After A Switch To Left Wing, Frederic Is Ready To Step Up His Offensive Game

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By Carrie Young | Follow Me On Twitter @carrieyoung512

“A real solid two-way center with size” are the words that John Ferguson Jr., executive director of player personnel for the Boston Bruins, used to describe Trent Frederic after he was drafted in 2016. The Bruins had just missed the playoffs for the second year in a row and were looking for players who could make an impact at the NHL level in the near future. They certainly found that in Charlie McAvoy, who was chosen with the first of the Bruins’ two first-round picks that year.

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Fifteen picks later, at twenty-ninth overall, fellow USA Hockey National Team Development Program alum Trent Frederic heard his name called and donned the spoked B for the first time. The pick used to draft Frederic was acquired a year earlier when Boston traded goalie Martin Jones to San Jose in exchange for a 2016 first-rounder and prospect Sean Kuraly. Jones had just carried the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final a few weeks before the draft, so all eyes were on the Bruins to see if the trade could work out in their favor.

Though Frederic was labeled by Bruins scouts as “[not] a top two-line guy,” the first-round label placed high expectations on the young prospect’s shoulders. He played for two years at the University of Wisconsin before making the jump to the AHL’s Providence Bruins. He also made the USA World Junior Championship team in 2018. At every level throughout the years, he played center. He was drafted as a center and even had an opportunity to center Boston’s third line in the 2018-19 season.

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This season, though, the Bruins coaching staff decided to switch it up. When Frederic was called up to Boston due to injuries, he was put on the fourth line’s left-wing alongside Par Lindholm and Paul Carey. Though he didn’t register a point in two games, he was put back on the left-wing after he returned to Providence. The Bruins’ game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on November 22nd saw Frederic in the starting lineup on the left side of Cameron Hughes.

“It was my first time playing left-wing [in Providence], so it was my third game in a long time, but I felt really comfortable,” Frederic said after the game. “[Cameron Hughes] and [Jakub Lauko] helped me, so sometimes I was playing on the right, or sometimes I was playing middle or center down low, so it was good. I had some more chances to make plays on the left-wing tonight, more [plays] came to me. So, I don’t have much experience, but I liked it.”

The switch seems to have sparked Frederic’s offensive abilities. He scored his first goal of the year in the win against Bridgeport, then went on to score another goal two days later against the Hershey Bears. He also added two assists in that span.

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The Providence coaching staff recognized that Frederic was looking comfortable on the wing, so he has mainly been playing that role ever since. Saturday night’s game against Charlotte marks the fourth time in the past five games that Frederic has started on the left side. This doesn’t mean that the Bruins no longer see him as a candidate to fill in at center in Boston, but it does prove that he could be more versatile than previously thought. With centers Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Charlie Coyle now locked up for multiple years, Frederic might have a better opportunity to make an impact in the NHL on the wing. His two-way ability and physical presence have been proven. A little more offense will go a long way, no matter what position he plays.

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

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: Tampa Bay at Boston: 10/17/19

cut

Photo Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Home: Boston Bruins (5-1-0)

Away: Tampa Bay Lightning (3-2-1)

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Coyle-Ritchie

Heinen-Lindholm-Kuhlman

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Tampa Bay’s Lineup

Forwards

Stamkos-Point-Kucherov

Killorn-Cirelli-Joseph

Palat-Johnson-Gourde

Maroon-Verhaeghe-Witkowski

Defense

Hedman-Cernak

McDonagh-Shattenkirk

Coburn-Sergachev

Goalies

Vasilevskiy

McElhinney

First Period

The Bruins surrendered a few scoring chances in the opening moments as the Lightning looked ready to play from puck drop. Luckily for Boston, Tuukka Rask was on his game early, making a few saves in close. Brad Marchand nearly gave the B’s the early lead but hit the glove side post of Andrei Vasilevskiy less than three minutes into the game. The Bruins continued to have trouble getting their offensive game going as the Lightning dominated the early possession game. The B’s would get a power play opportunity as Mikhail Sergachev went to the box with 10:33 left in the period. David Pastrnak found the back of the net yet again just seconds into the man advantage to give the Bruins the lead.

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Sean Kuraly was called for hooking shortly after the goal, giving Tampa Bay a chance to tie the game. The B’s killed off the penalty without surrendering any significant scoring chances, keeping them in the lead. The Bruins seemed to gain some momentum after the man advantage, firing a couple shots on Vasilevskiy. Patrice Bergeron was called for slashing with under four minutes to go in the period, giving the Lightning another opportunity. The B’s killed off the penalty to Bergeron, surrendering a few shots on goal. Brayden Point got lost at the blue line and scored on a breakaway, barely beating the buzzer to tie the game.

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Score: Tied 1-1

Second Period

The B’s had some good early legs in the opening moments of the period and they got a few solid scoring chances. The Bruins picked up another power play opportunity as Carter Verhaeghe went to the box for tripping. The Lightning killed off the penalty and even got a shorthanded breakaway. The B’s would get yet another man advantage opportunity shortly after, as Yanni Gourde took an interference penalty. Bergeron gave the B’s the lead again off of a beautiful slap pass from Pastrnak on the power play.

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The Lightning evened it up quickly as Mathieu Joseph tapped in a rebound behind Rask to make it 2-2.

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The B’s and Lightning continued the trend of trading chances with both teams going end to end pretty consistently. The Bruins started to turn the puck over and get beat to the dirty areas as the Lightning started to surge late in the period. The Bruins picked up their fourth power play of the game as Karson Kuhlman drew a penalty with his great speed. The Lightning killed off the penalty as they got a few shorthanded opportunities.

Score: Tied 2-2

Third Period

Neither team came out with much jump to start the period as the game’s intensity began to pick up. The Bruins began to surge almost midway through the period, getting a number of chances in the offensive zone. Matt Grzelcyk was called for a penalty with 11:35 to play as the Lightning went to the power play looking to take the lead. The B’s killed it off as the Lightning failed to get any scoring chances. The Bruins continued to be the aggressor in the third period, getting multiple shifts with extended time in the attacking zone.

Kevin Shattenkirk gave the Lightning their first lead of the game with 4:47 to go with a quick shot through Rask.

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The Bruins would go to the man advantage less than a minute after the goal as Anthony Cirelli was called for tripping. Pastrnak tied the game on the power play after his shot was deflected into the net off of a Tampa Bay stick.

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Score: Tied 3-3

Overtime

Both teams had some spectacular chances including the Bruins hitting the goal post on a shot by Kuraly but neither team could find the back of the net and game went to a shootout.

Shootout

Steven Stamkos scored the only goal in the shootout and the Lightning handed the B’s their second loss of the season.

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Final Score: 4-3 Lightning

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Pastrnak. Another strong game from Number 88 continues his great start to the season, totaling two goals and an assist.

Second Star: Bergeron. The B’s top center recorded a power play strike and an assist.

Third Star: Rask. The Bruins goaltender kept the team in the game all night and made some huge saves especially in the third period and overtime.

Krejci Injured In Bruins Win. Who Steps Up?

NHL: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

Stop me if you have heard this one before. David Krejci leaves the game in the first period with the ever-ambiguous Lower Body Injury (LBI). Unfortunately, this is not the story from the September 25th preseason game versus the Devils being looped for eternity like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. It is the current bad news coming in the aftermath of the Bruins 4-2 matinee victory over the surprising Anaheim Ducks.

Krejci left the game with about four minutes to go in the first period and headed to the dressing room. He came back out for the second period and skated for about half a shift. He had a 2-on-1 with DeBrusk but then appeared to be laboring heading back up ice as the Bruins gave up a 3-on-1. That was it for Krejci, as he left the ice and didn’t return, leaving the Bruins a center short for the remainder of the game.

I went back and watched the first-period last night and it appeared to me that the injury occurred with a little less than eight minutes to go in the session. The Ducks were coming out of their end and DeBrusk got a piece of an outlet pass. The puck deflected in the air, Krejci reached up and gloved it down to himself. As he did and brought the puck over the blue line, Getzlaf gave him what looked like a pretty nasty short cross-check to his side/rib area.

I can’t help but wonder if this might be one of the reasons the Bruins seemed extremely annoyed with Getzlaf later in the game? I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on TV, but if I had to guess, it looked like it could have been a rib injury? Hopefully, it’s something relatively minor and Krejci is back soon. It seems like this might be the case based on comments from Bruce Cassidy on Tuesday afternoon?

One of the keys to the B’s success in the last couple of years is depth in the middle. Two years ago it was Bergeron, Krejci, Nash, and Kuraly. Last season, once they traded for Coyle, the team really began to roll. This year they start the season with the same group that went to the Finals. If Krejci is not ready to go on Thursday, or worse, if he’s out longer, what options do the Bruins have to replace him and maintain that strength at center?

If Krejci is only going to be out for a couple of games, the easiest thing for the Bruins to do would be simply to plug Par Lindholm into the lineup. He could go directly into Krejci’s spot on the 2nd line between DeBrusk and Kuhlman, leaving the other three lines intact. The other relatively “easy fix” would be to put Lindholm into the lineup, but slide Coyle up into the 2nd line center spot. That would (hopefully) allow the Bruins to generate offense from the 2nd line. Lindholm would likely center Heinen and Ritchie, creating a defensively sound Bottom Six until Krejci can return.

NHL Pre-Season: Chicago Blackhawks Vs Boston Bruins At TD Garden

(Photo Credit: Boston Globe via Getty Images)

If Krejci turns out to be more seriously hurt and out of the lineup for an extended period, the Bruins might decide they need to go in a different direction? While the first line is carrying the team right now, I don’t believe that’s a sustainable formula for winning over the long term. Depth and secondary scoring are the way to go in today’s NHL. With that in mind, I could see the Bruins reaching down to Providence for guys like Studnicka or Frederic.

I believe they would prefer to keep Studnicka in the AHL to learn how to play against pros for the majority of a season before calling him up. If Krejci were to be out for a long period of time, they might not have that luxury? Lindholm has more experience, but it appears that Studnicka has more upside and offers more on the offensive side of the puck than the Swedish veteran does. Through four games in Providence, Studnicka has yet to score his first goal, but he does have two assists and is a “plus” two, with six shots.

Jack-Studnicka

(Photo Credit: Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Frederic has NHL experience and would offer a different kind of option for the Bruins. He’s bigger and more physical than Studnicka. He could slot in with Heinen and Ritchie forming a pretty heavy group that Cassidy would likely give 4th line minutes to. After his stint with the big club last season, Frederic is probably more physically and mentally prepared than a rookie would be. The issue with him is that he appears to have gotten off to a bit of a slow start in Providence. I’m not sure how much this would factor into the front office’s decision-making process?

The last candidate on the Baby B’s is Brendan Gaunce. It’s not a name that will immediately spring to mind for most Bruins fans, but he might be the best choice. The former first-round pick looked really good in training camp. I thought he out-played Ritchie and Backes and had he been right-handed, likely would have made the team outright. He’s a big body (6’2″, 220 pounds) that can play a physical game, but moves well for his size. He also has 117 NHL games under his belt over the past four seasons, which gives him an edge over Studnicka and Fredric. Last year in Utica he had 16g/22a in 60 games, so he is not without offensive skills.

Is Gaunce the answer for Krejci if he’s out for a long period of time? Probably not, but he would be serviceable for a few games. Gaunce would actually be a much better replacement for Kuraly if he ever went down. I like him in a Bottom 6 role, but I don’t think he’s a Top 6 talent on a playoff team.

Best case scenario, Krejci’s injury is not serious, he misses little to no time, and this whole conversation is moot. If Krejci is out longer, the Bruins will have some trouble filling that spot, unless someone like Studnicka proves to be ahead of schedule. Not an ideal situation to be sure, but the Bruins dealt with injury successfully last season. It looks like they will have to do it again.

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

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How Can The Bruins Utilize Charlie Coyle

( Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )

By: Scott Delano | Follow Me On Twitter @Scottdelano3

There’s been a lot of talk of moving Charlie Coyle up to the second line to play alongside David Krejci to give the centerman more of a constant on his right side. While there’s no doubt that he is capable of playing the right-wing, he helps the team more playing in the middle of the ice.

Charlie has played an average of 77 games over the past 6 years. There is no question he has what it takes to play big minutes. He was a staple of consistency in the playoffs for the Bruins last year tallying 16 points in 24 games after putting up subpar numbers of 6 in 21 regular-season games for the Bruins.

I am a huge fan of Charlie Coyle. He’s a Boston guy with size, speed, and vision. He is not afraid to go into the corners and battle for a puck, and he does a great job of using his body to maintain possession coming off the boards.

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I want to purpose a different option. Instead of moving Charlie to the second line, what if we dropped him to the fourth line? It sounds crazy saying when I read it aloud, but Coach Bruce Cassidy utilizes his fourth line as Brad Marchand has said: “That’s not the fourth line… that’s 1A.”

Not afraid to start the fourth line against the opposing team’s first line, they usually set the tempo. During Boston’s 19 game point streak from 1/29/2019 – 3/10/2019, the fourth line started almost every one of those games. Cassidy will put them out on the ice in any situation.

The fourth line has many options. Last year we saw the fourth line consist of Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, David Backes, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciarri. Acciari is now a member of the Florida Panthers. Wagner and Nordstrom are coming off an injury sustained at the end of the year. Backes is being floated between the third line, fourth line, and press box. Kuraly is still here doing what he does best.

A fourth line of Sean Kuraly on the left, Charlie Coyle in the middle and Bret Ritchie on the right, could be the next coming of the merlot line. They wouldn’t drop the gloves as much, but it’d be a line we would love to watch with speed, physicality, and a lot of skill. They would create a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches. You could even call it the third line if you wanted.

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We’ve already seen in the first two games that Cassidy is willing to put Kuraly on the left side. Ritchie has played on the right side of Coyle developing chemistry. And a third line of Danton Heinen, Par Lindholm and either David Backes or Chris Wagner would work for now without changing the roster.

By moving Coyle to the fourth line, the third line center position opens. Patrice Bergeron is 34 years old. David Krejci is 33 years old, and Coyle himself is a free agent at the end of this year. Though Par Lindholm is there now, Boston needs to introduce some youth at the center position to their lineup, and the third line is the perfecting learning area.

Jack Studnicka is making noise and could greatly benefit from watching and learning from these three centers. If not Studnicka, Trent Frederick is a former first-round pick with size could be an option on the third line. I would just like to see a player allotted time to learn from our great centers before it’s too late

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 148 that we recorded on 10-6-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Bruins Enjoy Solid Depth At Center

Boston Bruins v Philadelphia Flyers

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

The 2018-2019 season began with the question of who should be the Bruins’ third-line center. The first five months of the season was used to experiment with a number of options. Even when Boston traded fan-favorite Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for East Weymouth-native Charlie Coyle not long before the trade deadline in February, many had their doubts about whether a permanent solution had been found.

Although Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has taken a look at Coyle in preseason as a potential fit for the second-line right wing position, Coyle has shown in game action that he is still a force at center and can continue to be a key piece of a dominant bottom six.

Assuming Coyle does start the season the way he ended the last campaign, at 3C, that means the Bruins will likely have one of the best lineups down the middle in the National Hockey League. Along with Coyle, veterans Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci and fourth-line stalwart Sean Kuraly have proven their worth to the team time and time again.

Cassidy touched on the importance of depth at center in a recent press conference. The coach sounded like he would love to see Coyle fill the third-line pivot role, with Karson Kuhlman or another player slotting in on Krejci’s right wing on the second line instead of Coyle.

With veterans Bergeron and Krejci leading the way, Coyle winning over the fans and coaching staff and Kuraly showing that he is the quintessential fourth-line center that can bring a spark of energy and eat up hard minutes while providing offense in clutch moments, the Bruins seem to be entering the 2019-2020 season with a solid core at center.

However, Bergeron and Krejci are aging, and Bergeron is entering yet another season bothered with nagging injury issues. Krejci was also injured early in the first period of Monday night’s preseason tilt against the Flyers, although initial reports following the game indicated that Krejci’s lower body injury was not considered serious.

In addition to this already stellar lineup, the Bruins added more depth during the offseason with the signings of free agents Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm, and David Backes can also comfortably take shifts at center if needed.

Looking past the next few seasons, Boston appears well-positioned to continue to be strong up the middle when Bergeron and Krejci retire. The team’s prospect stable boasts a few players in various stages of development, including Trent Frederic, Jack Studnicka and 2019 first-round draft pick John Beecher, who look to have the  size, speed and skill that is needed to succeed at the position in today’s NHL.

Although a number of current Boston and Providence Bruins face free agency after the 2019-2020 season, Bergeron, Krejci and Kuraly, Frederic and Studnicka are not among them. Even if the team is unable to keep Coyle in the Spoked-B beyond this season, having three of those four key components of the offense still under contract is good news for the team.

Backes Appears Ready for Bruins Camp

Carolina Hurricanes v Boston Bruins - Game Two

(Photo Credit: Steve Babineau, NHLI via Getty Images)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

One of the most polarizing figures of the 2019 offseason, David Backes appeared on the ice at Warrior Ice Arena Wednesday morning for captains’ practice. A day earlier, it was reported by WEEI’s Matt Kalman that Backes’ agent said the veteran forward is “healthy and ready to go” for Bruins camp, which begins Sept. 12.

The controversy surrounding Backes’ continued tenure in Boston stems from the fact that he still has two years left on his contract, with $6 million owed this year, while his production has significantly declined. Last year, Backes put up just 20 points, including seven goals and 13 assists in 70 regular season games. He added five more points in 15 games during the Bruins’ playoff run, but spent a good bit of the postseason watching from the press box as a healthy scratch.

The contract issues, coupled with the fact that the team has yet to re-sign restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, has left many fans calling for Backes to be dealt to another team willing to take on at least a portion of his contract to clear cap space. Rumors also abounded throughout the latter part of the summer that Backes would need surgery, possibly requiring the team to place him on long-term injured reserve and at least temporarily clearing his contract off the books. However, Backes’ camp put those rumors to rest.

If the reports from the 35-year-old Backes’ agent weren’t enough to satisfy skeptical fans, the alternate captain’s participation in Wednesday’s practice seemed to confirm that he is indeed ready for the season to begin. Backes was one of 31 players at that practice, a majority of whom were players expected to be in camp for the Bruins next week.

Now that it seems clear that Backes is staying in Boston at least to start the 2019-2020 season, it is fair to wonder just where he will fit in the Bruins lineup. A likely landing sport for Backes, who came to Boston in 2016 after several years with the St. Louis Blues, would be on the fourth line. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney even indicated in July that the fourth line could be a good spot for Backes given his past success there.

If Backes is to fill a fourth-line role, that means the Bruins coaching staff will have to make some difficult decisions about who to play and who to sit. Sean Kuraly is all but a lock to be the regular fourth-line center, although he showed last season that he can comfortably slide to left wing as well. That leaves a logjam of Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, Brett Ritchie and perhaps Par Lindholm fighting for regular playing time in the one remaining slot.

One valuable attribute Backes brings to the team is his leadership and experience. His teammates have been quick to point out his role in their development. Most recently, Kuraly talked about Backes’ significant impact on his young career.

Of course, Backes’ leadership abilities are not alone enough to justify him earning a regular spot in the lineup over younger players who may be able to contribute more scoring. However, with a roster still heavily split between younger still-developing players and veterans, it will help the team as a whole.

Like last season, Backes may be asked to play a fill-in role and to step up in situations where a little extra fight is needed, or he may indeed be rotated in regularly on the fourth line. No matter what role he plays, it is becoming increasingly more certain that he will be in the Spoked B this season.

Do The Bruins Have Enough Coming Down The Middle?

( Photo Credit: Brandon Taylor/OHL Images )

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

The Boston Bruins, via Team President Cam Neely, identified a top-six winger as a position of need heading into the summer of 2019 following a largely successful 2018-19 campaign in which they finished in a tie for second overall in the NHL standings and advanced all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.  While the addition of a top-six winger clearly addresses a current need, should the Bruins be concerned with the long-term outlook at the center position?

The Boston Bruins have been blessed with a rock steady, 1-2 combination down the middle in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for the better part of the last decade.  Whilst there has been a revolving door of pivots on the third and fourth lines over that time, the Bruins have been led by one of the leagues’ top 1-2 center-ice combinations providing them with consistent scoring, defensive prowess, and abundant leadership.

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Patrice Bergeron is a future Hockey Hall-of-Famer, all but confirmed with the recent selection of Guy Carbonneau to the Hall.  Long regarded as one of, if not the best two-way player in the game, Bergeron is coming off a career season in points production having amassed 79 points in just 65 games played.  He scored an equal-career high 32-goals as he topped the 30-goal mark for the fifth time in his career.  He also garnered an eighth consecutive Selke Trophy nomination and finished third in voting behind winner Ryan O’Reilly and runner-up Mark Stone in a closely contested vote.  Bergeron has previously won the award in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

In David Krejci, the Bruins have a center who is also coming off a career season production-wise.  Krejci scored 73 points, equalling his previous career-high set all the way back in the 2008-09 season.   He hit the 20-goal plateau for the fourth time in his career.  Krejci also had 16 points in 24 playoff games during Boston’s Stanley Cup run.  Twice in his career, Krejci had led the NHL in playoff scoring, back in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup as well as in 2013 when they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.  Krejci had a solid all-around season in 2018-19 finishing with a CF % (Corsi for) percentage of 55.98.  Bergeron, as a comparison, finished just slightly better at 56.77.

So we know that the Bruins have enjoyed a decade long luxury at the top of the center depth chart and for the most part have made things work with various options at the center depth positions.    There is a reality that the Bruins and their fans must start to consider here very quickly, however.  Both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are 33 years old.   In fact, Bergeron turns 34 this month.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Reality tells us that both of these career-long Bruins are well into the back nine of their respective careers.  The question for Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney is, what is the succession plan as the end approaches for Bergeron and Krejci?  It’s not something that Bruins fans like to contemplate, but these players won’t be here forever, and that endpoint is now beginning to approach.

If we look at the players’ respective contract statuses, Bergeron is under contract for three more seasons at $6.875M per season.  Krejci has two seasons remaining at $7.25M per season.  There has been much speculation that this off-season is the right time to move Krejci in a salary dump to provide cap relief.  There may be some merit to that argument as his trade value is likely as high as it is going to get.  With the possibility of diminishing returns and production next season, not many 33-year-olds have career-best seasons after-all, the trade Krejci argument is understandable.  On the other hand, if the Bruins believe they are still in a championship-contending window, and most of their fans believe they are, then trading David Krejci likely weakens your team, depending on the return, and puts you further from contending at a time that your two best forwards in Bergeron and winger Brad Marchand continue to progress into their thirties.   If winning now is still the priority, unless you can bring in a top-six center to replace David Krejci, I have to believe you need to keep him.

Getting back to the question of what happens in two and three years when their contracts expire and their play has inevitably tailed off, whom do the Bruins see as their top-six centers of the future?  Have they already acquired those pieces through the draft or via trade?  Or is this an area of need that, although not pressing, will reach out and bite the Bruins if they don’t begin to plan for it now.

Let’s consider the centers already within the organization and see if any project as a Bergeron or Krejci replacement.  For the purpose of this exercise, this will consider prospects whose rights the Bruins currently control, be it under contract or not.

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Beyond Bergeron and Krejci, the current third-line center in Boston is Charlie Coyle.  Coyle is coming off a successful playoff after being acquired in a trade deadline move from the Minnesota Wild.  Coyle has one year remaining on his current contract at a reasonable cap hit of $3.2M.    Bringing good size and skating, the 6’3”, 220-pound Coyle slots well into the third-line center position and has been touted as a possible solution at second-line right wing heading into next season.  Such a move would put further pressure on the Bruins to find in-house options to fill out their center depth positions.    For the time being he gives the Bruins what they need centering the third line but his long-term future in Boston may well be tied to the type of dollars and term he seeks on a new contract as he heads towards unrestricted free agency next summer.

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The Bruins appear set for the foreseeable future at the fourth line center position with Sean Kuraly.  Kuraly is a key bottom-six forward for the Bruins, and his absence was noticeable for the first four games of Boston’s opening-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Kuraly’s return from injury in game five sparked the Bruins and helped stabilize the line-up as they went on to eliminate the Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes.  Kuraly could be an option to play in the third line center position if required, but his perfect role in the Bruins lineup would appear to be a fourth-line pivot.

The Bruins also appear to boast several depth centermen who appear capable of playing in the bottom six.  Some of their current wingers can also play center including Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, and Karson Kuhlman.  None of these players are likely options to replace Bergeron or Krejci however.  The same applies to David Backes, a player who could fill a role as a center or a winger up or down the Bruins line-up but at this stage in his career, he doesn’t factor into the conversation at hand.

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The next place to look is at the Bruins current prospects who are yet to make an impact at the NHL level but maybe closer to earning that opportunity over the next couple of seasons.  The Bruins managed to get 15 regular-season games into Trent Frederic this past season.  While Frederic is still seeking his first NHL point, he may be the next Bruins prospect in line at the center position and will very likely see more NHL action in the 2019-20 season.    The question is how high in an NHL line-up does Frederic project?  While that remains to be seen, the common opinion seems to be that he projects to be a solid third-line center at the NHL level.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t help solve the issue of replacing Bergeron or Krejci in the top six.

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Jack Studnicka is coming off a successful junior career as a member of the Oshawa Generals and Niagara Ice Dogs.   This past season he scored 83 points in 60 regular-season games and represented Canada in the World Junior Championships where he tallied four points in five games played.  Studnicka has many upsides but again, his ceiling is difficult to project.   The 2017, second-round selection will benefit from the opportunity to develop at the AHL level in Providence but has the potential to grow and develop into an option to challenge for a top-six role one day at the NHL level.

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Boston’s most recent first-round draft pick, John Beecher, selected 30th overall from the US National Development Team in last month’s NHL Amateur Draft, may signal a recognition by the Bruins management that there is a need to address their lack of long-term options at the center position.  Beecher has tremendous size at 6-3” and 209 pounds and impressed onlookers with his speed and skating ability at the Bruins recent development camp.  Bruins fans shouldn’t get too giddy and hopeful of seeing Beecher in the black and gold anytime soon, however, as he has committed to play at Michigan this upcoming season and he should benefit greatly from playing in the NCAA ranks.    Beecher does, however, represent perhaps the glimmer of hope that the Bruins may have a bona fide center prospect who can play a meaningful and successful top-six role one day in the future.   Bruins fans have to temper the expectations on the 18-year-old Beecher however and realize he is likely at least a couple of years away and possibly more from a role in the NHL with the Bruins.

While there is hope that the Bruins may already have prospects that may one day fill the top six roles that have been held down for so long by Bergeron and Krejci, the reality may be that the Bruins may need to look outside their own organization to acquire at least one future top-six center, whether that be via free agency or trade.  It’s no secret that the Bruins’ depth strength is on the back end.  The Bruins may be best served by utilizing their depth on the back end to address their need at center.  This does not have to happen immediately.  The smart play, however, would be to have replacements ready to assume those roles once their existing contracts expire.  The reality is that Bergeron and Krejci can’t play forever, however, and the Bruins need to improve their organizational depth at the center position in order to be prepared for that inevitable day when they are no longer contributing at the level we have been accustomed to for such a long time.

Richardson: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night: Version One

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(Photo Courtesy of Winslow Townson / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Earlier this week fellow Black N’ Gold writer Mike Cratty had the idea to give out his ideal lineup Opening Night. He then posed the question to the rest of us and it’s turned into a nice series. Other Black N’ Gold writers Garrett Hayden, Max Mainville, and Yanni Latzanakis have followed suit giving their lineups. I have linked their respective articles at the end of this one so you can check them out if you have not yet.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

I am starting out pretty standard here with the Boston Bruins top line. When all three players are healthy this is one of the best lines in the entire league. While keeping this trio together seems obvious, there has been some debate amongst fans whether Boston should or not. This is because at times during this past season Pastrnak has been moved down to the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci.

David Pastrnak is arguably the most important player on the Bruins offense. In the past, I have been an advocate for moving him down to the second line. My reason for this was that I felt the team needed to spread the wealth and scoring between lines. However, the simple fact is the chemistry this trio has on the ice is unmatched by any line in the NHL. Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak set the offensive tone for the team and produce too much to break-up.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Coyle

The second line right-wing has been a position that the Bruins have been looking to fill for a few years now. Despite the carousel of players that have played on the right-wing, both DeBrusk and Krejci have produced at high levels. My solution is one that may be outside the box but I think Charlie Coyle is the answer to fix the right-wing. Coyle was acquired by the Bruins before the trade deadline last season in a deal that sent Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild.

Since then, he played excellently for our boys in black and gold especially during their run to the Stanley Cup Final. Adding him to the top six will strengthen it tenfold. DeBrusk and Krejci are locked into their position on the second line. Krejci, finally fully healthy had one of his best seasons in a long time. DeBrusk has proven to be very good in his first two seasons with Boston. Despite a less than stellar postseason that due in part to a concussion sustained in the first round, I fully expect him to bounce back and have a great 2019-2020 campaign. These line combinations would give the Bruins one of the best top six’s in the NHL.

Third Line: Heinen – Studnicka – Senyshyn

I know that some of you may think that I am absolutely insane for saying this. However, this line has the potential to be very good. Jack Studnicka is one of the Bruins top offensive prospects even though he’s only 20 years old. In 60 games in the OHL last season, he netted 36 goals and dished out 47 assists for 83 total points. He also played in Providence’s four playoff games netting one goal and dishing one assist for two points. He has the potential to be very good for Boston, and I think he takes a big step forward this year.

Zach Senyshyn is another guy who is debated a lot amongst fans. He’s spent two full years in Providence and some people are ready to call him a bust. I am not one of those people. I think the young speedster could make a huge impact on the Bruins this season. He has a ton of scoring ability (114-63-177 in 195 games in the OHL) while that hasn’t quite translated into the AHL or NHL yet, I think it will. He was able to get in two games with the big club last season and he looked good scoring a goal in one of the games. His speed combined with Studnicka’s ability could be lethal for Boston. Heinen was recently re-signed to a two year deal with Boston. He’s one of their best defensive forwards and he would pair nicely with this young line.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

This fourth line has the potential to be one of the best in the NHL. Joakim Nordstrom proved to be extremely valuable especially during their deep playoff run. He’s very good defensively, while also providing some offense when the opportunity presents itself. Sean Kuraly is one of my favorite current players. He had an excellent regular season and when he came back from injury in the playoffs, it was a spark the Bruins needed. He’s tenacious and a really good hockey player. He will be the one that makes this line go.

Chris Wagner’s production was a welcomed surprise for Bruins fans this past season. He also played well in the playoffs, but an injury cut his postseason short. He’s another guy who is always around the puck creating opportunities for Boston. As I said earlier, this line has the potential to be the best fourth line in hockey. They grind the opponents down and are quick to capitalize on any mistakes made by their opposition.

Extra Forwards: Lindholm – Ritchie

Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie were both signed once free agency opened earlier this month. Lindholm will provide good depth off the bench in case of injury. He has some decent offensively ability and can also play on the penalty kill which may end up being important this season. Brett Ritchie will likely provide some size for the lineup if it is needed throughout the season. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds he’s a big body that can throw a hit or two across the ice.

First Pairing: Chara – McAvoy

This is another one of those no brainers in the Bruins lineup. Zdeno Chara has been the number one defenseman and captain for over a decade. Even at the age of 42, the native Slovakian provides top-line minutes and ability. McAvoy, on the other hand, is the future number one defenseman for the Bruins. You could even argue that the way he played in the playoffs, that the torch has been passed and the Long Beach native is already the number one guy. Either way, this will without a doubt be the top pairing.

Second Pairing: Krug – Carlo

This is a perfect second pairing for the Boston Bruins. Brandon Carlo has been very good for the Bruins in his first three years as a true defensive defenseman. The Colorado Springs native really proved himself during his first taste of the playoffs. He was excellent and played a pivotal role in getting Boston to the Stanley Cup Final. Krug, on the other hand, is one of the better offensive-minded defensemen in hockey. The former Michigan State Spartan also runs the power play unlike anyone else. He perfectly complements Carlo’s game and completes the second pairing.

Third Pairing: Grzelcyk – Clifton

Matt Grzelcyk has proven to be one of the most consistent defensemen for the Bruins in every facet of the game. He had an excellent 2018-19 season and played very well during the run to the Stanley Cup Final. After being arguably the most improved playing in Providence this season, Connor Clifton emerged during the 2018-19 playoff run. The New Jersey native, like Grzelcyk, is very good in every facet of the game. These two young defensemen will make a great second pairing for the Boston Bruins.

Extra Defensemen: Kampfer – Moore – Miller

Steven Kampfer signed an extension at the end of last month. The Michigan native provides really good depth for the Bruins. The good thing about Kampfer is that he can sit out a few games, and be very solid starting when needed. John Moore will likely not be ready to start the season due to shoulder surgery he had once the season ended. Kevan Miller is another guy that likely won’t be ready to start the season due to a bad knee injury he sustained last season.

Goaltenders: Rask – Halak

Tuukka Rask was one of the main reasons why the Boston Bruins were one win away from being Stanley Cup Champions in 2018-2019. The Finnish goaltender was superb throughout the playoffs. One of the big reasons why he was so good during the postseason run was that he was able to rest a lot of games in the regular season because of how good Jaroslav Halak was. Tuukka Rask is at the top of his game come playoff time when he can start under 50 games during the regular season. Having Rask and Halak was essentially split the regular-season workload is something that makes Boston’s goaltending so good.

Other Black N’ Gold Writers’ Ideal Lines

Check out Mike’s article HERE.

Check out Garrett’s article HERE.

Check out Max’s article HERE.

Check out Yanni’s article HERE.

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Boston Bruins: Keys to Win Game 7 Over St. Louis

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

How are your nerves? Are your fingernails still intact? No? That’s alright, it’s normal – expected at this time of year. Tonight, the Boston Bruins will meet the St. Louis Blues for the final game of the 2018-19 NHL season with a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice while the Blues look to lock in their first ever Stanley Cup in their 52-year history.

Before the best-of-seven series began, it was well noted that these two franchises were near exact mirror images of one another. Great goaltending, solid players on the blueline and a forward core that brought a combination of toughness, hitting and goal scoring throughout all four lines. Many people, including myself, felt that this series was destined to go the distance and as we found out on Sunday, it sure will.

In Sunday’s Game Six in St. Louis, Missouri, Boston took a huge 5-1 win on the road to force this seventh game. Tuukka Rask was beyond stellar in net for the Bruins while third period goals from Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman and David Pastrnak sealed the deal before Zdeno Chara’s empty-net goal. The Bruins managed to quiet the roaring St. Louis crowd once again and made the series a true toss-up again.

Following Game Five, the Bruins had lost their second-consecutive game in the series and due to the fact that it was heading back to the Blues home arena, it seemed like the momentum was in St. Louis’ favor. Now, once again, there is no real momentum nor favorite to win Game Seven in TD Garden.

The entire series so far has been fascinating to watch. Boston overcame a two-goal deficit to win Game One only for the Blues to take an overtime win in Game Two. The B’s exploded back when the series debuted in the Enterprise Arena with a crushing 7-2 victory only for the Blues to win both Game Four and Five to take a 3-2 series lead. After the Game Six performance where the top-six of Boston finally woke up and played at the level that we are used to seeing while Rask continued to be elite – a reoccurring theme in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

All across the spectrum, the Bruins and Blues have an equally strong chance to hoist the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night in Boston. Neither team has let set downs hold them down long-term. As we know, the Blues were once dead-last in the National Hockey League on January 2nd and look where they are now. So, for the Boston Bruins, what needs to happen during the three periods (and maybe more) in order to win Stanley Cup number seven?

1. Tuukka. Rask.

As previously mentioned, Tuukka Rask has been one of the sole reasons for being Eastern Conference Champions and having three wins in the Finals as of this point. Going way back to the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Rask was key in numerous wins including a dominate Game 7 performance, stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced to send Boston to the second round.

Against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Rask finished the six-game series with a .948 save percentage and a 1.83 goals-against-average, closing out the series with a phenomenal 39-save shutout in Game Six. That dominance continued in the Conference Finals over the Carolina Hurricanes, allowing only five goals in four games with another shutout in the final elimination game.

In every game during the Stanley Cup Finals, Rask has allowed over one goal but no more than three goals except for Sunday’s win where he allowed only one goal against on 29 shots. Tuukka was by far Boston’s best penalty-killer in Game Six and crushed the momentum for the Blues. Rask is now 3-0 in elimination games in the 2019 postseason with a 1.34 GAA and .953 save percentage.

St. Louis has had great success with their forecheck against Boston’s defense and that is likely to continue, but if Tuukka Rask can be as dominate as ever, he will be the biggest factor to a Bruins win if it does happen and they need him to perform at that extreme level.

2. Shut Down The Neutral Zone

Part of the reason for the success in the 5-1 win three days ago was the strength in the neutral zone. The Bruins did an excellent job at making the Blues offense work hard for their zone entries and make it a difficult task to dump the puck in deep. Boston’s second line of Jake DeBrusk, Karson Kuhlman and David Krejci did a particularly good job at that while the defensive pairings managed to retrieve the loose pucks on the dump-ins.

Boston’s third goal of the game came from Kuhlman, but was created off of a neutral zone turnover by St. Louis. For the majority of the game, the Boston players were quite aggressive on pucks and gave the Blues very little room to work. This was evident on this goal as DeBrusk goes after his man who turns it over to David Krejci. Krejci quickly brings it into the zone and feeds Kuhlman who snipes one far-side.

Boston cannot back down when the Blues go for their zone exits and rushes up the ice. St. Louis has big forwards such as leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly who can blast down the ice and get hard drives to the net that create scoring opportunities. Limiting the space that St. Louis has to exit the zone will force more mistakes and allow Boston to pounce on the resulting chances.

However, Boston cannot make mistakes of their own while doing this. If a player misses a check and gets them self out of position, then the Blues could have an odd-man rush going the other way. Calm, but tenacious hockey in the neutral zone is what will win this for Boston.

3. Win The Smaller Battles & Trust Leaders

Once again, the Bruins found the success that they did in Game Six because of the smaller plays. It was not until the third period where Boston scored goals two, three, four, and five. From the 8:40 mark of the first period to just over two minutes into the third, Boston managed to maintain a one-goal advantage on the scoreboard. That was in part, due to the victory of smaller battles throughout the entirety of the game.

As showed above, Boston did a much better job controlling the neutral zone to adequately shut down the chances St. Louis had coming down the ice. Also, Boston did a solid job winning the battles along the boards, in both the offensive and defensive zones and that allowed the Bruins to score goals and also keep the Blues to the outside and forced them to take point shots that were either blocked, intercepted, or stopped by Rask in between the pipes.

On David Pastrnak’s goal that gave the Bruins a 4-1 lead in the third, forward Sean Kuraly used that same concept to drive into the zone, pressure the St. Louis defence, make a clean pass to Marchand who made an equally impressive feed to an open Pastrnak to beat Binnington. The rest of the players in the blue jerseys were unable to come back and defend the play because they were expected a pass up the ice and because they were finishing up a change. The tenacious effort on pucks will be crucial for Boston to claim victory.

In addition to that, the 2018-19 Boston Bruins are much different from the 2010-11 Bruins that won the Stanley Cup. The 2011 Bruins were filled to the rim with veterans of the game who had the experience to guide them to the championship. This time around, a lot of the key players – David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Karson Kuhlman, Jake DeBrusk, etc. – are leading the team. However, they will need to listen to the guidance and expertise of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Brad Marchand who have been there before and have won before. Every piece of advice and knowledge may be the ultimate difference maker.

Regardless of the outcome, at the end of the day, very few individuals in the hockey community expected the Boston Bruins to be one win away from the Stanley Cup this season. The same could be said for the St. Louis Blues as well. After all, the Tampa Bay Lightning were by far the best team in the regular season and they were swept early. When the final buzzer rings tonight, the winner will be the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions. The only question remains – will it be the Bruins or Blues hoisting the Stanley Cup above their heads?

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.