BNG Hockey Talk Ep. 9 With Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast YouTuber Cameron Young

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By Cameron Young | Follow me on Twitter @cmoney008

In my latest video uploaded to my YouTube channel, I look back at my 2019/20 NHL Awards prediction video. In this upload, talk about what went through my head during the predictions and discussing the award winners. Check it out below and please subscribe to my YouTube Channel and turn notifications on to be updated when a new video is published. 

  • Hart: 2:04
  • Lady Byng: 4:23
  • Vezina: 6:11
  • Calder: 7:44
  • Norris: 9:29
  • Ted Lindsey: 11:34
  • Jack Adams: 12:24
  • Selke: 13:48
  • Jim Gregory: 15:11

The Bruins may be out of the playoffs, but that won’t stop the content from being produced. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @cmoney008 and please consider subscribing to the YouTube Channel HERE!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 195 that we recorded below on 9-20-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Zdeno Chara “Made For This” Bruins Docuseries Debuts!

(Photo Credit: NHLonNBCSports)

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

It feels like we’ve “seen it all” these past few seasons from the Boston Bruins. Heart-pounding games. Heart-breaking losses. Memorable moments. Forgettable flops. Truly, everything from A – Z!

Well, when it comes to the letter of a specific B’s sweater, one Black N’ Gold Captain can now share how he’s truly made for this… for the team, the town, the sport and perhaps even one more go-around at The Cup.

NBCSN debuted a brand new docuseries on beloved Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara entitled Z: Made For This. And to say it’s been a career in the making would be an understatement. More like a lifetime.

From the official press release:

Zdeno Chara: Made For This, a four-episode docuseries celebrating the historic career of Boston Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara and detailing his first-person account of childhood, family and on-ice leadership as a member of the Boston Bruins for the past nearly year-and-a-half, will premiere tonight at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, leading into the 2020 NHL Awards presented by Las Vegas program. An encore presentation of the episode will air following NHL Overtime at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Zdeno Chara: Made For This, produced by Shadow Lion, chronicles Chara’s journey to NHL stardom and followed “Big Z” throughout the teams run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, the offseason, as well as the 2019-20 regular and postseason, which has been a season unlike any other, with the NHL’s 142-day pause in play due to COVID-19.

The first episode features interviews with Bruins teammates Patrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak and Brad Marchand as they battle against the St. Louis Blues to a Game 7 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, but also touch on the passion and leadership of Chara on and off the ice.

A trailer for Zdeno Chara: Made For This can be viewed here.

Throughout the series, a number of Bruins teammates, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Chara’s family members are interviewed, who touch on the character of the Bruins captain throughout Boston and his native Slovakia.

The second episode will premiere on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, leading into a one-hour edition of NHL Live that begins pre-game coverage of Game 3 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Air dates for episodes three and four of Zdeno Chara: Made For This will be announced in the near future.

As the release notes, Part Two (in what will undoubtedly “B” an epic series) premieres before the start of game three of the Stanley Cup Finals this week. Future episode air-dates will be released at a later date. That certainly sounds like date-night viewing, in my humble hockey opinion!

Here’s to “Big Z”. Hopefully, unlike the eponymous alphabetical letter of the D-man-led docuseries, this won’t be the last time we get to see him in a Bruins jersey.

Check out the latest BN’G Podcast Episode 195 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

And make sure to check out, follow and subscribe to our ever-growing BN’G YouTube Channel for tons of Boston & Providence Bruins Content!

Evaluating The Bruins Leadership Group

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Joey Partridge | Follow Me On Twitter @joey_partridge

On-ice performance, at the end of the day, is what people tend to judge a hockey team by. However, what if I were to tell you that the on-ice portion of a hockey team is actually a minimal part of what goes on with a hockey team?

As a college hockey player myself, I can say that what goes on in the locker room plays a huge part in how the team plays on the ice, and it all starts with a strong leadership group. Sure, you can argue that the head coach can control all of that, but the fact of the matter is they can’t. If you have a great coach but poor leadership and character in the locker room, it just isn’t going to work.

This is where I love the Boston Bruins. On the ice, they’re a great team, and no one is disputing that. Off the ice, they’re an even better team. That group of guys in that locker room is so tight-knit that the usual bumps and bruises that teams go through don’t seem to faze the Bruins, and it starts with the captains.

Zdeno Chara is a world-class human being. Everything you hear about that man is positive and upbeat. He has been the captain of the Boston Bruins ever since he stepped in in 2006. To be able to lead a team for that long and for all the success they have had, he deserves a lot of credit.

( Photo Credit: Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images )

Leadership doesn’t just mean the captain, however. There is also a man by the name of Patrice Bergeron. Ever heard of him? Bergeron would be the captain on almost every other NHL team, but since Chara has been there and been the captain, he is the alternate captain. Bergeron doesn’t complain about his role at all, which is what makes this group so unique.

Further down the list, you have the other veterans such as David Krejci and Brad Marchand, who split time wearing the ‘A’ on their sweater. Notice anything about all of these guys? They are all veterans and are on the backside of 30 or 40 in Chara’s case. Chara is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and there is some uncertainty about whether he will be back. Krejci is entering his last season on his deal as well. So, who is up next to lead this team?

Barring anything unforeseen, Bergeron will be wearing the ‘C’ for the Boston Bruins when Chara does eventually hang them up. After that, it can get interesting. Marchand and Krejci will still be leaders, but I am interested to see what happens with the younger core. Does a guy like David Pastrnak turn into a leader and prove he can teach the even younger guys?

The one player that I believe will take a huge step not only in developing his own game but turn into a big leader moving forward is Charlie McAvoy. That is one asset of hockey you can’t really teach, and he just has it. He was an alternate captain in his sophomore (yes, you read that right, sophomore) year at Boston University. He was named the alternate captain to the United Staes world junior team that won gold in January of 2017. He has been a leader before, and I believe the Bruins are in good hands with this younger core.

( Photo Credit: Claus Andersen / Getty Images North America )

As I mentioned, the off-ice leadership plays a huge role in the team’s success. Bruce Cassidy has stepped in and turned this team into contenders right away, but he doesn’t take all the credit for himself. “I think this leadership group is second to none,” Cassidy said, entering the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. “I’ve said that probably since my second week on the job here. Those guys are fantastic, and they sure make a coach’s job a lot easier.”

With all the speculation about who the Bruins will add to the roster, it can be tough to remember who they do have. They have a great core of leaders now, and they have a great core of upcoming leaders. Try not to stress Bruins fans; they have a good thing going and look to continue that for years to come.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 195 that we recorded below on 9-21-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Is Pasta a 2nd Line Dish That Could Be Served For The Bruins In 2020/21?

( Photo Credit: Getty Images )

by Matt Barry | Follow me on Twitter @oobcards

When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, production was coming from all four lines. Even in 2019, the additions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson provided depth and solid 5 on 5 play from the third line. But the second line has provided inconsistent play and was a detriment to Bruce Cassidy’s team in the second round against a deeper Tampa Bay Lightning team this past season. A major offseason focus should be to finally get David Krejci a legitimate scorer on the right-wing. Could it be that the answer is already on the roster?

The “Perfection Line” of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak is widely considered one of the top lines in the National Hockey League. In recent seasons, the trio has dominated 5-on-5 play and had been a threat to score nearly every shift. However, this past season, the Bruins production numbers at even strength dipped which included their top line. The Bruins scored just five even-strength goals in their five-game series with Tampa Bay. The power play was excellent all season, but even-strength play will need to improve for the Black and Gold to get back to contending for a Stanley Cup.

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General manager Don Sweeney will certainly attempt to address this need in the offseason. The Bruins could look outside of the organization to fill the second line right wing hole or try to give Ondrej Kase more time to build chemistry with David Krejci. The more creative move might be to move Pastrnak, one of the top goal scorers in the league, to the second line and give Krejci his first real goal-scoring threat since Nathan Horton. If Jake DeBrusk is re-signed, Boston could have a second line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak. This would be more effective if someone like 21-year old Jack Studnicka, who showed flashes of being a top-six forward at the NHL level. The team could also deal DeBrusk and try to get a more consistent scorer who can possess the puck.

I would not advise the team to move third-line center Charlie Coyle up to the second line. Coyle has been terrific on the third line with his size and physicality. Ideally, Anders Bjork could continue to develop with Coyle or coach Bruce Cassidy could possibly slide Kase down to third-line duty. It will be imperative for Sweeney and team President Cam Neely to create more offensive attack across all four lines. The fourth line should still have Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly providing good puck pursuit and some scoring ability. Former University of Wisconsin star Trent Frederic could slot in on that line as Joakim Nordstrom will probably not be retained. Par Lindholm has one year left on his deal, but did not provide much offensive production.

Having Pasta play with Krejci on the second line could create the offensive balance the team seeks. Much of this scenario depends on Studnicka. The thought here is that the team gives Studnicka a long, hard look on the first line. If it works out, it could provide a much better result than the team could find elsewhere, and at a much cheaper cost. If not, the Bruins will need to use money and, possibly, resources to find a linemate for Krejci.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Should The Boston Bruins Trade Youth For Experience?

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards

As the National Hockey League offseason approaches, The Boston Bruins seem to be at a crossroads when it comes to their roster for the 2020-21 season and beyond. General manager Don Sweeney will look to add some pieces to a squad that won the President’s Trophy as the best team in the league before the pandemic hit. When the team returned to play, a second-round exit was just around the corner, exposing some of the flaws that prevented the Bruins from reaching their ultimate goal.

First, we must consider the salary cap situation that faces Sweeney. Defenseman Torey Krug is an unrestricted free agent and seeking top dollar on the open market. The Bruins have approximately fifteen million dollars available and signing Krug seems to be a long shot. The void created by Krug’s departure creates a hole on the blue line and on the power play. The Bruins are already thin on the left side defensively. In-house options for Sweeney are young defensemen Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril who have each played sparingly at the NHL level. Let’s keep in mind that the Bruins Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011 had only one defenseman younger than 27, and that was Adam McQuaid.

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Another left-shot defenseman, Zdeno Chara is approaching 44 years old and wants to return for maybe one last season with the team. The Bruins will probably sign him, but his skills have declined and he has struggled to match the speed of today’s game. Matt Grzelcyk is a restricted free agent and would be a logical choice to assume some of Krug’s responsibilities and ice time, but he is 26, and taking on a bigger role has its risks.

The 2011 team had a great mix of young talent and wily veterans. Brad Marchand was 22, Tyler Seguin was 19, and even Patrice Bergeron was only 25 years old at the time. The question for next season’s Bruins team is; Can the Bruins expect to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender by filling their needs with some of their younger, inexperienced players? Or does Sweeney go all-in for one last time to get one more ring for Bergeron, Chara, and David Krejci while mortgaging some of the future?

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Let’s consider two factors when determining how to shape the roster. The expansion draft will take place after next season, as the Seattle Kraken creates its very first roster. All teams will have to decide whether to keep eight players and one goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The team has suggested that they will choose the latter, meaning that any roster addition could be added to that group. Also, winger Jake DeBrusk is a restricted free agent along with Grzelcyk which presents a decision for the Bruins. The team would like to bring back DeBrusk, who will turn 24 years old in October, but the second-line left wing has stated that he could be seeking five million dollars per year. You would have to think that the Bruins would not want to commit quite that much salary to a fairly inconsistent player.

The options are to trade DeBrusk, Grzelcyk, or maybe even young right-shot defenseman Brandon Carlo, who will be a restricted free agent after next season. Or the Bruins could just re-sign DeBrusk and Grzelcyk now and then Carlo next offseason. The issue would be that the roster would not see much change and the cap would prevent a major free agent signing like former number one pick Taylor Hall or move for defenseman Matt Dumba from Minnesota or former Boston College star forward Johnny Gaudreau. Signing DeBrusk and Grzelcyk does not leave the team with much cap room when the next trade deadline arrives. In 2011, the Bruins relied heavily on veterans such as Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder, and Gregory Campbell. Will there be Bruins prospects who can step in and play important roles on a Stanley Cup contender?

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The Bruins could also use some young players in their system for trade bait. Anders Bjork makes an affordable salary and could be traded as could restricted free agents Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn. Sweeney will have to decide if Bjork can be a factor on the third line after creating some chemistry with Charlie Coyle and if Trent Frederic can slot into a fourth-line role to replace Joakim Nordstrom who will likely not be re-signed. Look to Sweeney banking on 21-year old, rookie center Jack Studnicka to be inserted into a top-six role. If Studnicka can produce, he may be the 2020-21 version of Seguin and be a great low-cost value.

Look for the Bruins to try to sign Grzelcyk to a deal similar to Carlo’s last deal, which was a two-year bridge deal at roughly three million dollars annually. DeBrusk’s negotiations might be a little stickier. Sweeney’s hand may be forced to deal DeBrusk for a similar player who would be a little more cost-effective. I see DeBrusk re-signing with the Bruins for maybe four million per year over three years. I would think that the Bruins would certainly want to move John Moore’s $2.75 million contract. Ondrej Kase might also be someone on the block as Sweeney could look to gain some draft picks while trimming salary.

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Many moving parts will happen this offseason, and Sweeney, who went to Harvard, will have to use all of his book smarts to create some roster flexibility while being mindful of the cap and upcoming expansion draft. I do not see the roster having many additions from outside the organization, as there are some intriguing options within. The management of the Bruins has been loyal to the core of this group for years, and other than the departure of Krug, I see that continuing for at least one more year.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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


In Hindsight, 2020 Playoffs Looked Like Many Past Bruins Campaigns

( Photo Credit: Stan Grossfeld / Globe Staff )

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

There’s no masking it for the Boston Bruins.

Not now during the pandemic of 2020. Not then during the pandemonium of 2019 (pictured above). And not way-back-when, panning back to the mid 70’s, late 80’s, early 90’s and forgettable “00” oughts (when the team was often panned).

When it comes to playoff performance, the B’s have only ever hit their “peak” twice since 1970 — first in 1972 as a followup to the historic Orr-in-Four Cup run. And then once more in 2011 when this current Bruins core was in its prime.

So, how is it that Boston teams within these past fifty years of Hub Hockey are always primed for playoff success, yet rarely ever achieve it (and you best “B”-lieve I’m talking about the ultimate playoff success of winning the Stanley Cup; none of these “learning moment” milestones)?

You could blame it on the coaching over that timespan — everyone from Harry Sinden to Bruce Cassidy with the likes of Don Cherry, Gerry Cheevers, Terry O’Reilly, Mike Milbury and Claude Julien in-between to name a few B’s bench bosses.

BUT… many are HHOF-caliber coaches (if not Jack Adams Award-winners like the recently-lauded Cassidy) and most, if not all, got the Bruins to the Cup Finals once or twice (including Julien who was a part of the aforementioned celebratory ’11 success).

Then how about ownership and management? Surely the B’s brass and money men should shoulder the load of early playoff exits and late-round collapses over the last half-century, especially when they bungled so many trade deadlines and salary caps (finger-pointing at you Monsieurs Sinden & Chiarelli)!

THEN AGAIN, the B’s nearly did win three more Stanley Cups under their leadership (’88, ’90 and ’13) with less-tenured GM’s like Mike O’Connell and Don Sweeney also making near-Cup-winning runs (and yes, the pre-lockout ’04 Bruins team was one of the best I’ve seen). So it can’t be that, can it?

Let’s lay the blame on the players then! If you’ve got perennial All-Stars, top scorers, elite defenders and Vezina-worthy goaltenders with names like Orr & Espo / Moog & Lemelin / Bourque & Neely / Bergy, Marchy & Big Z … then there’s no way your team can turn up more L’s than W’s in big games, important moments and clinching finales, right?

Unfortunately, wrong (with uncomfortable attention payed to the ill-fated “Too Many Men on the Ice Game” of 1979, the “Lights Out at the Garden Game” of 1988, the gut-wrenching “Game 7 OT Oopses” of 2009 & 2012, and the “Must-Win Home Heartbreaks” of 1971, 1982, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2013 and most recently 2019).

YET, we all understand no team can win every year (unless of course you’re the Canadiens, Islanders or Oilers of your era) and that the Bruins did have their fair share of more-than-memorable comebacks, OT thrillers and series victories that truly felt like winning the Cup. And why most were against the Toronto Maple Leafs will always be a point never worth questioning but always worth smiling about!

SO, how can we truly knock our fan favorites, our boys who always bleed Black N’ Gold no matter the jersey, just because some years they come up short of that all-too-familiar ultimate goal?

Because… and I hate to say it since I’m so often guilty of it… it’s easy and we’re used to it; sure as hell more used to it than seeing the B’s win, close it out, move on and hoist the Cup. In fact, in my Reagan Era-born lifetime alone, I’ve now watched four other celebrations where Lord Stanley’s coveted chalice was kept from my beloved Bruins. Add in my father, it’s seven disappointments. Add in my late grandfather, it’s twelve!

SURE, there were a few parades in Boston during that stretch (only six altogether) but not enough to cover up the almosts, the could-have-beens, the this-was-ours moments that were missed. There will never be enough of those for Bruins fans.

( Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman / Getty Images )

And that’s okay. We want to win. We love to win. We expect to win, especially in the 21st-century now dubbed the “Boston Sports Dynasty” years. But until we win again… playing the blame game and panning our team is something we’ll continue to do.

Because, like the B’s coming up short against the Lightning (add the years 2018 and 2020 to the growing list of game-related gripes), we’re good at it. Always have been. Always will be.

There’s no masking it in Boston.

Check out the latest BN’G Podcast Episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Boston Bruins Offseason Outlook

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson / AP Photo )

By: Joey Partridge | Follow Me On Twitter @joey_partridge

The Boston Bruins surely have an interesting offseason ahead of them. After losing to the Lightning in five games, you can tell that they were just merely outplayed. But what does this mean for the team going forward?

You have people calling to trade everybody and restart from the ground up, and the overreactions are through the roof. That’s the intensity of this fanbase for you, which is a good thing. Boston is a very passionate fanbase, and they care for this team.

People forget that the Bruins won the President’s Trophy and were the only team to reach the 100-point mark in the shortened regular season. They were firing on all cylinders heading into what would’ve been the normal postseason. The hiatus in the season due to COVID-19 came at a very unfortunate time for the Bruins. Even though we didn’t see the Bruins we are used to in the Toronto bubble, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Bruins are still contenders, and they will be next year too.

( Photo Credit: Chris Christo / MediaNews Group / Boston Herald )

Let’s not kid ourselves either, though. The Bruins should make some offseason moves to bolster their roster and have a great run next year. Others seem to think that Boston will be active. “I think Boston’s going to be really interesting. I think they’ve decided they need more scoring, and I think they’re going to have some big decisions to make about what that’s going to mean for them. I think they’re definitely one of the teams to watch,” Elliotte Friedman said on SN960.

Everybody knows what the Bruins biggest problem has been over the past couple of years, and that’s secondary scoring. The Bruins goaltending duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak is one of, if not the, best in the league. The Bruins also have a great defense core mixed with veterans and young studs. Even if Torey Krug does leave this free agency period, their defense will still be great. The first line will give you what they have, but then after that is where the production falls off. I’d go as far as to say that after Jarome Iginla left, the Bruins have been itching to find David Krejci a second-line right-wing, and it hasn’t worked out so far.

The first line is most likely the best line in the whole entire league. The problem is that if other teams can shut them down, the Bruins odds of winning decrease dramatically. Tampa Bay did a great job of neutralizing Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, and the outcome of the series shows what happens when teams are able to do that.

Saying there is a lack of secondary scoring doesn’t mean that the Bruins don’t have talent below the top line. David Krejci is one of the most underrated players in the league. However, he is a playmaker, and his wingers are typically the goal scorers. Look at the 2011 Bruins team that won the cup. Milan Lucic was on Krejci’s left, and Nathan Horton was on his right, and we all know how clutch Horton was.

Now let’s compare that to their current roster. Jake Debrusk is a great player, but even Bruce Cassidy has said it. He can be streaky. That doesn’t diminish his talent, but his goal-scoring was needed. Ondrej Kase is the same way. He was flying around out there, making good plays in the corner and competing, but he wasn’t scoring. You can even say the same for Anders Bjork on the third line. The effort is there, the production was not.

Don Sweeney sure has his hands full this offseason. He has four unrestricted free agents that he’ll have to decide whether to sign or let go. Those are Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Joakim Nordstrom, and Kevan Miller. The three restricted free agents that most likely will return barring any trades or offer sheets are Jake Debrusk, Matt Grzelyck, and Karson Kuhlman. Sweeney has hinted at some moves this offseason. “We’re looking to make some changes in our group,” Sweeney said.

What exactly could these changes be? Who knows? We have seen Sweeney be aggressive like on draft day in 2015, but we have also seen him be more relaxed in the past couple of years. Does he take a run at a top free agent like Taylor Hall? Does he trade some of the young talent for a proven goal scorer? Only time will tell, but it gives the Bruins faithful something to be excited about.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below on 9-13-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Predicting The Future Performance of the Bruins Veteran Core

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me on Twitter @LeonLifschutz

Introduction

In Part One of this series we took a look at aging curves. We also determined who makes up the Bruins’ core group of players. Today, in Part Two, we will use that information to take a look at the trajectory of the Bruins’ veteran core which we have identified as Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Tuukka Rask. This group is made up of a number of iconic players for this generation of Bruins’ fans. These players have been part of an incredibly successful run in Bruins’ history including winning the ultimate prize in 2011. Each have also enjoyed individual success and they have all received votes for post-season league awards during their careers. However, the youngest player in this group is now 32 years old. Three have contracts expiring now or after next season. Sports are fickle and playing careers do not have the longevity of other lines of work. As a reminder, here is a look at a typical aging curve over several metrics.

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So what can we expect for each individual player moving forward? And how might their future performance as a group effect the Bruins’ chances to win it all in the coming seasons? David Krejci sure believes the window is still open.

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With those words in mind, lets break it down and see if Krejci is correct.

Patrice Bergeron

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Contract Status: $6,875,000 AAV, 2021-22

What We Learned: Bergeron, as everyone knows, is impressive. He has continued to play at a high level into his mid-30s. However, Bergeron is showing some signs of slowing down. While his goal scoring has actually gone up a little due to a strong shooting percentages he has seen some dips in first assists, total points, and shot metrics. His 5v5 play has also started to dip the last couple of seasons though it is still on par with his data from his late 20s. His possession metrics are still elite but not the absurd numbers from his late 20s. Being a key cog on one of the best powerplays helps keeps the numbers up.

Outlook: While Bergeron is talented, he succeeds based on his hockey IQ and attention to detail, items that age more gracefully. The following illustrates this perfectly.

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He should continue being an effective player for at least a few more years with contributions on the scoresheet and in many other key facets of the game. He is also the heir apparent to Chara whenever the latter decides to retire or move on. Expect Bergeron’s totals to start slowly decreasing though as his shooting percentage regresses and he slows down a touch. 30 goals and 60 points is reasonable to expect the next couple of seasons if he can stay healthy. Health though needs to be considered as Bergeron has not played close to a complete season since 2016-17. It may also be wise to continue decreasing the heavier matchups and defensive expectations against other team’s top lines as has already been the trend the last couple of seasons.

David Krejci

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Contract Status: $7,250,000 AAV, 2020-21

What We Learned: Krejci’s steady decline has already begun. With the exception of goal scoring, his numbers are down across the board. If you exclude a 2018-19 resurgence as an outlier the picture is worse. His numbers are also propped up by strong performance on the powerplay which offsets declining 5v5 production. Krejci has seen declining possession metrics though he still comes out on the positive end of the goals for battle.

Outlook: Krejci is no doubt still a talented player who contributes to the team. The silky passer has also not had a true scoring winger on his flank for a couple of years now and has played a lot of minutes with the enigmatic Jake Debrusk. Krejci will likely continue his decline. His defensive responsibility and powerplay contributions though continue to provide value until the expiration of his contract next season. Beyond that, he is likely better suited for third line minutes and the Bruins will need to sign him on a shorter term contract with a lower cap hit or consider moving on.

Brad Marchand

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Contract Status: $6,125,000 AAV, 2024-25

What We Learned: Marchand hit a turning point in his career in his late 20s. When most players are leveling off or declining, Marchand decided to get serious and turn himself into a top liner instead of a middle-6 pest. His career turn was impressive and welcome by the team and fans. In the past few years, Marchand has shown some signs of leveling off and in some instances slowing down. In particular, Marchand’s goal totals have begun to tail off. However he has redefined himself again adding a little more play making to his repertoire. It certainly helps playing with David Pastrnak when it comes to assists. He has also dialed down the physical stuff a bit over the last couple of seasons.

Outlook: The youngest of the veteran core, Marchand’s numbers should be steady for a couple more years. However, expect his goal scoring production to decrease as his straight line attacking game ages. He should remain dynamic on the powerplay but at even strength start to wane. Marchand can still be counted on for top line minutes but expect his numbers to drop slightly into the 25 goal and 50 assist range in the near future. That still puts him near a point a game pace for the next couple of seasons. His production will likely continue to dip further before the end of his lengthy contract which doesn’t end until he is 37.

Zdeno Chara

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Contract Status: UFA

What We Learned: Chara once had a stretch of 11 straight seasons receiving Norris trophy votes. Those days are long behind him. Chara’s offensive production has continued to nosedive, not a surprise given his age. However his possession numbers tanked this past season after remaining above average in recent years.

Outlook: It’s doubtful that Chara’s production or play driving improve moving forward and this past season is likely best case scenario moving forward. Chara obviously brings more to the team than just statistics. Having said that, Big Z should likely be relegated to third pair minutes along with penalty kill and closing out game duties. The latter two he continues to do quite well. Asking more of that from Chara is too much and a detriment to a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Tuukka Rask

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Contract Status: $7,000,000 AAV, 2020-21

What We Learned: Rask hit his peak at 25. He then had a steady decline before bouncing back a little at 30. He saw decreases in overall play and consistency over that time. Rask’s numbers the past several years prior to this one are slightly above league average. However, at 32, Rask had his best season in years en route to a number of Vezina trophy votes.

Outlook: It would be irresponsible to consider this season for Rask anything but an outlier. Players rarely have a career renaissance in their 30s and expecting another run at the Vezina is unlikely. However it would be fair to expect Rask, in the final year of his contract, to continue playing a little above league average. With the Bruins tight defensive structure, and Rask’s ability to occasionally steal a game, his presence should continue affording the Bruins a chance to win night in and night out.

Conclusion

The Bruins key veterans have generally performed better than the typical aging curve would suggest. Their performances were good enough to make the Stanley Cup final in 2018-19 and win the President’s Trophy in an abbreviated 2019-20. Even with normal aging curves, we can expect them to still be strong performers and potentially lead the Bruins’ on another playoff run. Bergeron and Marchand should generally continue their strong play though they will likely start slowing down in certain facets of their games. Chara’s role has already been redefined in recent years and that trend needs to continue. Krejci’s role may need to change as well, though he is still a dependable middle-6 center. Rask should not be expected to duplicate his Vezina nominated season but is a reliable starter.

There is no question that the window is narrowing and our conclusion is that 2020-21 will be the final hurrah this group. Between decreasing performances and expiring contracts it is a strong possibility that Chara, Krejci, and Rask all move on to retirement or other teams in 2021. It would be poor asset management for Sweeney and company to expect the current level of performance from the three and extend them for term and money into the twilight of their careers. In a flat cap world, if any of them want to stay Bruins they will have to do so on team friendly contracts. Having said that, these players deserve the opportunity to give it one more run before the band gets broken up.

It is also apparent that to be a true cup contender in the coming year the Bruins will need more support for their veterans from their young core. Beyond next year, the young core will need to step up and take control of the franchise’s destiny. With that in mind, join us for Part Three when we examine the Bruins young core and forecast if they are up for the challenge.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 193 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Predicting The Future Performance Of The Bruins’ Core Part One

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me on Twitter @LeonLifschutz

Introduction

Since the Bruins second round exit, fans have already turned their attention to next season. This past week, my BNG colleague Mike Cratty looked at what a homerun offseason could look like examining some possible options for the Bs in free agency and the trade market. Much has also been made of what could become of the Bruins core. Will Zdeno Chara retire? It looks like not. Will Torey Krug move on in free agency? Sounds like there is a good chance. What of the rest of the veteran core, now well into their 30s and with lots of regular season and playoff miles? Colleague Matt Barry believes there is still some time for this group. David Krejci, who earlier in the year bristled at the question of the group’s age, agrees sharing the following sentiment.

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NHL front offices are tasked with a number of things including predicting the future. They do so every time they make their rosters whether it be player acquisition or doling out contracts. It is not an exact science. Players are human after all. They get injured, have personal lives, don’t always fit in a system, and sometimes get unlucky. The one thing that happens to every player though – they get older. Getting older can be a good a thing. Moving into their early 20s players gain strength, experience, and better decision making (well, most of us do). But at some point in time, as all of us adult league heroes know, age catches up with you and things are just a little harder than they used to be.

In this three part series we will do our best Don Sweeney impressions to try and predict what the future might have in store for key Bruins’ players. In part one, we will examine what aging curves can tell us about player performance. We will also discuss who makes up the current core and who could make up the next wave. In part two, we will look at the veteran core, players who have been around since the Bruins last Stanley Cup and continue to drive the bus. In part three, we will look at the players that make up the young core, supplementing the veterans and who have the ability to influence both the present and future of the storied original six franchise. For both groups, we will examine each players current trends and make predictions about their outlook and expected performance for the upcoming seasons.

Examining Aging Curves

There has been a number of studies on how aging effects player performances. The first significant study came from Hawerchuck in 2013 and look at points per game. More recently, the folks at Hockey Graphs and Evolving Wild have been using a comprehensive WAR (wins above replacement) stat to examine year over year performance. For our purposes, we are going to lean heavily on the work of Eric Tulsky who looked at agings impact on year over year scoring rates, goal scoring versus playmaking, and possession numbers. The folks at Hockey Graphs also looked at goalie aging curves . At the risk of oversimplifying, goalies have similar trajectories to skaters. Here is a visual of aging curves on a number of different stats.

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So what are our key takeaways from all this great research and the nice visuals? First, NHL players peak around 24. They stay at their peaks until about 28. At that point they start to slowly decline with the trend becoming more significant into the early 30s. By the mid 30s, players typically fall off a cliff. The effect of age is most noticeable on goal scorers. Playmakers can hang on for a little bit longer. On the powerplay, players stay at their peak a little longer with strong performances, though not peak, in the early 30s before falling off a cliff in their mid 30s. Possession numbers, generally speaking, mimic point production. Defenders and goalies may be able to hang on a year or two longer but generally follow a similar curve.

For our purposes we will look at Bruins’ players offensive numbers and possession numbers. I’ve grouped points into all situations for a couple of reasons. First, the Bruins rely heavily on their power play. Second it made the visuals look a little cleaner I will be sure to point out any situations where the numbers have noise, for example in the case of David Krejci. For offensive production I’ve chosen goals, total points, first assists, and individual expected goals. First assists are more indicative of player performance than second assists, which can be pretty random. For possession, I’ve chosen Corsi (shot attempts) and expected goals percentage. All player stats were converted to per 60 minutes rate stats to avoid discrepancies due to injury or average time on ice. For the goalie position I’ve chosen goals saved above average (GSAA) and quality starts. All stats come from Natural StatTrick and Hockey Reference.

The Bruins Core Players

Our first task is to decide who makes up the Bruins’ core. There is some debate over how many players make up a core. For Pittsburgh it’s been just three players – Crosby, Malkin, and Letang. For other teams its been more like five to six players that management has tried to build their team around. St. Louis last year had close to ten regulars who were long term parts of their team and core. For our purposes we will count a player as a part of the core if we anticipate they can have a strong impact on team performance and they will be a long term member of the team. Being a long term member means they are under contract or under team control with little expectation of being traded.

The Veteran Core – With those parameters in mind, our older core is made up of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and Zdeno Chara. All five have been Bruins for more than a decade with three being draft picks and four never playing for another NHL franchise. Inclusion of Chara can be debated but with his recent comments its hard not to picture Big Z playing for the Bruins next year. He is still the captain and averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game this past season. Torey Krug was considered for this list but he doesn’t have the longevity of the others on the list and there is a decent chance he leaves in free agency.

The Young Core – The young core was a little harder to determine but we ended up with David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Charlie Coyle, Jake Debrusk, and Brandon Carlo. David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy were easy choices. The two already lead the team in several statistical categories and are on team friendly long-term contracts. Charlie Coyle is the third player included on the list. Coyle is an all situations player trusted by the coaching staff to the point it’s not surprising to see him lead all Bruins’ forwards in ice time in some games. The 28 year old is also locked up long term team to a reasonable contract. The last two members of our young core are Brandon Carlo and Jake Debrusk. There was debate among my BNG colleagues over the inclusion of those two. However, they seem like two young players with the likelihood of staying power. Both are under team control for a number of years and already play in the top half of the lineup. It really seems like the Bruins coaching staff and management are hoping Carlo and Debrusk can keep growing and help the team in substantial ways.

Conclusion

We have examined aging curves and how they can help us in predicting player’s future performance. We have also decided who makes up our veteran core and our young core. With that in mind, please join us in part two when we examine how much tread is left on the veterans. We will follow that up with part three where we will try and forecast what the peak performance could be for the younger core of players. After our exploration of both groups we will do our best to draw some conclusions around how long this iteration of the Bruins’ has left in it’s Stanley Cup window.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

The Bruins Window- Is It Still Open A Crack?

( Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe via Getty Images )

By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards

And just like that, another Boston Bruins season ended with disappointment. On March 12, 2020, the Bruins were the best team in the NHL and looking to avenge a heartbreaking Game 7 loss at home to St. Louis to end the 2019 campaign. The mission was to win another Stanley Cup for their aging group of stars. They wanted one more Cup for Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Zdeno Chara. They had won in 2011, but a lot of players win one. Winning another would stamp their legacies in Bruins lore.  The drive was there to win.  

Then the pandemic happened….

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The league would go on a nearly five-month hiatus. Not a great layoff for older, creaky joints. The league set a restart date for August 1st.  But, the schedule and structure of the return did not favor the Bruins…at all. The league allowed the top four teams in each conference to fight for the number one seed. Some teams saw a great opportunity while the Bruins did not know the value of competing for a top seed with no home-ice advantage. Well, unless you are passionate about the last change. So the Bruins treated it like a preseason schedule and lost all three games. So now, the Bruins were the fourth seed after winning the President’s Trophy as the league’s best team in an abbreviated season.

Many would say that this contributed to their earlier than expected exit from the playoffs, but somehow it feels more than that. During the hiatus, the Tampa Bay Lightning became the better team and it showed as it took just five games to defeat the defending Eastern Conference champions and the pre-pandemic top team in the league. The Bruins won game one, but that was their best effort in the series. Without their Vezina candidate goalie Tuukka Rask, who opted out after playing just the first two games against Carolina in round one, it became a daunting task to beat the Lightning with their backup goalie. It all caught up to them in a 7-1 loss in Game three.  The team fought until the end, but the Lightning were faster, stronger, and more talented.

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So, now what?

The core of veterans, who have carried this team for a decade, are nearing the end of their careers. Bergeron is 35-years-old, Krejci 34-years-old, and Chara will be 44-years of age next season. Even Brad Marchand is an aging veteran at 32. Then there’s Rask. He is an elite goalie, and the argument could be made that he is the best goalie in Bruin’s history. But, he opted out of the bubble, has one year left on his contract, and next season could begin in a bubble scenario again. He has also mentioned retirement thoughts in the past.  Can he come back, and will his teammates be able to depend on him? Valid questions.

My thought is that Rask will not forgo $7 million in his last year of the deal.  He will be the goalie next season. The backup, Jaroslav Halak, also has a year left and proved, for the most part, to be a capable option if Rask does not return.  Any chance the Bruins have of being contenders again next season depending on the availability (and desire) of Tuukka Rask. There will not be an option out there to match his ability. Say what you will about him, but he is a tremendous netminder, who can steal you games.

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Now comes the status of the captain, Zdeno Chara. I am such a Chara fan. He helped this franchise become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender when he signed with the Bruins in July of 2006. Since then, he has been the face of the franchise, a pillar of strength. Watching him go through the handshake line at the end of the Tampa Bay series was difficult because you wondered if that was his last handshake line. Will he come back? I would be open to bringing him back for a farewell tour season. A season in front of his beloved fans, hopefully. I usually despise when teams make sentimental moves with players. It is a business. Do what is best for the franchise.  But Z is an exception. But I do have some stipulations. I would sign him back if he accepted being a 3rd pair defenseman and open to an occasional healthy scratch to preserve him. If he took another team-friendly deal ($2-2.5 million) and could be a strong penalty killer, then I would consider it.  Other than that, it would be hard to give him top pair minutes for another season. My prediction is that he comes back for one more year.

Ok, Torey Krug. You’re next. Krug has been a good player and a tremendous power-play defenseman. He is undersized, but still plays the game with some sandpaper and is fearless against bigger opponents. He is an unrestricted free agent now, and the team has expressed an interest in retaining him. But there have also been rumblings that he is not necessarily willing to take a “hometown discount” such as David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand. His market value could be set at between $7 and $8 million per year. The Bruins have done a great job to this point of getting great value deals. I do not see them paying Krug top pairing money. His performance in the playoffs was not very good. He was on the ice for seven five-on-five opponent goals, the most on the team. He was pushed around by some more massive players on the Lightning and is 30 years old. At his size, the wear and tear has already begun to take its toll. 

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The Detroit Red Wings may be the wild card here. Krug is from Michigan, and the Red Wings are the worst team in hockey looking to improve their roster quickly. Krug would be a tremendous asset to them, especially on the power play. But again, a six or seven-year deal north of $7 million a year is a lot of investment on a small, 30-year-old defenseman. If the market has lowered since his playoff performance and his dollar amount becomes closer to $6 million a year, then the Bruins may get a warm and fuzzy feeling for him and sign him. That would be a big mistake. As the years go on, they will be dying to get out from under his contract. My guess is that Krug signs elsewhere, and the Bruins look to sign another defenseman with more size. The real ballsy move for them would have been to trade him after the 2019 season when his value was higher. But the team chose to take another run at the Cup with Krug.

The other question marks are restricted free agents Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk. DeBrusk has shown an ability to score goals, albeit in bunches at times.  He has also had some great playoff moments. The Bruins are thin beyond the top line on scoring wingers. Based on his stats, DeBrusk may be at the $4-$5 million range per year. He is still very young and has the promise to improve even more. But consistency is needed from him. I think the Bruins try to sign him to a similar deal that Charlie McAvoy received.  Grzelcyk is an excellent little player. He seems to make the right plays and is a terrific skater. He is a poor man’s Torey Krug, who might be able to play some power play and show more offensively. He is a Charlestown kid. Look for him to sign on with a Brandon Carlo type deal, I would assume. Maybe $3 million per year for 3-4 years.  

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dealThis is a crucial offseason, and Bruins fans are going to see what direction the team is going. Two glaring needs are scoring right-wing and a top-pair defenseman. Someone needs to play with Charlie McAvoy.  And someone needs to help David Krejci in the last year of his contract. The Bruins have about $15-16 million in cap space before the signings of DeBrusk and Grzelcyk. Let’s say those signings take $8-9 million. Now you have about $7 million to use to fill these needs. Those two needs could EACH take that amount. So Don Sweeney will need to be savvy in this move. A trade may be necessary to improve the roster. I am just not sure you can create enough space with the players who would be available. You might see them trade Ondrej Kase, who has not shown much scoring touch. Beyond that, there are not a lot of higher-priced players they would be willing to trade.  Could they make a deal with DeBrusk? That is an intriguing idea. Maybe they deal him and allocate that money to a more consistent player.

The more I think about it, I see the Bruins going with mostly the same roster for one more year minus Krug. I guess the x-factor could be 21-year-old Jack Studnicka, who showed flashes in the short time he played in the postseason. I would like to see Bruce Cassidy start next season with a hard look at Studnicka on the top line with Marchand and Bergeron and put Pastrnak with Krejci and DeBrusk. Then you could use some of the remaining money to sign a good, gritty third liner for Charlie Coyle’s line and an excellent defenseman to replace Krug and possibly Chara.

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Another tough ending to a promising season. But this may be the most exciting offseason in a long time. What the Bruins do this season could determine just how good this team will be over the next decade.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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