Mark Your ’19-’20 Bruins Calendar: Part V

Picture 1 of 12(Photo Credit: Bruins Pinterest)

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

Since we just celebrated Friday the 13th on the calendar here in the States, it’s only fitting to remind everyone what “Part V” of that seminal series was called: A New Beginning. Well, that’s exactly what the month of February could be for the Boston Bruins depending on how the team handles a January against some quality dual opponents (as I outlined in the previous installment of our Black N’ Gold Mark Your ’19-’20 Bruins Calendar series).

Also, like the hockey-masked killer character in the aforementioned film franchise, the B’s hockey franchise won’t be able to mask any of their faults in February–especially on every weekend–because of the 14-game workload lined up for them, including a historic five Saturday games. They even get to play on LEAP YEAR day! How’s that for superstitious scheduling since Friday the 13th references will be a recurring theme throughout this piece. So, let’s drop the puck (and perhaps the machete) on what specific games are worthy of highlighting on your B’s calendar this fabulously frightening & frozen February!

 

Weekend One: Crystal Lake, Minnesota

Okay, okay. We all know that Camp Crystal Lake is not in Minnesota, but rather in New Jersey (as far as fake movie location names go). But, if the B’s can open the month of February with a “road W” over former friend Ryan Donato at the Xcel Energy Center on the 1st, then they can celebrate its first Sunday by visiting a famous underwater Jason Voorhees statue just up the road. In fact, the Wild will be a fitting first opponent to begin a busy hockey stretch at an important time of the year for the Bruins. Since 2015, the B’s have won four of their last five road games in Minny, including the last two, so keeping that streak alive would be advantageous considering the former city of North Stars always plays spirited hockey against Boston.

Weekend Two: Jason Takes Boston

The B’s will be lucky it’s only Jason Demers coming to town with the Coyotes on February 8th and not that other titular Jason from the woods. Then again, if the team doesn’t want to end up out in the woods, the players should take care of business against an Arizona squad that will most likely be out of the playoff race by then. Also, they’ll need to get on a plane to fly off to Detroit for a Motor City matinee on the 9th immediately following their howling hockey versus the Coyotes. I would call this back-to-back home/road split versus two beatable teams a must-win weekend for the B’s if they want to build momentum during a month where all eyes will be on playoff positioning.

Weekend Three: Origin(al Six) Stories

More matinee marquee match-ups are in store for February 15th & 16th against Original Six rivals the Red Wings again, followed by the New York Rangers (and all of this coming hot on the heels/skates of the B’s having recently played the Blackhawks & Canadiens a few games earlier). And like any good horror movie’s origin story, the B’s will need to look to their successful history against these teams in order to “make them history” at a time when both the division & conference races will be tightening up. All of these contests offer national audience eyes as well, so you can best “B”-lieve the hockey world will be talking them up since many broadcasters, like fans from these cities, champion themselves as Original Six supporters & supposed soothsayers (this is also similar for Friday film fanatics).

Speaking of making bold predictions, if the B’s aren’t careful — i.e. they let the Wings take them to a shootout then get gassed at Madison Square Garden less than 24 hours later — then they could end up looking just like this upon leaving New York… an expression well-known to a familiar-faced character who enjoyed romping around Manhattan back in his heyday. (Eastern Hockey League be damned!)

 

Weekend Four: Canadien Cutthroats

When it comes to the Bruins traveling across country for their annual “West Coast Canadien Kick,” the schedule always seems to fall in February for these three games — two of which will be back-to-backers on February 21st (Calgary) and 22nd (Vancouver), respectively. One needn’t guess which other city the B’s will be visiting just days prior unless you’ve been living under Plymouth Rock for the past decade and not paying attention to this always-highlighted stretch of hockey (it’s Edmonton in case you have been and my apologies).

And if previous seasons are any indicator, then we all know just how important taking AT LEAST four out of six points will be for the B’s against the Oilers, Flames & Canucks. This will be cutthroat hockey at its finest–with no machete needed–proving just how fun, competitive & memorable these games can be. The B’s also like to use this road trip as a memory-making team bonding experience so let’s hope they make the most of what the calendar has lined up for them yet again this upcoming season.

Weekend Five: The Final Chapter

This weekend, or to be more specific this Saturday matinee, only comes around once in a blue–strike that, Black N’ Gold, moon; definitely once every four years, but rarely does that infamous day fall on a game day. That’s right, I’m talking about February 29th — LEAP DAY! And the Bruins throughout their 23-Leap-Year history (sorry, the franchise Inaugural Year of 1924 doesn’t count on the Leap-season statistics since it began in December long after February celebrated an additional day of aging) have had nine games on that calendar extension mark, if you will.

Plainly, to put a mark on it, the B’s are a mediocre 4-4-1 on LEAP DAY dating back to the Roosevelt administration (that’s FDR not TR for you Presidential historians out there). To get even more detailed, the team’s 4-1-1 at home in Boston and 0-3 on the road in Toronto, Chicago and New York. If you’d like to see it in list form, look no further than below:

BOSTON BRUINS LEAP YEAR HISTORY:

1940 – W, 4-2 over Montreal

1944 – L, 7-3 @ Toronto

1948 – L, 5-1 @ Chicago

1956 – L, 4-2 @ New York

1964 – W, 2-1 over Detroit

1968 – W, 4-1 over Toronto

1976 – W, 5-3 over Vancouver

1992 – T, 5-5 with Washington

2000 – L, 5-1 to Ottawa

If the Bruins would like to win their first ever LEAP DAY tilt on the road and, dare I type, tilt the ice in their favor, they’ll have the perfectly slanted opportunity to do so against the insalubrious Islanders at Nassau Coliseum in 2020. Now, that’s a game I’d like to see — be it in person, on television or on the NHL-TV recap ap! It’s obviously the final day of February (and for those celebrating an “Over The Hill” occasion, their 10th official Birthday), but I’m rooting for the B’s franchise to be exactly like the Friday the 13th franchise on this day — not only will it NOT be the final chapter, but many successful sequels will follow!

Image result for boston bruins season schedule 2020(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins)

With the month of March looking scarily similar to February — both in terms of the number of games and number of tough teams to play against for Boston — the B’s could find themselves successfully skating towards the playoffs or falling through the ice and flailing for help just like that poor young boy whom the camp counselors ignored much to his maligned mother’s chagrin & sharp knives. Thankfully, there’s no Friday the 13th in February of 2020… and now you don’t have to mark your calendar to know it!

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 145 that we recorded on 9-15-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Bruins’ Chara Unsure About Opening Night Status

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(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara gave an update on his status for the beginning of the 2019-2020 season following captains’ practice on Friday. The 42-year-old defenseman said the answer to the question of whether he will suit up on opening night, Oct. 3, in Dallas depends on how he progresses through camp.

Bruins fans will remember that Chara missed time in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals after suffering a jaw injury. Although he returned to play in the series, he donned a full-face shield and wrote answers to reporters’ questions because the injury made talking difficult. Chara revealed following the playoffs that he did have surgery to repair jaw fractures.

A broken jaw was not the only injury Chara was nursing. Boston general manager Don Sweeney said in June that Chara also had repairs done on his elbow.

Chara also missed game four of the Eastern Conference Finals, the game in which the Bruins swept the Carolina Hurricanes to advance to the Cup Finals. The exact nature of the injury that kept him off the ice for that game was less clear, and it ultimately did not keep Chara from starting the St. Louis series before suffering the jaw injury.

Injury woes do not seem to be slowing the captain’s preparation for the upcoming season. He has been at both practices held this week at Warrior Ice Arena and was spotted there without the full shield that he was wearing to protect his injured jaw in the finals. Chara even shared video of some of his workouts on social media over the summer.

The good news is that it sounds like Chara currently hopes he will be ready to go. Hopefully that is a good sign that any time he does miss at the start of the season will be minimal.

Bruins Prospects Part 1: Grade A

(Photo credit: Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

By: Michael Robert |  Follow me on Twitter: @b_blackandgold

 

Here we are entering into September, a short few weeks away from hockey season. What better time than now to roll out an article series. This will slot the up and comers into a grading system that will give us a glimpse of what to expect as these young chaps look to climb the ladder. I will give my lineup position projection and ceiling for each player in each grade.

The prospects will be put into a grading system from A to D, and to wrap up this series, there will be a future projected Bruins lineup. The grade A prospects are your ultra high-end prospects that are sure to make their mark with the team and league right away. Highly touted through their path to the NHL and immediate, big impact players. Grade B prospects are the players that will have an impact with the NHL squad but may take some time to develop and find how their game fits into the big league. Grade C are prospects that have the skill to make the NHL team but need further development time and are not players that are sure to make the leap into the NHL. Grade D is prospect projects that have the skill to play but need some time put into them to further develop their skills and improve in all areas.

These are players that played well through their journey to the draft and have shown flashes of what they have, but have yet to find that consistency and level of play that really puts them into serious consideration for an NHL job (think full time AHL player or players that land in other pro leagues for their career). For Part 5, the projected Bruins roster, it will be with players currently in the system, not including any projected future draft picks or projected trades. For this, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo will be considered as signed. The rest of the back end will have Zdeno Chara retired, Steven Kampfer will be off the roster, John Moore will be gone along with Kevan Miller will be gone. The forward corps will see Joakim Nordstrom, Brett Ritchie, Chris Wagner, and Par Lindholm gone. This is based solely off of me thinking these players arent here for the long haul for various reasons we won’t get into here. The foundation for the series is laid. Let’s get into this.

Grade A Prospects:

None. Zilch. Nada. Nil.

However you want to put it, the shelf in this cupboard is totally bare. Not one crumb left. I’ll admit it. This sucks. Although, I did throw up a poll and the community that voted is pretty evenly divided on this so far. Feel free to weigh in with your comments!

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Many teams around the league have bright shiny toys in their system, unlike the Bruins. But this also comes at a price. The Bruins have been able to quickly adjust and retool on the fly, making them a competitive team every season that no team takes lightly. Many of the teams with bright and shiny things have those things because of some years of real suffering.

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So there is a price to be paid. Totally overhaul and be content with not being a playoff team or in contention and hope you land some juggernauts in the draft in those years, or remain competitive and give yourself a shot while sacrificing the opportunity to grasp at some of these obvious top guns that come along. There is, of course, the exception where you land some real high-end players in spots you can’t believe they were had at. Examples Bergeron, Pastrnak, etc. Then there is the one thing we all want to forget, the 2015 draft. There were the projected obvious ones there, ready and ripe for the picking, that would have most definitely shaped out the Bruins future core for at least a decade or more. I don’t want to dwell on this as I still don’t know what they were thinking, so let’s just roll on, accept, and forget (or continue to try to).

Some of our beloved Bruins core is very near the end of their careers, or are getting into the tail ends of it. The Bruins scouting and development of what they do have, and will pick in the next one to three drafts, are going to be extremely important in this team remaining a competitive team that can be playing playoff hockey. This is barring any trades of course for top prospects or high picks. And of course, there is the chance of finding a gem deeper in the draft.

I wish there were some players to slot in here, but they just don’t exist right now. I hope you’ll follow along here for this ride as Part 2 in the series gets better for us, I promise!

Bruin’s Offseason: All Quiet On The Eastern Front (2 of 2)

Bruins D

(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

In part 1 of this two part series, I discussed the open positions among the Bruin’s forward group, the options, and how those spots were likely to be filled. Now we are going to look at the Boston defense, which many believe is the strength of the team, based on the depth they possess on the back end from top to bottom, positions 1-8.

If we discussed this back in July, the conversation would not have been a very long one. Five of the starting six positions appeared to be relatively set with regulars from the 2018-19 team that lost in the Cup Finals. Chara, McAvoy, Krug, Carlo, and Grzelcyk would have been pretty much unanimous choices, with Connor Clifton and Kevan Miller the likely candidates to be battling it out for the last spot on the right side of the 3rd pair. Steven Kampfer signed a two-year extension worth $800,000 per season and would appear to be a lock for the 8th/Press Box spot. John Moore was the other guy in the mix, but will likely start the season on LTIR after playing through a broken humerus in the playoffs. There also would have been some calls for Vaakaneinen, Lauzon, and Zboril, the Providence defensemen that are on the cusp and next in line for a shot.

Fast forward about eight weeks and that conversation has become a lot more complicated and the starters on defense a lot less certain. The first problem (and the most serious) is obvious and has been a talking point since the regular season. Both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo (the Bruin’s first and second pair right D-men) are restricted, free agents. As of today, neither has agreed to terms on an extension with the team. The second issue is that Kevan Miller is reportedly not skating yet after his knee injury and subsequent setback during the playoffs. Due to Miller’s tendency to get hurt every season, I don’t think many thought he would last all year unscathed. However, if he is unable to start the season the Bruin’s blue line depth will take yet another hit. If he can be ready for October, he could provide valuable insurance on the right side of the Boston defense.

Let’s take a look at the cast of characters that should make up the Bruin’s back end and the ones that may have to fill in for either injury or hold outs.

At the top of the list of any discussion regarding Boston’s defense is the 42-year-old Slovakian behemoth, Zdeno Chara. The captain signed a one-year deal with the team worth $2 million for 2019-20, but the Cap hit could rise to $3.75 million if he meets his performance bonuses. Chara is no longer the guy that could once log 26 minutes a night for 82 games against the Bruin’s toughest opposition, but he still can do it for shorter periods of time and has a key role on the team, both on and off the ice. I would love to see Boston cut down on Chara’s minutes even more than they have in recent years, and use him as a 3rd pair PK specialist. I think this would allow him to play at a higher level and save him for a playoff run. However, given the current makeup of the left side of the defense, I’m not sure that will be possible? With Moore injured, Chara is the only left defenseman that is capable of playing a defensive shutdown role.

That brings us to 21-year-old, Long Island-born Charlie McAvoy. In most circles, McAvoy is considered the next all-star D in what has been a long line of them in Boston. In any other offseason, we would be discussing the positive impact that he would be having on the team come October, but not this year. Right now, there is a hefty list of impact restricted free agents that have yet to agree to terms with their respective teams. Unfortunately, McAvoy, who averaged 22:10 TOI and totaled 7g/21a in only 54 games last season is one of the big names on the list. The point of this article is not to debate McAvoy’s salary, but it would probably be safe to assume he will get in the $6-7 million range easily. The rumor is that McAvoy turned down a 7-8 year deal in the $7.5 million range. If that is the case, I can only assume he wants to go the route that Auston Matthews did and sign a five-year deal that will make him an unrestricted free agent at the age of 26.

The next Bruin’s defenseman is a lightning rod among fans and media alike. There may not be another player on the team (well, maybe Tuukka) that inspires more debate and venom than Torey Krug. People are divided about how much he’s worth, how good he is offensively, how much of a liability he is in his own zone…even who is taller, he or Brad Marchand. No matter what your feelings on Krug (I am a fan personally), even his harshest critics have to admit he’s an offensive catalyst on both the power play and at even strength. He stretches the opposing defense like no other defenseman in the organization, whether it be by a long outlet pass or bringing the puck up the ice himself.

Since Krug signed a four-year deal worth $21 million in 2016-17 ($5.25m per) he is 5th in the NHL for defensemen with 163 regular-season points in 221 games. To say he is a bargain on his current deal would be an understatement. The question people have now is not about this deal, it’s about his next one. How much money and term should the Bruins invest in a 29-year-old that many view as a one-dimensional player? That’s the $6-8 million question. I ask myself that same question, but Krug went a long way towards convincing me with his performance (both offensively and defensively) in last season’s playoffs. In my opinion, he was hands down the Bruin’s best blue-liner in the postseason, and his defense was above average on the whole. He’s a key player any year, but if Boston has holdouts, he will play an even bigger role.

The second potential holdout and another key player on the defense is Brandon Carlo. The soon to be 23-year-old had his best year as a pro last season, building on what fans saw in 2017-18. While his point totals didn’t necessarily reflect it, Carlo took a big leap forward. His TOI was up about 90 seconds per game (20:55), and his shots, hits, and plus/minus were all career highs for a season. Unfortunately for Carlo, while there is some potential there, he has shown very little in the way of offense since making the Bruins as a rookie three years ago. In the NHL, there are very few, if any, defensive-minded defensemen that get paid like their puck-moving brethren. If I had to compare him to a recent player and his contract, the closest I can come is probably the Avs Nikita Zadorov, who signed a one-year deal with Colorado in July for $3.2 million. Zadorov is roughly 18 months older than Carlo, but he plays a similar defensive style. He does produce offensively at a better clip with 62 points in 292 NHL games, versus 32 points in 230 games for Carlo. To be honest, I am not quite sure what the hold up is here? I expected this contract to be the far easier of the two Bruin RFA defensemen without deals, but that has not been the case.

Grizz Photo by Claus Andersen - Getty Images

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

That brings us to the Bruins third pair, which will most likely be made up of two of these three: Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, or Kevan Miller (health permitting). For the sake of discussion, I am going to assume that Miller will not be able to start the season. If he can, to me he is the favorite for the RD position on the third pair, despite a strong showing by Clifton last season in his absence. Barring injury, I don’t see how Grzelcyk is not your starter on the left side. While his advanced stats were not as impressive in 2018-19 as they were in his rookie campaign, I would chalk that up to the fact that his playing time rose almost 2:30 minutes per game, he faced stiffer competition due to injuries, and his offensive zone starts were down nearly five percent. Despite those obstacles, Grelcyk finished the regular season a “plus nine” and up three points from the year before. In my opinion, he is the perfect puck-moving third pair in today’s NHL. While he does lack size, he has a good stick and sound positioning in the defensive zone. His contract ($1.4 million) is also a bargain by today’s standards. The question in a lot of people’s minds is whether or not Grizz can jump into a Top Four role with the team if they are forced to move Krug. I root for guys like Grzelcyk, but I’m not sure he’s up to that task? Despite the size similarities, he and Krug have different games. Grizz is the better skater and better defensively, but he lacks Krug’s cannon shot and end to end passing ability. I would prefer the Bruins keep number 48 right where he is, but Cap concerns may force their hands?

On the right side (assuming Miller can’t go), the likely candidate will be Connor Clifton. The 24-year-old New Jersey native played his college hockey at Quinnipiac College in the ECAC. He was a 5th round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013 but was unable to come to an agreement with the Yotes after graduating and ended up signing a deal with the Providence Bruins in 2017. He played 54 games for the Baby B’s that year and impressed the front office enough to get a two-year NHL deal. He started 2018-19 in the AHL, but was called up in November and again in the Spring because of the plethora of injuries on the B’s back end. He endeared himself to the fan base by playing what Coach Bruce Cassidy called “Cliffy Hockey,” a blend of fearless physical play along with joining the rush that was exciting but at times stressful.  Stressful or not, Don Sweeney liked what he saw enough to sign Clifton to a three-year deal worth $1 million per season that begins next year when his current contract expires. Despite all that, I have to admit that I am not 100% sold on him. I am hoping that one of the three or four prospects I am about to discuss can steal one of those third pair spots, and Clifton becomes the 7th d-man eventually.

Last year when injuries ravaged the B’s defensive corps, three rookies other than Clifton also made their NHL debuts. Urho Vaakaneinen, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jakub Zboril all donned the Black and Gold for the first time to varying degrees of success. Zboril (2015) and Vaakaneinen (2017) are both former first-round picks that have pretty impressive draft pedigrees, but it was the lower-drafted Lauzon (52nd overall in 2015) that made the more lasting impression. The big, rangy left-handed product out of Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL is a good skater, but not quite as smooth as his Euro-counterparts. He’s a little more physical and played more of a “stay at home” game than I expected, given his production in Juniors. I’m sure that some of that was due to nerves and wanting to take care of his own end before joining the rush as a rookie. He had only one goal in his first 16 NHL games but looked increasingly comfortable as the games mounted. If McAvoy and Carlo do hold out, Lauzon would be my choice to step in, although management might prefer the more experienced Steven Kampfer, at least to start.

Vaakaneinen and Zboril would appear to be the next ones in line, but like Lauzon, both are left-handed shots. Vaakaneinen, a 20-year-old Finn, did spend some time playing the right side for SaiPa in the Liiga (the top tier men’s league in Finland), which may give him an advantage. It’s easy to see why the B’s European scouts liked Vaakaneinen, as he combines good size (6’1″, 190 pounds) and excellent skating ability in one package. Early viewings suggest that right now “Vaak” is more comfortable playing a defensive game. I think that his ability to get up and down the ice will eventually lead to more offense in his game. I thought he looked pretty good in his debut, but unfortunately, a nasty elbow by the Ottawa Senators Mark Borowiecki in Vaakaneinen’s second game resulted in a concussion that sidelined him for months.

Zboril was the 14th overall pick in the now infamous 2015 draft for the Bruins, where they passed on players like Matt Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Thomas Chabot. The B’s were starved for defense prospects at the time, and Zboril was given a mid-first grade by most scouts, so I have no issue with the pick. I am a fan of Zboril’s but am a little perplexed by him. He is as smooth a skater as I have ever seen, making it seem effortless as he makes his way around the ice. He displayed some offensive ability for Saint John’s of the QMJHL, and I have also seen him show bit of a mean streak. When you add it all up, he should already be playing in the NHL. It appears that inconsistency is holding him back? This is a big year for Zboril, he’s on the last year of his ELC, and the Bruins have several other young defensemen vying for spots. If he doesn’t “put it together” this season, I could see him playing elsewhere going forward.

The two defensemen at the bottom of the Bruin prospect food chain (and this is not an insult in any way) came to the organization in completely different ways. Cooper Zech was an undrafted free agent that signed with Providence after an impressive freshman year at Ferris State. Axel Andersson was a 2nd round pick by Boston in the 2018 draft. He played a full season for Södertälje in the Allsvenskan (Sweden’s second-tier pro league) at age 18, which is impressive in its own way as well.

Despite not being drafted, the left-handed Zech (5’9”, 170 pounds) has been busy piling up the awards the last couple of years. In 2017-18 while playing for the Wenatchee Wild (BCHL), he was named First Team All-Star, Top Defenseman, and won a championship. Last year at Ferris State (WCHA) he took home Rookie of the Year honors and was again named First Team All-Star. He left Ferris State and signed with Providence, acquitting himself quite well in twelve regular-season games (0g/4a) and four playoff games (2g/0a). There will be the obvious size comparisons to Krug and Grzelcyk, and his game is similar. He’s a smallish puck mover and power play guy that will put up the points but needs some work defensively against pro-caliber players. The B’s have an excellent recent history with free agent NCAA defensemen (Miller, Krug, Clifton) and they are hoping Zech is the next diamond in the rough.

Last, but not least, we have 2018 second-round pick (57th overall), Axel Andersson. The Bruins didn’t have a first-round pick in that draft, and I remember saying, “Axel who?”, when the pick was announced, but since then, I have become a fan. Last year at the Bruins Development Camp he was one of the best players there when I saw him. He followed that up with a very good preseason, getting first pair minutes with Chara. The 6 foot, 180 pound native of Järna, Sweden is bigger than I thought, but still an excellent skater and puck mover. It appears those two skills have become prerequisites for nearly all of the Bruins recent draft picks on defense. The organization clearly believes that is the direction the NHL is headed.

There seems to be some question about where “AA” will be playing in 2019-20? He is eligible to suit up for Providence, but he was also drafted by Moncton (QMJHL) 30th overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Recent news seems to indicate that he will play there and get big minutes for a good Junior team. The only way this may change is if McAvoy and Carlo hold out, which would likely open Top Four spots in Providence. I don’t think the Bruins can go wrong either way, as long as Andersson is getting the time on ice he needs to progress. The situation on the Bruins blueline is a fluid one at the moment, but if everyone is signed, I see the defense pairs like this to start the season:

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller/Clifton

Kampfer

That alignment would give the Bruins a puck-mover and a strong defensive presence on each pair, which I believe is the proper way to go. In the past few years, the Bruins have been bitten hard by the injury bug on the back end. If everyone is in camp, the team should be well-positioned to handle the inevitable injuries. If there are holdouts, the organization’s depth on defense could be tested right out of the gate.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 8-25-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Donnelly: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night

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(Photo: Greg M. Cooper / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Credit to fellow Black ‘N Gold writer Mike Cratty for coming up with the idea for this article a few weeks ago; check out his article here. This lineup is how I would have things in a perfect world scenario to kick off the year, hence “ideal” in the title.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Bjork

Keeping Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron together was the easiest thing about this hypothetical lineup. The two key cogs for the B’s have had unbelievable chemistry throughout their careers and have lit things up over the last few seasons while elevating the play of those around them.

Anders Bjork is the wildcard here. Like we saw with Danton Heinen for parts of last season, a good dose of action with these two guys may be all a player needs to get going. Now, there is still a high possibility that David Pastrnak ends up on the right side where he has been a mainstay and Bjork starts the year in Providence to get his legs under him again, but this combo is a low-risk, high-reward scenario.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak

Like Bergeron and Marchand, keeping DeBrusk and Krejci together proved to be a no-brainer as the two have formed a strong on-ice chemistry over the last two seasons. Moving Pastrnak to a spot where he has been successful in the past seemingly solves the problem that has been the gaping black hole at right wing over the last few seasons.

Third Line: Heinen – Coyle – Kuhlman

Charlie Coyle was among the missing pieces last season that, once settled in, really paid dividends for the Bruins as he played hometown hero for the Bruins throughout the playoffs. We also saw a major improvement in Danton Heinen with the arrival of Coyle, although his impact was not seen on the scoresheet as much as Coyle; keeping these two together will really help create consistency and production on the third line.

Karson Kuhlman played extremely well when called upon in the regular season and Stanley Cup Finals and established himself as an NHL-caliber player. his style of play should mesh well here.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Another no-brainer here with Noel Acciari gone to Florida and given the chemistry these three displayed at times last season. The Bruins sorely missed Chris Wagner down the line last postseason. Hopefully, we can expect the same model of consistency out of both Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly this season. I would expect this fourth line to be nothing short of dominant once again.

Extras: Ritchie – Lindholm – Backes (IR)

Brett Ritchie should be a fine depth piece for the Bruins next season, and may even make a big impact like Nordstrom did last season as he’ll likely be able to slot in anywhere on the wing as needed. Par Lindholm will also be a nice reserve piece. With reports that David Backes may be injured to start the season, I’m projecting my lineup holding that assumption; once healthy I’d expect either he or Lindholm to be sent down to Providence.

First Pair: Chara – McAvoy

We have been seeing the passing of the torch in real time with this pairing over the last few seasons. Charlie McAvoy was on a different level during the Bruins’ long playoff run this past spring and Zdeno Chara remains an absolute workhorse on the backend. Assuming McAvoy signs before the season, we could witness something really special in terms of his growth as player this season. There are some question marks around Chara given his age entering this season off of a shorter off-season, but I would not expect too much of a drop off, if any.

Second Pair: Krug – Carlo

Speaking of a different level, Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo were arguably the Bruins’ best pairing during the latest playoff run. With Krug as one of the league’s premier offensive talents on the backend and Carlo as rock solid as ever in his own zone–and only getting better (assuming he signs, too)–this pairing should pick up right where they left off this season.

Third Pair: Grzlecyk – Clifton

Another steady pairing during the postseason run, Grzlecyk and Clifton proved that the spotlight is not too big for either of them. Clifton burst on the scene in the playoffs after having not played a game prior, and showed that he was ready. Meanwhile, Grzlecyk was arguably Boston’s best defenseman during the regular season and was solid throughout the playoffs.

Extras: Kampfer – Moore (IR) – Miller (IR)

Assuming Moore and Miller are still hurt to kick off the season, Steven Kampfer, fresh off signing his new extension this summer, is the seventh defenseman. Once Moore and Miller return, there will be some question marks regarding the top-six, but Kampfer is likely a perfectly adequate depth piece either way.

Goalies: Rask – Halak

Another given, Tuukka Rask was unbelievable in the playoffs last season after having a solid regular season in tandem with Jaroslav Halak. Rask showed that he is still able to compete at an elite level.

A lot of Rask’s success can be attributed to how well Halak played during the regular season as he was able to shoulder a good amount of for Rask, allowing both of them to be as sharp as possible.

Coach’s Corner Squared: Bruins, Celts, Pats, Sox Edition!

(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins via 13 Photography)

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

I think Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy is living his Boston Wonder Years right now.

And it doesn’t take a wunderkind to realize he enjoys “getting by with a little help” from his friends! Just two weeks after visiting legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick and striking up quite the bond (as this Black N’ Gold blogger noticed), Cassidy was at it again. This time talking shop — and Jimmy Fund philanthropy — with not only a phoned-in Belichick of the Pats (that’s a literal meaning as it could never happen figuratively to the GOAT of the sidelines) but also fellow NESN studio guests Alex Cora & Brad Stevens of the Red Sox and Celtics, respectively.

Sure, this was a brilliant way to raise awareness and money for a cause as connected to Boston sports and New England charity as clam chowder and candlepin bowling. But it was also a once-in-a-blue-moon glimpse into the minds of perhaps the best known (and respected) foursome of coaching talent this city by the Charles has ever seen — no disrespect to the Auerbach/Holovak/Sinden/Williams years of the 60’s and early 70’s! And to quote the man who represents the B’s with plenty of aplomb and on-air honesty:

“It’s great to have some banter [between the coaches, media & fanbase]. Let’s just keep it to the performance on the ice.”

That certainly sounds a bit Belichick-ian don’t you think!? And with on-ice performance for the B’s only a month away now, Cassidy was sure to make the most of this opportunity and lean on both Cora & Stevens for further insight into how the Bruins can best bounce back in ’19-’20:

“You coach discipline, you can hold people accountable with their discipline. Talent levels change from team to team…(but) we’re very lucky. I’m one of the most fortunate guys in the National Hockey League to coach true pros like [Patrice] Bergeron and [Zdeno] Chara.”

I’m confident they’d echo those same sentiments back on “Butch”… the coach who took them from a playoff outsider just two-and-a-half years ago all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals this past Spring and who plans to take it even further (JUST ONE MORE WIN), ideally as soon as this upcoming season:

We learned a lot going into our playoffs last year from all three coaches in town. Hopefully down the road as the Bruins we can pay them back.”

Boston Coaches(Photo Credit: NESN)

Payback would certainly be sweet for the B’s, there’s no doubt about that. And as a certain TV theme song laments, “do you need anybody” for that to happen? Well, I think Bruce Cassidy now has the answer in a familiar Boston Coach’s Corner that certainly doesn’t lack expert insight, advice… or wonder.

 Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 8-25-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

 

European Tour: Bruins Edition

Screenshot_20190817-175154-01 (1)(Photo Credits: NHL Twitter)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

As the NHL looks to expand its outreach to the European markets, many players were welcomed back to the third annual NHL/NHLPA European Player Media Tour. Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (Czech Republic) was invited once again to participate in the event. Bruins own Joakim Nordstrom (Sweden) also represented the Black and Gold during the Media Tour for another edition of Bruins #BearTracks.

SWEDEN

Since its inception in 2017, the tour is held in Stockholm, Sweden at the headquarters of Viasat- where the NHL’s international media rights are held. The tour features 23 European-born players being interviewed by dozens of media outlets as a means of promoting  NHL Games. To help the leagues effort to appeal to the growing European fanbase, the NHL purposely changed start times of many weekend games, so that fans will get to enjoy watching them at a more reasonable time (prior to the change, games with start times of 7:30 PM in the U.S. would be aired at 1:30 AM in Sweden). With new earlier start times in the U.S., games would fall into prime evening hours for Europe.

(Photo Credits: NHLPA)

With the NHL continuing to grow the game through Europe and in China, their efforts have garnered much buzz, especially if you consider that this year will the mark the third time professional teams will travel to Europe to play regular season games. On October 4th, the Chicago Blackhawks play the Philadelphia Flyers in the Czech Republic, while on November 9th,  the Buffalo Sabres face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Stockholm, Sweden.

Joakim Nordstrom served as “tour guide” as he hosted Pastrnak in his native Sweden. Both players participated in photo shoots and interviews for the event. Not one to shy away,  the 22-year-old Pastrnak was all smiles in front of the camera-there’s also that video showing off his “dance” skills… Please enjoy:

SLOVAKIA

In his hometown of Trencin, Slovakia Bruins Captain and age-less wonder Zdeno Chara continued with his charitable contributions. In a partnership with New Balance, the 42-year-old defenseman has collected and donated shoes that help benefit those in need throughout  Boston and Slovakia. Chara first partnered up with organization this past March along with Soles4Souls-a Nashville-based non-profit organization that aims to give those in need a pair of shoes. To date, Soles4Souls have donated over 35 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries. Fans were able to donate new or used shoes to New Balance stores or at the Warrior Ice rink. The Bruins also held a shoe drive this past March at the Garden.

(Photo Credits: Sole4Souls.org)

The Bruins #BeartTracks followed Chara as he headed back to Slovakia, bringing a portion of the donated shoes that were collected at the TD Garden.  The 42-year-old Slovak-native was seen delivering shoes to many children in his hometown:

And while Bruins fans eagerly await for the puck to drop officially in October, rest assured the guys are gearing up and getting back into fighting shape. Not to be outdone from last year’s  insane workout session in Slovakia, this time Chara did not skip a beat while hanging out in his native country. In case you’re wondering, he’s still a beast:

Mark Your ’19-’20 Bruins Calendar: Part III

Image result for boston bruins 2019-20 schedule(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins)

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

In Part I… we made you fear the start of the season (and just in time for Halloween)!

In Part II… we showed you unless the Bruins stuff themselves with wins, it could be a Thankskilling in the standings!

Now, for their busiest month yet–December, comes Part III of the B’s calendar series. And like all “threequels”… there are bound to be surprises around every curve of the rink! So, let’s start at the top and cruise through the holiday season right up until NYE.

December 1st – 7th: “Livin’ On A Prayer”

The Boston Bruins at TD Garden are always a challenge, no matter the opponent. Especially when the fans get into the game (like they did in the above clip). Well, the B’s will have four consecutive games in front of those Bon Jovial fans to start December — one of their longest home stretches of the season. They’ll match-up for a Sunday funday fight on the 1st against their most historic & hated rivals: the Montreal Canadiens. Then they’ll play every other day through Saturday the 7th versus some “C-League” teams — Carolina, Chicago & Colorado. However, they’ll have to bring their “A-game” because outside of the ECF series sweep against the Canes this past season, the B’s have always struggled at home against the Blackhawks & Avalanche.  That’s why this first week is very important for the team (and perhaps the eyes of management). It would behoove the B’s to stockpile as many points as possible while playing in front of their friendlies (who perhaps came from Friendly’s) because right after all this TD Garden time, it’ll be time to take this show on the road!

December 9th – 14th: “On The Road Again”

Just like the Willie Nelson song suggests, the B’s are no strangers to being on the road again for an extended period. For week number two of December, it’ll be a lot of North/South travel. The Bruins begin that stretch on Monday the 9th in Canada’s capital against the sorry Sens–a game they should definitely capitalize on. Why? Because next up, just down the street from our own Capitol, are the Washington Capitals in D.C. That city, and arena, have never been nice to the Bruins–politics aside. So, let’s vote for a win as opposed to lobbying for a loss, especially with the Lightning on the schedule the very next night. That’s right, a midweek back-to-back versus two of the top teams in the NHL–and on enemy ice. This will be as difficult of a 48-hour period the B’s will face all season long. And, as most road games against Tampa go, it’s on to Sunrise next for a post-Luongo-era match-up versus the Florida Panthers to end this four-gamer away from Boston.

As for December 15th – 31st, the B’s play five of those seven games at home–making the holiday season, at least schedule wise, the home stretch of ’19-’20. The most notable match-ups are not marquee but still worth watching/following as the Preds claw into town followed by the Caps just before Christmas. The B’s will round out 2019 with a matinee game in New Jersey, just in time for some bedeviled New Year’s celebrations we hope!

In short, the eight games to start December could be very telling as the B’s approach the midway point of their season. Will they look like the Eastern Conference Champs and Stanley Cup Runners-Up that they are? Or will the newly blended veteran/youth mixes be mixed up & already worn out? As we like to say, Mark Your ’19-’20 Bruins Calendar now… for all those “I Told You So” moments later!

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 139 that we recorded on 8-2-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Sticher.

AND…

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel!  We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel!

 

Catching Up With The Bruins: Summer Edition

Related image(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter: @pastagrl88

In what seems like a lifetime ago since the boys in Black and Gold skated in front of the Garden faithful, we’ve reached the very dreaded summer lull. With the NHL Free Agency gone and some new signings coming the way of Sweeney and Co., there have been other little sneaky things happening for the team. If you missed it, fret not as we have a quick low down of all things Bruins:

SOME FAMILIAR FACES

With fresh new faces joining the ranks of the prestigious club, the team will be welcoming back a few that have made their mark during the Bruins run for the 2019 Stanley Cup. This past June, Steven Kampfer agreed upon a two-year contract for $1.6 million dollars and will play through the 2020-2021 season. The blue-liner was brought in by the Bruins last September in exchange for defenseman Adam McQuaid. And when Boston was down a few defenseman, Kampfer was more than happy to step in and even more grateful to continue to don Boston’s jersey:

“It’s an honor and privilege to wear the Spoked-B. I’m really excited to be here and get this journey started again.”

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

With the Playoffs on the horizon for the Bruins, injury once again plagued the team. Enter Connor Clifton, who was playing his second season down in Providence. After a quick stint in December when Clifton played for nine games with Boston, he was recalled once again and never returned to Providence, earning a spot on the NHL roster during the post-season run. The Quinnipiac alum played 18 games for the Bruins during the Playoffs were he netted two goals and three assists. His efforts were rewarded as both parties agreed to a contract extension of three years for $3 million.

Danton Heinen Photos - 28 of 78(Photo Credits: Steven Ryan/Getty Images North America)

Bruins forward Danton Heinen recently re-signed with the Boston Bruins for two more years with an annual cap of $2.8 million. The chippy forward had two goals and six assists during the Playoffs. Say what you want about Heino, but his ability to play both wings saw him garner a significant amount of time on ice while being shuffled amongst the top three lines. While not flashy, he certainly was dependable and played a key role alongside Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johannson.

O’ CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!

There’s a lot to say about the indomitable force that is Zdeno Chara who has been enjoying summer back in Slovakia with his family. And at age 42, he is now the oldest active player in the NHL and is there is no slowing down his regimen.  Recently Chara has once again been named Slovakia’s Best Hockey Player, making it the sixth time he has won.  Also in the mix was Jaroslav Halak, who won Slovakia’s Best Goaltender.  Both players were not able to make the awards and had their respected family members there to receive the honors. Halak had a tremendous year with the Bruins, ending the season with a .922 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 2.34 in 40 games.

Image result for zdeno chara slovakia award(Photo Credits: Boston Bruins/NHL.com)

ON THE MEND

After the loss of the Stanley Cup Finals in Game Seven, many of the Bruins were revealed to have suffered many injuries. As those players take time off to heal from those ailments, their head coach revealed that he too needed this summer to heal up. Cassidy suffered a recurring injury that stemmed from a decades-long problem: a torn ACL that was never dealt with properly. After being selected in the first round by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1983, Cassidy injured his knee after playing ball hockey. Team doctors went against surgery opting instead for rehab, a decision that affected the young 18-year-old’s career.

Image result for bruce cassidy surgery(Photo Credits: Boston Informer)

After dealing with a recent re-injury to his knee during the Playoffs, the swelling proved too much and after a few aspirations (fluid being drained), the decision was made to have surgery:

“All of a sudden it just sort of gave out, maybe I lost my footing or whatever…I don’t know if it was in the gym, maybe, but it got puffy all of a sudden. They kept draining it through the Carolina series and some of the St. Louis series. I got X-rays and they said ‘you have to get it done.’

It is also worth noting that after many years of ligament damage from not having his ACL reconstructed, this led to Cassidy having a total hip replacement. Luckily the timing was just right and the Bruins coach continues to rehab the knee and regain his range of motion and mobility prior to the start of the new season.

THIS, THAT AND OTHER BITS

It was just recently announced that the Boston Bruins organization has hired former player Chris Kelly as Player Development Coordinator and Andrew Dickson as an Amateur Scout. Kelly is a former member of the 2011 Bruins team that won the Stanley Cup.

Image result for former bruin chris kelly(Photo Credits: Boston Bruins/NHL.com)

Some members of the Boston Bruins will once again be traveling to Beijing as the sport of Hockey continues to grow globally. Last year many of the veterans played and participated in youth clinics in China. This year, Providence players Anton Blidh and Wiley Sherman will be heading up the clinics. The Bruins have had very strong ties with China since partnering up with O.R.G. Packaging, becoming the first NHL franchise team to do so.

STAYING COOL

With the blistering heat here to stay for the next few months,  things tend to be quiet on the hockey front, but luckily fans have been treated to some online banter. And in case you were wondering if the team lost any of its “family” connection, you’ll be happy to know that the camaraderie has not faltered.  Most recently Bruins Twitter debuted a special installment of a segment called “Staying Connected” featuring Sean Kuraly video chatting with Jake DeBrusk (and with some added insight from Torey Krug). Enjoy below and hockey can’t come soon enough!

 

Bruins Captain Chara A Testament To Longevity

Boston Bruins v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Four

(Photo credit: NHLI via Getty Images)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

With the recent announcement that Pittsburgh Penguin Matt Cullen has retired, 42-year-old Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara became the oldest active player in the National Hockey League. Chara will be 43 by the time his one-year contract is up following the 2019-2020 season, but Bruins fans know Chara is far from the typical middle-aged man. A lot has changed, in the world and in professional hockey, during his lifetime.

When Chara was born on March 18, 1977, the Berlin Wall was still standing. In fact, what we know as Germany today was still divided into two separate countries, East Germany and West Germany. His place of birth is listed as Trenčín, Czechoslovakia. Chara’s native country was not split into Slovakia, the country he now calls home, and the Czech Republic until just a few months before his 16th birthday.

His background alone has earned Chara, who is also the tallest player in the NHL at 6’9″, a place in the National Hockey League record books. According to Wikipedia, he was just the second European captain to win the Stanley Cup, achieving that honor when the Bruins won it all in 2011, and the first Cup champion to be born in and hone his hockey skills in a country within the Iron Curtain.

Off the ice, Zdeno Chara is well-educated and has a wide array of interests. He speaks seven languages, including his native Slovak, has earned a financial planning diploma, is licensed to sell real estate in Massachusetts and attended a course offered by Harvard Business School in 2018 entitled “The Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports.”

Chara’s motivational and insightful Instagram posts have made him a social media favorite among fans. During the hockey season especially, Chara gives followers a glimpse into his family life and his training regiment and frequently tells stories of his experiences and lessons learned.

The captain’s intense training sessions and plant-based diet, similar to the one followed by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, are certainly two keys to his impressive longevity. Players of Chara’s size are becoming more and more rare as the NHL tide has turned toward smaller, faster, more-skilled players and away from the proverbial “goon” and power forward-types that were in ample supply earlier in his NHL career.

Of course, Chara recognizes that playing the game of hockey for as long as he has at the top professional level is not an easy feat. He acknowledged that fact with a rather tongue-in-cheek Instagram post soon after the news broke that he was now the oldest active player.

According to his player bio on bostonbruins.com, Chara was drafted by the New York Islanders with the 56th overall pick in the third round of the 1996 NHL Draft. He was later traded to the Ottawa Senators. He was signed as a free agent by the Bruins in 2006 and has served as the team’s captain ever since. Before breaking into the NHL, Chara played North American hockey with Prince George’s Western Hockey League team and with an Islanders American Hockey League affiliate in Kentucky.

Chara was awarded the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2009. He has set plus/minus and hardest shot records along the way in his storied career and was named a first-team all star three times.

Even with all of the accolades, records and firsts Chara has racked up, he will likely always be best-remembered by Bruins teammates, coaches and fans for his leadership. This quality was on display throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fans will long remember Chara changing into his full uniform after missing the clinching game four of the Eastern Conference Finals with an injury to come out to participate in the handshake line and celebrate the Cup Finals berth with his teammates.

As special a show of leadership and sportsmanship that gesture was, it was outdone when Chara came to sit on the bench, reportedly against the advice of the team’s medical staff, after suffering a broken jaw during the fourth game of the Stanley Cup Finals. He later said he came out with no intention of playing, but as a show of support for his teammates. Incredibly, Chara did not miss a start in the series, wired jaw and all.

Chara is likely coming into one of, if not his final, season as a player in the National Hockey League. When he does hang up his skates for the final time, he will be closing the book on an amazing career that may well result in his number 33 being hoisted to the rafters.