Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECF Game 3: Boston at Carolina

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(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Carolina Hurricanes

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Carolina’s Lineup

Forwards

Svechnikov – Staal – Teravainen

Niederreiter – Aho – Williams

Foegele – McKegg – McGinn

Ferland – Wallmark – Maenalanen

Defense

Slavin – Hamilton

Pesce –  Faulk

Fleury –  de Haan

Goalies

McElhinney

Mrazek

First Period

Round one in PNC Arena came with high stakes for both teams. Would the Bruins go up 3-0, or would Carolina put the pressure on?

Things started off on a sour note for the Bruins, as the Canes established offensive pressure early, and Teuvo Teravainen somehow missed a wide-open Bruins net. Brandon Carlo then inadvertently gave them a power play as a result of a delay of game call. The power play came just 55 seconds into the period.

The first scrum of the game came after the first whistle on the power play as some real estate in the Bruins heads could be beneficial in making this series interesting. The Bruins killed off the power play in large part thanks to two huge saves by Tuukka Rask in front of the net at the end of the power play on Micheal Ferland and Justin Williams

Carolina’s power-play struggles continued, moving to 5 for 46 after the conclusion of their first man advantage of game three. But, the Canes definitely pushed the pace early on, and Rask stood tall.

The shots were 11-1 Canes through about six and a half minutes. That’s not what you want if you’re the Bruins. At this point, Torey Krug and Justin Williams went off on matching minor penalties, holding for Krug, roughing for Williams, 4-on-4 hockey commenced for two minutes.

The Bruins started to see some good chances come their way at the conclusion of the 4-on-4. The energy was high on both sides in the first period. The high-danger shots were there for Carolina, tasking the Bruins with limiting those going forward if they wanted any chance of winning.

A scoring chance from David Backes, a scrum, and a video review ensued around the halfway point of the period. The principal point of discussion was how the puck crossed the line, but the call stood in favor of the Canes. Shortly after, Williams ate another poop sandwich and was the only one in the penalty box after another altercation with Krug.

Just 45 seconds into the power play, Jake DeBrusk went off for slashing, creating a 4-on-4 for 1:15. That wasn’t all, as six seconds later, David Krejci made it 4-on-3 thanks to a high-sticking penalty. Even after the man advantage became a 5-on-3 for a little bit, the Canes failed to convert, and Rask looked solid again.

A big scrum ensued after another huge save from Rask, keeping with the trend, on Maenalanen. Former Minnesota Wild teammates Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter even went after it. Coyle, Krug, and Maenalanen went to the box following the scrum, Carolina came out with a 5-on-4. Stop if you’ve heard this before, Rask played awesome on the penalty kill and held the Canes scoreless.

The Krug and Williams fiasco extended into the final two minutes, as Williams intentionally went up high and Krug and sat for two as a result.

The Bruins failed to score on the man advantage before the end of the period, but had the 27 remaining seconds bled into the second period for the Bruins. Overall, it was an ugly period, with the final shots sitting at 20-6.

Here’s a visual:

Not great, despite the Bruins winning 61% of the faceoffs. I can’t imagine Bruce Cassidy was very happy with anyone in the locker room, besides Rask.

Score: 0-0

Second Period

The Bruins gave themselves and Rask a pick me up early in the second period. Joakim Nordstrom took a hit to make a play, leading to Sean Kuraly finding Chris Wagner out front to give the Bruins a one-goal lead. The goal made Wagner and Matt Grzelcyk the co-leaders in goals for the series, on both teams — just as everyone expected. Wagner’s second was assisted by Nordstrom (3) and Kuraly (2). What a shift from the fourth line.

Good fortune continued to come the Bruins’ way in the form of a Niederreiter high-sticking penalty on Krejci.

The Bruins made no mistake this time on the power play. Brad Marchand walked into the slot and backhanded on off of Calvin de Haan and in. Marchand’s sixth made it 2-0 Bruins, assisted by David Pastrnak (7) and Krejci (6). The effort level in the second period took a big leap for the Bruins. Krejci’s assist gave him his 100th career playoff point, tying him with Rick Middleton and Johnny Bucyk for third-most in Bruins history.

Just seven seconds before the halfway point, Backes was high-sticked by Ferland to give the Bruins another power play.

Don’t let de Haan’s goal distract you from the fact that Rask did this. But that’s one that Rask wants back. 2-1 Bruins with 6:12 to go.

This happened too.

Things went much better in more areas than not for the Bruins this time around. The final shots for the period were 18-6 Bruins in the second, moving the totals to 26-24 Carolina overall. A huge third period awaited both teams

Score: 2-1 Boston

Third Period

This time, de Haan found his way into the spotlight for a tripping penalty 3:43 into the period. The Bruins were 1/4 on the power play heading into this one, with eight shots.

A point hammer from Krug found its way in, but DeBrusk made contact with McElhinney as a result of a collision with Jaccob Slavin as McElhinney was headed towards the outside of the crease. This had to have been a tough call for the officials, but they ruled in favor of the Canes. The score remained 2-1.

Make of that what you will.

The misfortune continued for the Bruins as Grzelcyk went off for interference with 14:22 to go in the period. Rask continued to make big saves and the Bruins killed off the penalty, making the Canes 0/5 on the power play.

Things were pretty back-and-forth for the rest of the period, at times. Wagner took a Justin Faulk slapshot off his hand and went to the locker room in the final three minutes of the period.

McElhinney was pulled for the extra attacker just around the two-minute mark. The final shots were 36-31 Canes, 10-7 in the period. The final tally was 35 saves for Rask in an epic showing from him, yet again. The Bruins take a three-game lead in the series in a hectic one. Next up is game four on the road again on Thursday at 8 PM ET.

Final Score: 2-1 Boston

Charlie McAvoy’s Game Three Is Exactly What He And The Bruins Want Moving Forward

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

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

The Boston Bruins now trail their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series with the Columbus Blue Jackets two-games-to-one and there are many different theories and ideas as to why the Bruins have lost two of the three games to the second wild-card team in the Eastern Conference.

Some suggest that the lack of production from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand is the reason while others may think that secret or unspecified injuries are the reason. After the loss in Game Three on the road, one player was one-hundred-percent not blamed (and he really shouldn’t be if he is), defenseman Charlie McAvoy.

Before Game Three, McAvoy has had a pretty solid 2019 postseason for the Bruins and he is truly showing that he can handle the big minutes that top-two defencemen in the NHL need to be able to handle. In the opening best-of-seven series against the Maple Leafs, the 21-year-old averaged 24:04 of ice-time, scoring one goal and adding two assists for three points in the seven games.

Between Games One and Two in the Second Round against Columbus, McAvoy averaged 27:33 minutes, highlighted by a 30:39-minute game in the double-overtime loss back in the second game. McAvoy trailed only Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo for the most minutes in that game, but his play was something to note heading into Tuesday’s contest in Columbus.

In Game Three, Charlie played in a team-high 24 minutes, led the team in recorded hits with five, and had the third-most shots on goal by defencemen on the Bruins roster. In addition to all of that, McAvoy’s skating and puck handling was on full display, often joining the rush as almost a fourth forward, setting up high-quality scoring chances because of it. During the third period of play with Boston down 2-1 on the scoreboard, McAvoy made a slick, no-look pass to Noel Acciari that beat Sergei Bobrovsky, but rang off of the post and went into the corner.

If Acciari buries that beautiful play, the game is tied and the two teams would have most likely made their way to a third-consecutive overtime session. It was a hard break for a Boston team that let the Blue Jackets come out on home ice with a two-goal lead, but made an effort near the end of the second period and the entirety of the third to even up the score and force that overtime period.

Regardless of the outcome of the game and regardless of how the series currently stands, Charlie McAvoy did everything in his power other than scoring goals to give Boston the lead in the series. Former Bruin Riley Nash has been on the wrong end of some heavy hits by the B’s and McAvoy was yet another contributor to that. In the dying seconds of the second period, not long after DeBrusk’s tally, the Long Beach, New York native sent Nash to ice in exploding fashion with a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder collision.

Charlie McAvoy was a crucial part to the small successes that Boston found in the Game Three defeat. As previously stated, McAvoy handled the puck with ease around oncoming defenders and managed to help the Bruins secure some offensive zone time – a feat that seemed difficult to accomplish at numerous times in not only this game, but the first two meetings as well. His zone entries were clean, feet were always moving, and his passes were clean – turning the puck over on only one occasion compared to the four turnovers he committed in Game Two.

Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy praised the efforts of McAvoy in the post-game press conference as well, as this quote taken from Shawn Hutcheon (@ShawnHutcheon) suggests.

“Excellent. He was all over the ice. Dominant. He wanted to be a difference-maker without being reckless. Really, really good. Charlie was a big reason why we were in the game.”

A topic that was often included in these conversations about McAvoy’s stellar performance on Tuesday night was that McAvoy usually does not play like this consistently and if he does, could be a strong asset to Boston as this series progresses further and further. Bruins Network (@BruinsNetwork) included that perfectly in a Tweet below.

Similar to Acciari’s post shot, McAvoy ripped one off of the red iron as well in the game. His speed and skill with the puck allowed a clean entry into Columbus’ zone, but his solid wrist shot hit the post behind a standing Bobrovsky. Just another digressive attack that demonstrated his confidence that he possessed throughout the sixty-minute hockey game.

Even in a losing effort, the end result for Charlie McAvoy could be a winning one in the long run. On July 1st, the young defender’s contract officially expires and he will become an unrestricted free-agent. As of the end of the 2018-19 regular season, McAvoy has played in 117 career NHL regular season games, amassing 14-46-60 numbers within that time span as well as 13 points in 28 NHL playoff games.

Following a recent poll on my Twitter page, 51% of voters predict McAvoy’s contract to be anywhere from $4.1 to $6 million annually, with many people suggesting that the length of the deal plays a role in that annual salary as well. The next highest percentage, at 35%, suggested a $6.1 to $7 million price gap.

On CapFriendly’s “comparable” tool on their website, I took a look at players similar to McAvoy when he will sign his new contract. Such parameters included a 21-year-old, right-handed defenceman with 60 points in 117 games making $5.5 million on a six-year contract. Of course, those numbers are going off of the Twitter results and do not result in a definite, expected number.

The best match for McAvoy according to CapFriendly is Arizona Coyotes d-man, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson signed his deal back in March of 2013 when he was 21 years of age. At the time of signing, OEK had only 56 points in 157 games played. The website’s tool has both players matching at 97.1%.

Now, my first issue with this was the idea of the points scored. With the statistics provided above, Charlie McAvoy possesses a 0.51 points-per-game average while Ekman-Larsson had only averaged 0.35 points-per-game when he signed for $5.5 million for six seasons. In response, I re-adjusted my sliders for the attributes that I wanted to be considered the most, including career games played, points, and age. Below were my top 5 results. You can also CLICK HERE for the official CapFriendly table.

  • 98.1% – ARI D Jakub Chychrun – 21yrs – 118GP – 34pts – $4.6 million/6yrs in 2018
  • 97.1% – MIN D Jonas Brodin – 21yrs – 127GP – 31pts – $4.1 million/6yrs in 2014
  • 96.7% – NJD D Adam Larsson – 21yrs – 128GP – 27pts – $900,000/1yr in 2014
  • 96.6% – MIN D Brent Burns – 21yrs – 108GP – 22pts – $825,000/2yrs in 2006
  • 96.2% – ARI D Oliver Ekman-Larsson – 21yrs – 157GP – 56pts – $5.5 million/6yrs in 2013

Taking a look at the annual salaries, clearly the contracts of both Adam Larsson and Brent Burns are highly unlikely for McAvoy at this point in his career, but they do have a strong resemblance to McAvoy’s current situation. Jakub Chychrun, to me, makes the most sense. However, due to McAvoy having a significantly higher career point total as well as having a larger role on the Bruins team than Chychrun did, I personally see his contract around Ekman-Larsson’s.

For Charlie McAvoy, if his Game Three performance can be continued out for the remainder of the postseason, he can truly have some bargaining power on General Manager Don Sweeney and the rest of the Bruins management. For the Boston Bruins, even if they have to pay more than possibly expected at the start of the season, it is a win for them because they will have another young, solid defenceman of the future to build around once the likes of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug move on.

Tonight, the Bruins are back on the ice against the Blue Jackets in Game Four. Puck drop is currently scheduled for 7:30pm EST. Can Charlie McAvoy play as dominantly as he did only two nights ago? Will the Bruins tie the series at two, heading back to Boston? They’re all just questions, but soon, they will become answers.

Bruins Hope Rest Will Re-Awaken Top Dogs

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( Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images )

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

The Boston Bruins are in absolutely no position to panic or feel worried about the state of their team, and as such, neither are the fans. The unexpected truth of the series is objectively more encouraging than worrisome, and this truth is that the Bruins have outplayed the Columbus Blue Jackets, despite Boston’s best players being somewhat invisible through two games.

Ideally, the Black and Gold’s entire roster should be firing on all cylinders at this point in the spring. However, to find themselves in an even series with a second-round opponent despite getting subpar play from almost every single one of their leaders (aside from Tuukka Rask, who has been stellar), is a testament to just how good this Bruins team is and will be when they can put together a full effort.

Picking Up Slack/Depth

There are several things to smile about (from a Bruins’ perspective) when examining the facts of how the B’s have gotten to this point in the series. The first and foremost of which is the aforementioned notion that they have objectively been successful despite being without the “A-games” of their best players. Not only does this allow the mind to wander when imagining how much more effective Boston will be when things start to click, but it affords observers an opportunity to appreciate the depth that the Bruins are employing on the ice.

As depth—particularly at the forward positions—had been a prominent issue identified by management (and many a Bruins fan), it is enthralling to see that when deadline acquisitions and bottom-six forwards are playing to their capabilities, they are able to carry the load when their leaders are sluggish.

With this being said, anticipating a resurgence among the Bruins leading scorers—Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, DeBrusk—might indeed be a justified line of thinking. While most players are prone to periods of quiet play and ineffectiveness from time to time, very seldom have Bruins fans come to see the play of their leaders falter so simultaneously. As troublesome as the decline in their effectiveness has been, to expect it to continue for much longer would truly be hoping for a longshot, especially given the pedigrees of the respective Bruins’ leaders.

 

If the series has been even with the Bruins top-six forwards playing some of their worst hockey, then it would be well within reason to expect the Bruins to take control of the series with just a small improvement in the efforts of their top-scorers.

Defensively

The Bruins’ efforts defensively have somewhat mirrored the play of their forwards, though in perhaps a less salient manner. Simply, they have been unable to put together a game in which all members of their D-core are playing to their capabilities.

Aside from Brandon Carlo. He has been flat out impressive.

Game 2 saw a decent performance from most members of the Bruin’s defensive units, yet individually there are, in most cases, things to point to that highlight inconsistency. Defensively, Carlo, Clifton, and Krug played relatively mistake-free hockey.

Krug, however, “quarterbacked” a first powerplay unit that was at best underwhelming. In moments where the prowess of the powerplay (Prowerplay?! I’m so sorry…) was needed most—specifically a three-minute advantage following the surrendering of an absolute giveaway of a goal—they failed to piece together any sustained pressure or scoring opportunities. As such, an energized and motivated Columbus team seized the momentum of the man-advantage.

Zdeno Chara’s failed clear on a second-period penalty kill was costly, and (like the laughable Charlie Coyle turnover that would come later in that same period) provided Columbus with both a goal and a surge of energy they would ride throughout the rest of the game.   Charlie McAvoy’s play featured significant lapses in judgment in some of the most important moments of the game, specifically in the overtime periods. The most notable of these blunders were an ill-advised pinch which led to a high-percentage scoring chance by Jackets captain Nick Foligno, and another play in which McAvoy got WALKED (dangled, breezed, torched, take your pick) by Foligno on his way to another grade-A scoring chance. Fortunately for McAvoy, in both instances Tuukka was equal to the task*, robbing Foligno of both would-be game-winners.   *Big credit to me for not rhyming “Rask” with “task” there.

 

Albeit concerning, these faults in the performances of key members of the Bruins point to an evident truth: with some tightening of the screws, and a commitment to playing the style of hockey that made them successful all year, the Bruins should be right back in the driver’s seat of this series.

With the AUX cord. In complete control.

Rest

Columbus came into the series with much more than a week of rest. The Bruin’s entered the series with barely over one day of rest. The Bruins have outperformed a well-rested and relatively healthy Columbus team despite Boston’s tired and beaten up roster, whose best players have yet to shine in the postseason. While many might point to the idea that perhaps Columbus had “too much rest,” the effects of being out of competitive situations for so long likely wouldn’t last longer than a period or two. Quite simply, the Bruins have outplayed Columbus without once having more than a day in between games to recharge…until now.

 

The Jackets are about to get a rested Bruins team in Columbus, something they haven’t seen since Game 80 of the regular season. The Bruins won that one 6-2, by the way.

 

I’m not sure if the Columbus players or fans wear boots. But if they do, then now might be a good time to start shaking in them.

Seven Key Bruins Who Need To Perform In Game Seven

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photo credit: Matthew J. Lee / Boston Globe staff

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

For the third time in seven seasons, the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will be facing off in a seven game playoff series. The Bruins made a legendary comeback to win in 2013, and won again in 2018. Should the following players keep their heads in the game and perform to their capabilities, there is no reason the Bruins can’t advance to the second round again.

Tuukka Rask

Always a controversial topic among Bruins fans, Rask has had a whirlwind season. Things started off ugly with a blowout loss to the Washington Capitals, then there was a short leave of absence, followed by some streaky play. All in all, the Finnish goaltender has been solid, but not world class, this season, putting up a 2.48 goals against average, and a save percentage of .912. He was very good in game 5, but the rest of the team wasn’t, so the Leafs were able to take the series lead. His performance on Easter Sunday was masterful, and the Bruins went on to force game 7 by nothing a 4-2 win.

The Bruins will need another great performance out of Rask, as nothing takes the wind out of their sails like a bad goal can. Obviously the team defense has allowed Rask to be tested far more than he should be, but the Finnish netminder is going to have to overcome his skaters’ shortcomings if the Bruins are going to advance to the Conference Semifinals. It’s certainly not encouraging when the team is giving up breakaways to a star studded roster of forwards on the regular, but these goals need to be prevented nonetheless. However frustrating it may be, Rask has got to keep his head in the game, as he has for the last two games.

Torey Krug

Torey Krug is another player some Bruins fans love to hate. Sometimes their annoyance is understandable, especially during the last six games, as the puck has jumped over his stick at the blueline multiple times this series, causing a breakaway for the Leafs, or at the very least, squandering an offensive opportunity for the Bruins. Krug, however, is a double-edged sword: the Bruins employ a high-risk, high-reward strategy during the power play, and Krug is a vital piece when they’re on the man advantage. The Bruins also have trouble breaking out of their own zone cleanly when he’s not on the ice, so while he may leave something to be desired defensively, he is indispensable to this Bruins team.

If the Black and Gold want to be successful in game 7, Torey Krug will have to keep his nerves in check, and will have to try and avoid the blue line mishaps that have been his calling card lately. At the very least, he’s going to have to do what he does best: make up for his defensive gaffes by scoring or setting up goals. His offensive talent is fantastic, and he’s going to have to bring it tonight for the Bruins to get the win.

Brandon Carlo

As Torey Krug’s defensive partner, Brandon Carlo will naturally be responsible for a lot defensively. No good offensive defenseman can do what he does without a good shutdown partner, and Carlo is exactly that. Brandon Carlo has played very well in this, his maiden playoff voyage, and he’s going to need to be aggressive and keep his head in the game tonight. Toronto’s top two forward lines are no joke, and they’ve been jumping on breakaway chances repeatedly during this series. Carlo is going to have to do his best to keep the door to the crease closed tonight.

David Krejci

Having led the NHL in postseason scoring twice before, the Bruins’ second line center is known to have a lycanthropic streak, where he turns into am absolute beast once the postseason begins. Krejci Beast Mode is here again in 2019, and it needs to make its presence known in game 7. At this point, Krejci has scored 2 goals and assisted on two more in six playoff games. Four points doesn’t sound like much, but Krejci brings more than points to the table. He’s been playing the body all series, hitting anyone and everyone he can. The Czech center can also play well without the puck, so the Bruins are able to rely upon him a bit defensively, as well.

Ideally, Krejci will be centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak tonight. The combination of Pastrnak’s speed and shot combined with DeBrusk’s straight-line speed and love for crashing the net match perfectly with Krejci’s bizarre ability to slow the game down and allow his teammates to get to where they need to be before making the magic happen. If Krejci continues to play like a man possessed and he’s skating with DeBrusk and Pastrnak, good things will happen for the Bruins’ offense. Like they say, as David Krejci goes, so go the Bruins.

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photo credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

Jake DeBrusk

Jake DeBrusk is all heart, and is exactly the kind of player you want on your roster for games like this. He emits this “young Mark Recchi” aura, and it is wonderful. His going head-to-head with Nazem Kadri and causing him to be suspended for most of the series was entertaining, and actually pretty important. DeBrusk has only scored one goal and assisted on another in the six games he’s played in this series, though, and that will have to change if they’re going to make a run of this.

Playing alongside the Czech Davids is both a gift and a responsibility. DeBrusk has earned his ice time for sure, but he’s going to have to produce if he wants to keep it. DeBrusk will need to do what he’s best at – winning puck battles and crashing the net. If he continues to move his feet and fight for his ice like he did against Kadri, the goals will come.

David Pastrnak

In the first six games of this series, David Pastrnak has scored two goals, and has notched four assists. He hasn’t looked like his usual self through much of it, though — he’s tried to get cute and make the extra pass instead of shooting a few too many times this series — Pastrnak will need to get away from that and play his usual game. Pasta cannot let Toronto’s defense out-muscle him and force him to the boards. He will need to fight for the middle of the ice and put as much on net as possible. Krejci will undoubtedly be feeding him passes for one-timer opportunities, and DeBrusk will be in the crease to hit any rebounds home. If Pastrnak is able to put up with Toronto’s physical game and get as many pucks on net as possible, it should pay off.

Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron is the heart and soul of this Bruins team. He is far and away Boston’s best player. Bergeron is a gamer and will likely have a big game 7, as he typically does, and the Bruins need it, badly. Bergeron is their go-to when it comes to must-win faceoffs, and his line is typically the one Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy turns to when a big goal is needed. It is rare that Bergeron has consecutive bad or no-show games, but he has looked a little bit off this series.

Bergeron being engaged, healthy, and allowed to take important faceoffs (instead of being kicked out, as NHL linesmen seem to love doing to Bergy) are paramount to this Bruins’ team success. If Bergeron can play his game and not be neutralized by the Leafs, the Bruins will have a much better chance at a successful game 7. He and Brad Marchand, like David Pastrnak, need to put pucks on net rather than making the extra pass. Andersen needs to see as much traffic and as many shots and possible if the Bruins want to win tonight. Pray to the Hockey Gods that Bergeron comes up big tonight.

How to Treat Bruins Defensemen As Playoffs Approach

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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/ USA TODAY Sports

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

The Bruins have been hurt all year. You’d be hard pressed to recall a game in which their regular roster was 100% healthy. If you can in fact recall such a game off the top of your head, then you are likely someone with a strangely strong memory who would probably weird me out if we were to meet in person. The point is, these games have been few and far between.

No one position in the lineup has been immune to these injuries. The list of injured Bruins players includes… well, just about everyone. Big ups to David Krejci for not only staying healthy all year, but for staying positive when all his friends were licking their wounds and putting band-aids on their boo-boos.

But as we approach the playoffs, an area that draws significant focus in terms of game management and recovery for players is the defensive unit of the Bruins. The man-games lost to injury among Bruins defensemen alone has been astounding. So much so that I used the word astounding just now, and I took a vow to never use that word without just cause.

At the tail end of a pretty significant stretch of games where the Black and Gold have been undermanned at the defensive position, things are starting to look hopeful at the right time. Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller are all rejoining the Bruins’ lineup within one week of each other. Undoubtedly, some rust is to be expected out of these three as they return (Krug only had 2 assists in his return from injury, yuck). But on the whole, the Bruins will be a much better and more well-rounded team with half of their regular defensive unit back in action.

A dilemma that Bruce Cassidy might be faced with, however, is how to treat the other half of the defensive unit. This would be the half that has helped keep the team afloat when a weaker team might have folded. This is the half that has been tasked with playing significant minutes in the absence of their compatriots, in order to minimize the amount of pressure and responsibility placed on the defenseman mitigate the negative affects of a beaten up D-core replete with AHL callus and press box regulars.   Specifically, it will be interesting to see how Cassidy will handle the playing time and workloads of Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, and perhaps most importantly Brandon Carlo over the final five regular season games.   Chara is 42, and despite being in remarkable physical condition, some rest might be crucial to entering the postseason in top form. Carlo has been solid all year long, yet went down in the later part of the regular season last year, and his absence was more than noticeable against Tampa Bay. McAvoy, despite being relatively healthy for at least the latter half of this season, has been tasked with shouldering the load as far as ice time is concerned, averaging around 23 minutes throughout each of his past five games.

 

Unfortunately, there McAvoy struggled in the third period of a game against Tampa Bay on March 25th, a result that could very well be linked to fatigue and overuse (McAvoy played nearly 27 minutes in that game).

All this to say, the balance between effective rest and harmful idleness is one that Cassidy will have to find for the three aforementioned D-men. Certainly any coach would like to rest the legs of those on whom he will have to rely in the playoffs (as well as protect them from injury), but it is important to keep them fresh and primed as the postseason approaches. This balance is one that is going to have to be found by calculating the right amount of minutes per night for each of the defensemen, as well as how many games they will actually dress for.

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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/ USA TODAY Sports

What does coach Cam do?

If it were up to me (and it won’t be), I would play all 6 of my regular defensemen in the final game of the season. Sure, this game comes against Tampa, whose run-and-gun style is one that could potentially place some stress on the Bruins defensively. While this might factor into a potential decision to use the game as a rest for some of the B’s defensemen, I would leave them all in. Toronto is a lock for the Bruins as a first round matchup, and the closest thing that resembles the star-power the Bruins defensemen will be facing in the first round is the star power of Tampa’s forwards in Point, Kucherov, and Stamkos.

For the four games leading up to the (regular) season finale, I think it would be wise to play Miller, Grzelcyk, and Krug as much as possible. Conversely, Bruce Cassidy would be wise to allot 3 games to Chara, McAvoy, and Carlo as the season comes to a close. Apart from the final game, find two others for each defenseman to skate in, and have Connor Clifton and Steven Kampfer fill in as needed. If all goes well, maybe John Moore will even be healthy by the time playoffs roll around.

 

This is all speculation and opinion from someone who writes with more confidence than he ever played hockey with. But to me, it seems pretty clear that the Bruins D-core could benefit from some balance and rest as the season comes to a close, so that they are not decimated by injuries as was the case at the heartbreaking end of last season.

 

Don’t worry. I’ll have my guy talk to Butch. They text a lot.

 

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Bruins Look Good For Contract Negotiations Thanks To Bergeron, Others

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( Photo Credit: Robert Mayer/ USA TODAY Sports )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Professional hockey is absolutely a business. Money is connected to every move that is made, and labor laws stipulate that each player must be compensated for their work for each organization. The balance between spending money and maintaining a deep, effective roster, is a very delicate one.

Such is the reason that often times, teams that sign multiple superstars to lucrative contracts are often left vulnerable to weaknesses in other areas. You know, the areas that they’re not rapidly throwing dollar bills at (or for Canadian teams, the areas that they’re not rapidly throwing dollar bills at, eh).

In this area, General Manager Don Sweeney is at a pretty significant advantage when it comes to negotiating chips in contract discussions with players entertaining the idea of playing in Boston. These negotiating chips are the team-friendly contracts of his three most prolific point scorers in Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand. And, in light of the most recent contract extension reached by the Bruins front office, Zdeno Chara’s contract might be one to point to as well.

If the Bruins’ four most valuable (debatable in a couple cases) players are willingly getting paid less than what they would make if they hit the open market, then any future contract negotiations essentially boil down to whether or not the players in question value playing and winning in Boston more than money.   If I’m Don Sweeney, and any player attempts to negotiate for a contract north of $7 million per year, then I’m asking one question.

“Okay, so how much better do you think you are than Patrice Bergeron? You know, Patrice Bergeron? Our point-per-game first line center who has won four Selke Trophies and brought this team a Stanley Cup? The guy who has consistently been regarded as a top-5 player in the entire league? Yeah. He makes a little over $6 million per year. How much better than him do you think you are again?”

Okay, a few questions.

Now, is that an oversimplification? Absolutely. Did I get a little carried away? Maybe. Do I have great hair? You’re damn right I do.

But that’s neither hair nor there.

The point is that any player that requests more money out of an organization whose top players have already proven that they care more about succeeding and winning in Boston than a few (million) extra bucks… well, they might not be a great fit. If the culture is built around winning and paying players fairly provided that they all buy into a winning philosophy and style of play, then there simply is no room for prima donnas, who are out to make more money than they will ever need at the expense of the team’s success.

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( Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/ Getty Images )

Patrice Bergeron is the Bruins’ best hockey player and has been for quite some time now. He might be as highly regarded as any one player in the National Hockey League. And year after year, he affirms through his contract that he does not presume to be better, or more important than the Bruins’ organization or the success that they strive for.

So how would any player on the Bruins feel entitled to more than Bergeron? David Pastrnak, the Bruins leading goal scorer for much of the year and most lethal powerplay threat is attached to a similar contract, despite being much more valuable on the open market. When asked if he was disappointed about his contract and having potentially left money on the table, Pastrnak responded without a moment’s hesitation that he was not. He’s just living his dream.

When Torey Krug’s contract is up, there is certainly a possibility that he heads elsewhere to make as much cash as he can. If he does, then good for him. But it would be a mistake for all parties involved for him to stay and out-earn the Bruins most valuable players. Krug is exceptionally gifted offensively, and as such is a valuable member of the Bruins. But he is, by no standard, more valuable than any of the aforementioned players who have attached themselves to contracts that make the Bruins a better team.

Fair play, fair pay.

The contracts of the B’s first line, in addition to Zdeno Chara’s contract extension, set the bar for the young talent that are approaching their next contract negotiations. If each decides to get paid for what they are worth to the team, then the next man in line will get paid fairly as well. But my guess is that anyone that tries to squeeze the Bruins for as many pennies as possible might not get what they’re hoping for. And we might not see too much of them in the future.

If you’re looking for proof that this type of business model can be successful for a professional sports team, then may I interest you in a serving of the New England Patriots? Every year, they pay players fairly to do a good job, they have immense success, and then the same players leave to get paid more than they are worth to never win another Super Bowl. Or something to that effect.

Either way, if I’m Don Sweeney, then I’m feeling pretty good about contract negotiations, thanks to my top dogs.

Playing for Boston might not make any one player the richest in the league, but it will certainly give them a chance to be part of a winning culture.

And after all, it’s very seldom that you hear of a child beginning to play hockey due to his burning desire for money. You play hockey for the love of the game, and the desire to compete and win alongside like-mind teammates.

That sounds better, anyway.

 

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Bruins Kuhlman Fits A Few Needs As Playoffs Approach

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( Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/NHLI via Getty Images )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Just to get it out of the way, Karson Kuhlman has one of the best names in professional hockey. You’ve got alliteration. You’ve got “K”s where you were expecting “C”s. The word “cool” fits in there somehow. Very impressive performance by his name, and big ups to his parents.

Somehow, Kuhlman’s contributions to the Bruins in the abbreviated time that he has been granted with the club have outshined the coolness/Kuhlness of his name. Just one season removed from an impressive collegiate career at Minnesota-Duluth, Kuhlman has shown that, as far as forward call-ups from Providence go, he might be as NHL-ready as any of them.

In his first stint with the Bruins in February, Kuhlman impressed as a relatively unheralded prospect. His solid, yet unflashy point totals in the AHL might be to blame for how deeply undersold he was as an effective contributor in the Bruins’ lineup. Kuhlman was able to grace the scoresheet in two of his first three games as a right-wing plug-in alongside David Krejci, providing points in two important games against formidable west coast opponents in Vegas and San Jose (both ended up being one-goal wins for Boston).

After tallying a silky goal in another Black and Gold win over Florida on Saturday night, Kuhlman’s potential as a contributing forward in the offensive end has been made clear. In the individual effort displayed during this goal alone illuminates Kuhlman’s skating ability, hands, and finishing drive. Not to mention how he is able to use his body to shield the puck from the defenseman he just breezed in order to create further separation on his way to the net. A quick snap of the wrist (low glove, thanks for coming), and bingo was his name-oh.

Goals are good. Points are great. Offensive tools are at a premium come playoff time. But I wouldn’t be doing my duty as someone who self-proclaims his duty to be an explanation of young Bruins talent if I didn’t shed some light on the depth of his game.

Kuhlman, in what has been so far just a little more than a handful of games with the Black and Gold, has shown that he is playing a 200-foot game that many young Bruins prospects have left to be desired. In his own zone, Kuhlman’s positioning is superb for a young player. Undoubtedly, he plays like someone who was a lead-by-example captain at the college level.

Kuhlman’s work ethic shines in corner battles and on the forecheck, where his being a novice to the NHL has been drowned out by his skating, tenacity, and grit. His ability to hunt pucks without compromising his positioning and playmaking potential make him useful on any line.

 

Why Kuhlman is Playoff Material

Last year, the Bruins’ season came to an end with Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo on the shelf, crippling a defensive unit that was searching for depth and struggling to maintain its health throughout the playoffs. David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, Noel Acciari, Riley Nash, and Zdeno Chara were also dealing with injuries during the playoffs and into the offseason.

Unfortunately, a depleted Bruins roster didn’t have the depth last year to make the “next man up” philosophy all that effective when tasked with taking on an opponent as formidable as Tampa. Certainly, there were players available to enter the lineup. But these players seemed to make more of a change on the lineup card then on the actual ice surface. And unfortunately, that’s where the games are played.

This is where Kuhlman makes a difference. As a versatile forward who can bring the skill to fill in as a top-six forward, and the discipline, grit, and skating to play among the bottom-six, he gives Bruce Cassidy significantly more leeway with his playoff roster than he had last year.

Currently, Kuhlman is holding Marcus Johansson’s place on the second line, but with MoJo’s return to the lineup closer every day, it’s quite possible that we see Kuhlman drop down to a bottom –six role while Sean Kuraly is injured. In all likelihood, this would mean Joakim Nordstrom gets removed from the lineup. Nordstrom seems like a great person, with a good work ethic, and a mediocre goatee. But if you object to his removal from the lineup, then we are no longer friends.

While Kuhlman’s short-term role might be more clear-cut, don’t be surprised if he sticks around to fill into spots that get vacated by ailing Bruins. I’d much rather see a healthy Karson Kuhlman than an injured forward not named Pastrnak, Bergeron, or Marchand. His presence alone allows Cassidy to give rest to players who might need it down the stretch without compromising the effectiveness of the lineup all that much.

And that’s pretty cool. Man.

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Bruins Marchand Voted Best/Worst Trash Talker in NHL

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PHOTO CREDITS: (cbc.ca)

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

As announced today, March 20th, 2019, the NHL Player’s Association (NHLPA) voted Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand the best and somehow, worst trash talker in the National Hockey League. Over 500 current NHL players participated in the voting process and it is meant to add some fun awards to the league.

The NHLPA Player Poll has been in the running for the past two seasons and it covers a variety of different categories – all of which voted on by the player body. Below are some of the winners from the 2018-19 season.

  • Best Forward – EDM Connor McDavid
  • Best Defenceman – TBL Victor Hedman
  • Best Goalie – MTL Carey Price
  • Best Shot – WSH Alex Ovechkin
  • Best Female Player – CWHL Hilary Knight
  • Best Arena Atmosphere – T-Mobile Arena (Vegas Golden Knights)
  • Best Ice – Bell Centre (Montreal Canadiens)
  • Best Team Mascot – Gritty (Philadelphia Flyers)

And many more. For a full list of all the winners – CLICK HERE.

Back to Boston – Brad Marchand took home two winning awards from this voting event. Marchand won the best trash talker, earning 21.3% of the votes, beating out Drew Doughty (11.8%), Ryan Reaves (5.5%), Claude Giroux (4.8%) and Nick Cousins (3.3%). Somehow, Marchand also won the complete opposite of that award – the worst trash talker in the league, receiving 12.5% of the votes, ahead of Antoine Roussel (5.5%), P.K. Subban (5.1%), Nick Cousins (4.7%), and Brendan Lemieux (3.5%).

We all have a good idea on what exactly goes on the ice, even though we don’t get the mics on the players for every game. Although, that would be an interesting addition to the sport. Nonetheless, Marchand seems to be in the thick of things with words flying from his lips to the biggest or smallest of players in the league today. Brad has used this asset for exactly that – an asset.

In a meaningful game for a playoff position or a game against a heated rival like the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Flyers, etc., Marchand is able to stir the pot and get under the opposing team’s skin – hoping to get them off their game. In the past, Marchand has not been great with keeping this contained, as suspensions and fines, (with many, many warnings), have piled up. This season, however, the 30-year-old Marchand has not, (*knock on wood*), been handed a single suspension – not one and has gone on to set a new career-high in points.

Funny enough, Brad Marchand is not only good (or bad) at trash talking his opponents, but he has a fun time poking fun at fellow Bruin teammates. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug is one of Marchand’s main guys to have a little fun with on social media, especially on Twitter. Brad likes to make fun of Krug’s height which ironically, is the same as Marchand according to Hockey Reference. Here are a few of those gems.

Don’t worry though, Krug has had his fair share to return to Marchand on Twitter.

The friendly fire between Krug and Marchand is just a testament to how close this team has become over the past few years of success and even failure. Just this little back and forth banter between two of the most important players on the team right now shows that this team is more like a family and that is crucial come playoff time.

Aside from Marchand’s dual awards, the Bruins were in the running for a couple other ones as well, but just fell short. Forward Patrice Bergeron received 9.2% of the votes for the most difficult player to play against, finishing third behind McDavid (30.9%) and Crosby (16.0%). That’s not it as Bergeron was also voted 4th in the “Player You Would Start a Franchise With”, getting 1.7% of the votes for him, behind McDavid (60%), Crosby (18.5%) and Matthews (4.3%).

With the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs right around the corner, it is a nice little reminder that the players do enjoy their share of fun and games in these final few weeks of the regular season. Were these awards correct in your eyes or did the players get something wrong? Let me know on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj!

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Bruins DeBrusk Returns To Lineup As Club Gets Healthy For Playoff Run

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( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Jake DeBrusk made his return to the Bruins’ lineup on Saturday after missing five games due to a lower-body injury he sustained against Carolina. An injury that, after sustaining, DeBrusk played with en route to scoring a goal and setting up the overtime winner with an incredible pass to linemate David Krejci.

 

Until Saturday, the Bruins had gone 2-3-0 since DeBrusk’s injury and had lost three straight entering their tilt against Columbus. This was the second time that the Black and Gold squared off against the Jackets in less than a week, and Columbus had handled the B’s in their matchup on March 12th, with Boston reeling from injuries.

In their first meeting, the Bruins went down 5-1 fairly early in the contest and, despite a solid push to even the score, ended up falling 7-4. While the game displayed the amount of compete that lives within the walls of the Boston locker room, it unfortunately also showed how shorthanded they were. Their weakened offensive punch failed to measure up to a healthy Columbus team.

Saturday’s game was a different story. While it was certainly a game that featured many fewer goals and better team defense and goaltending, the impact that DeBrusk made on the game was palpable.

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( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images )

The Obvious Benefits

Quite frankly, Jake The Snake rejoining the lineup is a horrible sign for teams in the East. Not only because he alone makes the Bruins lineup more effective in myriad ways, but because his return is the first domino to fall (or stand up again) in a series of key players on the Bruins that are coming back from injury.

DeBrusk’s return to the first powerplay unit not only adds skill and finishing to said unit, but it also moves a skilled player in Heinen back to the second powerplay unit, improving PP2 as well.

DeBrusk’s return to the second line moves players that play a more natural bottom-six role down to the third line, which makes the Bruins deeper throughout their entire middle six.

DeBrusk’s presence on the forecheck puts significant pressure on defensemen and eliminates their ability to beat him with skating. He shuts down the opponent and has a knack to aggressively hunts down pucks.

DeBrusk’s ability to stretch the ice with his own speed opens up the neutral zone for the Bruins and facilitates offensive-zone entries with possession.

DeBrusk’s ability to handle the puck down low extends offensive zone possession time and wears down the opposition. This lightens the load of the makeshift third line that will then likely be playing against worn down opponents, thus mitigating the possible negatives of players that are unfamiliar with one another. More time in the O-zone means more rest for the Bruins’ defensemen. This means fresher legs and better d-zone coverage.

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( Photo Credit: Elise Amendola/ AP )

The Pending Danger

Yep. DeBrusk brings a ton to the Bruins’ lineup when he’s playing at full capacity. Look at the tear he was on before he got injured. Look at his playoff performance against the Leafs last year. The kid is an absolute gamer, and you can see the intensity with which he approaches each game in the celebrations that, without fail, follow all of his goals. I would say he is made of pure energy, but there’s quite a bit of skill thrown in there as well.

So the obvious benefits of him being back are beyond beneficial (great alliteration by me, don’t mention it). But the tacit implications of his return to the lineup stretch much farther than his own individual impact on hockey games.

As DeBrusk was one of 6 Bruins to be sidelined with injuries diagnosed with short-term recovery periods, his resurgence only indicates that there is more firepower making its way back to the Black and Gold lineup. Accompanying DeBrusk are 2 more top-six forwards, in David Pastrnak (PastrBack? I’ll see myself out) and Marcus Johansson. While admittedly these two don’t carry the same weight in their respective impact on the Bruins attack, when the Bruins’ top two lines are healthy they are among the most effective in the league. In my opinion, they are the deepest top-six in the league when fully healthy.

 

But also in the current short-term injury crew are Kevan Miller, Matt Grzelcyk, and Torey Krug. In other words, a tough and reliable yet strong skating stay at home defenseman in Miller; an expectation-exceeding, smooth skating puck mover (Grz); a powerplay quarterback who makes a strong first pass (Krug). These three defensemen are all entities that have proven just how effective they can be to a healthy Bruins lineup. DeBrusk’s return from injury only signals that they are all that much closer to coming back themselves.

When the Bruins’ forward unit is whole, and their D-core is similarly healthy, then they are deep enough up front to bring it to the best in the league, and solid enough on the back end to stifle explosive offenses. We were able to see glimpses of the team’s potential against San Jose and Tampa Bay before the B’s got bit by the injury bug.

With the return of DeBrusk, comes the depth that the Bruins’ roster has not benefitted from in many years. Opponents haven’t needed to ready themselves for a Bruins team so well-rounded, and it’s my expectation that few teams, if any, will be able to adequately match up.

 

Simply put, DeReturn of DeBrusk is a big one for DeBruins.

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Pastrnak, Grzelcyk Among Other Returnees To Bruins Practice

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By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy announced a bevy of updates at practice this morning, including the possible return of David Pastrnak who has been out since February 10th due to surgery on his injured thumb. The B’s have posted a record of 12-3-1 in his absence.

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Cassidy also announced that defenseman Torey Krug will travel with the team on their upcoming four game road trip after suffering an upper body injury during the B’s last road trip. Marcus Johansson and Matt Grzelcyk could potentially play on the road trip as well. Grzelcyk has been out for the last week after suffering an arm injury against the Penguins last Sunday night. Johansson has been out for the last two weeks since suffering a lung contusion against the Hurricanes on March 5th.

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Kevan Miller is unlikely to travel with the team this week and remains out since February 23rd. Tuukka Rask will start tomorrow night in New York when the Bruins face the Islanders. Cassidy expects Pastrnak to return to the first line when he comes back to the lineup. The B’s have been waiting to get healthy for nearly the entire season and today looked like a good sign that the team is getting close to being fully healthy.

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