Kuraly Plays Key Role in Bruins’ Success

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

By: Carrie Salls | Check me out on Twitter @nittgrl73

Sean Kuraly did not score in the Bruins’ 4-0 Eastern Conference Championship-clinching game on Thursday. In fact, he recorded just one shot.

Although the fourth-line center did lead all Boston centers in the game with 18:16 of time on ice, only four fewer seconds than top TOI forward Brad Marchand, one of Kuraly’s biggest contributions to Thursday night’s win may have actually come from his play in the first few games of the series against the Carolina Hurricanes, namely game three.

According to a Tweet from Brian Messenger of NBC 10 Boston, Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff used the play of Kuraly and the other fourth liners as a teaching tool for the team’s first line, frequently dubbed “The Perfection Line.”

The results of that coaching move were evident, as the first line returned to dominant form in the series clincher.

It’s not particularly surprising that Cassidy turned to the game tapes highlighting Kuraly and his linemates to provide some inspiration to first-line stars Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and David Pastrnak. The coach has long sung the praises of the ability of 26-year-old Dublin, Ohio, native Kuraly’s speed and his ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone and maintain possession.

Cassidy has also turned to Kuraly’s line on numerous occasions to start games, relying on the line’s high-energy, physical nature.

Throughout what is to date the Bruins’ most successful campaign since 2013, Kuraly’s teammates have recognized his skill and importance to the team, as well.

Of course, Kuraly is no stranger to the playoffs and big-game success. Most Bruins fans got their first real look at just what the former Miami University captain can do in high-stakes games when he burst onto the scene to score the game-tying goal and game-winner in the second overtime period of the first-round playoff game against the Ottawa Senators in April 2017.

Kuraly’s playoff success continued with four points in the 2017-2018 postseason, which ended when the Bruins lost in the division finals round to the Tampa Bay Lightning. So far in the team’s 2018-2019 playoff run, Kuraly has amassed five points, including two goals and three assists, despite the fact that he missed the first four games of the Toronto series while recovering from a broken hand suffered blocking a shot late in the regular season.

Some of number 52’s big-game magic was evident during the regular season this year too, highlighted by the game-winning goal scored against the Buffalo Sabres in the final game in 2018, the eventual game-winner scored in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks and a memorable three-point night against the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Jan. 12.

After coming back from the hand injury, it didn’t take long for Kuraly’s big-game presence to be felt in Game 7 against the Leafs, as he scored a crucial goal that gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead and seemed to turn the tide of momentum solidly in Boston’s favor.

In just his second full season as a Boston Bruin and still in the first year of a three-year contract signed in July 2018, Kuraly’s teammates and coaches, and Bruins fans, certainly have reason to be excited about Sean Kuraly’s non-stop energy and big-game prowess.

Boston Bruins’ Chris Wagner Out

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

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECF Game 1: Carolina at Boston: 5/9/19

cutPhoto Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Home: Boston Bruins (8-5)

Away: Carolina Hurricanes (8-3)

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Backes

Heinen-Coyle-Johansson

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Defense

Chara-Clifton

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Kampfer

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Carolina’s Lineup

Forwards

Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen

Niederreiter-Staal-Williams

Foegele-Wallmark-McGinn

Martinook-McKegg-Ferland

Defense

Slavin-Hamilton

Pesce-Faulk

Fleury-de Haan

Goalies

Mrazek

McElhinney

First Period

The Bruins got off to a flying start with a few chances in the offensive zone and they looked to into the game right from puck drop. The Bergeron line had a great start to the game with a few good shifts in the attacking zone. Steven Kampfer, inserted into the lineup for the suspended Charlie McAvoy scored his first career playoff goal off a beautiful feed from Marcus Johansson about three minutes into the game.

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Sean Kuraly took a roughing penalty shortly after the goal and Sebastian Aho deflected in a shot past Tuukka Rask just seconds into the man advantage to tie the game.

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The Hurricanes got a huge swing of momentum after the Aho goal as they looked to build a lead early in the opening period. The Bruins responded to that with a few solid shifts of their own as they looked to return the momentum. Both teams started to settle in especially defensively as the scoring chances started to die down considerably. Charlie Coyle went to the box for tripping with under six minutes left in the period as Carolina looked to take the lead. The B’s killed off the penalty as Zdeno Chara took a shot off of his foot and appeared to be shaken up.

Immediately following the penalty kill, the Bruins went to the power play as Nino Niederreiter was called for slashing with about three minutes to go in the period. The Hurricanes killed off the penalty despite some good puck movement by Boston.

Score: Tied 1-1

Second Period

Brett Pesce nearly gave the Hurricanes the lead in the early moments of the period but hit the crossbar behind Rask which kept it a tied game. The B’s would be shorthanded yet again as Kuraly was called for a high stick about four minutes into the period. Boston killed off the penalty as Rask made a couple of huge saves. Both teams wasted no time renewing acquaintances with a ton of physical play and a few scrums after the whistle.

A crazy play in front resulted in Greg McKegg finding the back of the net before crashing into Rask after being pushed by Kampfer to give Carolina their first lead of the game.

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Rask made a few big stops after the goal to prevent the Hurricanes from extending the lead. The Bruins continued to have trouble generating offense as the Hurricanes began to dominate the possession game, making Boston tired from chasing the puck. The Bruins responded with a good shift from the Bergeron line as they looked to get back in the game. The Bruins picked up their second power play as Micheal Ferland went to box with three minutes remaining in the period. Carolina killed off the penalty despite some good scoring chances for the Bruins.

Score: 2-1 Hurricanes

Third Period

The Bruins got an early power play after Jordan Staal hit Chris Wagner from behind less than a minute into the period. Johansson found the back of the net towards the end of the man advantage on a loose puck in front to tie the game.

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The Bruins would receive another power play shortly after the goal as Dougie Hamilton went to the box for roughing. Patrice Bergeron buried a loose puck in front just seconds into the man advantage as the Bruins regained the lead.

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The Bruins went to the power play once again as Hamilton took another penalty, this time for interference as Boston looked to extend the lead. Carolina killed off the penalty as the Bruins struggled to maintain an offensive rhythm. The Bruins continued to respond after a trying second period as they had a strong period complete with chances from multiple lines. The Bruins also continued to be solid defensively in the final period as they anticipated several Hurricanes passes.

The Hurricanes pulled the goalie with about 2:45 to go as they looked to tie the game. Brandon Carlo scored on the empty net as the puck barely trickled into the net to essentially clinch the game. Wagner then made it 5-2 with goal off of a bad turnover to finish the game for the Bruins just seconds after Carlo’s goal.

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Final Score: 5-2 Bruins

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Johansson. The winger had one of his best games as a Bruin, totaling two points including an important tying goal in the third period.

Second Star: Rask. The Bruin goalie continued his incredibly solid play as of late allowing just two goals and make a number of key saves.

Third Star: Kampfer. The veteran defenseman looked very solid filling in for McAvoy and didn’t look out of place at all.

Round 2 | Game Two: Boston Bruins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

photo credit: USA Today Images

By: Mandi Mahoney | Check me out on twitter @phoneymahoney

The Bruins came out flying against Columbus, notching a 3-2 in overtime during game 1. They played like the Bruins team we had been waiting for, and never saw, during the first round series against Toronto. Goaltender Tuukka Rask was fantastic, and was only beaten by two total fluke goals: one that was deflected so many times that it was reminiscent of Larry Bird playing Michael Jordan for his Big Mac in the classic McDonald’s commercial, and one that hit the twin after deflecting off Pierre-Luc Dubois’ gluteus maximus.

It was the epitome of a playoff game and the atmosphere in the Garden was intense; the place was absolutely rocking. The Bruins came to play, and while the Blue Jackets didn’t make their best showing of the season, they were still a very worthy opponent. If Boston thinks this series is going to be a cakewalk, they are sorely mistaken. Columbus has some elite talent and those players won’t be silent for long. It should not be forgotten that this is the team that swept the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Speaking of silence, the chirping has already begun:

Pre-Game And Series Notes

Where / when: TD Garden, Boston, at 8:00PM.

The series: Bruins lead series 1-0

Last game: Boston, 3-2 OT

Scoring Leaders:

BOS: Brad Marchand, 9 points; Charlie Coyle, 5 goals

CBJ: Matt Duchene, 7 points, 3 goals

Goaltenders:

BOS: Tuukka Rask, 5-3, .927 save percentage, 2.25 goals against average

CBJ: Sergei Bobrovsky, 4-1, .929 save percentage, 2.17 goals against average

Lineups:

The Bruins’ lineup will likely include the usual suspects, as David Krejci was on the ice during the morning skate. Krejci may be deferring to playoff hero Charlie Coyle during power play faceoffs as he sustained some sort of upper body injury when former Bruin and Blue Jackets fourth liner Riley Nash checked him during game 1.

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Danton Heinen

Marcus Johansson – Charlie Coyle – Chris Wagner

Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton

Tuukka Rask

BOS INJURIES: Kevan Miller (lower body), John Moore (upper body)

Columbus is likely to roll the following lines – though deadline acquisition Ryan Dzingel appears to be questionable for tonight. According to the Blue Jackets’ Instagram, he will be in the lineup this evening. If he isn’t, expect to see Alexander Wennberg instead. We’ll see what happens there.

Artemi Panarin – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Oliver Bjorkstrand

Ryan Dzingel – Matt Duchene – Cam Atkinson

Alexander Texier – Nick Foligno – Josh Anderson

Riley Nash – Boone Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky

Zach Werenski – Seth Jones

Dean Kukan – David Savard

Adam Clendening – Scott Harrington

Sergei Bobrovsky

CBJ INJURIES: Ryan Murray (upper body), Adam McQuaid (head), Markus Nuttivaara (upper body), Vladislav Gavrikov (immigration issue)

photo credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Keys To The Game

If the Bruins want to come out on top, they’re going to need to continue to create traffic in front of Bobrovsky and put as many pucks on net as possible in order to create rebounds. They cannot let themselves be pushed to the perimeter, and they must bring their physical game. The Blue Jackets have a little bit of everything in their lineup, and the Bruins will need to be ready for it. Speed and physicality are going to be big factors throughout the series.

Boston hasn’t had much rest since their first round series went to seven games, and the Blue Jackets should be fairly refreshed, having enjoyed nine days off after vanquishing the Lightning in a quick four games. Hopefully the Jackets are a little bit demoralized after their rusty showing on Thursday (don’t bet on it), and the Bruins can continue to capitalize on the momentum they’ve built over their last three games. The only thing anyone knows about this series is that it’s going to be a lot of fun. With any luck, we will enjoy the result as much as we’re enjoying the journey.

Round 2 | Game One: Boston Bruins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

By: Liz Rizzo  | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

It’s been a wild first round that saw the early exit of big heavy-hitting teams and the Bruins are one of those teams still standing. After a nerve wrecking victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7  this past Tuesday, the Bruins are now gearing up to face a new foe in Round 2.  For the first time in either teams history, the wild card team Columbus Blue Jackets and the league’s second-place Boston Bruins will face each other.

Boston has had little rest from Tuesday’s bout with the Leafs while the Blue Jackets had 10 days off after a stunning sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the first time in their history Columbus has advanced to the second round. Surpassing all Vegas odds and, pretty much anyone that watches hockey, the Blue Jackets will be looking to strong arm Boston at the TD Garden. The last time these two teams met on April 2nd, Boston defeated the Blue Jackets 6-2. Columbus  has won 11 out of 12 games in the regular season and swept the Lighting in four games.

Image result for BOSTON BRUINS VS BLUE JACKETS(Photo Credits: WCVB Boston)

For Boston, the continued emergence of the fourth line will hopefully once again show up tonight as they face a heavy, tough Columbus team. Sometimes rest isn’t always the best thing and that can bode well for the B’s. They’ll be looking to carry over their momentum from their Game 7 win to tonight’s game. If you look back to last postseason, the Bruins defeated Toronto and were able to defeat the Lightning in Game 1 of the second round, winning 6-2. But as history has it, the Bruins were unable to carry that energy over to the rest of the series.

“I hope we’re ready. I can’t guarantee how it is. Eight or nine days off, I think we can say all the right things as I’m trying to do right now, but it comes down to the players being mentally ready. To me, its not a physical ready, its a mental readiness as far as ready to elevate your compete to start a series.”-Columbus Coach John Tortorella

Both Boston and Columbus had the best power play in the league postseason, with the Jackets in first and Boston in second. The Bruins power-play was instrumental in key victories over the Maple Leafs. For the Blue Jackets, their power-play was a huge factor in their winning sweep over Tampa Bay.  If you wanna talk stats, the Bruins were shorthanded 16 times in seven games, while Columbus was shorthanded six times in four games.

Image result for BOSTON BRUINS VS BLUE JACKETS(Photo Credits: NESN.com)

The Bruins will need to be mindful of the heavy forechecking by Columbus’s Josh Anderson, Nick Foglino and rookie Alexandre Texier.  Boston’s secondary scoring issues was hot topic during the regular season, however come postseason, has been a different story. In the pivotal Game 7, it was Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Marcus Johansson that got the Bruins on board. Although the first line has been quiet (aside from Marchand who’s been steadily producing), the team will  need all lines on deck for this series. Columbus’s Matt Duchene leads the team in points, goals and assists, while Brad Marchand leads in points, goals and assists.

Boston’s Chris Wagner and Connor Clifton will be back in the lineup tonight.

For Columbus, here are the projected lines for tonight:

Artemi Panarin – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Oliver Bjokstrand

Ryan Dzingel – Matt Duchene – Cam Atkinson

Alexandre Texier – Nick Foligno – Josh Anderson

Riley Nash – Booner Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky

Zach Werenski – Seth Jones

Markus Nutivaara – David Savard

Scott Harrington – Adam Clendening

Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo

Expect Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky in their respected nets.

WHEN TO WATCH: Tonight at TD Garden with puck drop at 7:00 PM

WHERE TO WATCH: NBCSN

 

Why The Bruins Prevailed In A Grueling First Round Against The Maple Leafs

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

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

When a Boston-Toronto matchup comes to fruition in the playoffs, it is sure to be a battle — the last two, and now three playoff matchups between the two teams are indicative of that. For the third time in the past six seasons, the Bruins came out victorious in seven games over the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t a squeaky clean series from the Bruins, but they found a way to get it done in the end. Sure, the reasons I state aren’t the only reasons the Bruins prevailed, but they are important ones.

Deadline additions come in clutch

The acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson were orchestrated by Don Sweeney at deadline time. Coyle didn’t light up the score sheet as a Bruin post-trade deadline, but really helped a third line that saw ebbs and flows throughout the season.

Coyle broke out in the first round, big time. With three goals and an assist, his four points were good for fifth on the team in scoring. The stability of his presence on the third line never faded, and his ability to score and push the pace in all three zones really came through and was paramount in the team’s success. His empty netter last night sealed the deal on the series, but his lone assist of the series in the team’s game four wins was a huge one. Coyle’s importance can’t be overstated.

Despite only playing in five of the seven games, Marcus Johansson made an impact as well. Overall, he had a solid series, but he really came through last night with a huge goal to give the Bruins a two-goal lead. Not to mention a big blocked shot late in the second period of an eventual game four win — the Bruins were up by two goals at the time.

The fourth line came up big when it mattered most

Overall this season, the fourth line has seen its share of ebbs and flows, like the third line. They really got a boost when known buzzsaw Sean Kuraly returned from injury in game five. At times, the fourth line looked pretty rough, but they saw a resurgence when Kuraly’s presence and high-energy style was at its peak.

The bottom line’s most notable performance, with Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Acciari making up the line, came in game seven. In combining for two goals and three assists in the game, the fourth line pushed the pace and put the Bruins over the top to win when it all came down to it. Big-time players make big-time plays.

Tuukka Rask, plain and simple

Tuukka Rask was phenomenal in the first round, and has been for much of the season as a whole. He wasn’t perfect, but he made crucial saves when they were needed most in the end. After the game last night, Rask hinted at being his changed workload in the regular season helping, and he sure gave us a glimpse. Credit can certainly be given to the Bruins’ coaching staff and Jaroslav Halak for this, additionally. Rask finished this series with a 4-3 record, 2.31 GAA, and a .928 save percentage. Here’s arguably the best save he made, if you somehow haven’t seen it already.

Brandon Carlo was consistently excellent

A first playoff rodeo didn’t intimidate Brandon Carlo. Injuries in year’s past robbed him at a chance to show what he could do in the playoffs — this year, he got his shot.

In doing so, Carlo gave anyone watching a real glimpse of how much of a legitimate shutdown defenseman and leader he can be. Everything viewers could have expected and then some. He was the team’s best defenseman and got the recognition he deserved from media. Have a gander at this short thread for some more perspective, in a game six sample size.

Resilience shined through

Individual performances obviously shined through, but so did the resilience of this Bruins team as a whole. They had their backs against the wall after a game five loss with a game six in a hostile Toronto environment on the docket. They battled to win an extremely stressful game six, get back to home ice, and clinch the series on home ice.

Game six saw the Bruins down a goal in the first thanks to Morgan Reilly, but they battled back to eventually win 4-2. Scoring the first goal can often be crippling, especially in a must-win game — not this time.

Speaking of scoring the first goal, Nordstrom helped in that regard last night and the Bruins didn’t fall behind once, despite a dominant second period from Toronto. That resilience that was so huge in their success was huge in the end.

Also, I feel obligated to mention the fact that the camaraderie between Boston sports teams is something special. Most recently with Julian Edelman going crazy at the Garden last night, we also saw members of the Boston Celtics, coach Brad Stevens, and prominent Patriots players like Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, and James White, amongst others showing their support. All of this that we have seen recently, as well as over the years is too cool not to mention, and the players do appreciate it.

As I said, the importance of the Bruins’ stars and other players who didn’t get a mention in this discussion, obviously contributed to the team’s success as well. The lack of a mention isn’t meant to discredit them. But, these were the factors that stuck out to me the most. It was an epic series, and now the Bruins are on to Columbus.

Bruins’ Special Teams Pave Way To Second Round Appearance

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.  The Boston Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games to win their Stanley Cup Eastern Conference opening round series.  That’s right, for the third time in six seasons, the Bruins have advanced in a do-or-die, series decider on Garden ice over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This series saw its share of ebbs and flows, momentum changes from game to game, but ultimately the difference came down to special teams.  In a hard fought and extremely tight series, a lack of opportunities with the man advantage only worked to increase the importance of special teams’ performance.  After each team opened with a 4-1 victory in the first two games, the last five encounters were all closely contested, with empty net goals in each of the last three Bruins’ victories increasing the margins

When all was said and done there were a number of deciding factors but the difference in this series came down to the performance of special teams.   The Bruins out-performed Toronto on both the power play and the penalty kill, combined with the boost to their bottom 6 provided by the return of Sean Kuraly for the final three games of the series, and there was just enough for Boston to separate in a tight series and punch their ticket to the second round.

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Boston’s special teams outplayed Toronto’s all series long.  The Bruins scored seven power play goals in 16 opportunities for a 43.8% clip.  Toronto, meanwhile, scored just three power play goals in 16 opportunities, good for just an 18.8% success rate.  Toronto also added a short-handed, penalty shot goal by Mitch Marner in the opening game. 

The importance of the power play in a tight, relatively low-scoring series is illustrated by considering the impact that special teams had in deciding a number of the games played in this series.  Special teams were the difference in each of the last five games played.

  • In Game 3, Toronto outscored the Bruins 2-1 on the power play in a game that ended 3-2 in their favor.
  • In Game 4, Boston outscored Toronto 2-1 in a 6-4 victory.
  • In Game 5, Boston’s power play went 0 for 3 in a low scoring affair in which capitalizing on any of their opportunities may have changed the flow and outcome of that game.  The Maple Leafs won 2-1.
  • In Game 6, the Bruins went 2 for 2 while the Maple Leafs went 0 for 3 and the Bruins prevailed 4-2 to stave off elimination and force Game 7.
  • In Game 7, the Bruins were not given any power play opportunities but they did kill both of the power plays the Maple Leafs had, including one in the second period with the Leafs pressing in a one-goal game. They also killed off a too-many-men on the ice call midway through the third period that could have allowed Toronto to pull within a goal.

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The expectation going into Game 7 was that there wouldn’t be many power play opportunities.  Given what was at stake, we expected to see disciplined play from both teams in the finale.  There is, after all, no margin for error in a win-and-move-on, lose-and-go-home decider.  That was exactly how it played out. The referees ‘let them play’ and in the end there were only two minor penalties called, both against Boston. The Bruins came up big on the penalty kill and were able to leverage that into the series clinching victory.

Both the Maple Leafs and Bruins struggled to carry the momentum of a victory from one game to the next in this series. The Bruins were finally able to buck that trend and grab the necessary consecutive wins in games 6 and 7 to capture the series.  Boston clearly established a special teams advantage and at the end of the day in a seven-game series that went right down to the wire, yet again, it was superior special teams play that propelled the Bruins into an Eastern Conference Semi-Final match-up with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Bruins Look to Kuraly & Kuhlman to KO Leafs

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Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/Getty Images

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

In a playoff series that features an excess of star-power and offensive prowess, an appreciation for roster depth can often go by the wayside. The Boston Bruins, despite boasting arguably the best forward line in hockey, have proven to fall short of the Toronto Maple Leafs when considering world-class skill at the forward position. The collection of Marner, Matthews, and Tavares, when supplemented by several players that could slot in as top-6 forwards on most teams (Johnsson, Kapanen, Nylander, Marleau, Hyman), has outshined the forward units of the Black and Gold for the better part of the series.

The Bruins have been able to string together enough bounce-back wins to even the series at three games apiece, and have been lucky to do so, as they have struggled to find a lineup that provides them with their best matchup against a high-skilled Toronto squad. However, Game 6 on Sunday might have sparked some hope for the Boston faithful as the series concludes after Tuesday’s Game 7 in Boston.

For the vast majority of Sunday’s Game 6, the Bruins maintained almost complete control. They out-chanced the Leafs. They out-worked the Leafs. They killed penalties. They rallied for three unanswered goals after surrendering the game’s first tally. They created their own energy with their backs against the wall in a game on the road. To say the least (apart from the final 10 minutes of the game), Sunday’s effort was largely encouraging for the Bruins and their fans. It showcased the team’s most complete effort throughout the course of a 60-minute battle, and did so in the face of adversity and immense pressure.

Why?

Here’s a fun fact for hockey fans everywhere: The Boston Bruins have, in their entire history as an organization, never lost a playoff game in which both Sean Kuraly and Karson Kuhlman were in the lineup for Boston.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why this is the case. Is it because their last names begin with ‘K’? Is it because they both come from the Midwest? Is it because they both bring a workman style approach to each game?

These are all fair questions. Quite simply, the Bruins have never lost when both players take the ice in the playoffs (1-0-0, 1.00 Win %) because of the completeness of their game, and the versatility that each player provides.

While Kuhlman and Kuraly play somewhat different styles and have suited up among mostly different linemates during the 2018-2019 campaign, they both possess the necessary speed to compete with Toronto’s forward units. Their ability to get behind Toronto’s defensemen on the forecheck is invaluable in a series that, for the first four or five games, featured a Toronto defensive unit that broke the puck out of their zone with relative ease. While David Backes and Chris Wagner (the two Bruins relegated to the press box in lieu of Kuhlman and Kuraly) play a somewhat physical game, their deficiencies as skaters proved to be too much for Bruce Cassidy to continue to put them on the ice.

Kuraly’s game is mostly devoted to North/South trajectories and an ability to lug the puck from zone to zone, and Kuhlman’s game can also feature similar attributes. In a “grind it out” style of game, Kuhlman can use his legs and grit to be effective and keep things simple. However, in a more skill and creativity-centric game, Kuhlman also possesses the necessary skill set to make plays, and pass the puck well. The combination of puck possession and play-making ability between Kuraly and Kuhlman prove to bring much more to the table than the one-dimensional styles of both Backes and Wagner.

The Bruins’ lineup is deeper throughout with both Kuhlman and Kuraly on the ice. Cassidy has shown that he trusts both players in the later minutes of games, when he has shortened his bench during crucial minutes. The Bruins, especially in a Game 7, cannot afford to suit up forwards who can’t be trusted in crucial minutes and high-pressured situations. Wagner and Backes’s minutes in the late stages of their most recent playoff games reveal just how little Cassidy can trust their play, at least in this particular series. Having more bodies that can be effective on Cassidy’s bench is paramount in the latter stages of playoff games, as they will be able to provide Cassidy’s top players with adequate rest, so that they can continue to play at their highest level when the Bruins need them most.

 

It’s been said before, but it’s worth restating: The Bruins have never lost a playoff game in which both Kuraly and Kuhlman have been in the lineup for Boston.

I’m no rocket scientist (yet), but I don’t need to be in order to know that I wouldn’t bet against that combination of K’s as they look to KO Toronto in Game 7.

Kuhlman and Kuraly? That’s deep.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 5: Toronto at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

On Wednesday night, the Boston Bruins tied up their Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals series against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 6-4 victory in Toronto. With the win, Boston regains home-ice advantage in what is now a best-of-three series. The winner of tonight’s Game 5 will have the opportunity to end the series on Sunday in Game 6.

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (2-2)

Away: Toronto Maple Leafs (2-2)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 6-4

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Sean Kuraly makes his long-awaited return to the lineup after dealing with a hand injury since late March while Joakim Nordstrom is the healthy scratch to allow Kuraly back in the forward lines.

First Period:

The first period for this critical Game 5 was back and forth for all twenty minutes but at no time did either team “dominate” the other. Bruce Cassidy went with the Wagner-Kuraly-Acciari against that top line of the Maple Leafs off the opening draw, but as the period went on, we began to see more of a Bergeron/Tavares matchup on the ice.

The Leafs did have a lot of pressure in the offensive zone, putting some good shots on Tuukka Rask in the first half of the period, but the Bruins managed to get the puck out of the zone most of the time. On too many occasions, Toronto had possession of the puck and winning the battles along the boards.

Regardless, Rask made the saves he needed to make and Boston did get a few opportunities on some rushes of their own. Both Toronto and Boston stayed firm in the defensive zone, protecting the middle of the ice and forcing the offence to use the outside of the zone to get their chances. Neither team is making many mistakes and it made for a tight frame.

With three minutes to go, Zach Hyman gets called on a tripping minor that many people think was a light call, however, Boston is going to the first power-play of the game. On the man-advantage, both David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk get close chances, but either the shot missed the cage, or was stopped by Frederik Andersen. Bruins cannot score and the buzzer sounds for the first.

After the whistle, Auston Matthews took some shots at Zdeno Chara to try and get under the skin of the captain but to no avail. It was much better last six minutes for the Bruins than Toronto and that momentum needs to be used heading into an important second period.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 6 TOR: 7

Score: 0-0

Second Period

Toronto opens the second period with some good shots but Tuukka Rask looks a lot calmer and relaxed at this stage of the game compared to Wednesday in Toronto. Auston Matthews took some shots at the chest of Rask as well as some slight deflection shots but score stays scoreless.

Less than five minutes into the frame, Boston begins to make some passes around the Maple Leafs’ zone, resulting in a hooking minor against Patrick Marleau on David Krejci. Some of the best chances so far on the end of either team came from that man-advantage, including a Pastrnak one-timer that bounced off of Andersen’s pads. Other than that, the Leafs kill the penalty off and we return to 5-on-5.

Nearing the halfway mark of the middle regulation period, the Bruins get a chance off of  Brad Marchand wrist shot that leaves a sneaky rebound to David Pastrnak. Pastrnak’s rebound is batted off of the iron and the side of Andersen and remains out of the net. The Bruins continue the strong offence, but the Leafs are exhausted. A bouncing puck around the boards leads to Mitch Marner who golf swings his stick, hitting the puck up and over the glass – delay-of-game penalty and B’s are back to the power-play.

A weird bouncing rebound off Andersen somehow sets up Kasperi Kapanen on a shorthanded breakaway. Fortunately, Kapanen misses the net high and wide. Bruins, still on the man-advantage, turn it over in the neutral zone, leading Hyman to drive into the zone. Hyman is cut off but crashes hard into the end boards. He is slow to get up to his feet, similar to Game 4. Ultimately, Hyman remains on the bench in some discomfort and the Bruins’ terrible power-play ends there.

Easily the best chance of the game so far comes from David Krejci’s stick. Marchand left the puck for Krejci who took a quick shot and it appeared to cross the line. Even Pastrnak thought it went in, but the call on the ice was no goal by the official by the net. After seeing the replay, the shot rifled where the crossbar and the post meet, cleanly beating Andersen but the game remains nodded at zero.

Late in the frame, still 0-0, Tyler Ennis makes a strong move to the net around Matt Grzelcyk, curling in front of Rask but Tuukka stays strong and firm, stopping the chance cleanly. About a minute following, Kapanen takes a rip at Rask as well and cannot find the back of the net. Game 5 heads into the third and final period with a 0-0 tie.

It has been a very tight, defense-first type of hockey game with neither team giving up a chance to score or even get high-quality shots on goal. Only a combined 31 shots have hit the goaltenders and that is due to the lack of shots hitting the net and the high traffic in the slot area. In addition to the middle-heavy defence, shots are coming from the point. It really seems like the next goal scored with be the game-winning tally.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 15 TOR: 16

Score: 0-0

Third Period:

In a game where it truly seems like the next goal will win it, both teams come out with Boston taking the best chances early. A few icing calls against Toronto led to some shots against the tired Leafs unit. Sean Kuraly also got a short rush and ripped a quick wrister that hit Travis Dermott and then fell over top of Dermott. Good chances but still nothing.

Not long after, the Leafs try to get a rush of their own with Connor Brown, who has had a great game all over the ice, takes a shot that hits the side of the cage and gloved down by Rask. At the same time, Brown gets absolutely levelled by Chris Wagner with a hard collision. Charlie Coyle came right back with one of his own as well. Not many hard hits, but Boston may look to go that route at this stage.

With around 12 minutes left to tick away in the third, right before the TV timeout, the Bruins are called on a too-many-men call. A tough call to hear – sending Toronto to their first power-play of the night. Toronto blasted some bombs and got some solid shots on net too, but Boston holds on to kill the entire two minutes off.

With 8:27 remaining, Jake Muzzin makes a brilliant feed to Auston Matthews on the opposite side of the zone who blasts it past Rask to finally put a goal on the board. However, Cassidy challenges for goalie interference on Zach Hyman. On the screen, it appears that there was some contact with Rask in front of the net, but the call on the ice stands – good goal. 1-0 Toronto.

The game started to open up following that goal and it showed. Some intelligent passes by the Leafs lead to a 3-on-2 rush for Toronto – leading to a Kapanen goal past Tuukka Rask. After a tight forty minutes, Toronto takes a 2-0 lead in the game and the Bruins are looking in a tough spot.

The trio of Coyle, McAvoy, and Johansson had some fantastic chances in the dying three minutes with Rask on the bench but somehow the puck never crossed the goal line. Every time it appeared to be close, Andersen or a defenceman somehow got a piece of the puck.

With the goalie pulled, amazing patience by Pastrnak to fake a shot and pass it to Krejci on the other side of Frederik Andersen leads to the first goal for Boston with 43.4 seconds to go. There is some life in not only the players but the fans as well.

The Boston Bruins had a few shots, including one off the faceoff with one second remaining, but too little way too late and the Toronto Maple Leafs win Game 5 on the road, taking a 3-2 series lead heading back to Toronto on Sunday.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 29 TOR: 27

Final Score: 2-1 Maple Leafs

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: TOR G Frederik Andersen – 28 Saves, .966 SV%

2nd Star: TOR F Kasperi Kapanen – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots, 15:56 TOI

3rd Star: TOR F Auston Matthews – 1 Game-Winning Goal, 5 Shots, 17:44 TOI

With Boston’s season on the line, the series goes back to Toronto on Sunday for Game 6. Puck drop scheduled for 3pm EST.

Boston Bruins: Four Games, Two Wins, Three Lines

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Photo Credit: Frank Gunn/AP

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Kuraly, Please.

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

 

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

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

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

Moving Forward

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Brad Penner/ USA TODAY Sports

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