Reports: Bruins’ Rask Opted Out Due To Family Emergency

(Photo: Paul Rutherford / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask reportedly opted out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the National Hockey League’s Return to Play in Toronto due to a family emergency, according to WEEI’s Greg Hill. Per Hill, Rask said he had received a call from his wife about a medical emergency for one his daughters, and rushed to be with his family.

On Sunday, Dale Arnold of NESN and WEEI said that Rask had texted him saying there was a family emergency he had to deal with, but that things are fine now.

“He texted me back and I asked specifically if I could share this part of what he said to me and he said you can. The fact of the matter is he said to me there was a family emergency,” Arnold said. 

“He went on to say everything is fine now, but there was a family emergency and he felt he needed to be back with his family.”

News of the Finnish netminder’s decision to return home broke on Saturday morning prior to Game 3 between the Bruins and the Hurricanes. In a statement, Rask said, “there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family.”

So far, Bruins management and Rask’s teammates have supported his decision.

“It makes me upset sometimes how badly [Rask] gets trashed for that. People aren’t in the bubble with us,” Bruins forward Chris Wagner told WBZ’s Dan Roche. “They’re not away from their families for months at a time.”

“Obviously we’re supporting him. We’re behind him and we understand,” Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said in his media availability after Game 3 on Saturday. “Family comes first. We’ve always said that.”

The 33-year-old is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, annually awarded to the league’s top goaltender as voted on by the general managers. He concluded the 2019-20 regular season with a 28-5-6 record to go along with five shutouts, second in the league, a 2.12 goals-against average (GAA), first in the league, and a .929 save percentage, second in the league. Rask split the William M. Jennings Trophy with fellow Bruins netminder Jaroslav Halak as the two led the Bruins to the fewest goals-allowed among any team in the league.

In the league’s return to play, Rask posted a 1-3-0 record in four games, recording a 2.57 GAA and a .904 save percentage.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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How Jaroslav Halak Has Performed In Past NHL Playoffs

(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

By Bryan Murphy | Follow Me On Twitter @bryan_murphy10

Going into the 2020 playoffs, Jaroslav Halak wasn’t expected to play more games than Tuukka Rask. But that is the case now, with Rask announcing he was opting out of the rest of the playoffs.

Halak hasn’t played in the playoffs since 2014-15 when he was with the New York Islanders. But he was solid in Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes, making 29 saves in a 3-1 win for Boston to pull ahead in the series, 2-1.

The goaltending duties are now solely on Halak, with Dan Vladar as his backup who has a grand total of zero games played in the NHL. However, he was fantastic in the 2019-20 regular season, posting a 18-6-6 record with a .919 save percentage and a .239 goal against average.

It’s true, it’s been sometime since Halak has played in the postseason. But he has no choice but to answer the bell now for a Bruins team looking to get back the Stanley Cup. Let’s see how Halak has done in the postseason in the past.

2009-2010 Run with the Canadiens

The 2009-2010 postseason was arguably Halak’s defining moment in the league. After competing with an up and coming Carey Price for the starting role with the Montreal Canadiens, Halak finally won the starting job as the Canadiens entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Going up against the President’s Trophy winner, the Washington Capitals, the Canadiens were seen as underdogs in the series.

Halak started the first three games, but after giving up six goals in a Game Two OT loss and three goals in a Game 3 in which he was pulled, the Canadiens elected to go with Price for Game 4. Price gave up four goals and the Canadiens were on the brink of elimination.

Going back with Halak for Game 5, the Slovakian turned it on. In Games 5, 6 and 7, Halak turned aside 131 total shots on 134 attempts. He made 53 saves in Game 6 and 41 saves in Game 7 to lead the Habs to a comeback series win over the Capitals.

The next round, the Habs squared off with the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a disappointing 6-3 loss in Game 1 where Halak gave up five goals and was pulled, Halak again turned a switch. He immediately bounced back with a 38-save win in Game 2 and in Game 7, Halak posted a 37-save win to send the Habs to a trip to the conference finals. In total, he gave up 11 goals in six games, after the disastrous Game 1.

The Cinderella story came to an end in the conference finals, where the Philadelphia Flyers bested the Canadiens in five games. Halak gave up 13 goals in the five games.

For Halak, he finished the 2010 playoffs with an impressive .923 save percentage and a 2.55 goals against average. He was the biggest reason why the Canadiens were able to make such an incredible run. The Canadiens then elected to go with Price as their goalie of the future and Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues.

2014-15 Playoffs With the Islanders

Halak was traded from the Capitals to the New York Islanders before the 2014, where he signed a four-year contract. In his first season as the starting goaltender on the Long Island, the Islanders made the playoffs, squaring off against a familiar foe for Halak – the Washington Capitals.

Halak, like the Islanders, was inconsistent in the series. After a Game 1 win where he made 24 of 25 saves, he gave up four goals on 35 shots in a Game 2 loss. After back-to-back strong performances in Game 3 and 4 where the two teams split, Halak again slumped in Game 5, giving up five goals in the loss.

Game 6, Halak put the Isles on his back, making 38 saves on 39 attempts in a crucial Game 6 victory. With that win, he moved to a 6-1 record when facing elimination in the playoffs.

While he was again strong in Game 7, making 24 saves, the Islanders lost 2-1 and were eliminated. It was the last time Halak played in the postseason before 2020.

Other Postseason Stats

Outside of the two seasons mentioned above, Halak has not been a starting goaltender in the postseason. He made one start in 2007-08 with Montreal, in addition to coming in relief. He also came in relief for one game for Montreal in 2008-09.

In 2011-12, he started the first two playoff games for the St. Louis Blue, with Brian Elliott injured. After a win and a loss, Elliot came back and started every game until the Blues were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals.

In his career, Halak has a 14-16 record with a .923 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average. Those numbers include the two games that he has played for the Bruins so far in these playoffs.

The Bruins now need to rally around Halak. Halak doesn’t have the longest postseason resume, but he’s created magic before. Boston sure would love to see him do it again.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Game Four Preview | Boston Bruins Vs. Carolina Hurricanes 8/17/2020

Bruins vs. Hurricanes Game 3: Winners and losers from Bruins win
(Photo Credits: Getty Images)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

The shocking news that Boston Bruins top net-minder Tuukka Rask was opting out of the Playoffs this past Saturday certainly put the team in a interesting position. Understandably wild speculation bombarded social media with mixed reactions, but for the Bruins, there was still a game to win. And Boston did what Boston does best; they rallied and without their top goaltender and scorer, they won. The win over the Carolina Hurricanes has put the B’s ahead in the series 2-1. Tonight, the Bruins have a chance to widen the gap.

ADJUSTING ALONG THE WAY

So far this series, the Bruins lineup upfront has shifted, especially with the absence of David Pastrnak. With the team down their leading scorer, other players have stepped up to the plate. Perhaps the biggest (and most pleasant) surprise is the connection between David Krejci and fellow countryman Ondrej Kase. As evident in Game One, Krejci would set up plenty of plays for both Kase and DeBrusk.

As the  second line continues to dominate puck possession, the 24-year-old Kase is looking to nab his first goal as a Bruin, while DeBrusk has been itching to net one in.  Throughout the series, the veteran play coming way of Krejci has been the highlight so far and seems to have finally earn praise throughout the Boston sports media. If you don’t believe in just how important he’s been, his recent stats speak for itself. With the win this past Saturday, Krejci is now second behind Ray Bourque as the Bruins’ all-time player with the most postseason points. Patrice Bergeron is a close third while Phil Esposito is fourth on the list.

GAME PREVIEW

Tonight’s tilt against Carolina will not feature David Pastrnak for a pivotal Game Four. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy previously stated there was “50/50” chance that the 24-year-old Czech will return as he participated in an optional skate on Sunday. Skate rushes this morning featured Anders Bjork on the first line. Despite shifting players up front,  the Bruins power-play (especially with the addition of Krejci) has started to click and was three-for-eight in their last two games against the Hurricanes. The Bruins will need to continue to fight hard and outwork their opponent.

Carolina Hurricanes Lack Energy and Fall to Boston in Game Three
(Photo Credits: Getty Images)

With Rask out of the lineup, Jaroslav Halak now has reigns in between the pipes. Despite a rusty gaffe while trying to clear the puck (leading to Carolina’s only goal), Halak looked strong making 29 saves on 30 shots. Whether or not his workload includes an appearance by back-up goalies Dan Vlader and Max Lagace remains to be seen. That being said, its safe to assume that Halak will be the go-to choice:

“(Halak’s) our guy, he’s proven that right now, the other guys have not. Not saying they couldn’t handle it and we may have to look at the Game 5 and 6 back-to-back, but I don’t want to get that far ahead. Let’s get through [Monday] night’s game and let’s see where Jaro is at. He has played back-to-back for us. A couple of years ago we needed him to do that, so he’s a guy that we’ve seen do it and have success.”

Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy

THE CANES

Carolina will be down a key player in their lineup after Andrei Svechnikov suffered a very scary looking injury when he got tangled with Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara. As both players battled up front, Svechnikov’s leg bent awkwardly as he fell (from video-it appears both his ankle and knee have been affected). With the young forward gone, expect Ryan Dzingel back in the lineup. Petr Mrazek was the losing goalie for Game Three and Game One so expect James Reimer in net as he was the goalie for Carolina’s win in Game Two. Sebastion Aho leads the team with 10 points and seven assists.

WHEN TO WATCH: Tonight with a start time of 8:00 pm, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto

WHERE TO WATCH: NBCSN, FS-CR, NESN

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Breaking News: Tuukka Rask Opts Out of Playoffs

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins

(Photo Courtesy of Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

By: Tim A Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter@TimARichardson

A little bit of breaking news just before the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes play the third game of their first-round playoff matchup, Tuukka Rask has opted out of the rest of the playoffs. In a statement made through the team, Rask cited his need to be with family at this time.

 

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney met with the media this morning to address Tuukka’s decision. He assured us that there wasn’t an emergency situation at home with Tuukka and that his family was healthy and safe. Sweeney also mentioned that the team fully supports Rask’s decision to be with his family.

 

I want to say everyone here at Black N Gold hockey wishes Tuukka Rask and his family the best at this time. As we look to hockey, the Boston Bruins are lucky they can turn to Jaroslav Halak to start the rest of the way. Halak has played in 31 playoff games, with 29 of those being starts. He’s 13-16 with a 2.45 GAA and a .922 save percentage (stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference). Halak’s backup will be Dan Vladar. The young netminder had an excellent year in Providence, going 14-7-1 with a 1.79 GAA and a .936 save percentage with three shutouts (stats courtesy of the AHL). I hope everyone enjoys the game today. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below on 8-9-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

 

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Who Should The Bruins Start In Round One Back To Backs?

(Photo Credit: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By Leon Lifschutz  |  Follow me on Twitter @LeonLifschutz 

After the postponement of Game one between the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes, the two teams will potentially play back to back nights twice in their first-round series. Games one and two will be played on consecutive days and if necessary, so will game five and six.

This presents a fascinating question for the coaching staff of both teams.  Should they play their starting goaltender in the back to back to games?  Let’s first take a look at some theory and analytics behind the decision.  We can then consider each coach’s thought process and compare the goaltending tandems for each team.  Finally, we can play armchair coach.

The Theory

Load management has become a topic in the sports world especially with pitch counts in baseball and limiting minutes and games for star players in the NBA.  While it hasn’t been as dominant a conversation in hockey overall, it certainly has seeped in with goaltenders.  Long gone are the days of Martin Brodeur starting almost every game.

In 2014 Eric Tlusky, one of the foremost hockey analytics writers, published an article analyzing how rested goalies performed versus those who were playing in back to back nights.  The study, looking at data from 2011-2013, found goalies played to .912 save percentage (sv%) when rested and only a .901 sv% when not rested.  This article shifted the thinking of coaches who stopped riding starters in those situations.  This regular season, rarely did a goalie play on consecutive nights.

However The Athletic’s analytics guru Dom Luszczyszyn took a look at the theory this past winter arguing coaches should rethink this approach.  In his study, using data from 2007 through 2019, he found a much more marginal difference than Tlusky, and in some cases, no difference, in rested versus unrested.  He also points out that the talent difference between each team’s goaltender is an important factor in evaluating which option will get you the best performance.

One other item to consider, the goalie is just one player on the ice, and their numbers are impacted by the team in front of them.  A rested team is more likely to perform than an unrested team.

The Thought Process

With all that in mind, what should Bruce Cassidy and Rod Brind’Amour consider as they decide how to deploy their goaltenders?  Both teams have very capable backup goaltenders making this an even more challenging decision.  Let’s first weigh the general pros of sticking with their starter as well as the pros of going with their backup.

Pros of sticking with your starter:

  • There is a lot to be said for rhythm and confidence in hockey and the starter should be able to ride both in the playoffs.
  • Putting a goalie into a pressure-packed situation who hasn’t seen game action in potentially up to two weeks may not be a recipe for success.
  • Tuukka Rask is a Vezina nominee and Petr Mrazek has shown an aptitude for getting hot.
  • Per Luszczyszyn, goalies do not as consistently perform worse in back to backs as originally believed.

Pros for going with your backup:

  • Both Boston and Carolina were in the habit of playing Jaroslav Halak and James Reimer instead of Rask or Mrazek during the regular season.
  • Mrazek did not play a single back to back.  In Rask’s one back to back this year he posted a .935 sv% in game one against Arizona but a .895 sv% in game 2 against lowly Detroit.
  • If your starter had a heavy workload, say an overtime period or five.
  • Per Luszczyszyn, over the length of his study, he does find a slight difference between rested and unrested even if the margin is smaller than Tulsky’s original work.

The Numbers

An important factor in making the decision is the difference between your two netminders.  Let’s take a look at each team’s tandems.

Boston Bruins

PlayerGPShots Against/60SV%GAAGSAA/60
Jaroslav Halak3129.620.9192.39-0.15
Tuukka Rask4129.70.9292.120.12

(GSAA/60 stands for goals saved above average per game)

The Bruins have a great tandem.  Colleague Liz Rizzo recently discussed the duo going into the restart concluding two is better than one.  Halak’s numbers are starter level on a number of teams.  However, Rask’s numbers exceed the difference noted in rest versus unrested, another metric demonstrating how impressive his season was.

Carolina Hurricanes

PlayerGPShots Against/60SV%GAAGSAA/60
Petr Mrazek4028.20.9052.69-0.05
James Reimer25310.9142.660.24
David Ayres120.920.84.18-2.23

First of all, remember David Ayres?  Yea, that was 2020, what a strange year.  Reimer actually has the better numbers of the two goalies.  He did so playing the second half of most back to backs and while facing a slightly higher workload.

The Decision

So, we have analyzed the theory, the thought process, and the numbers.  Let’s put ourselves in the coach’s hot seats.

Bruce Cassidy – Cassidy may want to consider playing Halak in game two.  It’s a weird year and Rask is still recovering from an injury that has limited his ice time in training camp and even in the bubble (as did an abundance of caution over a cough).  However, if a game six is necessary he should stick with his Vezina nominee Rask.

Rod Brind’Amour – The Canes coach has already deployed Reimer in a game against the Rangers, a back to back.  Though his team was already up 2-0 in the series he has shown he won’t hesitate to go that direction.  In his pre-series presser, he also noted that he expects the team will utilize both goalies much as they did in last year’s run to the conference finals.  Brind’Amour should stick with the game plan and play Reimer in all back to back situations.

Goaltending will be an important factor in this series and the coach’s deployment could swing the series.

Statistics courtesy of naturalstattrick.com 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston vs. Carolina: 8/12/20

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer / AP Photo

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kase

Ritchie – Coyle – Bjork

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Lauzon

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Carolina’s Lineup

Forwards

Svechnikov – Aho – Teravainen

Dzingel – Trocheck – Necas

Foegele – Staal – McGinn

Niederreiter – Geekie – Martinook

Defense

Slavin – Hamilton

Skjei – Edmundson

Gardiner – Fleury

Goalies

Mrazek

Reimer

First Period

Nino Niederreiter took the first penalty of the series at the 16:36 mark for elbowing. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they didn’t record a single shot on goal and couldn’t make it hurt. Just over six minutes later, Charlie McAvoy went off for tripping. The Bruins killed the penalty

Joel Edmundson broke the ice for the Canes, giving them the first lead of the game at the 6:58 mark. David Pastrnak didn’t let them hold the lead for long, tying the game with 2:15 to go. Pastrnak’s first of the playoffs was assisted by Brad Marchand (1) and Patrice Bergeron (2). Shots on goal in the period were 9 to 4 in favor of the Bruins and the game was tied heading into the intermission.

Score: 1-1

Second Period

Ondrej Kase took an early penalty just a minute and 42 seconds into the period for holding. Luckily it didn’t sting the Bruins so early on and they killed it off. Not too long after, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk found themselves on a 2-on-1, and DeBrusk nearly buried it on the one-timer, but hit the post.

Charlie Coyle scored just seconds after, but it was reviewed for a missed stoppage in the offensive zone as a result of a supposed hand pass. The Canes challenged the play and lost the challenge, also giving the Bruins a power play following the goal as a result of the lost challenge for delay of game. The Bruins took their first lead since early March with 15:22 to go in the period. Coyle’s first of the playoffs was assisted by Anders Bjork (1) and Nick Ritchie (1).

Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last long as Brock McGinn tied the game back up on a shorthanded breakaway just 21 seconds later. To make matters worse, DeBrusk missed an open net chance, then Matt Grzelcyk hit double-dinked a shot off of two posts. The chances were there to retake the lead, but the luck wasn’t.

Andrei Svechnikov took a slashing penalty at the 8:06 mark, but the Canes easily killed the penalty. Charlie Coyle and Jordan Staal then both took high sticking penalties on each other, creating a 4-on-4. Nothing came of the 4-on-4 and the time went on to expire with the game tied going into the second intermission. Shots in the period were 12 to 5 in favor of the Bruins, bringing the total to 21 to 9.

Score: 2-2

Third Period

The Bruins didn’t waste much time taking the lead back, as Krejci buried his first of the playoffs just 59 seconds into the period. Ondrej Kase had the lone assist, his second of the playoffs. The second line finally got rewarded for their persistence.

Jeremy Lauzon sat for two for holding at the 14:48 mark, but the Bruins killed it off. Haydn Fleury sent a shot through traffic on net that beat Tuukka Rask at the 10:11 mark to tie the game, making things really interesting for the final ten minutes of regulation. Surprisingly, things weren’t all that interesting in the final ten minutes, and overtime ensued. The Canes outshot the Bruins 12 to 7 in the third period, bringing the regulation total to 28 to 21 in favor of the Bruins.

Score: 3-3

Overtime

Overtime had a good pace, but not a ton of high-quality chances. The Bruins pushed the pace a bit more than the Canes in the first half of the overtime frame, but couldn’t solve Petr Mrazek to end it. Brady Skjei went off for holding with 1:36 remaining, but the Bruins couldn’t capitalize before the end of overtime. The Bruins outshot the Canes 11 to 6, bringing the total to 39 to 27 through 80 minutes.

Score: 3-3

Second Overtime

Following the intermission, the Canes killed off the remaining 24 seconds of the Skjei penalty. It didn’t matter much for the Bruins, as Patrice Bergeron ended it thanks to some sweet passing by Pastrnak (1) and Marchand (2). The shots were just 1 to 1 in the second overtime, bringing the final total to 40 to 28. Thank God this one didn’t go to five overtimes. Tuukka Rask made 26 saves in the win. Game 2 gets underway tomorrow night at 8 PM, so both teams have a quick turnaround.

Final Score: 4-3 Boston (2OT)

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

User 568316199 · 189: The Bruins Winless In The Round-Robin Games And Get Set To Play Carolina In Round One

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Why The Bruins Landed The Fourth Seed

rask-1

Steve Babineau/Getty Images

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Well, Bruins fans, that is not the round-robin we all expected.  To be fair, most of the NHL did not expect the fourth-ranked Philadelphia Flyers to sweep the competition either.  But the Bruins disappointed its fans in a big way.  The Bruins were the top-ranked team in the entire NHL when the league suspended its season.  They were a lock to be the number one seed in the East and were feared by most.  Unfortunately, looks were deceiving, and they underperformed in every game, beginning with their exhibition with Columbus.  So why did the Bruins end up with the fourth-seed?

For starters, the Bruins did not once lead in any of their round-robin games.  In their first game against Philadelphia, Rask did not participate due to his “cough.”

Jaroslav Halak didn’t play tremendously in his absence, but neither did the Bruins.  The Flyer’s goalie, Carter Hart, stole the show by stopping 34 out of 35 shots.  Philadelphia scored three goals in the second period, two of which came before the Bruins’ first. Boston’s Chris Wagner scored after Philly’s second goal and seemed to alleviate some of the pressure felt by the players.  However, a mere eight seconds later, Philly potted their third goal, and the Bruins dropped to 0-1.

Three nights later, Tampa Bay scored the first two goals of the game, and once again, Boston had to play catch-up. Boston’s Torey Krug tried to rally the troops by dropping the gloves, which created some nastiness throughout the game, but it was not enough, and another loss ensued.

Finally, Boston outshot Washington 16-2 in the first period, but it was Washington who capitalized and ended the first up 1-0.  Boston never regained the lead and watched Washington end the round-robin with the third seed.

The common theme between all three nights was slow starts. It’s quite difficult to win one game, let alone three, down to teams with pedigrees that the Lightning, Capitals, and Flyers have.  The Bruins were the most feared team in the NHL because they had just been to game 7 of the Stanley Cup and were not suffering from a playoff hangover.

They essentially cruised to the President’s Trophy, best regular-season record, and their players were receiving accolades.  David Pastrnak won the Art Ross trophy with Alexander Ovechkin, most points in the NHL, Tuukka Rask is a finalist for the best goaltender award (Vezina), and Bergeron for the best defensive forward (Selke).  Their play in the round-robin was unexpected, to say the least.

The Bruins’ slow starts in all three games can be partially contributed to the roster’s age and the speed to get their legs under them.  James Mirtle of The Athletic wrote an article back in October analyzing the NHL team’s averages.  James referenced and compared teams’ average heights, weights, age, draft position, etc.  Interestingly enough, most of the organizations whose rosters came in older than the league average did not perform up to standards in the NHL’s Return to Play.

The Bruins’ average age when the season began was 28.5, while the league’s average was 27.3.  It is no secret the Bruins core is getting older.  To be frank, that’s all a Bruins fan hears any time they tune into sports talk radio.  Zdeno Chara has one to two years left, Bergeron and Krejci are not 26 anymore, and even Tuukka Rask has reached his 33rd birthday.  Their Stanley Cup-winning core is through their prime.

Bruins management has worked on acquiring and drafting younger players to support their core, but they lack the necessary experience.  Older teams usually need more than a three-game warmup to get back on track.  The Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals came in above the league’s average age, as well, and also suffered from a slow start.  The Philadelphia Flyers had an average age of 26.5, and they swept the top three Eastern Conference teams with ease.

Scientifically speaking, younger players have a quicker bounce back and recovery time than older players.  Zdeno Chara switched his diet entirely to plant-based foods a couple years back to keep up with the younger generation.  But it’s nearly impossible to restart his body in such a short period and get back to peak season performance.

The two and a half week training camp was designed to allow players to get back into game shape; however, nothing can genuinely get a player ready for the playoffs other than actual playoff gameplay.  The Bruins had three games to get their playoff legs under them, and if those games are any indication of their outlook, the Bruins are heading back to Boston early.

The other piece of the Bruins poor performance puzzle relates to their attitudes, or at least a few players.  Tuukka Rask has always had a very relaxed approach in post-game interviews, but his recent description of the round-robin has some fans ruffled.

It was understood that the top four teams were mostly playing round-robin games to stall while the other 12 teams compete for playoff spots.  But to give the allusion that these games “didn’t matter” is a bit concerning. It’s hard to believe players can have that mentality for games that don’t matter, and all of a sudden, switch it off for games that do.

Players also never want to take their opponents for granted.  Regardless of the three games not mattering, teams need to show up and keep a level mindset against powerhouses like Tampa and Washington.  The Bruins could very well see these opponents in the next round, and it would have been a smaller mental hurdle if the Bruins hadn’t coughed away their round-robin gameplay.

Seeding has never been as crucial in the NHL than other sports.  The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley cup in 2012, holding the eighth seed in the playoffs.  The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the third overall seed.

The Bruins fourth seed may not matter, but they’re clashing with a red-hot Carolina hurricane squad who swept the New York Rangers from playoff contention.  The Bruins know what the Canes are capable of because they defeated the Canes on their way to the Stanley Cup last season.  The Bruins and Canes begin their series at 11am today, and Bruins fans hope the round-robin performance has been put to rest.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

User 568316199 · 189: The Bruins Winless In The Round-Robin Games And Get Set To Play Carolina In Round One

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Boston vs. Carolina Series Preview

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

By Leon Lifschutz  |  Follow me on Twitter @LeonLifschutz 

The Boston Bruins dropped three straight in their round-robin matchups while the Carolina Hurricanes won three straight to easily sweep their play-in series versus the New York Rangers.  The ‘Canes will be anxious to avenge last year’s sweep at the hands of the Bs in the conference finals while Boston will be ready to show why they were this year’s best regular-season team.  Let’s get into the series preview!

Top 3 Storylines to Watch For

  1. “Real Games” – The Bruins never seemed to approach their round-robin games with a ton of urgency.  Head Coach Bruce Cassidy tinkered with the forward combos and made sure to work in their 7th defenseman much as one might expect from pre-season play.  Starting goalie Tuukka Rask stressed after the round-robin that the team was now ready to start playing “real games”.  Perhaps most telling, Brad Marchand has yet to lick anyone’s face or really get too engaged with opposing players.  Fans will be excited to see their beloved Bruins put the pedal down.  But will they be able to flip the switch against Carolina who has already played do-or-die games?
  2. The Bruins (lack of) Offense – The Bruins managed 4 goals in 3 games and were paced in goal scoring by 4th liner Chris Wagner.  The Bruins top line all shot 0% though they did have chances especially in game 3 against Washington.  Is the Bruins lack of production due to a lack of grit and desire, a streak of poor percentages, or a little bit of both?  And can they reverse the trends in time to win 4 out of 7?
  3. Carolina’s Injuries on DefenseCarolina is without the services of former Bruin Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce, two key players at the top of their lineup.  Hamilton in particular drives plays at high rates and compliments the ‘Canes quick attack approach.  Carolina does have depth on D but missing stars is always a cause for concern.  To some degree, attrition can be the storyline of the playoffs. The Bruins seem relatively healthy going into this first-round matchup, a favorable edge they hope to maintain.

Lineups

Forwards

Forwards

Lineup Card Taken from dailyfaceoff.com

(ed. note – it is Nick Ritchie on 3rd line for the Bruins, not Brett)

The Bruins have an edge at the top of the lineup but the Hurricanes top line of Aho-Svechnikov-Terevainen is sublimely talented and comes into this series on fire.  The addition of Vincent Trochek into the top-6 was a big deadline day add for the Canes.  Carolina has a formidable bottom-6 with playoff experience and plays the game exactly how Coach Rod Brind’Amour likes it to be played, fast, and heavy.  The Bruins finally have their full lineup at hand and seem to have settled on their line combos.  They are deep at center ice and have hopefully found some chemistry on the wings for Krejci and Coyle.

Defense

Defense

Lineup Card Taken from dailyfaceoff.com

Minus Hamilton and Pesce, the ‘Canes still have a good D core.  GM Don Waddel looks brilliant, adding Vatanen and Skjei at the deadline, quality fill-ins, especially now healthy Vatanen.  Gardiner and Fleury, while occasionally mistake-prone, can be a dynamic bottom pair.  With Hamilton and Pesce missing, the Bs should have the edge from the back end.  McAvoy and Krug have increasingly looked comfortable on offense through each game of the restart.  Chara, the league’s oldest player, still is working on getting his legs under him but is coming along, assist on Washington’s first goal aside.  Grzelcyk, Lauzon, and Clifton solidify strong depth from top to bottom for the Bs.

Goalies

Goalies

Lineup Card Taken from dailyfaceoff.com

As we will see in the next section, the Canes don’t quite see the results their numbers suggest.  The goaltending of Mrazek and Reimer is league average at best with 1A starter Mrazek being a streaky one and contributes to the issue.  However, both played extremely well in the play-in round.  Rask looks ready to go after two strong starts after missing action early on due to a mangled finger and cough.  If Rask plays his game and Mrazek and Reimer don’t continue standing on their heads, the Bs have the marked advantage between the pipes.

By the Numbers

Numbers final update

Stats and data courtesy of naturalstattrick.com

Carolina goes, goes, and goes some more.  They put up shot attempts, scoring chances, and expected goals.  That was equally true against the Rangers as it was in the regular season.  They have been Corsi darlings for several years with their high volume approach to offense.  With young talent blooming, they have finally started seeing positive results from this approach in the last couple of seasons.  The Bruins play a much more measured game and don’t trade chances like the ‘Canes do.  This will be a fascinating stylistic difference to watch for in seeing who can impose their style on the series.

The Bruins are the stronger of the two on special teams, though Carolina comes in the hotter of the two in this department.  One would expect the Bruins to snap out of their powerplay funk at some point though the team has not consistently produced chances they way they did in the regular season. Pastrnak, in particular, has not had his usual good looks at the net, and in turn, has tried to force passes through the seam instead of shooting.

Tactical Keys to the Series

Carolina is a team that relies on volume, as we saw in the numbers.  In order to do so, they constantly push the puck up ice.  This means quick outs from their own zone, pushing the puck ahead to the neutral zone, and little chips to space into the offensive zone for forwards to chase down.  It also means their defense getting engaged up the ice and putting lots of pucks to the net.  For an even more in-depth team and individual player explanation of this, I encourage you to check out the great work of Jack Han HERE, which is complemented by incomparable data from Cory Sznajder.  Both are must follow for the hockey nerd fan.  Below is an example of the Hurricanes mentality of getting the puck up to open space and get it back at all costs.

In doing some hot stove chatting at my most recent adult pick up game, Canes fan @BillKeryc hammered home these points.  In particular, he stressed the fact that all 5 on-ice Carolina players funnel the puck to the net at every opportunity.

So what are the keys for the Bruins?  For starters, they need to be aware the Hurricanes will constantly be trying to push them back on their heels. They need to respect that without giving Carolina’s offensive stars to much cushion to be creative.  Second, the Bs need to possess the puck.  The Bruins D will need to get back quickly on pucks to recover possession before the Hurricanes forwards force them into plays they don’t like.

That puts an emphasis on all 5 players on the ice supporting each other and creating simple outlets to advance the puck and maintain puck possession.  If the Bs can maintain possession and evade Carolina’s pressure, they will be able to neutralize Carolina’s desire to dictate play.  If they do get on their heels, which is bound to happen from time to time, the Bs will have to ensure they avoid crucial mistakes and defer to patient defending or simple outs when needed.  Expect Coach Cassidy to emphasize puck management even more than he already has in his round-robin pressers.

My Prediction:  Bruins in 7

#Letsgooo

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 188 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston vs. Washington: 8/9/20

Bruins' lack of menace once again on display in win over Capitals ...

Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Washington Capitals

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kase

Ritchie – Coyle – Bjork

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Lauzon – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Washington’s Lineup

Forwards

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Wilson

Vrana – Backstrom – Oshie

Hagelin – Boyd – Kovalchuk

Panik – Dowd – Hathaway

Defense

Dillon – Orlov

Kempny – Fehervary

Siegenthaler – Jensen

Goalies

Holtby

Vanecek

First Period

This one got going in a pretty quiet fashion. The first power play came in the form of a holding call on Dmitry Orlov at the 6:26 mark. They couldn’t convert, bringing them to 0 for 8 on the power play in Round Robin play.

Tom Wilson and Connor Clifton got tied up along the boards, Clifton and Evgeny Kuznetsov then got tied up and each took a penalty – Clifton for slashing, Kuznetsov for cross-checking, creating a 4-on-4. Nothing came off the extra space on the ice. The Bruins held the Caps to just one shot on goal through the first 19 minutes of the period, while having six of their own. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the Caps made good on their second shot on goal, and took a one-goal lead thanks to T.J. Oshie.

Score: 1-0 Washington

Second Period

The Bruins saw an early power play come their way thanks to a hooking call on Ilya Kovalchuk at the 17:29 mark. Nothing going for the Bruins on the power play yet again. Brandon Carlo took the first Bruins penalty of the game on a hooking call at the 12:59 mark. Tuukka Rask stopped a couple of big, point-blank chances from Kuznetsov to keep the deficit at one. The Bruins went on to successfully kill the penalty.

It was just one of those days where the Bruins couldn’t buy a goal.

To make matters worse, Jake DeBrusk went off for holding the stick with 4:31 remaining in the period. They killed the penalty, but still trailed by one. It looked as if a tripping call on Nicklas Backstrom was going to give the Bruins a power play in the final ten seconds, but after looking at it again, the officials determined it wasn’t a penalty. The Caps outshot the Bruins 13 to 10 in the period, and the Bruins held a 16 to 15 advantage through the first two periods.

Score: 1-0 Washington

Third Period

Sean Kuraly and T.J. Oshie each took roughing penalties following the conclusion of the second period. Tom Wilson extended the lead to two just 2:49 into the period. Another 4-on-4 came from a tripping call on Charlie McAvoy and embellishment on Richard Panik. Nothing came out of the 4-on-4 for either team.

At last, DeBrusk got the Bruins on the board with 9:30 to go in the period. Ondrej Kase and David Krejci had the helpers. They finally had some life with plenty of time to even the score.

After winning the President’s Trophy, the Bruins end up with the four seed following a fourth straight loss. The Bruins held the advantage in shots, 15 to 10, and in the game 31 to 25. With the loss, the Carolina Hurricanes await the Bruins in the first round, looking to avenge being swept in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The date and time of game one of the first round are TBD.

Final Score: 2-1 Washington

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 188 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

User 568316199 · 188: Fun Boston Bruins Discussion As we Prepare For The 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Bruins Still In Hibernation

(Photo Credit: NBC Sports Boston via Getty Images)

By Jeremy Grabowski | Follow me on Twitter @JeremyBNGhockey

The Bruins playoff run to become 2020 Stanley Cup Champions has finally gotten underway. Just not off to the start everyone was expecting. Now I know that the game against Columbus on July 30th was only an exhibition game, but they looked very sloppy and out of sync with each other in that game. Not much changed when they had to play a game that actually mattered against Philadelphia on August 2nd. This game was their first of the Round-Robin to determine the top four seeds in the conference. Not a lot of good things came out of either of these games except the rising talent of Jack Studnicka and Anders Bjork, but we will talk about that another time. For now, let’s get into the games. Shall we?

It didn’t take long for the Blue Jackets to get hot in the Bruins defensive zone. The Bruins also didn’t have their legs under them as much as they should have. That was made clear on the first goal scored by Columbus in the first period when Sean Kuraly Failed to backcheck and tie up Boone Jenner in front of the net who tapped it in to make it 1-0. Zack Werenski’s goal to make it 2-0 was just a beautiful shot. It could have been blocked by Par Lindholm if he had gotten over a little quicker but wasn’t able to. The third goal was a soft one given up by Rask. Yes, the defensemen should have gotten the puck out of the zone, but Rask was in a good position to make the save but slid too far over and went in five-hole to make it 3-0. The Bruins Lone goal of the game came from a broken play in front of the net and was picked up by David Pastrnak to make it 3-1. The last goal of the game was an empty netter to make it 4-1.

In conclusion, the Bruins really looked like they hadn’t played in five months. They were very sloppy in their defensive zone. They weren’t connecting with each other on simple passes. They were causing way too many turnovers. And they just weren’t in sync with each other at all. Now, again this was just an exhibition game and doesn’t mean anything but I think everyone expected the Bruins to come out a little better than they did.

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The game against the Flyers on August 2nd started off strange when it was announced shortly before that Tuukka Rask was “Unfit to Play,” and Jaroslav Halak would get the start in the first Round-Robin game for the Bruins and first meaningful hockey game they have played in over five months. Right from the puck drop in this one, you saw a little bit more intensity from the Bruins and a much better start. They came out with some fire in the offensive zone and in the physicality department as well. But, poor plays in the Defensive zone and turnovers would end up being the nail in the coffin for the Bruins in this one. All four goals scored by the Flyers were right after a turnover or just after what should have been a play where the puck should have been cleared.

The Bruins play their next Round-Robin game on Wednesday, August 5th, vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning, where it has been announced that Tampa will be without their captain Steven Stamkos. That is a break for the Bruins for sure, but they need more than that. They need to step up their play on both ends of the ice. They need to make better decisions coming out of their own zone while transitioning offensively. They need to shoot the puck when they are in a scoring position and not try to make the pretty/perfect pass. The two teams the Bruins have played so far were selfish instead of passive and shot the puck in scoring positions and it worked out pretty well for them. If the Bruins aren’t careful and come out of hibernation soon, they could find themselves in the 4th seed going into the first round of the playoffs after winning the Presidents Trophy in the same year. That is something that has never happened and probably never will again.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 188 that we recorded below on 8-2-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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