Bruins’ Fourth Line Look To Lead The Bounce-Back

( Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, AP )

By: Jack McCarthy  |  Follow Me On Twitter @73johnnymac

As the Stanley Cup Final shifts back to Boston for Game 5 on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins will be looking to recapture the momentum in what’s been a back-and-forth series through four games.  While the Bruins will need much better performances across the line-up, you can bet the fourth line will be itching to lead the bounce-back as they played nowhere near their usual standard in Game 4’s loss.

The fourth line of Sean Kuraly,  Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari can usually be relied upon to drive possession and help tilt the ice in the Bruins favor.  The line starts the majority of its shifts in the defensive zone and quite often skates to the bench having earned an offensive zone face-off.  That’s exactly what you’re looking for from your fourth line.

There has been an added bonus from the line so far in the Stanley Cup Final-production.  Kuraly (2G-2A-4Pts, 2GWG’s), Nordstrom (1G-3A-4Pts), and Acciari (1G-1A-2Pts) have combined for 10 points in the first four games of the Stanley Cup Final.  The worrying trend for the line, however, is that their 5-vs-5 Corsi percentage has been steadily declining as the series has progressed and culminated with some horrendous numbers in Game 4.

Let’s take a closer look at what the line has produced over the first four games.   As a reminder, Corsi % is a reliable possession metric which measures shot attempts for against shot attempts against, expressed as a percentage and for 5-on-5-play.  A measure of 50% means a team is generating an equal number of shot attempts for and against while that player is on the ice.  Therefore, as a baseline, positive Corsi is viewed as a percentage greater than 50, and more often than not, players and teams generating Corsi percentages greater than 50 are more successful.

Corsi % through four games, stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com:

CF % (5v5) Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4
Kuraly 45.0 28.6 53.8 15.0
Nordstrom 44.4 32.0 31.2 9.5
Acciari 45.5 34.8 34.8 10.5

As the table above shows, the trend has been going the wrong way, and that’s a worry if you’re the Bruins.  Game 4 was a particularly rough night for the trio as they were held off the score sheet for the first time in the series and gave up the game’s opening goal on their first shift at the 0:43 mark.

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St Louis took full advantage of home ice to get the match-ups they were looking for in Game 4.  The Bruins started with the Bergeron line and St Louis interim-Head Coach, Craig Berube, countered with his fourth line.  After a stoppage, 29 seconds in, Bruins Coach, Bruce Cassidy, sent the Kuraly line over the boards for a defensive zone face-off.  The Blues countered with the Ryan O’Reilly line, and they quickly capitalized with an opening minute goal that energized the building and the Blues.  All in all, not the start the Bruins were looking for or needed on the road in a hostile environment.

As the Corsi numbers show, the Bruins fourth line was over-matched all night in Game 4, generating just 2 shot attempts for, while giving up 12 (14.29 CF%) in 7:58 of 5-on-5 ice-time.  The Bruins as a whole were out-attempted 49-30 during 5-on-5-play.  The difference can be somewhat attributed to the negative numbers put up by the Kuraly line, but you can’t hang the loss entirely on them.  The reality is that the Bruins need more across their line-up.  They are yet to receive a goal at 5-on-5-play from anyone in their top two lines.

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There is no question that the Bruins have enjoyed a significant special teams advantage through four games of the Stanley Cup Final.  Boston has gone 6 for 16 with the man-advantage, good for a 37.5% clip, and have added a short-handed goal.  The Blues, on the other hand, are just 1/12 on the man-advantage, translating to an 8.3% rate with a short-handed goal allowed.  The reality is, however, that as the Stanley Cup Final goes deeper and deeper, history has shown that players adjust and as the pressure amps up, discipline is preached, often leading to fewer power play opportunities.  The Bruins are going to need to be better at 5-on-5-play moving forward as they may not be able to count on receiving four or five power plays per game.

All is certainly not lost, and the Kuraly line has proven it’s worth time and time again in the regular season and playoffs and certainly with its contributions in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final.  Coach Cassidy will be expecting a bounce-back performance from the trio in Game 5, and they will play an important role if the Bruins are to overcome adversity and go on to win the Stanley Cup.  The fourth line is in no way the scape-goat here, the Bruins need the contributions to come from the top.  This is something they are aware of, but if the fourth line can rebound and help tilt the ice Boston’s way, that in itself will be a major contribution.  Helping the top lines get offensive zone starts may be just what the Bruins need to turn this around.

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No one said it was going to be easy.  The Bruins find themselves in an enviable position, heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final tied 2-2.  It’s now a best of three, and they have two games at home to get the job done.  A win in Game 5 will go a long, long way to making that happen.   The Bruins’ fourth line has been vital throughout this playoff run, ever since Kuraly returned from injury for Game 5 of the opening round series against Toronto.  A strong performance from Kuraly, Nordstrom, and Acciari will help send this series back to St Louis with a chance to clinch the Bruins’ seventh Stanley Cup championship.

Bruins Joakim Nordstrom Taking Large Strides in Stanley Cup Finals

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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

Tonight, the Boston Bruins have a chance to lead the Stanley Cup Finals three-games-to-one over the St. Louis Blues. Following a brief look at the roster, many can attribute the success found in the 2018-19 season to many different sources. Goaltender Tuukka Rask and the first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak are four obvious choices while the defensemen of Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Zdeno Chara played equally important roles in not only getting to the postseason, but achieving the Prince of Wales Trophy.

Going back to October, one of the main topics of concern for the Bruins roster was the depth scoring, or lack thereof. Everyone was well aware of the powerhouse top line that dominated the previous playoff run, more specifically against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but after that, the consistent scoring was simply in question.

David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk had chemistry together but they had troubles gelling with a player on the right wing. Numerous players were tested with them, even Pastrnak at some points but the need for a top-six winger was on the Bruins’ radar. Further down the lineup, the third and fourth lines were decent, but they weren’t expected to produce numbers that are needed from your bottom-six in today’s NHL.

Fast forward to now and the Boston Bruins are being talked about for their resilient, hard-working depth that has carried them through the scoring droughts and struggles of the more well-known Bruin forwards. Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Noel Acciari had a fantastic fourth line throughout the season. The addition of both Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have been tremendous boosts for the team and Danton Heinen has found a success role on their wing.

When Chris Wagner fell out of the lineup this postseason due to an injury that resulted from a blocked shot, the Bruins turned to Joakim Nordstrom to help the bottom line with Kuraly and Acciari. Nordstrom had been bounced from the third line and fourth line all season long and was deemed a healthy scratch quite often during the regular season due to the poor play he had shown.

During those times of scratches and long (and I mean long) scoring droughts, many believed that the two-year signing of Nordstrom in the 2018 NHL Free Agency period was a waste of money. His lack of production and value to the team was mentioned everywhere and it was apparent that the coaching staff felt the same way. Yet, that did not and will not alter the mindset of the 27-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden native.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Nordstrom started off the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Toronto with one goal in the opening four games. In that span, he averaged only 11:33 of ice time and was a -2 rating. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy scratched Nordstrom for Game Five, a loss for Boston, then went back to Joakim with their backs against the wall in Game Six in Toronto. Nordstrom played less than nine minutes in the win, recording only one hit and sat in the box for two minutes.

Now on home ice, Nordstrom scored the first goal of the game in Game Seven and helped out later in the game with a secondary assist on Sean Kuraly’s third period goal. Joakim Nordstrom finished the series with 2-1-3 numbers – not fantastic, but a definte improvement from his sub-par season. Unfortunately, he failed to score a single point in the entire six-game series against the Blue Jackets and he ended the Eastern Conference Finals sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes with only one assist.

Then came the Stanley Cup Finals and a new Joakim Nordstrom. During his two-year stint with the Chicago Blackhawks, Nordstrom played in three games over the course of the entire playoff run, but did get to raise the Stanley Cup over his head with the 2015 Hawks. With the experience of hoisting the Cup in the past, 2019 became the first time that Nordstrom got the opportunity to play in the Finals and he has taken that chance and has ran with it.

In the opening three games of the best-of-seven series against the St. Louis Blues so far, Joakim Nordstrom has one goal and three assists for four points to go along with his six blocked shots and +5 rating. All of a sudden, Nordstrom is one of the biggest factors to Boston’s winning lineup. In Game Two, the forward recorded five blocks, including this remarkable effort on an extended penalty-kill late in the second period to keep the game tied.

Earlier in the same game, Nordstrom squeaked a clean shot five-hole past Jordan Binnington to restore Boston’s one-goal lead only forty seconds after Robert Bortuzzo tied the hockey game in the opening frame. While Boston lost the game in overtime later in the night, the quick goal from Nordstrom prevented the momentum from drastically being in St. Louis’ favor.

As mentioned previously, the Bruins are on the road for Game Four tonight. With a 2-1 series lead on the Blues, Boston can take a stranglehold on the series with a win – giving them a chance to win the Stanley Cup at home on Thursday. Coming off of a stellar 7-2 victory in St. Louis on Saturday night, the momentum appears to be in Boston’s favor now.

However, in order for the winning team on Monday night to be wearing Black and Gold, players such as Joakim Nordstrom need to continue the admirable efforts on the ice. Of course, the best of the best to wear the Spoked-B this season need to show up as well, but as the history has shown in 2018-19 – it all comes down to depth. Will Joakim Nordstrom continue to silence the doubters on this Stanley Cup run and help lead the B’s to another victory? Puck drop for Game Four is scheduled for 8:00pm EST from St. Louis, Missouri tonight.

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.

Three Hometown Heroes Looking To Etch Permanent Place In Bruins History

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins

Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

By Carrie Salls | Look for me on Twitter @nittgrl73

If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year, Matt Grzelcyk, Chris Wagner and Charlie Coyle will be the first Massachusetts-born Bruins to have their names inscribed on the coveted hardware since Myles Lane did so in 1929.

Regardless of the outcome of this year’s Cup quest, the three current hometown heroes appear to have already cemented their spots in Boston sports lore. Charlestown, Mass.-native Grzelcyk has been a Bruin the longest of the three, having been drafted by Boston. Wagner, dubbed by teammates as “the Mayor of Walpole,” was signed by the Bruins as a free agent in the summer of 2018, and E. Weymouth’s Coyle was acquired just before the trade deadline in February in a deal that sent Bruins prospect, and another Boston native, Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild.

During the regular season, Wagner thrilled fans with his hard-nosed, tough play on a fourth-line that has come up big for the Bs time and again throughout the 2018-2019 campaign. He was rewarded for his efforts when the fans voted him as the recipient of the 7th Player Award at the end of the season.

Wagner was forced to leave game-three of the Eastern Conference Finals after suffering an apparent arm injury on a pivotal shot-block. He has yet to appear in a Cup finals game. His spot has been occupied by Noel Acciari, a native of Johnston, R.I.

During Wednesday’s game, Grzelcyk was hit from behind when retrieving a puck, sending his head into the boards, and he had to be helped off the ice by teammates. Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed Thursday that Grzelcyk has been placed in concussion protocol and is officially listed as day-to-day.

Grzelcyk has been lauded by fans and the coaching staff for his toughness and strong performance throughout the playoff run. His best game was highlighted by two goals scored in a Mother’s Day matinee during the ECF.

Coyle has made his presence known on the ice since the playoffs began, as well. His primary contribution has come with healthy points production throughout the post-season.

Although more National Hockey League players still hale from Canada than any other country on the planet, statistics provided by quanthockey.com show that America is closing the nationality gap long-dominated by its neighbor to the north. A total of 435 active players on NHL rosters are Canadian, according to those statistics, followed by 286 Americans.

The Boston Bruins’ current roster is no exception to that trend, as 14 active players are Americans. In fact, only four members of the current Bruins squad are Canadian-born.

In addition, five members of the so-called “Black Aces,” a small group of prospects and players who spent the majority of the season playing for the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence and have been practicing with the NHL club during the deep playoff run, also were born in the United States. Among the Black Aces, Paul Carey, Trent Frederic, Lee Stempniak, Kyle Keyser, and Zane McIntyre were born in the United States.

In addition to Grzelcyk, Wagner, Coyle, and Acciari, U.S.-born Bruins who have appeared in 2019 playoff games include David Backes, Karson Kuhlman, Sean Kuraly, Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton, Steven Kampfer, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and John Moore. Injured defenseman Kevan Miller, who played college hockey at the University of Vermont, is also American.

Miller and Acciari are not the only current Bruins to have played college hockey in New England. Coyle, Grzelcyk, and McAvoy all attended Boston University. Bruins assistant coaches Jay Pandolfo, and Joe Sacco also played at BU.

Career Year for Bruins’ Chris Wagner

( Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

Boston Bruins forward Chris Wagner’s season seems to have ended last week, after he blocked a Justin Faulk slap shot, injuring his forearm in the process. If that is the case, the 27-year-old had himself a solid first season for the Black and Gold.

The Walpole, MA native signed a two year deal with the Bruins last summer, after spending most of his NHL career in Anaheim. The rugged forward was drafted by the Ducks in 2010 and remained part of the organization until he was traded to the New York Islanders in February 2018.

The Bruins had been criticized for lacking physicality after the 2017/18 season, and Wagner was bought in to address that. He’d been credited with 253 hits that season, the third-most in the NHL. Boston GM, Don Sweeney, cited the winger’s energy and physicality as the main reasons for adding him to the roster. Nicknamed the ‘Mayor of Walpole,’ Wagner certainly lived up to his side of the bargain, he led the Bruins with 247 hits during the regular season.

After showing some promise during his time with the Ducks, Wagner had been given an opportunity to shine for one of the best teams in the league, and boy did he take it. Not only was he the Bruins most active hitter, but the tireless fourth-liner bagged a career-high 12 regular season goals. He also added seven assists, taking his regular season points tally to 19, another career-high.

After being labeled a ‘depth signing’ by some, Wagner quickly won the fans over. Like most supporters, the Boston faithful appreciate hard work, something he displays every time he is on the ice. His energy, work rate, and physicality earned him NESN’s 7th Player Award, presented to the Bruin who exceeds fans expectations. Local players have not always worked out in Boston, but with the help of fellow New Englanders Charlie Coyle and Noel Acciari, Wagner is bucking that trend.

The 2018/19 regular season was undoubtedly Wagner’s best, but he didn’t stop there. He featured in 12 playoff games for the Bruins before his injury, scoring two goals, both in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. This was not Wagner’s first postseason rodeo, he had 21 playoff appearances for the Ducks, adding vital experience to the Bruins lineup. The B’s will certainly miss his tenacious presence and will look to the likes of David Backes, Zdeno Chara, and his replacement Noel Acciari to match his physicality. The fourth line has been a useful weapon for the Bruins all season, and Wagner was a key part of the ‘energy line.’

It looks almost certain that the injury to his forearm will end a fantastic season for Wagner. He will be very unlucky to miss out on the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Bruins are there, thanks in part to his efforts throughout the season. He is thriving in Boston and will be eager to return to the Bruins lineup as soon as he can. One thing is for sure, as first seasons with new teams go, they don’t get much better than this.

Boston Bruins’ Chris Wagner Out

usatsi_12703775.jpg(Photo Credits: USA TODAY Sports photo)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

Next man up: It’s a phrase that’s been thrown around the locker room and after last night, the Boston Bruins will once again be tested as they look to sweep the Carolina Hurricanes.  In an all-too familiar scenario, the boys in Black and Gold are down a fourth-line grinder. Bruins Head Coach issued an update this afternoon on Chris Wagner as further testing will be done in Boston.

Late in the third period, as Carolina’s Justin Faulk attempted a slap shot towards a brick wall (aka Tuukka Rask), Wagner instinctively blocked the shot. Unfortunately the puck would end up hitting his exposed arm/wrist,  sending the 27-year-old down on the ice, writhing in pain. The injury sent the forward to the bench initially before heading back to the locker room. Wagner did not return to the game and was seen leaving the arena with an arm sling after the 2-1 win.

Boston Bruins' Chris Wagner (14) and Brandon Carlo (25) celebrate Wagner's goal against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney during the second period in Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference final series in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)(Photo Credits: AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

As expected, the Walpole, MA native was not on the ice at this morning’s practice in Raleigh, North Carolina. Noel Acciari was slotted alongside Jaokim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly. Acciari, like Wagner, has had much success on the fourth-line, which has been a key component in the Bruins success post-season. The 27-year-old Rhode Island native has one goal and one assist this post-season and has not played in the last five playoff games. Prior to the announcement, Coach Cassidy spoke about Wagner:

“I thought he was terrific tonight… Right now I don’t have an update. Not good right now. He came off in a lot of pain”

With Acciari getting the nod to return to the lineup, the injury comes at pivotal time for the Bruins as they could potentially sweep the ‘Canes this coming Thursday at the PNC Arena.  Amidst all the  injuries that have plagued this team all season long, Boston’s resiliency is one of the many reasons why they are one game away from the Stanley Cup Final. Wagner, along with Kuraly, Acciari and Nordstrom have been somewhat the unsung heroes of this team. Unlike last season, where most of the reliance was on the first line, the Bruins have finally found the recipe for their recent success. As Hurricanes Coach Rod Brind’Amour noted:

“I kind of wish they were going off, to be honest with you. I wish we were sitting here going, ‘Man, how do we stop ‘em?’ Because you know eventually they’re going to get on the board and that is a little bit worrisome.

But that’s why they’re a good team. That’s why they’re still playing, that’s why they’re who they are because it’s not really about one line.

Even though they have a great line, they’ve got four good lines that they can roll out there and they’re not afraid to put anyone against anybody and that’s when you know you’ve got a team that’s cooking.”

With Thursday looming and a desperate Hurricanes team waiting in the wings, the Bruins will once again (as Coach Bruce Cassidy perfectly summed up) “need to create the storm”.

 

Bruins Give Gritty Forward Blidh Contract Extension

( Photo Credit: NHL.com / BostonBruins.com )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Over the weekend I was contacted by a close source that the Boston Bruins had a deal in place with forward Anton Blidh as the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins were going through their exit meetings. The exit meeting came as the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL Bruins were back in the Ocean State on Monday after being eliminated by the AHL’s best in the regular season the Charlotte Checkers. Although the Providence club made the postseason for the seventh straight year, they were no match for the powerful Checkers losing the first-round best-of-five opening series 3-1. I tweeted this below as soon as I heard the news and what do ya know, I pretty much nailed it.

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Well, the B’s did, in fact, lock up the 24-year-old Swedish native to a two-year, two-way contract worth an annual cap hit of $700K. Per Cap-Friendly, Anton was set to make $650K at the NHL level and $80K in the AHL, so with today’s official announcement, he could make around the same if he stays in the minor system and used as that depth player in case of emergency’s. Blidh was three points shy of tying his career high of 26 points (11-15-26 2017/18) in 71 games last season. This past regular season the hardnosed forward posted 10-13-23 numbers in 74 games during the 2018-19 campaign.

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The former sixth-round selection of the B’s in 2013 certainly brings an impactful dynamic when it comes to playing that power forward role. He can be a pest along the boards and around the top of the crease forcing loose pucks and creating lucky bounce chances. One of my favorite attributes to his game and role in the developing depth of the Providence organization is his willingness to have a teammates back and not afraid to throw down when the opposition is taking liberties. Erik K. Piri of the Elite Prospects website in 2014 said “Blidh is a gritty winger who plays with a lot of energy. Can kill penalties and is a terrific shot blocker. Also owns some offensive instincts and a willingness to go hard to the net. Loves to agitate and rile up opponents.” 

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In 21 career NHL games, Blidh has contributed a goal and an assist and in 263 career games in the AHL all with Providence, he has 41-38-79 numbers and 219 career penalty minutes. Career +27 in the AHL for those who love to talk plus/minus. It remains to be seen what’s going to happen to Anton when the question of where he could play. As fantastic twitter follower BruinsNetwork mentioned above, contracted players, especially on the fourth line, may have Blidh placed in Providence, or he could be that cap friendly asset if the NHL Bruins don’t want to entertain a Noel Acciari return in 2019-20.

No matter if Anton is placed in the NHL or AHL he’s going to continue to be a value in the depth of this organization and a player that can be inserted into any lineup at any time. His leadership was tested last season as he wore the “A” behind team Captain Jordan Szwarz and with Jordan currently on an expiring contract himself, Blidh could be a solid choice to be the leader if there’s a Szwarz offseason departure.

Boston Bruins: Four Games, Two Wins, Three Lines

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Photo Credit: Frank Gunn/AP

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

It doesn’t take a brilliant hockey mind to understand that the Bruins stole Game 4 from Toronto thanks to some big games from big names.

 

The Bruins, despite twice going up by two or more goals in the game, never seemed to have complete control, and their feeble attempt at staving off a Toronto comeback effort demonstrated how unstable their leads can be. Tuukka Rask allowed a bad goal, but he also played an outstanding hockey game. Game 4 was probably the strongest offensive effort the Leafs put together, pouring in four goals and matching their series high. Yet even as they were charging late having stolen every ounce of momentum, Rask was equal to the task (I hate that I just used that line), slamming the door on both the Leafs and Game 4.

The Bruins got solid games from their top defensive pairing and Brandon Carlo on the back end, with their top line and Charlie Coyle playing well up front. Outside of this group (and Rask) the Bruins played a “meh” hockey game. Maybe even “meh-minus.”

For the third time in four games, Toronto played a better hockey game than the Bruins. If not for the grace of Boston’s top dogs, the Bruins would be coming back to Boston down 3-1 with their backs secured firmly against the wall.

What’s encouraging about this scenario for Boston, is that they’ve essentially played four games (winning two of them), with just three lines. Butch Cassidy’s fourth forward unit of Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari, and Chris Wagner has been, to put it nicely, disappointing. While Nordstrom was able to score an empty netter with the game already decided last night, and even drew a critical penalty in the opening minutes of the game (which lead to a Charlie McAvoy BINGO), the unit as a whole put together another underwhelming game.

 

Kuraly, Please.

The string of playoff performances that this fourth line has compiled sheds a lot of light on just how valuable Sean Kuraly is to not just the fourth unit, but also the team as a whole. Sean Kuraly is the straw that stirs the fourth line drink. With Kuraly in the lineup, his speed makes the entire fourth unit faster and opens up the ice North/South. His ability to carry the puck with speed through the neutral zone drives offensive zone possession for Boston, something that is invaluable, especially coming from a fourth unit. Kuraly’s speed also allows him to be first on a lot of pucks that are dumped behind defensemen. While certainly this bodes well for Boston’s offense and scoring chances, it also (and almost more importantly) creates tougher minutes for Toronto’s defensemen. Forcing Toronto to play in their own end limits their energy and ability to bypass the Bruins’ forecheck with smooth and simple breakouts. Without Kuraly, the Black and Gold forecheck has been noticeably weaker (aside from Game 2). When examining the forechecking efforts of the fourth line specifically, they seem to lack the necessary speed to apply pressure in certain spots (Wagner, Acciari), and lack the necessary physicality to disrupt possession in others (Nordstrom). Kuraly will bring both physicality and speed to Toronto’s front door, and Game 2 showed just how important that is for the Bruins to succeed. To paraphrase the great Destiny’s Child, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

 

Kuraly’s role might be as significant to this team’s success as any fourth liner that I can remember. His presence on the fourth line makes the entire lineup deeper, and it opens up chances for other lines because it forces opponents to play tougher minutes. Toronto has shown that it is incapable of playing 60 solid minutes when presented with physicality and aggressiveness.

Having #52 rejoin will not only signal Kuraly’s return to the lineup, but it also signals the return of the fourth line to the Bruin’s rotation. Having Kuraly back means that Bruce Cassidy will have another line he can trust to put on the ice regularly, which will save the legs of the Bruins top scorers and open up the game for them to play as they are capable of. We got a glimpse of how good they can be in the playoffs on Wednesday night in Game 4. Imagine how good they will be when Kuraly’s line eats up some of their tougher minutes.

Put your Kuraly caps on! (I’ll see myself out.)

Moving Forward

As far as what the fourth line will look like upon Kuraly’s return, I think it’s anyone’s guess. While the Wagner-Acciari-Kuraly line had a lot of success during the year, it will be interesting to see if Cassidy doesn’t leave Nordstrom in for either Acciari or Wagner. While Nordstrom did outplay both of them, Acciari and Wagner’s chemistry with Kuraly might prove to be too significant to ignore.

If it were up to me, the fourth unit would feature Kuraly-Acciari-Kuhlman. Admittedly, while part of me thought that a “KKA” (pronounced “Ca-Caw”) line would have a cool nickname and be fun for Cassidy to shout when their time had come to grace the ice, I also think that this grouping brings the best balance of speed, skill, and physicality to the fourth line. And that’s a combination that the Bruins have been in dire need of for more than a week now.

In all likelihood, we will probably see either the WAK line or Nordstrom with Kuraly and Acciari. Either way, there’s no scenario in which Sean Kuraly returns and the Bruins’ fourth unit isn’t immediately miles ahead of where it was just days before.

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Photo Credit: Brad Penner/ USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins just got their swagger back. And are back on Garden ice. Uh-oh.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston at Detroit 3/30/19

bswings

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: Little Caesars Arena

Home: Detroit Red Wings (30-38-10)

Away: Boston Bruins (47-22-9)

Boston Starting Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Acciari – Backes

Defense

Krug – Carlo

Chara – McAvoy

Grzelcyk – Miller

Goaltenders

Halak

Rask

Detroit Starting Lineup

Forwards

Bertuzzi – Larkin – Mantha

Hirose – Athanasiou – Helm

Kuffner – Ehn – Frk

Puempel – Turgeon

Defense

Dekeyser – Bowey

Kronwall – Hronek

Chelios – McIlrath

Witkowski

Goaltenders

Howard

Fulcher

First Period

The Bruins were without Chris Wagner who did not take warmups. He was listed as out for the game with a lower-body injury and also listed as day-to-day. Karson Kuhlman stepped in and slotted on the right side with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on the second line.

Halfway through the first period, the play is beginning to pick up as the B’s and Wings traded chances. Detroit would take a 1-0 lead at the 10:26 mark when Dylan Larkin completed a perfect behind the back pass to wide-open Anthony Mantha who buried a top-shelf shot past Jaroslav Halak.

The Bruins headed to the power play when Andreas Athanasiou slashed David Krejci with 6:22 to go in the first. The Bruins third-ranked powerplay got to work with the top line, but the Bruins could not get anything going on the man advantage as the Red Wings killed it off.

After a commercial break, the Bruins had a little puck luck in the neutral zone. As Acciari carried the puck in the zone, he slid it over to David Backes who got slashed as he fired a shot wide to the glove side of Jimmy Howard. Chelios would head off for the Bruins second power play of the period with just under three minutes to play.

As the power play was expiring, Marchand tries to keep a bouncing puck in the zone, but it got by him. Darren Helm had a partial breakaway which was stopped by Halak, but Matt Grzelcyk was called for a slash. With one second to go, Anthony Mantha buried a slapper to the glove side of Halak, and the Red Wings took a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Score: 2-0 Detroit

Shots: Detroit-9 Boston-8

Second Period

Justs 2:01 into the period, David Krejci finds a streaking Jake DeBrusk down the slot in the Red Wings zone and wristed it over the blocker of Jimmy Howard for his 25th of the season and to get the Black and Gold on the board.

The Bruins began tilting the ice a little as they started connecting on some of their passes and creating chances in the offensive zone.

Anthony Mantha got a breakaway at the 8:12 mark looking for the hat-trick but Halak stood tall and made the save. Soon after, the Bruins were whistled for delay of game when Charlie McAvoy flipped the puck over the low glass. On the penalty, Bergeron and Marchand come in two-on-one. Bergeron sidesteps the sliding Mantha and slips a backhand feed to Marchand who one-timed it over the outstretched Jimmy Howard for the game-tying goal. With the goal, Brad Marchand became the Bruins all-time leading shorthanded goal scorer with 26.

The Bruins continued finding open space as Johansson and Marchand both had opportunities in down the left wing side with shots that were denied by Howard. However, Bertuzzi got a good chance in front of the Bruins net that Halak made a good pad save on.

Just seconds later, Luke Witkowski laid out Joakim Nordstrom at the Bruins blue line. The clean hard hit sent Nordstrom awkwardly into the boards after the nasty-looking, but clean body check. Noel Acciari came to the aid of his teammate and engaged with Witkowski in a fight. Acciari was assessed the instigator penalty which granted him 17 minutes in penalties with a two-minute penalty for instigating, five minutes for fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct.

In the final two minutes, David Krejci streaking up the left wing side gets a shot on Howard that ends up behind the net, Krejci then pokes the puck up to Kevan Miller at the point who wrists it and gets the deflection from David Backes for the Bruins lead with exactly one minute remaining.

The Bruins woke up in the second and began playing for one another again and took a 3-2 lead over Detroit into the second intermission

Score: Bruins 3 Detroit 2

Shots: Boston 17 Detroit 17

Third Period

As Jake DeBrusk sat for interference just a minute into the third, the Wings tied it up with a goal from you guessed it: Anthony Mantha. His first career hat-trick evened the game with 18:43 to go in the third.

Then, eight seconds later, Taro Hirose scored his first NHL goal as he snapped a one-timer after a fantastic feed by Andreas Athanasiou past Halak and just like that, the Bruins were playing from behind again.

The top line for Detroit continues to give the Bruins trouble in the defensive zone as another close call in front when Dylan Larkin tipped a shot that was handled by Halak. Bruins still trailing by one with half of the third period gone.

With 7:57 to go in the period, the Red Wings again hammered a one-timer by Halak. This time Filip Hronek buried one and Detroit took a two-goal lead with time dwindling for the Bruins.

Bruce Cassidy pulls Jaroslav Halak with four minutes remaining in the third as the Bruins need a pair to tie the game.

With 58 seconds left, Dylan Larkin virtually ends the game for the Red Wings with the empty-netter to make it 6-3 Detroit.

Final Score: Detroit 6 Boston 3

The Bruins will be in action next on Tuesday, April 2 in Columbus as they take on the Blue Jackets.

Check out the available tickets from our advertising partner SeatGiant for your next Boston Bruins game. Click the link below, and when purchasing any event ticket, from the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL to concerts and shows, please use discount code BNGP to save a little money. Thank You!  

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: Florida at Boston: 3/30/19

bruinsms17-e1552040570308Photo Courtesy Of Boston Herald

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Home: Boston Bruins (47-21-9)

Away: Florida Panthers (34-32-12)

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Johansson

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Heinen-Coyle-Wagner

Nordstrom-Acciari-Backes

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Florida’s Lineup

Forwards

Huberdeau-Barkov-Dadonov

Hoffman-Trocheck-Hawryluk

Sceviour-Borgstrom-Vatrano

Hunt-Sheahan-Brouwer

Defense

Yandle-Ekblad

Pysyk-Brown

Weegar-Matheson

Goalies

Luongo

Montembeault

First Period

Prior to puck drop, Chris Wagner received the Seventh Player Award for his solid work this season in his first year in black and gold.

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It was apparent that both teams had their skating games ready to go in the early moments of the game as they each got a few chances. The Bruins seemed to move the puck better in the opening moments of the period but weren’t able to solve Roberto Luongo. While the B’s weren’t able to find the back of the net they did put a lot of pressure on the Panthers by forcing a bunch of turnovers in the neutral zone.

The B’s continued to get shots on goal and at one point held an 11-2 advantage in that category. The Bruins would go to the penalty kill as Jake DeBrusk was called for tripping with about eight minutes left in the period. The B’s killed off the penalty as the Panthers failed to gain an offensive rhythm on the man advantage. Immediately following the power play, Riley Sheahan had the puck go in off of his body to give Florida the 1-0 lead.

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The Panthers doubled their lead as Evgenii Dadonov buried a rebound in front of Tuukka Rask for his 27th of the season with under five minutes left in the period.

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The Bruins responded with a couple of great shifts but Luongo and the Florida defense came up huge to maintain the two goal advantage.

Score: 2-0 Panthers

Second Period

The Bruins nearly cut the lead in half in first moments of the period but DeBrusk hit the post after an incredible feed from David Krejci from behind the net. The B’s continued to move the puck very well in the second period as they looked to get back into the game but Luongo continued to be sharp. The B’s skating game was very strong in the middle period as the flow of play continued to be in their favor.

The B’s continued to give the Panthers fits in their own zone but couldn’t find many good scoring chances as they attempted to cut the lead in half. Noel Acciari did just that with an incredible effort in front as he knocked in a loose puck past Luongo.

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The Bruins picked up their first power play of the day as Jonathan Huberdeau went off for interference as Boston looked to tie the game. Troy Brouwer fired home a wicked wrist shot while shorthanded to double the Florida lead yet again.

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The Bruins got their second power play of the game as Sheahan went to the box for slashing with over two minutes remaining in the period. The Panthers killed off the penalty as the B’s got a few chances in the offensive zone but it remained a two goal deficit.

Score: 3-1 Panthers

Third Period

The Bruins continued to have success in the Florida end in the early stages of the final period but still were unable to cut into the lead. Both Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand got back to back great scoring chances but couldn’t solve Luongo who stood tall. The Panthers responded with a couple solid shifts as they looked to extend their advantage. The Bruins continued to dominate in the offensive zone but had nothing to show for it almost midway through the third period.

The Panthers continued to turn the puck over a ton in the final period as the Bruins did a good job to create them but just weren’t able to convert them into goals. Rask was busier in the third period and did a good job to keep the Bruins in the game as the clock started to become a factor.

The Panthers finally began to play well defensively as the game drew to a close as they sensed the desperation from the Bruins. Rask went to the bench with about three minutes to play. Dadonov iced the game with an empty net goal with 2:19 to go, his second of the game.

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Final Score: 4-1 Panthers

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Luongo. The veteran goaltender was at his very best in this one as he turned back every shot except for the Acciari goal in the second period.

Second Star: Dadonov. The Florida winger had a solid effort with two goals as the Panthers scored a big win against the B’s.

Third Star: Acciari. The fourth line grinder had another solid game as he added a goal to go along with a couple of nice hits.

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