Star Power, Consistency Amongst Keys To Bruins Defeating Carolina

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(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

By: Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Last time I wrote an article like this, it was about a more grueling type of series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although this wasn’t an easy series for the Bruins, despite winning it in a four-game sweep over the Carolina Hurricanes, this series had a different feel to it.

I won’t pinpoint every reason why they won the series because praise can go all around, but here are some of the main things that led to the team’s triumph as a whole, with a shot at the Stanley Cup on their minds.

Tuukka Rask is still really good

The list goes on for Rask. Bruce Cassidy even spoke to his focus and the zone he is in after last night’s series-clinching win in game four. The man is locked in. Letting up just five goals to the Canes all series, and stopping 109 of 114 shots had a massive influence on the team’s success. It’s comforting to play in front of a goalie that is playing out of his mind, and Rask surely is.

Team defense has been spectacular

The Bruins have won their last seven playoff games, and have outscored their opponents 29-8 in that span. Eight goals in seven games, that’s mind-boggling. I’m sure Rask would be the first one to tell you that the team defense in front of him as of late has been phenomenal.

Even in the absences of Charlie McAvoy in game one, and Zdeno Chara in game four, the overall defensive structure was pretty rock solid. That speaks to the depth and determination of this group. Rask provided a little more clarity from his perspective after the game last night, he gets into it around the 45-second mark of the video below.

Prowess and on the penalty kill and power play

Carolina’s power play was ineffective against the Bruins, and credit there goes back to Rask, again, and the penalty killing units in front of him. The Canes were 1/14 on the power play against the Bruins, with the lone goal coming three minutes and 42 seconds into the first period of game one.

On the other side of things, the Bruins were 7/15 (46.6%) on the power play. A huge reason as to why they were so successful on the man advantage was the simplicity of the puck movement and shot selection. They were calm and moved the puck efficiently. Their power play struggles when they are not doing those things, which we have seen previously in this playoff run.

The first two goals of game four were on the power play, making it, so Carolina had to play from behind with their backs already up against the wall. Special teams were a serious difference maker.

The top line showed up big-time

Most recently, the top line showed up on each of the four goals in the Bruins’ game four win last night, as shown in the videos above. The top line took some criticism earlier in the playoffs, saw some line juggling take place, and then they responded in a big way.

Game four stats:

Patrice Bergeron: 2G, 1A

Brad Marchand: 1G, 1A

David Pastrnak: 1G, 2A

That helps. One cannot overstate their importance, because the Bruins literally wouldn’t have won the game without them and Rask last night. The top line combined for six goals and eight assists in four games against Carolina, bringing their combined playoff totals to 22 goals and 24 assists in 51 games. That’s really good, can confirm.

Players stepping up in the absences of teammates

First, it was McAvoy in game one. Steven Kampfer slotted in due to McAvoy’s one-game suspension, and even scored the first goal of the series, in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game — and he did it just 2:55 into the first period. What a way to insert yourself into the lineup to fill the shoes of a top line defender in McAvoy.

Chris Wagner and Zdeno Chara were out of the lineup last night, Wagner with a hand/wrist injury due to a blocked shot in game three, and Chara with an undisclosed injury. Noel Acciari and John Moore slotted in due to their absences, and both played solid games last night in one of the team’s better overall performances in the whole postseason, as said by Cassidy after the game.

Sometimes things like that happen, and you need guys to step up, and Kampfer, Acciari, and Moore did when their names were called. The team as a whole was consistently good throughout the majority of the series, and the ‘next man up’ mentality can be credited for that, in part.

Now, the Bruins await the fates of the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks, who square off in game four of the Western Conference Finals tonight. San Jose currently leads the series 2-1. Whoever the opponent is, the Bruins now have some time to decompress until the Stanley Cup Finals roll around.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECF Game 4: Boston at Carolina

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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

A trip to the Stanley Cup Finals is on the line for the Boston Bruins tonight in Game Four of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Carolina Hurricanes. Due in part to the terrific play of Tuukka Rask, the Bruins possess a 3-0 series lead on Carolina and look to close the show here tonight.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: PNC Arena – Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

Home: Carolina Hurricanes (8-6)

Away: Boston Bruins: (11-5)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 2-1

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara is not in the lineup for Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Matt Grzelcyk moves up to replace him alongside Charlie McAvoy and John Moore comes into the lineup beside Connor Clifton on the third pairing. Tuukka Rask will be, without previous doubt, the starting goalie for Boston. For the second consecutive game, Curtis McElhinney will start for the Canes.

First Period:

Starting off right away, just over a minute into the game, Matt Grzelcyk gets his stick caught in the skates of a Hurricane forward, resulting in a two-minute minor. Boston’s penalty-kill, even without Chara, did a great job preventing zone entries and even got a shorthanded bid with a Joakim Nordstrom partial breakaway that gets stopped by McElhinney. Penalty killed off successfully.

Early on, Carolina’s shot attempts came often from the point. The Bruins were being fearless on a lot of these shots, getting their bodies in front of the puck and making sure Rask didn’t have to see anything. Good start defensively by the Black and Gold here.

Just around 12 minutes to go, the Bruins get the best chance of the game so far. Brad Marchand’s missed pass goes right to Charlie McAvoy who blasts one to the net. The shot creates a large rebound that goes to Bergeron and then to Marchand again. Marchand’s quick wrister gets gloved by an extended McElhinney.

In a tightly-contested opening frame, the Hurricanes go the penalty box for the first time in Game Four, a slashing call against Nino Niederreiter on Brad Marchand. Marchand may have helped the call by dropping his stick, but there was a clear slash on his hands. Regardless, Boston off to power-play for the first time tonight.

Boston had some really great chances to bury one on the power-play. The best chance came with less than a minute remaining on the man-advantage. Somehow, Patrice Bergeron is wide open in the slot with the puck. Instead of shooting, he fakes the shot and feeds it to Pastrnak who tried to pass him the puck right back but McElhinney’s diving stop prevents it from entering a gaping net.

Charlie Coyle gets whistled down on a weak “interference” call, ending the power-play and forcing the game to briefly go to 4-on-4, followed by a shorter man-advantage for the Canes. Thanks to some solid saves from none other than Tuukka Rask, Boston kills off that call and we return to 5-on-5.

Boston’s top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak get many opportunities to strike in the opening frame but all too often make an extra, unnecessary pass and the play is dissolved from there. More shots on net and the Bruins could very well be up 2-0 here. Nonetheless, we are scoreless after the first twenty minutes of action.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 10 CAR: 13

Score: 0-0

Second Period:

Five minutes into the middle period, the Hurricanes appear to be controlling the play more than Boston. The B’s failed to get the puck out of the zone on numerous attempts and the Canes returned with shots off the rush. However, the Hurricanes get caught with six skaters on the ice at the same time and now face a minor penalty for too-many-men.

On Boston’s second man-advantage of the night, Brad Marchand races into the zone with his head up the entire time, tossing a lead pass for a reaching David Pastrnak and the Bruins get on the board first. McElhinney was convinced that Marchand was going to rip the shot and that expectancy resulted in him being slightly out of position for Pastrnak’s deflection.

Carolina’s edge that they possessed early in the frame was not as evident after the Bruins tally. Boston has had a lot more zone entries and scoring threats on the ice compared to the Canes. The frustration of the Hurricanes may be rising too, as captain Justin Williams shows frustration on a close icing call that he lost. His frustration levels have been on display all series long and he has continually said that he needs to be better. That seems to still be a work in progress.

Late in the period, Carolina has the best zone control of the game by far, passing the puck around the offensive zone but not a single shot made it’s way to Tuukka Rask. The fourth line of Nordstrom, Kuraly and Acciari were on the ice for a really long time and Carolina had their best chance to equal the score. Torey Krug was on the ice for a remarkable 2:57 and Carlo for 2:48.

Greg McKegg takes a hard rush into the zone with the exhausted Krug still on the ice, but the mobile defenceman pokes the puck before it gets to Rask. The cut from McKegg leads to him colliding with Rask in the head and he gets penalized with goaltender interference. On the ensuing power-play, Pastrnak and Bergeron exchange a beautiful give-and-go passing play to strike again, 2-0 Boston. That goal is the 17th goal on the man-advantage throughout the 2018-19 postseason for the B’s.

With that, the second period ends and the Boston Bruins are twenty minutes away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 19 CAR: 18 (8-4 BOS in 2nd)

Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Pastrnak (7) PPG Assists: Marchand (11), Krug (11); Bergeron (7) PPG Assist: Pastrnak (7)

Third Period:

It is quite clear that with a two-goal lead in a possible elimination game for Boston, they are willing to play a defensive final regulation period to close this thing out. Nearly eight minutes in, neither team had a single shot on net. Carolina has taken numerous shots, although, all of their shots are coming from the point and are getting blocked or deflected wide by the bodies in front of Rask.

The best defensive forward in the National Hockey League, Patrice Bergeron creates a scramble in front of McElhinney off of a brilliant forechecking effort, stealing it from the Hurricanes defender and tossing the puck into the slot where Pastrnak hung around. The shot didn’t reach the Carolina goalie, but definitely causes frustration for Carolina.

Just past the halfway mark of the period, the Bruins know that another goal could spell the end of Carolina. With that said, the Bruins stay ferocious on the forecheck, forcing a Carolina turnover in their defensive zone, passing the puck directly to David Pastrnak who makes a clean pass over to Patrice Bergeron for his second of the game, extending Boston’s lead to three.

Justin Williams was visibly upset at the goal, as he felt that the Bruins had iced the puck just seconds before the turnover. However, the replay shows that the puck bounced off of Pastrnak’s stick after he crossed the red line meaning no icing would have been called. In addition, the linesman was right by Pastrnak and he waived off the icing. Just another case of Williams showing frustration after the goal.

Carolina’s Head Coach, Rod Brind’Amour pulled McElhinney with over five minutes left to go and following too many whistles for many different reasons, Brad Marchand races down the ice to bury the empty-net goal, 4-0 Bruins. The Boston Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2013.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 23 CAR: 24

Final Score: 4-2 Bruins

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 21 Saves, Shutout

2nd Star: BOS F Patrice Bergeron – 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 6 Shots, 16:42 TOI

3rd Star: BOS F David Pastrnak – 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 2 Shots

For the 20th time in franchise history, the Boston Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins are Eastern Conference Champions.

Eastern Conference Final Game 1 Preview – Hurricanes at Bruins

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photo credit: Associated Press 

By Mandi Mahoney | check me out on Twitter @phonymahoney

Here we are, the Eastern Conference Final! For the first time in a decade, the Carolina Hurricanes will be making an appearance in this round of playoff hockey. They will be facing the Bruins tonight at what is sure to be a rocking TD Garden. This will undoubtedly be a fun and interesting series, with all sorts of young players, old players, and goaltenders doing great things this season, and a multitude of fascinating storylines for everyone ti discuss.

Examples:

  • Can Tuukka Rask steal another series?
  • How will Brad Marchand offend the entire league next?
  • Is Greg McKegg’s full name Gregory McKeggory?
  • Is Dougie Hamilton still a no-fun wet blanket? Will he miss a morning skate because he’s at the Botticelli exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum? Was he responsible for the heist?
  • Can Petr Mrazek keep playing like this? Does he really hate vowels?
  • Will the ghost of Scott Walker haunt the Bruins, help the Canes, or not appear?
  • How will the Bruins defense hold up without convicted criminal Charlie McAvoy?
  • How many times will Garden Organist Ron Poster play Brass Bonanza during the series?

We digress… let’s get the details down before the series begins!

Game Details:

  • Where: TD Garden, Boston, 8:00pm
  • Who: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Boston Bruins
  • The game will be televised on NBC Sports
  • Leading Scorers: Brad Marchand (BOS), 5 goals, 8 assists; Jaccob Slavin (CAR), 11 assists
  • Goalies: Tuukka Rask (BOS) 8 wins, 5 losses | 2.02 goals against average, .930 save percentage; Petr Mrazek (CAR) 5 wins, 3 losses | 2.22 goals against average, .913 save percentage
  • Injuries: Kevan Miller (BOS – lower body), Trevor van Riemsdyk (CAR – upper body), Saku Maenalenen (CAR – upper body)
  • Miscellaneous: Charlie McAvoy will serve his one game suspension for a hit to the head on Columbus’ Josh Anderson tonight.

 

Boston Bruins Lines:

Forwards:

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – David Backes

Marcus Johansson – Charlie Coyle – Danton Heinen

Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner

Defense:

Zdeno Chara – Connor Clifton

Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk – Steven Kampfer

Goalies:

Tuukka Rask

Jaroslav Halak

Carolina Hurricanes Lines:

Forwards:

Andrei Svechnikov – Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen

Nino Niederreiter – Jordan Staal – Justin Williams

Warren Foegele – Lucas Wallmark – Brock McGinn

Micheal Ferland – Greg McKregg – Jordan Martinook

Defense:

Jaccob Slavin – Dougie Hamilton

Brett Pesce – Justin Faulk

Haydn Fleury – Calvin de Haan

Goalies:

Petr Mrazek

Curtis McElhinney

Keys to the game:

  • Team defense is going to be an important focus with Charlie McAvoy out of the lineup and Chara looking, well, old.
  • Goaltending is going to need to be solid, as the Cane are a speedy team with some scoring threats in Ferland, Svechnikov, and Aho
  • The Bruins cannot be a one or two line team. Things are clicking for Carolina lately, and all their lines are going to be buzzing. The Bruins’ entire roster needs to be engaged tonight.
  • Special teams are going to be a factor – the Bruins have the best powerplay in the league this postseason, and their penalty kill is solid as well. Hopefully they stay out of the box, but if they do end up on the kill, Carolina may have some trouble converting, which is an obvious plus.
  • The Bruins should not underestimate Carolina. They are a legitimate threat and have been playing some great hockey lately. Boston must take their opponent seriously, regardless of whether they’re a bunch of jerks.

 

Hypothetical: Losing McAvoy Might Shake Up Bruins’ Pairings Quite A Bit

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( Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/ Getty Images )

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

The Bruins, for the second time in the span of two weeks, closed out a hard-fought playoff series against a solid, skilled playoff opponent. The hard-earned victory did not come without its share of physicality, an aspect of the series in which Bruins’ defenseman Charlie McAvoy was more than involved.

Examining the series as a whole, McAvoy’s game has been elevated as the playoffs have progressed. McAvoy’s one outlier (performance-wise) came in Game 2, in which some questionable pinches and late-game defense by McAvoy found Boston relying on Tuukka Rask to make some saves that were not only large but were also in charge (I am hilarious, big credit to me). Aside from that one game, McAvoy has made a consistent case to be considered as the Bruins’ top defenseman…and if Brandon Carlo had chosen to be a basketball player as a young man, McAvoy would indeed be the Black and Gold’s top blue-liner. Fortunately for the Bruins, Carlo stuck with hockey.

At any rate, McAvoy’s aforementioned physicality led to him taking a brief dip in some hot water. McAvoy’s hit on Josh Anderson at the end the second period of Monday’s Game 6 against Columbus warranted a penalty, and many a Jackets fan (and hockey fan) thought warranted even more of a response.   Regardless of McAvoy’s meeting with the Department of Player Safety on Tuesday afternoon, the scenario that McAvoy misses some time is a difficult one that the Bruins need to be ready for (regardless of how his absence comes about). While the Bruins have used defensemen Steven Kampfer, John Moore, and Connor Clifton at different times as members of the team’s third D-pairing, the absence of McAvoy might shake up the lineup much more than a fluctuating third-pair.

 

For instance, McAvoy has been crucial to the lineup as a partner for Zdeno Chara, who (as much as it pains me to say) has begun to look more and more his age as the playoffs have progressed. Having McAvoy’s athleticism, skating ability, hockey sense, and physicality on the back end provide a much larger safety net for Chara than, say, Steven Kampfer might. I’m not bashing Kampfer, and I’m not bashing Chara. But it’s important to recognize the limits and capabilities of each defenseman in order to adequately address any potential lineup shifts.

Changes

With that being said, what would a potential Chuck-less lineup look like?

Certainly, Bruce Cassidy would be wiser than to put a seventh or eighth defenseman alongside Zdeno Chara. It is likely that this means Brandon Carlo or Connor Clifton see themselves flanking the big man in the event that McAvoy is sidelined (press-boxed).   While Kevan Miller would be a more than serviceable replacement for any right-handed defenseman in the lineup currently, his health remains an issue. This leaves Cassidy taking his pick of potential insertion into the lineup from Steven Kampfer or John Moore. While Kampfer might be the logical choice to fill the void of a missing right defenseman, I am of the camp that the best players should play, regardless of their handedness (a reason why I was baffled that Chara remained on the ice for the final minutes of Game 5… which is neither here nor there).

 

Unfortunately, I don’t think John Moore has separated himself as a better replacement than Steven Kampfer. For as much depth as the Bruins have in terms of actual bodies, the depth of their ability on the back-end is somewhat limited. And, while the Bruins have a considerable amount of Black Aces ready to play from Providence, the fact remains that Kampfer’s playoff experience, though limited, trumps that of any potential young prospect fresh out of Providence.

In the event that McAvoy does come out of the lineup for any reason (suspension, injury, etc.) I think it’s fair to expect Cassidy to go with the following pairings on the back end:

Krug-Carlo
Chara-Clifton
Grzelcyk-Kampfer

These pairings, while limited in their offensive capabilities, bring about the least amount of change to the lineup (Carlo pairing remains untouched) while balancing the amount of skating ability, defensive commitment, and experience to field an effective defensive corps.

 

As much as I’d like to be positive about the hypothetical pairings I just created in response to a potentially negative scenario, there’s no getting around that Charlie McAvoy’s removal from the B’s lineup hurts.

A lot.

Bruins Senior Core Vital to Playoff Success

( Photo Credit: John Tlumacki / msn.com )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

The Boston Bruins could secure their place in the Eastern Conference Finals tonight with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The resurgence of the B’s first line has underpinned the importance of their senior core.

After tweaking the lineup for most of the playoffs, head coach, Bruce Cassidy, restored one of the most formidable lines in hockey for game five against Columbus, and it worked. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined for a total of six points, three goals and three assists in the 4-3 win. Up until game five, the Blue Jackets had done a great job of neutralizing all three players.

Marchand and Bergeron led the Bruins forwards in ice time in game five, and the latter was hugely effective in the face-off circle, when he wasn’t tossed out anyway. Hockey is a team sport, but it is no secret that Boston depends on these two, especially against tough opposition like Columbus. Many suspect Bergeron has been playing with an injury like he has in the past, but he is still contributing to this team. We probably won’t find out if he is hurt until the B’s season ends, but injured or not, Bergy will be crucial for the rest of the playoffs.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are notoriously physical, David Backes has certainly bought the heat since returning to the lineup. The veteran forward has seen his role significantly reduced this season, but that hasn’t affected his effort. He has made a number of hits in the Columbus series and his physical style has been a real help to the Bruins. The former St. Louis Blues captain brings a lot of experience to the team, he is always vocal and that will be a boost for the younger players. He might not start every game, but Backes will play an important part if the B’s advance to the next round.

At 42 years of age, Zdeno Chara continues to defy time as a top pairing NHL defenseman. He has spent the third-most time on the ice of all the Bruins this postseason, and most of that time has been against the oppositions best lines. Chara is also an integral part of the B’s penalty kill. It’s common knowledge that he’s lost his speed, but he makes up for it with his reach and ability to read the game, which is often overlooked by his critics. Big Z has been the Bruins captain since 2006 and his leadership is second to none. He is an important part of a relatively young defensive group including Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk.

They say there are no easy games in the NHL, that’s especially true in the playoffs. When things haven’t gone well for the Bruins one man has bailed them out time and time again, Tuukka Rask. The Finnish goaltender continues to polarize the Bruins fan base, but he has been one of the teams best players during the postseason. The Bruins have come up against two great goalies in Frederik Andersen and Sergei Bobrovsky, but the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets will feel that they also met their match in Rask. NBC’s coverage has many critics, but hearing Doc Emrick shout “Saved by Rask” is extremely satisfying.

The Bruins need to win one more game against Columbus to advance into the Eastern Conference Finals. The Blue Jackets will not make it easy for them, but whatever happens moving forward, Boston’s senior core will be vital to their success.

No Better Time Than “Now” For Bruins

Image result for bruins columbus win(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe)

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

The Black N’ Gold should heed the lyrical advice of Tina Turner’s Goldeneye:

“But now my time has come and time, time is not on your side!”

Not perhaps for Zdeno Chara, 42, who is using EVERYTHING left in the tank to compete for the Cup in what could be his penultimate NHL season.

Not perhaps for the Davids — Krecji, 33, and Backes, 35, who know their mid-30’s are the period in a professional hockey player’s career where talents & abilities begin to fade and the skates don’t move as quickly as they used to, despite their impressive leadership qualities.

And perhaps not for, I hate to write it, Patrice Bergeron, 33, who continues to play through what many are speculating has to be a painful injury ala the way he has played in multiple previous injury-plagued playoff campaigns (one can only imagine the consistent & constant toll that takes on the no-longer-in-your-20’s body).

Yet, for all the worry & concern leading up to game four of the Columbus series — a game that many experts/bloggers/pundits/broadcasters/etc. were saying was a “must win” for the Bruins including this guy — all of the above players raised their games to match the already raised stakes. And did they ever lay it all out on the ice to get that “must win” — a rough & tumble 4-1 affair that saw Tuukka Rask play his most inspired netminding while not minding the fact that he was often left out to dry… especially on the B’s PP.

The series, as we all know, is now tied 2-2 and heading back to Boston where the barn will no doubt be burnin’ (proverbially speaking) after the B’s, and their social media supporters, stirred up plenty of puck-citement.

And needing now only 2-out-of-3 wins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals (with two of those games potentially coming on home ice), to match up against either the “Jerks” from Hartford, North Carolina or the Tavares-less Islanders from Brooklyn is it?, the Bruins find themselves in an enviable playoff position. After all, no one expected this series to be happening (Tampa’s bolt from the 1st round was indeed an eye-bulging surprise) nor the Caps & Pens to no longer be competing. The same can be said for the match-ups out West. Truly, there is no better opportunity for the B’s to gas up the engines and make a serious drive to the Stanley Cup Finals.

As most who follow the game recognize, the road to hoisting Lord Stanley’s coveted cup is the longest, bumpiest and at times most dangerous in all of professional sports. The B’s have overcame a mountain of impediments this season — injuries & aging among the most aggravating. Yet, here they are… poised for a run at a championship despite all of the above. And with a path to “the Cup” more passable (and attainable) than any recent playoff setup.

There’s another golden Goldeneye nugget that will behoove the Black N’ Gold:

“…how it feels to get so close and be denied.”

All of those valuable veterans who are fighting for each other (and perhaps even Father Time as well) know this feeling. And outside of the momentous Cup run that was 2011, they know it all too well. So, why not make the most of what’s in front of them? Why not realize there may be no better time than NOW to bring yet another championship back to Boston?

Image result for bruins win(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

Well, with age there also comes wisdom. And the B’s would certainly be wise to take advantage of where they are and where they want to go before this season ends.

Bruins Hope Rest Will Re-Awaken Top Dogs

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( Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images )

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

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

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

Picking Up Slack/Depth

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

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

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

 

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

Defensively

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

With the AUX cord. In complete control.

Rest

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

 

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

 

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

Bruins, Boston Bask in Rask

Image result for tuukka rask game 7(Photo Credit: NESN.com)

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

While the beleaguered “beLEAFers” belabor their Bieber, the Bruins and Boston are basking in Rask who was up to the masked task in a riveting Game 7 at TD Garden. And for what feels like the first time (dare I say, only a Foreigner of hockey would not know this), the praise is finally universal for “Tuukks.” Here’s a collection of commentary backing up the B’s backstop who, with his team’s back against the wall, led them into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

The Media:

Image result for tuukka rask game 7(Photo Credit: 98.5 The Sports Hub)

The Team:

Image(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe)

The Fans/Internet:

The BeLeafers:

So, what comes next in net for the fortuitous Fin whose fighting finish finally finished the loser Leafs? Obviously, it’s Columbus. And then perhaps the Islanders. Then maybe the Sharks. Then hopefully THE CUP! I can guarantee one thing… if –actually WHEN– that happens, Tuukka Rask will never have to worry about criticism or praise again. He’ll truly be able to bask in it all…just like we should be doing right now!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 4: Boston at Toronto

USATSI_12549978.jpg

(Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Toronto Maple Leafs

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen

DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak

Johansson – Coyle – Backes

Nordstrom – Acciari – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Moore – Grzelcyk

Goalies

Rask

Halak

Toronto’s Lineup

Forwards

Hyman – Tavares – Marner

Johnsson – Matthews – Kapanen

Marleau – Nylander – Brown

Ennis – Gauthier – Moore

Defense

Reilly – Hainsey

Muzzin –  Zaitsev

Gardiner – Dermott

Goalies

Andersen

Hutchinson

First Period

Shortly after Zdeno Chara flattened Mitch Marner right after the puck dropped, Joakim Nordstrom drew an early penalty on Connor Brown. Charlie McAvoy made no mistake off of a one-timer from Patrice Bergeron’s office in the slot to give the Bruins a one-goal lead early, McAvoy’s first of the playoffs. Charlie Coyle’s first assist of the playoffs, and Matt Grzelcyk’s third made it happen. Three former Boston University Terriers in on the goal, solid start for the Bruins.

That wasn’t all, the simplification of the Bruins’ game continued. Effective puck pursuit and smart passing set up Brad Marchand’s second goal of the playoffs. Two goals in 3:35. Bergeron (1) and Heinen (2) had the helpers. 2-0 lead less than seven minutes in.

Fast forward to the 6:31 mark and Bergeron found himself in the box for interference. Toronto was held to just one shot and no goals on their first power play, but their second power play came in close proximity to the end of their first one. This time in the form of an interference call on McAvoy.

Toronto failed to score on either power play, but Zach Hyman managed to get a piece of a Morgan Reilly shot and deflect it past Tuukka Rask. This came shortly after the second power play and cut the Bruins’ lead to one with 2:05 remaining in the period.

The Bruins managed to hold a one-goal lead heading into the room, but needed to find a way to stifle Toronto’s momentum in the second frame. Overall, Rask played well in net and the team came out on a mission, but there will still 40 minutes to go. The shots were 14-12 Bruins in the first period.

Score: 2-1 Boston

Second Period

Auston Matthews wasted no time capitalizing on Toronto’s momentum from late in the first period, tying the game at two.

David Pastrnak responded 2:09 later, redirecting a feed from Marchand past Andersen and in, regaining the lead for the Bruins. Pastrnak’s first of the playoffs assisted by Marchand (3) and Bergeron (1).

More good fortune came their way, not for McAvoy, but for the team in the form of a roughing penalty on Matthews. Persistence in the vicinity of Frederik Andersen from the Bruins’ first power play unit led to a second goal for Pastrnak, giving the Bruins a two-goal lead. Marchand’s fourth assist of the playoffs was the lone assist on the goal.

Despite holding a two-goal lead again, things were not peachy for the Bruins. Toronto did not slow down offensively and generated some solid chances. Amongst these chances was a huge stop by Rask on Connor Brown.

By the final two minutes of the period, the Bruins had 18 blocked shots to the seven for the Leafs. One of those came in the form of Marcus Johansson going slowly to the bench off a big block on a Travis Dermott shot from the point. Despite chances coming from Toronto, the Bruins remained resilient.

Although they were outshot 14-8 in the period, a huge response from David Pastrnak and the Bruins had them back on top by two heading into the final frame.

Score: 4-2 Boston

Third Period

The Bruins’ wise leader, Zdeno Chara took his time at the blue line and made it a three-goal lead for the Bruins 5:39 into the period, a huge, unassisted insurance goal. The goal marked Chara’s first of the playoffs.

At the 8:18 mark, Hyman took a high stick from McAvoy, putting McAvoy in the box for a second time. Matthews got on the board for a second time early in the power play, making it 5-3. During their next offensive zone stint, Toronto saw a couple more near goals come their way, but Rask said no.

Dermott cut the lead to one on a second chance opportunity from the point. Toronto was thriving on the momentum, the Bruins needed a response. Mike Babcock pulled Andersen with less than two minutes to go with a comeback on his mind.

After a hectic final two minutes, Nordstrom buried an empty netter with two minutes left to seal the deal. Nordstrom’s first of the playoffs was assisted by David Krejci (1).

The series is tied at two heading towards game five on Friday at 7 PM at TD Garden.

Final Score: 6-4 Boston

Bruins’ Captain Zdeno Chara Nominated

Image result for zdeno chara charity(Photo Credits: Ralph Freso/AP)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

As the Boston Bruins look to even out the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, the team announced this afternoon that Captain Zdeno Chara had been nominated for the 2018-2019 King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The award is given to the “player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” And for fans that have followed the team know firsthand that the Bruins organization is very keen on helping out the Boston community. For the Slovak transplant, Zdeno Chara is no stranger in having a heavy-handed involvement within the community.

Recently, the 6-foot-9 Chara was at the forefront (in his fourth year) at the Boston Bruins 12th annual PJ Drive benefiting Massachusetts children.  The Drive announced that a total of 21,000 pairs of PJ’s were the collected-the largest amount ever in their history.  Collections were held throughout the state with an in-game collection this past February.

Image result for zdeno chara charity marty walsh(Photo Credits: WCVB.com)

This past year, New Balance teamed up with the Bruins Captain to spearhead a shoe drive for those in need here in Boston and Slovakia. The charity, Soles4Souls, is a non-profit charity based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Not only do they provide many with shoes they also aim to create sustainable jobs. Chara personally bought and donated $7,500 worth of New Balance shoes.  Drop boxes were set throughout the area-one at New Balance stores, Warrior Ice Arena and an in-game shoe drive on the TD Garden this past March. Over 2,000  shoes were donated to the charity.

During the holidays, the Captain busily teamed up with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in collecting and donating over 3,000 pairs of socks to several local shelters. Chara participated in the annual team toy shopping and delivered to local Boston hospitals.  For the teams’ annual Thanksgiving pie delivery, Chara once again lead the way. Aside from purchasing $2,000 worth of pies, he also invited fans to donate in an online effort to raise more money. It worked. The effort raised an additional $3,500 that went to purchasing more pies.

Image result for zdeno chara charity(Photo Credit: Dr. Bryan Hoertdoerfer)

Chara is also involved in The Big Z Challenge, an annual charity headed by the Bruins team dentist, Dr. Bryan Hoertdoerfer. The event was held this past February, giving fans a chance to not only meet the captain but to square off with the defenseman in  “competitions.” The event has raised over  $150,000 and it was announced that this year’s funds went to benefit the expansion of the Elliot Regional Cancer Center in Southern New Hampshire.

Image result for zdeno chara charity(Photo Credits: Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Last season, Chara joined social media and had quickly used his celebrity to shed light on the charitable efforts undertaken by the Bruins organization.  As Captain, Chara knows that being a Bruin is more than just being a player on the ice. Now playing in his 13th year in Boston, his leadership role has continued to extend to the community while inspiring those around him.

On April 23rd, the three finalists will be announced with the winner being revealed at the 2019 NHL Awards. The awards will be held on Wednesday, June 19th at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.  $40,000 in donations from the NHL Foundation will go the first-place winner, which will go to a charity of the winner’s choice.  The runner-ups will each receive a $5,000 donation that will also go to a charity of their choice.

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Few days ago I was able to make a surprise visit at ITALIAN HOME FOR CHILDREN in Boston and gave out many @newbalance shoes to every child. I WILL REMAIN HUMBLE BECAUSE I COULD HAVE LESS….. I WILL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL BECAUSE I HAVE HAD LESS….. Thanks to @paulasueg and her team for all her help and support. #nbgivesback #giving #helpingothers **************************************** Pred pár dňami som prekvapil s návštevou deti z Detského Domova v Bostone a daroval @newbalance tenisky každému dieťaťu . STÁLE BUDEM SKROMNÝ LEBO SOM MOHOL MAT MENEJ… VŽDY BUDEM VĎAČNÝ LEBO SOM MAL MENEJ…. Ďakujem @paulasueg A jej team za ich podporu a pomoc. #detskydomov #darovat #davat #deti #pomahat

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