Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston at New Jersey: 12/31/19

Image result for bruins devils prudential center 2019

(Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: New Jersey Devils

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Bjork – Coyle – Ritchie

DeBrusk – Lindholm – Backes

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – Carlo

Lauzon – Grzelcyk

Moore – Kampfer

Goalies

Halak

Rask

New Jersey’s Lineup

Forwards

Bratt – Hischier – Palmieri

Coleman – Zajac – Gusev

Wood – Hughes – Simmonds

Boqvist – Zacha – Hayden

Defense

Greene – Subban

Severson – Vatanen

Mueller – Butcher

Goalies

Blackwood

Senn

The last game of the decade was one that was littered with injuries for the Bruins. On top of the injuries, Danton Heinen was a healthy scratch and Jeremy Lauzon was called up from Providence. This marked Lauzon’s season debut with the Bruins after playing in 16 last season. Injuries didn’t stop the team from getting fired up before game time.

First Period

It didn’t take long for the Bruins to get on the board in this one. P.K. Subban went to the box for interference, giving the Bruins a golden opportunity early on. Some quick puck movement in the offensive zone led to a David Pastrnak one-timer making its way behind MacKenzie Blackwood for Brad Marchand to tap it in. Marchand’s 20th goal of the season was assisted by Pastrnak (30) and Matt Grzelcyk (9). It was 1-0 Bruins just two minutes and three seconds in.

Despite the early goal, the game kept a pretty good pace on both sides. Even with the Bruins controlling the flow of the game for a good chunk of the period, the Devils didn’t let the game get out of hand. Things definitely could have gotten out of hand for the Devils after a fast start and a quick goal for the Bruins. Shots in the period were 14-10 in favor of the Bruins.

Score: 1-0 Boston

Second Period

An early power play came for the Devils just nine seconds in as Brad Marchand was called for tripping. Some decent scoring chances came and went, but they couldn’t convert.

Not all goals are pretty, and Joakim Nordstrom reinforced that with a gritty goal to extend the lead to two – his fourth of the season. Sean Kuraly’s effort to get the puck out front for Nordstrom served as the primary assist, his 12th of the season. Brandon Carlo’s shot through traffic helped set up the goal served as the second assist, his ninth of the season. The goal was originally given to Kuraly, but later changed to Nordstrom, making it 2-0 Bruins with 15:33 remaining.

Again, New Jersey didn’t let up after giving up a goal. This time they scored, with Blake Coleman burying one with 11:02 to go. The Bruins had a brief power play when Travis Zajac took a tripping penalty. That was before Grzelcyk took a tripping penalty of his own just 13 seconds later. Things got a bit chaotic for a little while, but the score remained 2-1 when normalcy was restored.

Some crazy saves were made and scoring opportunities were missed after the Coleman goal. It was an eventful period in which New Jersey held a 12-9 shot advantage over the Bruins, bringing the total to 23-22 in favor of the Bruins.

Score: 2-1 Boston

Third Period

It appeared that Jack Hughes evened the score as Jeremy Lauzon knocked Miles Wood into Jaroslav Halak’s net, but that wasn’t the case. The puck didn’t end up in the net and the play actually ended with Lauzon making his way to the box for two minutes for interference. New Jersey was unable to convert on the power play and saw Hughes go leave the ice abruptly with an injury on the power play. He returned later in the game.

Halfway through the period, the Bruins were being outshot 9-0 by the Devils. Jaroslav Halak was keeping them in it. A tripping call on Nordstrom certainly didn’t make matters any better, but the Bruins managed to kill it off. The first shot of the period eventually came along.

It was a matter of time before New Jersey buried one. Their dominating effort in the third paid off when Jesper Bratt deflected one past Halak to tie the game with 6:49 remaining.

The Bruins needed to do something to counteract New Jersey’s offensive pressure. They didn’t necessarily counteract it as best they could, but they did enough to bring the game to overtime and secure a point. Shots in the period were 19-5 in favor of New Jersey, and 41-28 overall in regulation.

Score: 2-2

Overtime

The absences of Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy forced a different 3-on-3 look for the Bruins in overtime.

After scoring twice last time he was in New Jersey, Grzelcyk nearly called game just past the halfway point of overtime, but rung the post. It appeared the shootout was going to commence gracefully until Bratt took a tripping penalty with 11.6 seconds remaining. Bruce Cassidy then took a timeout. Patrice Bergeron cut across the crease with a chance to end it in the dying seconds, but the puck just escaped the grasp. Shots were 3-2 in favor of the Devils in overtime, and 44-30 overall.

Score: 2-2

Shootout

Round one

Nikita Gusev: Miss

Charlie Coyle: Miss

Round two

Jesper Boqvist: Miss

David Pastrnak: Miss

Round three

Kyle Palmieri: Miss

Brad Marchand: Miss

Round four

Wayne Simmonds: Miss

Jake DeBrusk: Miss

Round five

Jack Hughes: Goal

Chris Wagner: Goal

Round six

Damon Severson: Goal

Patrice Bergeron: Miss

The shootout woes continue for the Bruins as this one went down to the wire, but Damon Severson’s goal in the sixth round was the backbreaker. Jaroslav Halak stood on his head, making 42 saves, but it wasn’t enough. It was a rough game for a battered bunch of Bruins. Next up are the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden on Thursday at 7 PM ET. The Bruins are 24-7-10 heading into 2020.

Final Score: 3-2 New Jersey

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 160 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Who Is Bruins’ Defenseman, Cooper Zech?

( Photo Credit: Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

NHL teams employ a variety of prospects. Team scouts are responsible for researching and assessing prospects throughout the world to determine a player’s draft position. Prospects who are highly scouted and considered the best of the best are selected at high draft positions. Others, however, endure more work in making an NHL roster because they are not drafted. These players are considered undrafted free agents (“UDFA”). Boston Bruins’ prospect Cooper Zech falls into this category.

The life of an undrafted free agent is predicated on calls from NHL teams looking to expand their rosters. A typical UDFA will play four years of college hockey or junior hockey in America or Canada. They’ll wait for tryout invitations after their eligible draft year(s) to show teams what they may have missed. A variety of reasons will affect a player’s draft position: progression of their development, strength, or size. The latter is the leading reason why most players go undrafted.

Most notable free agents who have been told they were too small for the NHL include Martin St. Louis, Adam Oates, Connor Sheary, and current Bruins player, Torey Krug. Oates and St. Louis have been inducted into the NHL’s Hall of Fame. St. Louis polished off his career with a Stanley Cup win in 2004, Sheary has two Stanley Cup rings with Pittsburgh, and Krug is eyeing a large payday next off-season. Cooper Zech’s initial pre-draft impression wasn’t any different. He had consistently been told his 5’9, 170-pound stature was too small for an NHL defenseman. Thankfully, that didn’t stop the left-handed shot defenseman from pursuing his dreams.

Cooper Zech started his unconventional road to the NHL with the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The NAHL is the only Tier II junior league sanctioned by USA Hockey, and acts as an alternative to the Tier I United States Hockey League (USHL). The USHL features young stars who have their sights set on an NHL roster and have been told by general managers they need more developmental time. These players are typically drafted, including current emerging star Bruins defenseman, Charlie McAvoy. Similar to the NHL draft, some players are not fortunate enough to play in the USHL, which creates an opportunity for the NAHL.

Zach Zech, Cooper’s older brother, played for the NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes. With the help of his older brother, Cooper was given a try-out and the 17-year old Michigan native made his first junior hockey team in 2015.

Zech played two seasons in Odessa, notching 57 points. He left after 41 games in 2016-17 to play in the USHL with the Muskegon Lumberjacks for a 25-game stint. He moved on to a full season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild in the 2017-18 season. This particular season was huge for Zech’s development. He led all BCHL defenseman in points for the season (69 points) and playoffs (23 points). He was awarded BCHL’s Best Defensemen in 2018 and was an integral part of the Wild’s first BCHL championship.

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Following his admirable year with the Wild, Zech looked for an opportunity to sign with an NHL team. NHL teams hold development camps to evaluate their prospects before the season kicks off and allows teams to invite undrafted prospects for a tryout. Coaches and management evaluate what areas of the game each prospect needs to work on, and shares that with the player to help in their development process.

The Washington Capitals became the first NHL team to invite Zech to their development camp, months after his season in the BCHL ended. He attended the Capitals’ camp, where his skill was recognized. He took part in 3-on-3 tournaments and even signed some autographs.

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Unfortunately, like most UDFA’s who attend camps, he left Washington without a contract. He verbally committed to the Ferris State Bulldogs in the Western Conference Hockey Association (WCHA) for the 2018-19 season. He continued his torrid success at Ferris State, earning WCHA’s Rookie of the Year. He led all WCHA freshmen in points with 28 and became the first freshman to lead the Bulldogs in scoring since the 1987-88 season. His .78 points per game by a freshmen blue-liner led the entire nation.

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Zech’s remarkable pre-NHL journey did not go unnoticed. Following his season at Ferris State, the Boston Bruins offered him a two-year AHL contract. An AHL contract is a deal between the player and the AHL team, not the NHL club. The difference between Cooper and a player like Zach Senyshyn who’s on an NHL entry-level contract and can play in the AHL, meaning he’s not on an AHL contract. Therefore, if the Bruins ever want to call up Zech, they would have to sign him to an NHL deal.

Zech joined the Providence Bruins for 12 regular season and 4 playoff games in 2019. He racked up 6 points in these 16 games, two of which were scored in the playoffs. Most notably, Zech scored a game-tying goal, which was eerily similar to Krug’s goal against the Minnesota Wild in a comeback 5-4 OT victory on November 23, 2019. Zech has often been compared to Krug, not only for his size but for his offensive ability and power play prowess.

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He entered the 2019 off-season looking to make an impression at the Bruins development camp and pre-season games. In his NHL debut preseason game against Philadelphia, Zech registered five shots on goal, a hit and a block in 17:35 minutes of ice time. He also appeared on the Bruins power-play unit. The Bruins cut Zech during their training camp, sending him down to Providence for the year to continue his development. He hasn’t skipped a beat this season, racking up 6 points in 17 games, while also receiving the recognition he’s deserved by the Bruins’ media.

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The Bruins will have to wait to figure out what they truly have in Cooper Zech and if it can translate to the NHL. He has been compared to players like Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk, mostly due to size but also for his elusive defense and power playability. He has a knack for the net and has only once in his storied career registered a negative plus/minus season. He’s been a bright spot on the Providence Bruins roster and his coaches have noticed. Jay Leach, current Providence Bruins Head Coach, praised Zech during a brief post-game interview with The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa. “His ability to make something out of nothing was there. And as always, his ability to compete and be the hockey player was always there.”

The Bruins have a plethora of defensemen vying for a spot on the roster. They also need to figure out how to financially include Krug in their future plans. Once next season hits and Zech is at the end of his AHL contract, it would not be surprising if the Bruins offer Cooper his first NHL-entry deal.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 158 that we recorded on 12-15-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content! 

Bruins’ Defensemen And Goaltenders Grades At The Quarter Point Of The Season

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Boston Bruins currently sit atop the entire NHL and their defense and goaltending is a major reason why. They’ve allowed the second least amount of goals in the league and with their incredibly deep defensive core and top goaltending tandem, they should continue their stellar play for the rest of the year. Now at the quarter-point of the season, it seems like a good time to look at how good the Bs defense and goaltending has been.

Zdeno Chara – A

It’s hard to believe that a 42-year-old is having one of his best statistical seasons in years, but Zdeno Chara continues to amaze. Through 26 games, the big man has five goals, seven assists, and a +16 rating. While we’ve all seen his legs slow down over the years, Chara still remains one of the best shut-down guys in the league.

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Charlie McAvoy – B+

One may look at Charlie McAvoy’s stat-line (seven assists in 26 games) and think that McAvoy hasn’t played up to standards but that is simply not the case. He continues to grow his defensive game and whether it’s on the offensive or defensive side of the puck, he seems to make a game-changing play once a game. Offensively, you’d like to see some more growth from the former 1st-rounder but that will come in time.

Torey Krug – A

Over the past few seasons, Torey Krug has emerged as one of the best offensive defensemen in the league and that narrative has stayed the same throughout this season. Already with 18 points in just 21 games, Krug is well on his way to another big season for the Bs. In just the three games since returning from his injury, Torey Krug has shown how important he is to the Boston Bruins. His vision, puck movement and skating ability is second to few in the league and his five points within those three games show just that. 

Brandon Carlo – A

Many people’s biggest gripe with Brandon Carlo in the past was how little offense he was able to generate. However, the key part of that statement is “in the past.” We’ve seen steady growth in Carlo’s ability to join the rush over the past couple seasons and it’s really paying dividends this season. He’s already over halfway to his career-high of 16 points and with 3/4 of the season to go, he seems primed to break that number.

 

Matt Grzelcyk

( Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images )

Matt Grzelcyk – A

I’ve been on the Matt Grzelcyk train for a while and he just continues to improve seemingly every game. The former Boston University captain has been excellent this year, especially when fellow blueliner Torey Krug went down with an injury. In Krug’s absence, Grzelcyk was forced to play bigger minutes while slotting in on the first powerplay and the increased role didn’t phase Grzelcyk at all. in the five games without Krug, Gryz potted two goals (both of which were beauties), four points, and was a +3.

Connor Clifton – B

Connor Clifton has been as sound as a third-pairing defenseman can be. Entering his first season with a full-time role, Clifton hasn’t looked out of place at all. Despite his smaller frame at 5-11, the defenseman isn’t scared to throw his body around. He sits second out of all rookies in hits and has added two goals and a positive rating to begin the season. 

BOSTON, MA - MAY 09: Boston Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer (44) fired up after scoring the 1st goal of the game. During Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals featuring the Boston Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 09, 2019 at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

( Photo Credit: Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire Getty Images)

Steven Kampfer – C

There isn’t much to say about Stevie-snipes as he’s only played in three games, but in those three games, he’s looked solid. Kampfer’s possession statistics have actually been great, his Corsi and Fenwick sit at 60.3 and 63.2 respectively. His +1 rating and no points tell most of his story this year, he’s been everything he’s needed to be as a #7 defenseman.

Urho Vaakanainen – C+

Unlike last season where Vaakanainen’s stint was cut short due to an injury, we got to see a bit more of the young defenseman this year. He’s not the type of playing to blow you away but he looked like a better player compared to last season. The Fin is an incredibly fluid skater and his puck skills have continued to grow. While it doesn’t play into this grade, his stat-line since returning to the AHL has been very promising, with three goals and three assists in three games.

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports Images)

Tuukka Rask – A+

The league leader in wins, top three in goals allowed average, top five in save percentage with a save of the year candidate to boot; but Tuukka Rask stinks, right? After failing to capture Lord Stanley the prior season, Tuukka has looked in the zone this season. He’s been one of Boston’s top players in all but a few games, only allowing more than three goals in just three games within his first 16 starts. Say what you want about Rask, but his stats speak for themselves.

Jaroslav Halak – A

Jaroslav Halak simply isn’t a backup goalie; he is the 1B to Tuukka Rask’s 1A. Last season, Halak was able to come in and provide much-needed stability to the Bruins’ net and has continued that through the first quarter of this season. In the ten games, he has appeared in, he’s put up a 6-1-3 record with a .930 save percentage and a 2.35 goals allowed average. 

Click here to check out the Bs’ forwards graded!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 155 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: New York Rangers at Boston: 11/29/19

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Photo Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Home: Boston Bruins (17-3-5)

Away: New York Rangers (12-9-2)

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Studnicka-Coyle

Bjork-Kuraly-Heinen

Nordstrom-Lindholm-Wagner

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Halak

Rask

New York’s Lineup

Forwards

Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich

Panarin-Chytil-Strome

Lemieux-Howden-Kakko

Smith-Nieves-Fast

Defense

Skjei-Trouba

Lindgren-Fox

Hajek-DeAngelo

Goalies

Lundqvist

Georgiev

First Period

The B’s opened the game with a few good shifts in the attacking zone and got a few good looks at the net as they looked to gain an early lead. The Rangers also had a few solid scoring chances in the early going but Jaroslav Halak was up to the task, including a ridiculous save on Pavel Buchnevich off of a B’s turnover. The Rangers started to impose their will in the offensive zone as the Bruins looked to be a step too slow. The Rangers would go to the power play with under eight minutes left in the period as they looked to take the lead. The B’s killed off the penalty but immediately following the kill, Buchnevich found the back of the net through traffic in front to give New York the lead.

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The Rangers seemed to find their game in the latter part of the period as the Bruins continued to struggle in their own end. Halak continued his strong period with a couple key saves toward the end of the first, keeping the deficit to just one.

Score: 1-0 Rangers

Second Period

The B’s continued to have issues defending the Rangers in the defensive zone as New York forced a few turnovers. Connor Clifton took a tripping penalty early in the period as the Rangers looked to double their lead. The Bruins were able to kill off the penalty as the Rangers failed to get any high danger scoring opportunities. New York made it 2-0 after a bad giveaway in the neutral zone resulted in a rebound goal by Filip Chytil.

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Halak continued to be busy with the Rangers getting a number of shots on goal and time in the offensive zone as the period went on. To try to get the Bruins going, Charlie McAvoy dropped the gloves with Brendan Smith about midway through regulation time. The Bruins scoring chances came few and far between in the middle period as they tried desperately to stay relevant in the game. The Rangers would go back to the man advantage as Matt Grzelcyk was called for a high stick. New York would make it a two man advantage as Sean Kuraly was called for a cross check. The B’s were able to kill off both penalties without any significant scoring chances against.

Late in the period, the Bruins finally broke free as a Kuraly deflection somehow found its way into the back of the net as Henrik Lundqvist inadvertently knocked the puck in.

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Score: 2-1 Rangers

Third Period

The Bruins opened the period with some solid attacking zone time as they looked to tie the game early in the frame. Both teams traded some outstanding scoring chances early in the period but neither team could find the back of the net. David Pastrnak tied it with 15:33 to go as he slammed home a great feed from Jake DeBrusk.

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The Bruins seemed to get a big energy boost from the tying goal and Pastrnak nearly got another as the team started to impose its will on the Rangers. The Bruins seemed to greatly improve their play in the own zone which was helped by some very solid breakout plays. Boston picked up their first power play of the game as Smith was called for hooking with 9:25 to go. The Bruins were unable to take the lead on the man advantage as Lundqvist made a few monster saves.

Par Lindholm took a penalty soon after the power play which gave the Rangers a four minute man advantage and a chance to retake the lead. The Bruins were able to kill off the penalty as the Rangers managed only two shots on goal.

End Of Regulation: Tied 2-2

Overtime

David Krejci buried the winner after a ridiculous setup by Pastrnak, giving the Bruins yet another come from behind victory.

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Final Score: 3-2 Bruins

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Pastrnak. The third period and overtime was vintage Pasta as he led to team to the win.

Second Star: Halak. The B’s backup kept them in the game all afternoon and was a huge reason the team pulled off yet another comeback.

Third Star: Kuraly. The Bruins center was a monster in this game and his goal in the second period kickstarted the comeback.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston @ New Jersey: 11/19/19

Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) stops a shot as New Jersey Devils center Kevin Rooney (58) watches during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Newark, N.J.

(Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: New Jersey Devils

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Krejci – Pastrnak

Bjork – Coyle – Heinen

DeBrusk – Lindholm – Ritchie

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Grzelcyk – Carlo

Vaakanainen – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

New Jersey’s Lineup

Forwards

Hall – Hischier – Bratt

Wood – Hughes – Palmieri

Coleman – Zajac – Gusev

Hayden – Zacha – Simmonds

Defense

Butcher – Subban

Greene – Severson

Mueller – Vatanen

Goalies

Blackwood

Domingue

Bad news came in warmups when it was announced that Patrice Bergeron would miss a second straight game. But, Jake DeBrusk and Brett Ritchie did return to the lineup. Baby steps were made towards a healthy Bruins team. Regardless, the Devils, winners of their last two games, stood in the way of the Bruins at Prudential Center.

First Period

DeBrusk was buzzing early, as he forced a turnover at the offensive blue line and nearly scored. After that, through the first half of the opening frame, there were just three combined shots (2-1 Bruins). It was a bit of an odd start at times.

Things got a bit more interesting when DeBrusk took down Pavel Zacha, creating the first power play opportunity of the game. Luckily for the Bruins, they escaped the penalty kill unscathed. Shortly after the conclusion of that penalty kill, Matt Grzelcyk laced one past MacKenzie Blackwood to open the scoring with 5:34 to. Grzelcyk’s first of the season was assisted by Brad Marchand (20) and David Krejci (10).

That wasn’t all. David Pastrnak found himself open in his favorite spot on the ice – waiting for a one-timer on his off-wing. Two goals in 14 seconds for the Bruins gave them advantage in quick fashion. Pastrnak’s 18th goal of the season was assisted by Marchand (21) and Krejci (11). That’s one way to get things going on the road.

Things didn’t get much better for New Jersey after the Pastrnak goal as with 1:54 to go, Taylor Hall went off for tripping. The Bruins carried left six seconds of power play time on the table going into the second period. Blake Coleman nearly buried a shorthanded chance in the dying seconds, but failed to score and even collided with Rask in the process. The shots were 6-5 in favor of the Bruins at the end of the first, so the Bruins making their shots count in a fairly low-volume period was big.

Score: 2-0 Boston

Second Period

The Bruins came out of the gate with speed and good place, keeping the Devils on edge early in the period. Tempers eventually flared up between DeBrusk and Damon Severson in Blackwood’s crease. Severson was likely looking to ignite his team a bit, and chose DeBrusk as his dance partner for a scrum after the whistle.

Shots were 6-2 Bruins through the first seven minutes of the period. In the limited action he saw, Tuukka Rask was sharp through the first half of the game. The Devils began to ramp things up after the halfway point of the period though, generating four shots in 34 seconds of ice time at one point.

The resurgence paid off for the Devils, as found enough space to roof one on the backhand to cut their deficit to one with 1:49 to go. The Bruins still managed to carry a lead into the third period, but struggled in the latter portion of the second period. Also the Charlie Coyle line was playing consistently well. The shots were 12-11 in favor of the Bruins, 18-16 overall.

Score: 2-1 Boston

Third Period

Tensions were high to start. Charlie McAvoy and Taylor Hall got in each other’s faces, as did Sean Kuraly and P.K. Subban before teammates joined the fray. Just 3:11 into the frame, Subban took a penalty that gave Pastrnak a green light to score his second of the game just eight seconds into the power play. Pastrnak’s 19th was assisted by Marchand (22) and Coyle (7).

It was all Grzelcyk and Pastrnak in the scoring department. Grzlecyk made a move around Subban, then sniped yet again to give the Bruins a vital insurance marker, extending their lead to three. His second of the season and the game was assisted by McAvoy (7).

Connor Clifton then wanted in on the second goal of the season party for Bruins defensemen. The goal was unassisted. After only being up a goal going into the final frame, the response from the Bruins was a huge one. It was 5-1 Bruins with 6:18 to go.

The Devils generated some decent chances late, but it wasn’t enough. The Bruins took over in the third and won by a good margin. Shots were tied at ten in the third and finished at 28-26 in favor of the Bruins. With five goals on the board, a 25-save win for Rask may fly under the radar, but this was a really solid game for him. Next up for the Bruins are the Sabres on Thursday at TD Garden at 7:00 PM ET. The Bruins are 13-3-5.

Final Score: 5-1 Boston

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 154 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Replacing the Bruins’ Big Man

( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports Images )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Head Coach Bruce Cassidy recently shuffled his defensive lines to give some of his young stars a spark. The move sends Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins former 2016 first-round pick, to Matt Grzelyck’s right side. The long-time left-shot defenseman, Zdeno Chara, to play with Connor Clifton. Chara has been the Bruins’ staple on the blue line as their number-one defenseman, and the recent move begs the question: What we can expect for life after Chara?

Zdeno was drafted 56th overall in the 1996 NHL draft to the New York Islanders. The Slovakian possessed something NHL GM’s salivate over for their blue line defenders: size. Chara measures in at 6’9 and currently weighs 250 pounds. Any GM would love to have that monster be one of the first things the opposition sees entering the zone. The 20-year-old entered the professional hockey world in the Islanders’ farm system, beginning with the Kentucky Thoroughblades. A year and a half later, he played between New York and their next affiliate team, the Lowell Lock Monsters. Beginning in the 1998 season, Zdeno Chara made the Islanders’ opening roster where the future Hall of Famer’s career would begin.

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His three and a half year tenure in New York was nothing to write home about, and the Islanders didn’t offer much support finishing last in their division those three straight years. In the 2001 offseason, the Islanders struck a deal with the Ottawa Senators, sending Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and a first-round draft selection (which turned into Jason Spezza at second overall) for Alexei Yashin. Muckalt only played one year in Ottawa and Spezza is still playing out his seventeen-year career. Many in the NHL felt the Islanders gave up too early on Chara, and they were right. Chara quickly found his game in Ottawa. He posted 23 points and a plus 30 in his first year with the Senators, almost tying his three and a half year point total in New York. Each of his four years in Ottawa, Chara surpassed his previous season’s point total, netting 146 points in 299 games. The success he had in Ottawa did not go unnoticed, as he was named first-team All-Star and a Norris Trophy finalist (Best NHL Defenseman) in his third year with the Sens. Ottawa allowed the fewest goals in 2005-2006 and the big man played an immense role in that. In the 2006 off-season, Chara was an unrestricted free agent and the Bruins were desperately searching for an elite two-way defenseman.

Entering the 2006 off-season, the Bruins constructed a massive overhaul of their blue line. Hall of Famer Brian Leetch retired and they cut ties with Nick Boynton and the hometown 6’7 veteran Hal Gill. The Bruins had some cap room to fill and Chara was their number one target. The Black and Gold signed the big man to a five-year, $37.5M contract. Not only did Chara bring size to Boston, but he also brought a thorough work ethic and mentorship that is a staple on and off the ice to this day. It’s the reason he’s well-respected throughout the league.

Chara became the Bruins’ 18th captain in their history. He brought his leadership, 100-mph-plus slap shot, and defensive stinginess to Boston where it would change the Bruins’ vision for years to come. He maintained 40-plus-point seasons in his first six years in Boston, two of which he reached the 50-point plateau. Chara continued to be selected as a first-team All-Star and became the 56th winner of the Norris Trophy in 2008-2009, with 50 points and a plus-23 rating. He was the leader of the team on and off the ice, and an integral part of the teams’ sixth Stanley Cup to Boston in 2011. Chara didn’t score a lot of points those playoffs, but he did shine where his team needed him most. He averaged a hefty 27:39 time on ice and a plus-16 rating. One key play that comes to mind is in Game 6, Chara used his seven-foot wingspan to make a game-changing play:

A four-goal lead feels as though the game is out of reach, but every hockey player knows it takes just one goal to change a game. The Bruins desperately needed a win to send the series to a heart-pumping Game 7 and once again, Chara was there to save the day when his team needed him most.

Game 6 ended in A 5-2 Bruins victory, sending the Bruins and Canucks back to Vancouver for any sport’s most exciting two words: Game 7. The Bruins took an early 1-0 lead at 14:37 in the first from the stick of another future Hall of Famer: Patrice Bergeron. That goal proved to be the game-winner, as the Bruins scored three more times, and on June 15, 2011, the Bruins were Stanley Cup Champions. Bruins fans around the world can still hear Dave Goucher’s legendary call: “Get the duck boats ready, the Boston Bruins are 2011 Stanley Cup Champions.” The Stanley Cup was raised the highest it had ever been, over Chara’s 6’9 stature. Chara ended the game with a game-leading 41 shifts, team-leading 27:12 time on ice, and a plus-2 rating.

( Photo Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File )

The Stanley Cup was the cherry on top of Chara’s incredible career. Recently, it’s clear the Bruins have been drafting and developing their players for life after Chara. Following the 2017 season, he became the next athlete to take on the TB12 method to keep Father Time at bay. He no longer eats red meat and has switched to strictly plant-based and organic foods. “I can tell I’m feeling better,” said the 40-year-old Bruins captain and tallest player in NHL history. “I know for a fact I’m playing with a lot more energy and I’m recovering faster.”

General Manager Don Sweeney hasn’t taken his renewed time for granted, though. The Bruins spent three draft picks on blue-line defenders in 2015 selecting Jakub Zboril, Brandon Carlo, and Jeremy Lauzon. Zboril and Lauzon (both left-shot blue-liners) are still developing in the American Hockey League, and Carlo is one of the Bruins’ most important and consistent defenders, playing alongside Torey Krug. The Bruins drafted McAvoy 14th overall in 2016 and he’s been launched into first-pairing duties from the start. The Bruins also drafted young Finnish defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, who most believe to be the man to fill the big man’s skates with his ability to play long minutes and defensive stinginess.

Urho was drafted 18th overall in the 2017 draft, one year after McAvoy. Where the Bruins will miss Chara’s contributions the most is the penalty kill (PK). The Bruins have historically had great success on the PK due to Chara, Bergeron, and Brad Marchand. Zdeno’s long reach gives him an uncanny ability to intercept passes and clear the puck from danger. Sweeney has been spending the past two off-seasons signing bottom-six role players who can contribute effectively to the PK. Par Lindholm, Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, Brett Ritchie, and John Moore have all been part of this movement.

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One of Chara’s finest qualities that fly under the radar is his ability to shadow the opposition’s best players. Chara and the Bruins have executed Bill Belichick’s approach in neutralizing the opposition’s most lethal weapon. Chara has always been the mainstay in limiting players like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and Alex Ovechkin. These world talents have all had the tall task of facing-off against Chara and haven’t had much success. According to Natural Stat Trick, when both Chara and Ovechkin were on the ice together in a 5v5 situation, Ovechkin was held to only four goals from 2013 and 2016. Stamkos was held to three, and Crosby held to one. This type of shutdown ability will be extremely hard to replicate. Cassidy has faith in players like Bergeron and Charlie Coyle to handle the load, but it will probably be more of a group effort moving forward.

Chara hasn’t definitively said which year will be his last. If we know anything about the big man, his work ethic will not let him go quietly. His motivation throughout the years has awarded him tremendous honors. The Stanley Cup, Norris Trophy, and Mark Messier Leadership Award are just pieces of a successful resume for this seven-time All-Star. He recently reached an amazing plateau of 1,500 NHL games played.

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The Bruins don’t have just one player to solve the missing puzzle piece. But they do have a plethora of defensemen in their system, all of whom bring something unique to the table. McAvoy is one of the NHL’s brightest young stars. Carlo is a stay-at-home defenseman with a long reach and whose big body has been a key piece of what the Bruins do best in their zone and limiting the opposition. Torey Krug is the quarterback on their powerplay. Matt Gryzelck is statistically one of the best D-men breaking the puck out of the D-zone efficiently. Connor Clifton is a scrappy, hard-hitting defenseman who isn’t intimidated by the opposition’s size. The Bruins will miss having one player bring all of that to the table and alleviate pressure from others. But with some help from the men upfront, the current Black and Gold D-men should be able to replicate what the big man has done with great success.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 153 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Can The Bruins Solve Their Secondary Scoring Issues?

Boston Bruins vs Calgary Flames

(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

If you spend any time following Bruins fans on Twitter and other social media outlets (and I do), you might think the team had started out 2-6-1, instead of their actual record of 6-1-2. Losing two of the last three games to Tampa and Toronto in extra time was a little frustrating, but I thought the Bruins were the better team Saturday night against the Leafs and Andersen won the game for them. I’m not one of those “doom and gloom, the sky is falling” types to begin with, but even less so when the B’s have taken 14 out of a possible 18 points with Krejci missing most of the games.

That said, one of the things that was a problem early in the season last year was a lack of secondary scoring. Unfortunately, it has reared it’s ugly head again early this year. The Bruins have scored 26 goals as a team through nine games. The first line has accounted for 17 of those goals (Pasta has ten, Marchand five, and Bergeron two). The only two players not on the first line that have multiple goals this season are Danton Heinen and Brett Ritchie, the two guys that scored in the opening night win against Dallas.

As optimistic as I am, I don’t believe that relying on one line to score and having your goalies stand on their heads nightly is a sustainable model for success. You can get away with it during the regular season for a time, but eventually, it will catch up with you. It also tends to become even more of a problem in the playoffs. I’m not sure exactly why, but secondary scoring and more specifically the RW2 position seems to have been an issue since Jarome Iginla left.

So, what realistic moves can the B’s make to fix this issue? I’m here to tell you that it can be done “in-house” with three relatively painless moves. You want some additional good news? I’m going to tell you how the Bruins can do it without requiring you to pay for a subscription to our site.

Pasta Celly

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Move David Pastrnak Down

The first move in rebuilding the B’s sparse secondary scoring is to slide Pastrnak down to the second line. Before anyone starts wailing, yes, I am well aware of how good the Bruins first line is. And yes, after they move Pasta down with Krejci and DeBrusk, I will miss all the headlines about the Bruins having the best line in hockey, but it will be worth it. I won’t miss teams being able to largely shut down the Bruins offense in the playoffs by containing one line.

At the ripe old age of 23, Pastrnak has officially reached “carry a line” status in my opinion. After last night’s two-point effort, he has 17 points in the first nine games. This is the best start to a season by a Bruins player since Adam Oates in 1993-94. He’s going to produce no matter who he’s with, so if the Bruins can find a competent guy to replace him on the first line, they will definitely have at least two scoring lines. Which brings us to Step Two…

Bruins vs Hurricanes

(Photo Credit Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Put Danton Heinen On The First Line

Danton Heinen only has two points so far this season. This is not indicative of his overall play. He’s been more assertive and he’s shooting more while still giving the Bruins a high level of defensive play. He showed last season that not only could he hang on the top line, but that he could contribute there as well. During the 16 game span, while Pastrnak was out of the lineup with a wrist injury, Heinen had one goal and twelve assists over that time. In addition, the first line’s advanced and defensive numbers were significantly better than when Pasta was there.

I am in no way suggesting that Heinen is a better or more explosive player than David Pastrnak. What I AM saying is that he brings a different dynamic to the line. When he’s there, he allows Marchand and Bergeron to take more chances and be more creative because they know he will get back and cover. When Pasta is on the first line, I believe he becomes the focus of his linemates. They both will pass up scoring opportunities to get him the puck. When Heinen is in that RW1 position, those two become a bit more selfish and shoot more. When you have two players of that caliber firing the puck more often, it’s not a bad thing. With Heinen and Pasta now in the Top Six, Charlie Coyle needs a buddy on the third line that can take advantage of his puck possession skills. Enter the third and final step of my diabolical master plan…

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(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

Call Anders Bjork Up From Providence

Tuesday night we got our first taste of Anders Bjork in the B’s lineup and I thought he acquitted himself quite well. In 13:17 TOI, he had four shots, one giveaway and takeaway, and one block. He was a minus one, but also created a nice scoring chance and hit the crossbar. He also showed that he could play a Bottom 6 checking role effectively. The biggest takeaway for me was that he didn’t look out of place. The speed and physicality of the NHL game was not an issue.

Bjork was an “emergency recall” when David Krejci was placed on IR and had to be sent back down to Providence. This was done so a roster player would not have to be sent down and clear waivers. Given that, it would appear that Krejci is close to returning. I expect Bjork’s stay in PRO to be brief. With Karson Kuhlman out for at least four weeks (and probably longer) with a broken tibia, Bjork will likely be recalled again as soon as Kuhlman is placed on IR.

The only “fly in the ointment” is that it appears the Bruins want to keep Bjork on the left side. In the past, he played a lot of right-wing, but he looks more comfortable on his natural side. There was also some speculation that his tendency to get hit in the middle of the ice was partly due to playing the off-wing. Playing the left side should allow Bjork to come out of the Boston end much easier. This doesn’t appear to be a huge issue because Ritchie has been playing better and Heinen is capable of playing on the right side.

When Krejci returns, my forward lineup would be:

Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen

DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak

Bjork – Coyle – Ritchie

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

That should give Boston two legitimate scoring lines and a third line that can contribute some offense as well. You can still keep Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak together on the man advantage. The powerplay is a pretty large part of their production and would remain unaffected. The best part of my plan is that it doesn’t require any outside personnel moves. This means that if it doesn’t work, Cassidy can always reunite the first line.

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Hopefully, Bruce reads my article, adopts my foolproof plan and massive improvements in the Bruins secondary scoring follows. Once that happens, I may not be writing as much, as I would expect Boston to offer me a coaching job. Unrealistic? Of course, but let a man dream.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Prospect Podcast episode 002 that we recorded on 10-8-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston at Dallas: 10/3/19

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Dallas Stars

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Coyle – Ritchie

Heinen – Lindholm – Kuhlman

Wagner – Kuraly – Backes

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Dallas’s Lineup

Forwards

Benn – Seguin  – Pavelski

Dickinson – Hintz – Radulov

Cogliano – Faksa – Comeau

Janmark – Dowling – Gurianov

Defense

Lindell – Klingberg

Heiskanen – Sekera

Oleksiak – Polak

Goalies

Bishop

Khudobin

The Bruins are back, and that’s pretty cool. The first stop on the road slate of the season was Dallas where the Bruins took on the Stars to start both team’s respective seasons. David Krejci was a last-minute scratch due to injury, leading to Brett Ritchie’s debut in response. For the Bruins, not a whole lot changed in the offseason outside of replacing Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari with Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie, essentially.

The Stars, on the other hand, landed Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry in free agency. Anyone that was watching knew that the Stars were going to come out of the gate with intensity against the defending Eastern Conference Champion Bruins.

First Period

What’s the weirdest way this season could have started? Former Dallas Star Brett Ritchie scoring on his first shot as a Bruin just 1:09 into the game. Yeah, that happened. Charlie Coyle had the lone assist.

Alexander Radulov went to the box 4:23 into the period for holding. Danton Heinen made him pay late in the man advantage to give the Bruins a two-goal lead 14:01 to go. Two goals on two shots. Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy had the helpers.

The rest of the period was much quieter than the first five minutes. But, the Bruins managed to control the flow of play for much of the remainder of the period, despite not scoring more goals than the two they scored early on. Radek Faksa went off for high sticking with 2:27 go in the period, giving the Bruins an opportunity for the Bruins to go up by three.

Although they failed to convert on the power play, Dallas didn’t get on the board, so the missed opportunity was a bit more palpable. Not a bad way to start the season, especially the first period. The shots were 6-4 in favor of the Bruins.

Score: 2-0 Boston

Second Period

It was a pretty standard, back-and-forth period to start until Roman Polak went into the boards awkwardly and made some pretty painful-looking shoulder contact with the boards. He was down for quite a while in some serious pain before being helped off the ice on a stretcher by team personnel.

Shortly after the injury, Roope Hintz buried the first Dallas goal of the season to cut the Bruins’ lead in half with 12:05 to go. Radulov then went off the ice for the second time for tripping Par Lindholm just past the halfway point. It wasn’t a very eventful power-play opportunity, so normalcy ensued. Dallas certainly had a bit more energy after losing Polak to injury.

A fourth Boston power play came after McAvoy was interfered with by Mattias Janmark. McAvoy then went off for a penalty of his own, making it a 4-on-4, temporarily. Luckily, for the Bruins, Dallas didn’t score on the power play following the conclusion of Janmark’s penalty. The shots were 9-7 in favor of Dallas this time around, as they began to turn the tide a bit.

Score: 2-1 Boston 

Third Period

Some momentum was generated in the Bruins favor early thanks to some offensive chances from the Bergeron line. That was until Zdeno Chara went to the box for interference within the first minute. Rask made a couple solid saves within the final 30 seconds of the power play to preserve the one-goal lead.

Despite not scoring on the power play, Dallas kept the offensive zone pressure up and kept Tuukka Rask busy. That pressure kept up for quite some time, pretty consistently through the first ten or so minutes of the period. One of the highlights on the Bruins side of this onslaught in favor of Dallas was when Rask flashed the leather on a shot from Hintz that was labeled for the top corner.

Speaking of Hintz, Chris Wagner buried him at the eventual conclusion of the next shift. Through the first eight minutes of the third period, the shots were 11-7 Dallas, and they weren’t giving the Bruins much.

For the most part, outside of a Karson Kuhlman breakaway chance, credit to Dallas for not allowing a whole lot of fluidity through the neutral zone and into the defensive zone for the Bruins. If you scroll past the tweet below, you’ll see both of Kuhlman’s big-time scoring chances from the game.

Huge blocks from Brad Marchand, Chris Wagner, and a strong defensive stand preserved the win for the Bruins after Jim Montgomery pulled Ben Bishop late. The shots were 16-7 Dallas in the third, meaning Rask is very much worthy of praise for being instrumental in holding the one-goal lead for so long.

The Bruins start of the season in the win column. An 82-0 season is still possible, folks. Next up are the Arizona Coyotes on the road this Saturday at 9 PM. There is plenty to work on despite a hot start from now until Saturday night.

Final Score: 2-1 Boston

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 147 that we recorded on 9-30-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Joe Chrzanowski: Bold Predictions For The Bruins 2019-20 Season

Bruins Bold Predictons

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

We are only “Eddie Shore” days (two for our younger fans) away from the start of the 2019-20 NHL regular season, so it’s time to make some big predictions for the year to come. I will be sure to remind everyone on a daily basis if any of these things do happen…and deny I ever said any of the stuff I am wrong about.

Coyle

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Charlie Coyle Will Sign An Extension With the Bruins

When the Bruins first traded for Coyle, I was cautiously optimistic. He filled a definite need for the team, had another year on his deal, and I had soured on Ryan Donato as a prospect when it became apparent he did not know where his own end of the ice was. Even though Coyle was playing well after the deal, he wasn’t putting up a ton of points and Donato went on a little mini-tear for the Wild. It was probably best for my sanity that Coyle lit it up during the playoffs and centered the Bruins most consistent line with Heinen and Johansson. It’s funny, I don’t seem to be hearing as much about that deal from Minny fans? Odd?

I’m not sure if anybody is aware of this, but Charlie Coyle is a local kid that was born and raised in Weymouth (lol). He appears to be relishing playing for the home town team (unlike some others before him). Because of this local connection and Don Sweeney’s mystical GM powers, I see Coyle signing a team-friendly extension with the Bruins with a term of five or six years and an AAV of around $5.25-5.50 million. When Krejci’s deal is up, Coyle will transition into the 2C role, with Studnicka sliding into the 3C spot. Remember, you heard it here first.

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(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

Matt Grzelcyk Will Be McAvoy’s D Partner Before The Season Ends

I know that it’s only preseason, but to these eyes, Chara looks a bit slower than he was last year. This could be due to lingering injury or he could be just pacing himself, but he definitely looks like he lost another step. I watched him get burned on a couple of plays last week versus Philly because of his lack of foot speed. Before anyone’s head explodes, I am not saying that Chara does not still have a valuable place on the team. What I AM saying is that the team and the player would be best served if he slotted in on the third pair. This would likely give Z more favorable matchups against bigger and slower Bottom Six players, while at the same time preserving him for a much-needed role on the penalty kill.

Someone is going to have to step up and play the left-side with Charlie McAvoy on the first pair. Enter Charlestown’s own, Matt Grzelcyk. The two were paired together at Boston University when Grizz was a senior and McAvoy was a freshman. They were great together that season and have looked good as a tandem during a few preseason games. They would not be the biggest defense pair in the league, but they would definitely be one of the most nimble. I could see the opposing forecheck being shredded with 48 and 73 as a duo again. When this happens in December, you will want to buy me a Christmas present. I am letting you know now…I am not too proud to accept cash.

Heinen

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Danton Heinen Will Have 60+ Points In 2019-20

Danton Heinen is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Boston Bruins. No matter how many different roles he fills, how many little things he does well, or how much the advanced stats point to his stellar play, the guy just can’t seem to get any respect from the average B’s fan. That is going to change this season in a big way, largely due to my daily letters and emails sent to Cassidy pleading with him to leave Heinen on one line for more than three consecutive shifts. While I am kidding (as far as you know), I am of the opinion that bouncing Heinen around from line to line is the primary reason for his lack of offensive consistency. As a rookie, he was somehow able to produce 47 points while playing with a variety of teammates. I suspect this was largely due to the veteran guys he was playing with (Nash, Schaller, Backes, etc.). This past season, Cassidy relied on Heinen to be the defensive conscience of several line combinations that included rookies Ryan Donato, Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Trent Frederic. I believe this led to a much more defensive mindset from Heinen that greatly affected his scoring.

This year, if everyone stays relatively healthy, I expect Heinen to ride shotgun with Coyle for the majority of the season. I would have preferred Bjork play on the opposite wing, but it looks like it will be Backes, at least to start the season. If 42 can play the way he did in his last preseason game, it should help both Coyle and Heinen put up very solid numbers. The other thing I am banking on is that Heinen gets a little more time on the 2nd power-play unit this year than he did previously. This will give him about a ten-point boost, push him over the 60 point plateau, and allow Heinen to take over the title of the “best value contract in hockey” at a paltry $2.8 million per.

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(Photo Credit: CBS Sports)

Tuukka Rask Will Win the Vezina

Tuukka Rask is a lightning rod for Boston fans. People seem to either love him or hate him, and there does not appear to be a lot of middle ground. His regular-season stats last year (27 wins, 2.48 GAA, .912 Save %) were well below his career numbers, but in the playoffs Rask really shined. He played in 24 games, had a GAA of 2.02 and ridiculous Save % of .934. Boston fans have not seen those kinds of numbers since 2012-14 when Rask led the B’s to the Finals in 2013 and won the Vezina the following season in 2014.

The most impressive thing for me was his demeanor, which went well beyond the great numbers he put up. I have never seen Rask as calm as he was during the 2019 playoff run and it appears to have carried over into preseason. When he is playing like that, it has a soothing effect on the entire team. They play with more confidence and take more offensive chances knowing Tuukka has their backs. History is going to repeat itself this season with Rask taking home the Vezina the year after reaching the Finals and losing. The only difference is that the 2019-20 team will (fingers crossed) go much further than the 2013-14 squad did.

Steen

(Photo Courtesy of NHL.com)

Oskar Steen Will Outscore Every Bruins Draft Pick Since 2016 (Career)

This particular bold prediction will take some time to come to fruition, but what’re a few more seasons when I have had a man-crush on Oskar Steen since I first saw him doing the “rope drill” at Bruins Development Camp several years ago? I watched his career in the SHL with great interest and was very disappointed in his production during his first two seasons playing for Farjestads. He was not yet 20 years of age and playing on a good veteran team, so I should have expected a limited role to begin with I suppose. That changed in 2018-19, with Steen receiving a much larger role with the team. He took the opportunity and ran with it, finishing the season with 17g/20a and 49 PIM’s in 47 games. This was good for 10th in the SHL for scoring overall, but 1st for players 25 and under in the league.

After the SHL season ended, Steen signed his ELC with Boston in May and made plans to play in North America for the first time. Despite his relatively small stature (5’9″), Steen is a very solid 187 pounds. His low center of gravity, speed, and a bit of a nasty disposition should serve him well on the smaller ice surfaces. I believe he has the type of game that can translate even better in the NHL than it did in the SHL. Throughout the Prospects Challenge and the preseason games, he was easily one of the best players on the ice. If NHL roster spots were handed out based solely on merit, rather than age and waiver status, Steen would have been in Dallas on Thursday night. Given that he is new to the North American pro game, it should not hinder Steen’s development to play in Providence for a few months. I expect him to tear it up down there and make his NHL debut sometime after January 1st. He will be a regular in Boston next year at the latest, and you can take that to the bank.

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

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

 

Pearson: Bold Predictions For The 2019-2020 Bruins Season

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

After the shortest summer (albeit feeling like the longest) us Bruins’ fans have had in years, regular season hockey is just days away. The Boston Bruins had one of their most successful seasons in the last decade, coming just a game away from hoisting the cup. After a fairly quiet offseason of additions and subtractions, the Bruins are primed for another big year and here are a few of my big predictions.

Danton Heinen has a 55+ Point Season

Danton Heinen has his fair share of haters, and I still don’t understand why. Heinen flew under the radar in his rookie season with 16 goals and 31 assists (four more points than Jake Debrusk had in that same rookie season). The following year, Heinen had a bit of a sophomore-slump but still managed to have 34 points and a +13 rating. 

In the first half of the season, Heinen was predominantly paired with floundering players like Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork. The winger managed to pot just four goals and six assists in his first 40 games of the season.

The second half of the season was an entirely different story, however. Mostly paired with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, Heinen found his game again. In his final 37 games, Heinen was able to score seven goals and add 17 assists, good for 24 points and if that pace was averaged for the full 82 game season, Heinen would end up having a 53 point season.

Danton Heinen Bruins

(Photo Credit: Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Heinen’s play didn’t just stop at the regular season. He was 1/3 of arguably the Bruins’ best line in the entire playoffs. Partnering up with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, the line continued to score big goal after big goal and were a huge reason the Bruins were able to make the run they did.

It seems this season Heinen will begin on the third line with Charlie Coyle and David Backes (who also seems primed for a bit of a breakout season.) If Heinen was able to put up 47 points with Riley Nash and Backes before, I see no reason why he can’t have an even bigger season with an even better center. 

Boston Bruins v Edmonton Oilers

(Photo Credit: Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

The Bruins Win the Presidents Trophy

I feel like people really didn’t talk about how good this Bruins team was in the regular season last year. Obviously, the Tampa Bay Lightning ran away with the Presidents Trophy last season with a staggering 128 point, but the Bruins ended up coming in 3rd with 107 points (the same amount as the 2nd place Calgary Flames but they had more ROW)

It’s remarkable the Bruins were able to do so well with all that happened throughout the year. We all know the injury train ran through the team, here’s a long list of key players that missed double-digit games due to injury: 

Brandon Carlo (10 games)

Jake Debrusk (14 games)

David Pastrnak (16 games)

Matt Grzelyck (16 games)

Patrice Bergeron (17 games)

Torey Krug (18 games)

Zdeno Chara (20 games)

Charlie Mcavoy (28 games)

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Boston’s problems didn’t stop at just injuries. The Bruins went into last season without a true 2nd line right-wing and a 3rd line center, with the thought that their youth would be able to take over. That plan, unfortunately, did not work out. The combination of Ryan Donato, Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, Peter Cehlarik, Colby Cave, Anders Bjork, and Trent Frederic combined to play 137 games but totaled just 32 points and had a -13 rating. With the addition of Charlie Coyle, and seeing him at his best in the playoffs, the Bruins have one less big question mark regarding their lineup.

This season, there are far better options to shuffle around in the lineup compared to the last season. As I said before, I think David Backes can find his game again and have a successful season. After a handful of regular season and playoff games, Karson Kuhlman looks ready to take a full-time NHL role. We’ve already seen impressive growth from youngsters like Oskar Steen, Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Jakub Lauko after their strong play in the pre-season and there is no doubt in my mind that at least one of them will get the call, and have success in whatever role they are placed in. With the addition of low-risk players with upside like Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm, there are endless amounts of players the Bruins can give shots to succeed in their lineup.

Their D-core will only improve this season with one more year under the belt of young guys like Charlie Mcavoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Gryzeck and Connor Clifton. If this Bruins team can stay healthy, and find a little more consistency in their middle-six forward group, a finish at the top of the NHL is certainly obtainable.

Image result for matt grzelcyk

(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Matt Grzelcyk Becomes a Top Pairing Defenseman

Zdeno Chara and his incredible NHL career is nearing the end. While he is still certainly effective, it’s very clear that Chara has lost a few steps over these past couples of seasons. With the league getting faster and faster, that doesn’t equate to a lot of success. This seems like as good of a time as ever to make the switch from the top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Charlie Mcavoy to Matt Grzelyck and Charlie Mcavoy.

Grzelcyk has developed into one of the most underrated defenseman in the entire league. If you aren’t a fan of the Bruins, you may have not even heard of the guy, but his importance to this club cannot be understated. He’s one of the smoothest skating defenseman out there and is incredible at breaking the puck out of the D-zone. 

The Charlestown native is very familiar playing with Charlie Mcavoy, after partnering up at Boston University to create one of the best pairings in the entire NCAA in 2015. The duo has already had success as a pairing in the NHL on the Bruins #2 powerplay and seems to be as natural of a defensive pairing as can be. Coach Bruce Cassidy has already given the pair a look in the pre-season, and the results just speak for themselves. The league is transitioning to quick, two-way defenders that move the puck incredibly well and this duo would certainly be one of the best.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 147 that we recorded on 9-29-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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