us of other talented & promising B’s prospects who matured late and blossomed in the spoked-B despite the hate, hype & hyperbole directed their way before they even played an NHL game. I know Senyshyn’s teammates are already tickled pink for their baby-faced brother, as you can see from their smiles & sentiments on the ice & off (himself included)!

It’s reassuring to know he, too, is taking it all in stride, with laughter, graciousness & gratitude at the forefront of a hockey skillset and mindset just waiting for even more chances to Seny-shine in Boston.

(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins)

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