Bruin’s Offseason: All Quiet On The Eastern Front (2 of 2)

Bruins D

(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

In part 1 of this two part series, I discussed the open positions among the Bruin’s forward group, the options, and how those spots were likely to be filled. Now we are going to look at the Boston defense, which many believe is the strength of the team, based on the depth they possess on the back end from top to bottom, positions 1-8.

If we discussed this back in July, the conversation would not have been a very long one. Five of the starting six positions appeared to be relatively set with regulars from the 2018-19 team that lost in the Cup Finals. Chara, McAvoy, Krug, Carlo, and Grzelcyk would have been pretty much unanimous choices, with Connor Clifton and Kevan Miller the likely candidates to be battling it out for the last spot on the right side of the 3rd pair. Steven Kampfer signed a two-year extension worth $800,000 per season and would appear to be a lock for the 8th/Press Box spot. John Moore was the other guy in the mix, but will likely start the season on LTIR after playing through a broken humerus in the playoffs. There also would have been some calls for Vaakaneinen, Lauzon, and Zboril, the Providence defensemen that are on the cusp and next in line for a shot.

Fast forward about eight weeks and that conversation has become a lot more complicated and the starters on defense a lot less certain. The first problem (and the most serious) is obvious and has been a talking point since the regular season. Both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo (the Bruin’s first and second pair right D-men) are restricted, free agents. As of today, neither has agreed to terms on an extension with the team. The second issue is that Kevan Miller is reportedly not skating yet after his knee injury and subsequent setback during the playoffs. Due to Miller’s tendency to get hurt every season, I don’t think many thought he would last all year unscathed. However, if he is unable to start the season the Bruin’s blue line depth will take yet another hit. If he can be ready for October, he could provide valuable insurance on the right side of the Boston defense.

Let’s take a look at the cast of characters that should make up the Bruin’s back end and the ones that may have to fill in for either injury or hold outs.

At the top of the list of any discussion regarding Boston’s defense is the 42-year-old Slovakian behemoth, Zdeno Chara. The captain signed a one-year deal with the team worth $2 million for 2019-20, but the Cap hit could rise to $3.75 million if he meets his performance bonuses. Chara is no longer the guy that could once log 26 minutes a night for 82 games against the Bruin’s toughest opposition, but he still can do it for shorter periods of time and has a key role on the team, both on and off the ice. I would love to see Boston cut down on Chara’s minutes even more than they have in recent years, and use him as a 3rd pair PK specialist. I think this would allow him to play at a higher level and save him for a playoff run. However, given the current makeup of the left side of the defense, I’m not sure that will be possible? With Moore injured, Chara is the only left defenseman that is capable of playing a defensive shutdown role.

That brings us to 21-year-old, Long Island-born Charlie McAvoy. In most circles, McAvoy is considered the next all-star D in what has been a long line of them in Boston. In any other offseason, we would be discussing the positive impact that he would be having on the team come October, but not this year. Right now, there is a hefty list of impact restricted free agents that have yet to agree to terms with their respective teams. Unfortunately, McAvoy, who averaged 22:10 TOI and totaled 7g/21a in only 54 games last season is one of the big names on the list. The point of this article is not to debate McAvoy’s salary, but it would probably be safe to assume he will get in the $6-7 million range easily. The rumor is that McAvoy turned down a 7-8 year deal in the $7.5 million range. If that is the case, I can only assume he wants to go the route that Auston Matthews did and sign a five-year deal that will make him an unrestricted free agent at the age of 26.

The next Bruin’s defenseman is a lightning rod among fans and media alike. There may not be another player on the team (well, maybe Tuukka) that inspires more debate and venom than Torey Krug. People are divided about how much he’s worth, how good he is offensively, how much of a liability he is in his own zone…even who is taller, he or Brad Marchand. No matter what your feelings on Krug (I am a fan personally), even his harshest critics have to admit he’s an offensive catalyst on both the power play and at even strength. He stretches the opposing defense like no other defenseman in the organization, whether it be by a long outlet pass or bringing the puck up the ice himself.

Since Krug signed a four-year deal worth $21 million in 2016-17 ($5.25m per) he is 5th in the NHL for defensemen with 163 regular-season points in 221 games. To say he is a bargain on his current deal would be an understatement. The question people have now is not about this deal, it’s about his next one. How much money and term should the Bruins invest in a 29-year-old that many view as a one-dimensional player? That’s the $6-8 million question. I ask myself that same question, but Krug went a long way towards convincing me with his performance (both offensively and defensively) in last season’s playoffs. In my opinion, he was hands down the Bruin’s best blue-liner in the postseason, and his defense was above average on the whole. He’s a key player any year, but if Boston has holdouts, he will play an even bigger role.

The second potential holdout and another key player on the defense is Brandon Carlo. The soon to be 23-year-old had his best year as a pro last season, building on what fans saw in 2017-18. While his point totals didn’t necessarily reflect it, Carlo took a big leap forward. His TOI was up about 90 seconds per game (20:55), and his shots, hits, and plus/minus were all career highs for a season. Unfortunately for Carlo, while there is some potential there, he has shown very little in the way of offense since making the Bruins as a rookie three years ago. In the NHL, there are very few, if any, defensive-minded defensemen that get paid like their puck-moving brethren. If I had to compare him to a recent player and his contract, the closest I can come is probably the Avs Nikita Zadorov, who signed a one-year deal with Colorado in July for $3.2 million. Zadorov is roughly 18 months older than Carlo, but he plays a similar defensive style. He does produce offensively at a better clip with 62 points in 292 NHL games, versus 32 points in 230 games for Carlo. To be honest, I am not quite sure what the hold up is here? I expected this contract to be the far easier of the two Bruin RFA defensemen without deals, but that has not been the case.

Grizz Photo by Claus Andersen - Getty Images

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

That brings us to the Bruins third pair, which will most likely be made up of two of these three: Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, or Kevan Miller (health permitting). For the sake of discussion, I am going to assume that Miller will not be able to start the season. If he can, to me he is the favorite for the RD position on the third pair, despite a strong showing by Clifton last season in his absence. Barring injury, I don’t see how Grzelcyk is not your starter on the left side. While his advanced stats were not as impressive in 2018-19 as they were in his rookie campaign, I would chalk that up to the fact that his playing time rose almost 2:30 minutes per game, he faced stiffer competition due to injuries, and his offensive zone starts were down nearly five percent. Despite those obstacles, Grelcyk finished the regular season a “plus nine” and up three points from the year before. In my opinion, he is the perfect puck-moving third pair in today’s NHL. While he does lack size, he has a good stick and sound positioning in the defensive zone. His contract ($1.4 million) is also a bargain by today’s standards. The question in a lot of people’s minds is whether or not Grizz can jump into a Top Four role with the team if they are forced to move Krug. I root for guys like Grzelcyk, but I’m not sure he’s up to that task? Despite the size similarities, he and Krug have different games. Grizz is the better skater and better defensively, but he lacks Krug’s cannon shot and end to end passing ability. I would prefer the Bruins keep number 48 right where he is, but Cap concerns may force their hands?

On the right side (assuming Miller can’t go), the likely candidate will be Connor Clifton. The 24-year-old New Jersey native played his college hockey at Quinnipiac College in the ECAC. He was a 5th round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013 but was unable to come to an agreement with the Yotes after graduating and ended up signing a deal with the Providence Bruins in 2017. He played 54 games for the Baby B’s that year and impressed the front office enough to get a two-year NHL deal. He started 2018-19 in the AHL, but was called up in November and again in the Spring because of the plethora of injuries on the B’s back end. He endeared himself to the fan base by playing what Coach Bruce Cassidy called “Cliffy Hockey,” a blend of fearless physical play along with joining the rush that was exciting but at times stressful.  Stressful or not, Don Sweeney liked what he saw enough to sign Clifton to a three-year deal worth $1 million per season that begins next year when his current contract expires. Despite all that, I have to admit that I am not 100% sold on him. I am hoping that one of the three or four prospects I am about to discuss can steal one of those third pair spots, and Clifton becomes the 7th d-man eventually.

Last year when injuries ravaged the B’s defensive corps, three rookies other than Clifton also made their NHL debuts. Urho Vaakaneinen, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jakub Zboril all donned the Black and Gold for the first time to varying degrees of success. Zboril (2015) and Vaakaneinen (2017) are both former first-round picks that have pretty impressive draft pedigrees, but it was the lower-drafted Lauzon (52nd overall in 2015) that made the more lasting impression. The big, rangy left-handed product out of Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL is a good skater, but not quite as smooth as his Euro-counterparts. He’s a little more physical and played more of a “stay at home” game than I expected, given his production in Juniors. I’m sure that some of that was due to nerves and wanting to take care of his own end before joining the rush as a rookie. He had only one goal in his first 16 NHL games but looked increasingly comfortable as the games mounted. If McAvoy and Carlo do hold out, Lauzon would be my choice to step in, although management might prefer the more experienced Steven Kampfer, at least to start.

Vaakaneinen and Zboril would appear to be the next ones in line, but like Lauzon, both are left-handed shots. Vaakaneinen, a 20-year-old Finn, did spend some time playing the right side for SaiPa in the Liiga (the top tier men’s league in Finland), which may give him an advantage. It’s easy to see why the B’s European scouts liked Vaakaneinen, as he combines good size (6’1″, 190 pounds) and excellent skating ability in one package. Early viewings suggest that right now “Vaak” is more comfortable playing a defensive game. I think that his ability to get up and down the ice will eventually lead to more offense in his game. I thought he looked pretty good in his debut, but unfortunately, a nasty elbow by the Ottawa Senators Mark Borowiecki in Vaakaneinen’s second game resulted in a concussion that sidelined him for months.

Zboril was the 14th overall pick in the now infamous 2015 draft for the Bruins, where they passed on players like Matt Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Thomas Chabot. The B’s were starved for defense prospects at the time, and Zboril was given a mid-first grade by most scouts, so I have no issue with the pick. I am a fan of Zboril’s but am a little perplexed by him. He is as smooth a skater as I have ever seen, making it seem effortless as he makes his way around the ice. He displayed some offensive ability for Saint John’s of the QMJHL, and I have also seen him show bit of a mean streak. When you add it all up, he should already be playing in the NHL. It appears that inconsistency is holding him back? This is a big year for Zboril, he’s on the last year of his ELC, and the Bruins have several other young defensemen vying for spots. If he doesn’t “put it together” this season, I could see him playing elsewhere going forward.

The two defensemen at the bottom of the Bruin prospect food chain (and this is not an insult in any way) came to the organization in completely different ways. Cooper Zech was an undrafted free agent that signed with Providence after an impressive freshman year at Ferris State. Axel Andersson was a 2nd round pick by Boston in the 2018 draft. He played a full season for Södertälje in the Allsvenskan (Sweden’s second-tier pro league) at age 18, which is impressive in its own way as well.

Despite not being drafted, the left-handed Zech (5’9”, 170 pounds) has been busy piling up the awards the last couple of years. In 2017-18 while playing for the Wenatchee Wild (BCHL), he was named First Team All-Star, Top Defenseman, and won a championship. Last year at Ferris State (WCHA) he took home Rookie of the Year honors and was again named First Team All-Star. He left Ferris State and signed with Providence, acquitting himself quite well in twelve regular-season games (0g/4a) and four playoff games (2g/0a). There will be the obvious size comparisons to Krug and Grzelcyk, and his game is similar. He’s a smallish puck mover and power play guy that will put up the points but needs some work defensively against pro-caliber players. The B’s have an excellent recent history with free agent NCAA defensemen (Miller, Krug, Clifton) and they are hoping Zech is the next diamond in the rough.

Last, but not least, we have 2018 second-round pick (57th overall), Axel Andersson. The Bruins didn’t have a first-round pick in that draft, and I remember saying, “Axel who?”, when the pick was announced, but since then, I have become a fan. Last year at the Bruins Development Camp he was one of the best players there when I saw him. He followed that up with a very good preseason, getting first pair minutes with Chara. The 6 foot, 180 pound native of Järna, Sweden is bigger than I thought, but still an excellent skater and puck mover. It appears those two skills have become prerequisites for nearly all of the Bruins recent draft picks on defense. The organization clearly believes that is the direction the NHL is headed.

There seems to be some question about where “AA” will be playing in 2019-20? He is eligible to suit up for Providence, but he was also drafted by Moncton (QMJHL) 30th overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Recent news seems to indicate that he will play there and get big minutes for a good Junior team. The only way this may change is if McAvoy and Carlo hold out, which would likely open Top Four spots in Providence. I don’t think the Bruins can go wrong either way, as long as Andersson is getting the time on ice he needs to progress. The situation on the Bruins blueline is a fluid one at the moment, but if everyone is signed, I see the defense pairs like this to start the season:

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller/Clifton

Kampfer

That alignment would give the Bruins a puck-mover and a strong defensive presence on each pair, which I believe is the proper way to go. In the past few years, the Bruins have been bitten hard by the injury bug on the back end. If everyone is in camp, the team should be well-positioned to handle the inevitable injuries. If there are holdouts, the organization’s depth on defense could be tested right out of the gate.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 8-25-19 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 Link To Our YouTube Channel!

Boston Bruins 2019-20 Breakout Candidates

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(Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Training camp is right around the corner, and the Bruins are almost back. From David Pastrnak to Brandon Carlo, it seems almost every year a player “breaks out” and really exceeds expectations. Here’s six who I think have a good shot and having big years for the black and gold.

Jake Debrusk

In his rookie season, Jake Debrusk tallied 43 points in 70 games, good for 8th in point-per-game out of all rookies. He added to those numbers by notching six goals and eight points in an excellent playoff showing. In just his second NHL season, Debrusk was able to light the lamp 27 times in only 68 games. After two solid seasons mixed with equally solid playoff runs, Jake Debrusk seems poised to take the next step in his NHL career and really have a big year. All of that may depend on who plays to the right of David Krejci. If Debrusk, Krejci and one of David Pastrnak (who would be my choice to play with the two) Charlie Coyle, Danton Heinen or an unmentioned winger can develop some good chemistry, a 30 goal, 60 point campaign is not out of the question. 

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

Danton Heinen

It baffles me how many people dislike Danton Heinen. He began his tenure with the Bruins with a great rookie season where he notched 16 goals and 47 points to go with a +10 rating in 77 games (outscoring the aforementioned Jake Debrusk).  The following year did not begin the way Heinen would have liked, in his first 40 games he reached the back of the net just four times and added six assists but the second half of his year was a different story. The 24-year-old was able to score seven goals and 24 points in his final 37 games and was apart of arguably the Bruins best line in the playoffs with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. He’s one of the best defensive forwards on the Bruins and constantly does the little things right, and I really think this is the year that things will start to go his way.

Jack Studnicka

Probably the most well-known talent out of all forwards in the Bruins’ farm system, Jack Studnicka has all the tools to become a really good player in the NHL. I praised him in my “Top-10 Bruins Prospects” piece, and after an outstanding year in the OHL and strong play in the World Juniors for Team Canada, Studnicka seems to be a strong contender to make the big club this season.

If he’s able to crack the roster, I’d love to see him (and the two players you will see below) play alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. We’ve seen what that duo has done for players like David Pastrnak, a struggling Danton Heinen and others in the past. If Studnicka is able to make the big club and have a role on the team, a 40 point season is certainly obtainable.

NHL: Preseason-Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins

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

Zach Senyshyn

This coming season will be Senyshyn’s first season with a legitimate chance to make the Bruins roster. The 6’1 winger hasn’t blown anyone away in his two years in Providence, but as a two-time 40 goal scorer in the OHL, the skill is certainly there. We saw a glimpse of what Senyshyn could do at the tail-end of the season, and he didn’t look out of place at all and was able to light the lamp once (albeit an empty netter, but still good to see). Just like Studnicka, a stint on the top line could be huge for Senyshyn, and a big right-shot winger could prove to fit very well.

Anders Bjork

Anders Bjork has had a tough go in his first two years playing pro hockey. After bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL, Bjork’s past two years have been unfortunately cut short due to shoulder injuries. If we’re able to see a healthy Anders Bjork in the NHL this year, I expect big things. The former Notre Dame star is arguably the most talented player in the Bruins’ system and has the speed to make it in today’s NHL. While he struggled in the NHL last season, totaling just three points in 20 games, he had quite a bit of success playing with the top line the season before which is where he should be playing if he’s able to edge out the previous two players and make the roster I see big things for this year.

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(Photo Credit: nhl.com)

Matt Grzelcyk

Matt Grzelcyk isn’t on this list because I think he’s going to turn into the next Torey Krug and put up a 60 point season. He’s on this list because this year is the perfect year to give Gryz a bigger role on the team. It seems the big man Zdeno Chara is nearing the very end of his career and we’ve seen that his age is starting to catch up with him. This past season, the Charlestown native developed into the Bruins’ best 5v5 defenseman and really showed he was ready for more than a bottom-pairing role. If coach Bruce Cassidy is able to rotate the duo of Chara and Grzelcyk with Charlie Mcavoy, Gryz should have his best, and most impactful season yet.

 Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 8-25-19 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 Link To Our YouTube Channel! 

Grzelcyk Ready to Go for Bruins

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(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

The 2018-2019 season did not end well for Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. Grzelcyk himself may not remember much of what happened after a hit in game two of the Stanley Cup Finals that sent his head careening off the boards and forcing him to be helped off the ice, but Boston fans surely do.

After that fateful hit, Grezelcyk was placed in concussion protocol. He resumed practicing with the team after a couple of games, but most of that time was spent in a red non-contact jersey. He was finally cleared to return to action for game seven and actually scored the Bruins’ only goal in a heartbreaking loss.

Interviewed after game seven, a visibly shaken Grzelcyk broke down in front of reporters when describing how it felt to be sidelined for so much of the series. Minutes after the series ended, the pain of the loss was still very fresh in the minds of Grzelcyk and his teammates.

The good news is (yes, there is good news here), Grzelcyk is raring to go for the 2019-2020 campaign. And, with so many questions remaining about the make-up of the Bruins’ defensive corps leading into camp, the 25-year-old Charlestown native is one piece of the puzzle that is solidly in place. He recently said that he took some time off after the season to let himself fully recover from any lingering effects of the concussion he suffered, but he now feels good and ready to go.

Heading into the final year of a two-year deal signed in July 2018, Grzelcyk is in a great position to have a break-out season. With captain Zdeno Chara returning for at least one more season, but likely to see reduced minutes as he approaches his 43rd birthday in March, Grzelcyk is a prime candidate to share some, if not quite a bit, of that extra load. With injuries dominating the blue line throughout much of the season, he’s already shown that he is more than capable of stepping up when needed.

Of course, last season was a tough one for Grzelcyk himself from a physical standpoint. In addition to the concussion suffered in the final round of the playoffs, Grzelcyk missed a few weeks with an apparent arm injury suffered March 10 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although the team and fans were relieved that tests revealed no broken bones or significant structural damage, the injury still kept Grzelcyk out of the lineup during a key stretch of the season.

Grzelcyk played 66 of 82 games in 2018-2019, but still managed to increase his points total to 18 points last season from 15 scored in his first season in Boston, in which he played in 61 games. Those numbers aren’t staggering, but considering that Grzelcyk played most of the season on the third pairing with a revolving door of defensive partners, they are solid. Also, he stepped up big in the playoffs, including a two-goal effort in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Bruins fans also know that statistics don’t tell the whole story. Grzelcyk is known for his ability to move the puck, and that trait can be invaluable. Even though he has suffered injuries, listed at 5′ 9″ and 174 pounds, Grzelcyk has shown that he does not shy away from puck battles or hits from larger players. If he can stay healthy, I expect Matt Grzelcyk to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way in the upcoming season.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 7: St. Louis at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett/Pool via AP)

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

All of the blood, sweat, and tears that have been poured into the 2018-19 NHL season have come down to this – Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Both the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues have three wins each in this best-of-seven series and now, tonight, the winner will be crowned Stanley Cup Champions.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (15-8)

Away: St. Louis Blues (15-10)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 5-1

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed that defenceman Matt Grzelcyk is indeed back in the lineup after missing two weeks following concussion protocol. Due to that, defenceman Connor Clifton will be a healthy scratch as well as forward David Backes who was scratched for Game Six.

First Period:

For the early stages of the first period, the St. Louis Blues accomplished what the majority of people expected – hard zone pressure and zone control. The Blues get a couple shots towards the net, nothing too harmful though. The Bruins get a couple of their own, however, as John Moore came in on the rush with a shot that had a rebound for Acciari who failed to shoot the puck.

Within the first five minutes of game action, Jordan Binnington has allowed two rebounds that nearly converted. Sean Kuraly, Marcus Johansson and Patrice Bergeron all had in-tight scoring opportunities that came off of point shots. Boston started off somewhat slow, but have come back strong with aggressive chances that have been a result of turnovers by St. Louis.

With 12:03 remaining in the opening frame, Blues defenceman Colton Parayko, with little pressure against him, clears the puck high over the glass in his own zone and the Bruins are off to their first power-play of the hockey game. Boston had some excellent chances to bury the game’s first goal including a brilliant saucer pass from Heinen to Krejci that Binnington robs with the split-save. Blues kill off the penalty.

The Bruins controlled the play for all of the first period. St. Louis went over 15 minutes without a shot on Tuukka Rask while the Bruins earned chances to score on the other end of the ice. However, with less than five minutes to go in the period, the Bruins get caught in their own zone with St. Louis cycling the puck around the zone. That creates a point shot from Bouwmeester that gets deflected by Ryan O’Reilly in front of Rask, beating him five-hole and the Blues have a 1-0 lead.

Boston continues the effort later in the period after the goal with some shots on and a good sequence of passes and zone control in St. Louis’ end but none of the shots passes Binnington. As the Blues recover and bring the puck out of the zone, the Bruins for some reason, attempt a horrendous line change that leaves Jaden Schwartz able to feed Pietrangelo who backhands one over Tuukka Rask – 2-0 Blues at the end of the first.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 12 STL: 4

Score: 2-0 Blues – Goals: O’Reilly (8) Assists: Bouwmeester (7), Pietrangelo (16); Pietrangelo (3) Assists: Schwartz (7)

Second Period:

Without a single sliver of doubt, the Bruins need to put up one or two goals in the second period in order to still have a chance at winning tonight. Early in the middle regulation frame, Boston gets more zone control – not as much as points in the first – and get a couple shots on Binnington, all being saved by the rookie netminder.

The second period, as of 5:58 remaining, has not been very opportunity-filled. The Bruins do not get many chances whatsoever on Binnington, nothing even close to the brilliant chances that they had in the first period. St. Louis has played a perfect road game that includes a systematic shut down of the Bruins forwards and any zone time Boston gets.

In the opening period, the Blues made the bad turnovers that nearly caused Bruin goals but in the second, the tides regarding turnovers have changed. Boston has been turning the puck over more than they make clean, tape-to-tape passes and that has prevented them from getting into the zone. It seems although they are feeling the pressure of being down 2-0 and it is affecting their game.

The best chance to score for Boston was at the very end of the frame by the line of Heinen, Coyle, and Johansson – seemingly the best line in the Black n Gold jersey once again who get some shots on Binnington but come up short. 2-0 Blues after two.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 23 STL: 10

Score: 2-0 Blues

Third Period:

The beginning of the third period is not too much different from the second period. The Blues are doing a purely excellent job tonight preventing any rushes, passes, opportunities or simple shots. In the first five minutes, Boston needed Tuukka Rask to bail them out twice – a poor method for winning any hockey game that you trail.

After a slot shot that Rask stopped as well as the two rebound attempts, the B’s turn the puck over in the neutral zone to sniper Vladimir Tarasenko who turns and gets a seemingly free shot at Rask. Rask faces him the entire way and makes the chest save.

Another interesting storyline in this game has been the failed shot attempts by Boston. Many of the top players, especially David Pastrnak have whiffed on the shot or even the pass. To add to the frustrating game, the ice has been quite poor as the puck can often be seen bouncing everywhere. It is expected when you play a game in mid-June.

Finally, with just around eleven minutes to go in the final period of regulation time, Boston gets a beautiful chance to bury one past the red-hot Jordan Binnington. A strong forecheck leads to Joakim Nordstrom all alone, makes a move to get Binnington on his stomach, but Nordstrom’s shot gets robbed by the right pad of the rookie goaltender, Boston remains off the scoresheet.

Mere minutes after that highway robbery, Vladimir Tarasenko makes a beautiful pass to the slot while he’s along the boards to Brayden Schenn who one-times it off the post and past Tuukka Rask. St. Louis takes a commanding 3-0 lead in this final game and it seems like the Bruins will go 0-for-2 in the Finals since winning in 2011.

The Boston Bruins get some decent chances later in the period, but the Blues answer big time with a goal from Zach Sanford that makes it a four-goal lead for St. Louis off of a nice backhand pass from David Perron.

Matt Grzelcyk takes a point shot that manages to beat Binnington to end the shutout, but the Blues hold on to the 4-1 lead and win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 33 STL: 20

Final Score: 4-1 Blues – STL wins Stanley Cup 4-3

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: STL G Jordan Binnington – 32 Saves on 33 Shots, .970 SV%

2nd Star: STL F Ryan O’Reilly – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 18:56 TOI, Conn Smythe Winner

3rd Star: STL D Alex Pietrangelo – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, +3 Rating, 25:56 TOI

A sincere congratulations to the St. Louis Blues on winning their first Stanley Cup. To the Boston Bruins, thank you for a great season full of unexpected accomplishments. On to the offseason.

Hypothetical: If Grzelcyk Can Go, Who Is In For Bruins?

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Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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

Banged Up

While Oskar Sundqvist’s dirty hit on Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals warranted both a minor penalty and a one-game suspension, the Boston Bruins found themselves feeling the repercussions (and concussions) of that incident for a much longer period of time.

As the hit took place early on in Game 2, Grzelcyk has essentially missed five games of the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins have gone on to win just two of these games, while losing three games, including the game from which Grzelcyk was removed for injury. On the contrary, the Bruins have won every the single game in which Grzelcyk remained healthy during the Final. While one game is a small sample size, it’s also all that stands between the Bruins and the greatest prize in professional sports.

Damage Control

Sure, the Bruins have been able to string together a couple wins without Grzelcyk. But anyone who would argue that the Bruins’ third defensive pairing, not to mention their team as a whole, has been missing the completeness and maturity of Grzelcyk’s game has not been watching.

In Grizz’s stead, John Moore has stepped in and has been…present.   The predicament that Bruce Cassidy and the rest of the string-pullers behind the Black and Gold curtain find themselves in is a tricky one, which couldn’t come at a more critical time:

If Matt Grzelcyk is cleared to play in Game 7, do the Bruins opt to put him into the lineup, or stick with John Moore?

The Case For Grzelcyk

Bruins fans know just how good Grzelcyk is, and has been, for the entirety of the 2019 postseason. A stalwart for the Bruins all year on their third-pairing, Grzelcyk’s upside has skyrocketed far beyond what most Bruins fans imagined at the start of the season. While he showed flashes of skating ability and strong puck-moving ability last season, he elevated his game to a new level throughout 2018-2019, and well into the playoffs.

What makes his health so important to the Bruins’ success in a seven-game series against St. Louis is the exact same reason that he has been injured for the majority of the series—the St. Louis forecheck. The Blues have demonstrated a propensity for aggressive play in the offensive zone on the forecheck in an attempt to disrupt clean zone exits by Boston. This aggression has at times proven to be dirty play, manifesting itself through hits from behind, hits to the head, and the occasional slewfoot. I’m not here to enforce the rules. It seems too that, at times, the referees aren’t even here to enforce the rules.

But I digress.

Grzelcyk is not just effective in the Bruins’ own zone against St. Louis, but his ability to snap tape-to-tape passes out of the zone in concert with his ability to beat forecheckers with speed make him an invaluable asset. The quicker the Bruins can break it out of their own zone, the less time they spend there. Read a book for once.

Having a defenseman who can, at times, singlehandedly surpass a forecheck designed to make the game tougher on the Bruins, inherently makes the game easier on the entire Black and Gold roster. Fewer minutes in the D-zone means fewer tough minutes, which means that the majority of the Bruins’ energy can be allotted towards effectiveness in the offensive zone (bingos, ginos, daggers, lazershows…goals).

It would be difficult to argue that John Moore’s upside accomplishes half of what a healthy Grzelcyk’s does. As such, and as is the nature of the hypothetical I’ve raised, the issue lies with just how healthy Grzelcyk is, even if he is cleared to play.

The Case for Moore

It would be impossible to argue that John Moore has not played in the four most recent games of the Stanley Cup Final. There is video evidence of him playing in the aforementioned games. John Moore is a defenseman who has played in the 2018-2019 Stanley Cup Final.

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Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Has John Moore’s play hurt the Bruins in any overt or measurable way? No. His +/- even sits in the positives (at a whopping +1) for the series, whereas his +/- throughout the postseason stands at -3. Plus/minus does not tell the whole story of any one player’s performance. Heck (yes, heck), it doesn’t even tell all that much about a player’s performance. But you can’t ask much more of a seventh/eighth defenseman than to step into the lineup and be unremarkable.

Through his first three games of the series, Moore played… hockey. He played hockey. He wasn’t bad. He wasn’t good. But he was in the lineup, and that’s a fact.

Where this hypothetical gets even Moore interesting is after watching Moore’s performance in Game 6. Moore played 17 minutes in a must-win game, and by all accounts… he played well. Moore’s gutty performance featured a hit and three key shot blocks. While Moore has never lit the world on fire offensively with the Bruins, his best efforts have come when he plays a gritty, hard-nosed style of hockey.

While he was on the ice for 100% of St. Louis’s goals (1) in Game 6, he made a strong case to remain in the lineup for the upcoming series-clincher on Wednesday night. It will be interesting to see whether Cassidy opts to keep his Game 6 lineup intact or to roll the dice and play Grzelcyk who has been on the shelf for two weeks. As for me, I hate rolling dice, but I love Matt Grzelcyk.

Butch, Please

A lot of people grow up imagining themselves scoring the game-winner in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, but not me. I grew up imagining Matt Grzelcyk scoring the Cup-winning goal. If Grizz is healthy enough to go for Game 7, I want to see him in the lineup. And if you don’t want to see that happen, then you are officially not invited to my birthday party. Sorry.

Big Thanks to Me

Before you go, I’d like you all to take a moment to appreciate that I have typed the name ‘Grzelcyk’ no fewer than twenty times. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve almost always typed ‘Grzelyck,’ on my first attempt, and have subsequently had to type Grze…#48’s name twice for every time I wanted to reference him. There were times when I wanted to quit. But I persevered. After all, this is Game 7 we’re talking about, and I wasn’t going to let a little a lot of adversity slow me down. Round of applause for me.

Bruins Backes, Wagner Likely To Sit Out Game Seven

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues

(Photo credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

Boston Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy indicated on Monday that the lineup for Wednesday’s series-deciding seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals will probably look just like the one that took the ice for Sunday’s 5-1 victory, with one possible exception that seemed even less likely as the week progressed. If those plans hold up, that means former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes will once again watch the game from the TD Garden press box.

Backes has been in and out of the lineup throughout the playoffs. He was a healthy scratch for game five when Cassidy opted to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in an effort to boost the strength of a banged-up blue line. Backes also was scratched for game six in favor of the speedier Karson Kuhlman.

The decision to insert Kuhlman in the second line left wing slot that Backes had been occupying paid off for Cassidy, with Kuhlman scoring a goal and helping the second line put forth a solid effort in the win. As a result, it makes sense for the coach to stick with Kuhlman for the final game. For his part, Backes seems to be glad to play whatever role he is assigned in the team’s quest for the Cup.

Chris Wagner is another season-long contributor who likely will not dress for Wednesday’s game. Wagner, who suffered an arm injury when he blocked a shot in the third game of Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, somewhat surprisingly participated in practice leading up to Sunday’s game six. Wagner was a full participant in Tuesday’s final practice of the season, as well. However, Cassidy’s plans for game seven do not include inserting Wagner back into the mix, even if he is healthy enough to play.

With fourth liners Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari racking up first line-type minutes and contributing on the score sheet throughout the series, it would be difficult for Cassidy to justify sitting any of them in game seven to make room for Wagner. So, it appears as if the Walpole native will be joining Backes on the ninth floor cheering on his teammates on Wednesday.

That brings us to the player Cassidy dubbed “the wild card” when discussing his lineup for game seven: Matt Grzelcyk. Charlestown’s Grzelcyk was placed in concussion protocol following a hit that forced him out of game two.

Although Grzelcyk has returned to practicing with the team and with the Black Aces, most of that time, he has been donning a red non-contact jersey. Before the game on Sunday, it was announced that he had still not cleared concussion protocol, meaning he could not play in game six. Grzelcyk was still in the non-contact jersey for Tuesday’s practice, making any potential return to game action even less likely.

Even if Grzelcyk is cleared for game seven, Cassidy said there was no guarantee he would play. John Moore has been filling in during Grzelcyk’s absence, and either Moore or Connor Clifton would probably be relegated to a healthy scratch if Grzelcyk does play.

Here is the expected lineup for game seven, based on the lines at Tuesday’s practice.

 

Bruins D Matt Grzelcyk, Zdeno Chara Deemed Game-Time Decisions

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PHOTO CREDITS: Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

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

Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced earlier today, June 6th, that defensemen Zdeno Chara and Matt Grzelcyk are deemed game-time decisions for tonight’s pivotal Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston, Massachusetts.

The news comes today after many speculated on the numerous off days since the Game Four loss on Monday that Zdeno Chara was done for the remainder of the postseason with what was assumed to be a broken jaw. However, it was made clear that the 42-year-old captain did not need his jaw to be wired shut and he is not missing any teeth but he does indeed have a brace going along his bottom gum line according to Shawn Hutcheon.

Chara’s injury came from the second period in Game Four when he attempted to block a wrist shot from Blues forward Brayden Schenn with the Bruins down 2-1 on the scoreboard. As a result, Chara inadvertently deflected the shot off of his monstrous stick and directly into his face. A flow of blood immediately poured out of the giant as he skated off to the Bruins locker room. Chara did end up returning in the final regulation period with a full face mask, but did not play a shift as he felt “uncomfortable”.

As for Matt Grzelcyk, his injury came back during Game Two of the Finals, when he took a hard hit along the end boards by Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. The National Hockey League’s Player Safety took a look at the hit and following a hearing, was suspended for Game Three. After taking the hit hard, Grzelcyk appeared to stumble when he got up, sending him through concussion protocol.

The 25-year-old was forced to miss Game Four on Monday but was seen wearing a maroon-colored non-contact jersey in practice on Wednesday but Cassidy was not positive on his status for Thursday’s contest. Earlier today, Cassidy clarified that Grzelcyk is also a game-time decision like Chara and if he feels ready to go around 7:00pm, then he will be in the lineup.

During the talks of both injuries, Cassidy mentioned the fact that he may lean to running seven defensemen and eleven forwards for Game Five and according to the Head Coach on Thursday, that idea still remains a topic of discussion ahead of puck drop, even if both blueliners are feeling up to the task of playing in this crucial game.

In regard to the injury, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said this in a written response to the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association:

“You don’t think about that. You think about playing. You don’t go into a game thinking you might get hurt. At this time of the playoffs, everyone has injuries and there are challenges that you have to overcome to play. I’m no different than any player on either team.”

The 2019 Stanley Cup Finals is deadlocked at two games apiece with tonight’s game in Boston giving the winner a 3-2 series lead and a chance to win the Stanley Cup on Sunday in St. Louis. The current scheduled puck drop for the game is 8:00pm EST.

Next Man Up: Zdeno Chara Status Uncertain for Bruins in SCF Game 5

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( Photo Credit: wcvb.com )

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

As the Bruins and Blues prepare for a pivotal game five in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins could be without their captain. In game four at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Zdeno Chara took a puck to the face in the second period that prevented him from returning to the game. Now, Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins might have to adjust to missing their leader for a big game of a tied Stanley Cup Final series.

Just three minutes into the second period of game four, the Bruins lost their captain after Brayden Schenn rifled a shot that ramped off of Chara’s defending stick and into his mouth area. Chara would leave for the second period, and the Bruins were again down to five defensemen much like game two in which they lost in overtime. At the start of the third period, Chara was on the Bruins bench with a full shield on, leading many to believe that the monster defenseman would play. However, he did not touch the ice besides in between TV timeouts to rally up his troops. It was later revealed by Cassidy that Chara was advised not to play as he was “very uncomfortable” but wanted to sit on the bench to be there for his teammates.

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After Ryan O’Reilly buried a late third-period game-winning goal that would ultimately tie the Stanley Cup Finals series at two games apiece, worry crept into Bruins fans’ minds about the status of the Bruins captain. On Tuesday, it was reported that Zdeno Chara broke his jaw as a result and he ultimately missed practice on Wednesday at TD Garden. At the conclusion of Bruins practice, Cassidy spoke about Chara’s facial injury and that it was not a good sign that Zee was not on the ice on Wednesday.

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So, all signs are pointing to Big Zee potentially being out for at least game five in this series. That leaves Bruce Cassidy with some very tough decisions heading into arguably the biggest game of the series and the season for both the Bruins and the Blues. With Grzelcyk going down after a hard hit from Oskar Sundqvist in game two, John Moore was called on to step in and replace Grzelcyk on the blue line. The next man up that we have seen step up in these playoffs would be Steven Kampfer. However, Cassidy has second-guessed the insertion of Kampfer because he is a right-handed shot and would throw off the right-left balance between Kampfer and Connor Clifton – a balance that is consistent with the rest of the defense.

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Another option would be for Cassidy to insert Bruins rookie standout Urho Vaakanainen into the lineup. Urho would solve the right-left shot balance as he is a left-handed shooting defenseman. However, this could be a risky move as Vaakanainen has only played two regular season games in the NHL.

The third option for Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff is to roll eleven forwards and seven defensemen. This, of course, would mean that a forward would be scratched in order to make room for the seventh defenseman which would likely be David Backes as he was often the odd forward out in the earlier rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Karson Kuhlman was with Krejci and DeBrusk on the second line. The Blues have beaten the Bruins twice this series, and both times the Bruins have lost defenseman for a big chunk of the game when they lost Grzelcyk in the first period of game two and Chara at the beginning of the second period of game four.

On Wednesday, the practice lines looked like this:

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes
Johansson – Coyle – Heinen
Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari
Moore – McAvoy
Krug – Carlo
Kampfer – Clifton
Grzelcyk – Vaakanainen
Rask
Halak

As of Wednesday, Cassidy stated that Grzelcyk still needs to be cleared which he is possible to get cleared tomorrow. It appears that Kampfer would play with Clifton in game five, but that will ultimately depend on if Cassidy wants to remove a forward and go with the seven defensemen, if Grzelcyk is cleared, or if Vaakanainen gets the call over Kampfer. Good news is that Grzelcyk looked well on the ice and that he skated with the second powerplay unit indicating that he is close but still needs to be cleared.

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All in all, Cassidy is in for a series of crucial tough decisions for the all-important game five at TD Garden on Thursday night. If Chara is unable to go for game five, the Bruins will undoubtedly miss his leadership on and off the ice.

Can B’s D-men Improve Any “Moore” In SCF?

Image result for john moore boston bruins(Photo Credit: Boston Globe)

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

“Next man up.”

This phrase should probably be printed on all 2018-19 Bruins gear, emblazoned above the B’s locker room door, bannered onto the forefront of the TD Garden and artistically etched onto the ice right below Stanley Cup Finals. It’s literally the motto — and mantra — for a bruised Black N’ Gold team that’s taken pride in players truly stepping up when called upon. Now, it appears, yet another member of your three-wins-away-from-winning-it-all Bruins will have one “Moore” chance to make his teammates and the city proud.

That’s right, it’s likely John Moore’s turn to take the place in game three for an untimely injured Matt Grzelcyk (who, if you reluctantly remember, was boarded by the now-suspended Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in game two). Moore, who hasn’t played since he slotted in for an injured Zdeno Chara in the B’s series-clinching win against Carolina two weeks ago, is without a doubt eager to make an impact in a pivotal road contest that could easily change the course and momentum of the series.

Much in the same way Steve Kampfer injected some energy and, if you can believe it, timely goal scoring when he “next-man-upped” himself into action for game one of the ECF against the Hurricanes, Moore hopes to help his team both on the blue line and on the score sheet if he can. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will take either, but his primary thinking of choosing Moore over Kampfer, to most likely pair with Connor Clifton, is the versatile veteran’s left leaning (blue)lining.

As for the rest of his squad, Moore certainly has the support and confidence from his teammates, all of whom expected him to be a more permanent fixture on the back end all season long until injuries and depth chart-jumping forced him out of the lineup for extended stretches this year. However, NOW is the most important time of the year for the Bruins and that’s all that matters — to the team, to management, to the fans and to Moore. He knows opportunities like this don’t come around that often and making the most of them could result in the ultimate prize: hoisting the Stanley Cup high over his head for the first time in his career.

Image result for john moore boston bruins(Photo Credit: Spokesman-Review)

If he helps the B’s to a game three victory, then guess what? The new next man up will only have two “Moore” wins to go!

How College Hockey Has Impacted The Boston Bruins Roster

( Photo Credit: Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

College hockey just continues to grow and grow. Not only the popularity, but the quality of play has been incredible as of late, and it’s really starting to show with more and more NCAA players entering the NHL. In 2003, the NHL was made up of 21% NCAA alumni. That number has risen considerably since then, reaching 33% this season.

As a Bruins fan, the rise of the NCAA is incredibly evident when looking through this Bruins team. 12 out of 22 skaters for the Bruins have come out of college and played a game for the Bruins in these playoffs.

( Photo Credit: Jim Pierce )

The BU Boys

Charlie Mcavoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Charlie Coyle all played their college hockey at Boston University. While Grzelcyk was just a year away from playing with Coyle, he was able to pair with Mcavoy on BU’s top defensive pair when he was captain of the team in 2015, combining for 48 points and a +27 rating. While the two aren’t a pair anymore, they are still on the second powerplay unit, and it seems their chemistry hasn’t skipped a beat with each having two PP goals apiece to go along with nine combined assists. We all know

The Minnesotaians

The Bruins have a pair of players from Minnesota that played hockey in their home state in David Backes and Karson Kuhlman. The veteran Backes played three seasons at Minnesota State University, averaging above a point per game in all but one year (where he has 37 points in 39 games) and just as many other players you will see on this team, was team captain for his final year there. Moving on to the youngster in Kuhlman, he played four seasons at the rival Minnesota Duluth, captaining the team in his final year while leading the team to a national championship.

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( Photo Credit: Jack Fredricks )

The Bottom Six

The Bruins bottom six consists of four products of NCAA (including Coyle) and a healthy Chris Wagner would make that five. Danton Heinen is one of a handful of active NHL players that played for the University of Denver, where he was electric, averaging over a point per game in the two seasons he played there. That success has carried over to the NHL as we’ve seen Heinen pair up with Coyle and Marcus Johansson to form the best third line we’ve seen in years.

Sean Kuraly spent four years at Miami University (Ohio), right near where he grew up in Dublin, Ohio. The former captain at Miami has made a name for himself as a clutch performer throughout the three playoffs he’s been a part of. Another member of the 4th line, Noel Acciari spent four seasons at Providence College and served as the captain for a season just as Kuraly had. The hard-nosed Rhode Island native has made a name for himself these past few years as a dependable 4th liner. The last member of the former WAK 4th line, Chris Wagner, spent his college days at Colgate University, playing two seasons in upstate New York. He had an incredible second season for Colgate, scoring 17 goals with 51 points in just 38 games played for the club.

March 19, 2016: Quinnipiac Bobcats defenseman Connor Clifton (4) skates with the puck as Harvard Crimson forward Brayden Jaw (10) tries to defend during 2016 ECAC Tournament Championship game between Harvard University and Quinnipiac University at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY. (John Crouch/J. Alexander Imaging)

( Photo Credits: John Crouch/J. Alexander Imaging )

The Back End

The Bruins starting six (with a healthy Matt Grzelcyk) consists of four guys that played hockey in college. Torey Krug spent three years in his home state of Michigan at Michigan State University, captaining the team for two of the three. Steven Kampfer is yet another Michigan native that got to spend college in his home state however he played at the University of Michigan for four seasons before coming to the NHL. Connor Clifton has come onto the scene out of nowhere after four seasons at Quinnipiac University and is really making a name for himself with his play these playoffs. He’s yet another former captain on the Bruins, and it’s starting to really make sense how this team is doing so well.

Other Bruins that have contributed this season that played NCAA hockey were Jacob Forsbacka-Karlsson (Boston University), Trent Frederic (University of Wisconsin), and Paul Carey (Boston College).

It’s clear to see just looking through these players college careers that there’s a big reason aside from skill that this Bruins team is doing so well. Their locker room is filled with tons of leaders and former captains of very successful college teams. I think this influx of college talent will only continue to grow not just for the Bruins, but for the entire league with highly touted prospects like Cole Caufield, Trevor Zegras, Alex Turcotte and many more high profile players committing to schools to play hockey. With all the success the Bruins have had with these players, let’s hope they draft another few this year.