Sixty Years Later, The Legend Of Willie O’ Ree And The Boston Bruins Still Endures.

 

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Boston Bruins legend Willie O’Ree watches the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Bruins in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final at the TD Garden on June 17, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts.
(June 16, 2013 – Source: Gail Oskin/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                   Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

Today is the 60th anniversary of Willie O’ Ree playing in the NHL. He was the first African-American player to suit up in the league, and he did it while wearing the Black and Gold of the Boston Bruins.  O’ Ree ended up playing against the Montreal Canadiens that night (another page in the glorious history of the rivalry between those two teams).

Willie O’ Ree set a standard for the NHL. He integrated into the league in a time where integration wasn’t considered to be a good idea. He gave everything he had. Every night. (Looking at other people who were blessed enough to have the privilege to wear the Black and Gold, that should be enough). O’Ree ended up playing only 45 games in the NHL, but all of them were for the Boston Bruins.

O’Ree’s career is extensive. During his 28 season career (1950-1979), O’ Ree played in ten different leagues. He played at the NHL level despite being nearly blind in his right eye (a fact he kept hidden in order to play in Boston).

O’ Ree still checks in on the Bruins from time to time, when he isn’t helping grow the sport of hockey around the world.

For the last 20 years O’ Ree has been the diversity ambassador to the NHL. He tirelessly strives for the day where any kid can learn the game of hockey.

The Boston sports fan community hasn’t always been painted in the best light over the years. There have been a tiny minority of fans who have said and done stupid things in the name of the fandom (and bigotry). While some people still believe that Boston should still be painted with a racist brush, O’Ree disagrees.

He even regards Boston as his second home.

“You’re going to have racism, prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance all over. I had it when I played. The one thing I did was I just ignored it. I just told myself ‘I’m a black player playing hockey. If people can’t accept me for the individual that I am — because I had the skills and the ability to play hockey at that time — then that’s their problem, not mine,’ ” said O’Ree about his confronting bigotry while playing pro hockey.

Willie O’ Ree was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2008.

A case should be made about inducting him in the NHL Hall of Fame. Granted 45 games isn’t enough to be considered to make that much of an impact as a player. But there is a category that fits O’Ree to a tee.

O’Ree should be inducted into the Hall of Fame under the ‘builder’ category. As diversity ambassador, he has brought hockey to all parts of the world. He has spent the last two decades expanding the fan base. (Besides, if Jeremy Jacobs (the guy that held the reins for two lockouts and was the silent voice behind a third) can qualify as a builder, then O’Ree certain deserves the nod.)

Happy Anniversary to one of Boston’s living legends. He made the game of hockey a better place to play in.

Claude Julien And His Legacy With The Boston Bruins

 

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Head Coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins helps Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins adjust the chin strap on his helmet during a second period time out against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 5, 2011, at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

By Andrew Thompson                                                                      Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

For a lot of Boston Bruins fans, Claude Julien will always have a warm spot in their hearts. He was the coach that helped the Black and Gold get back to the Stanley Cup.  He was one of the key figures in the B’s bringing the Cup back to Boston in 2011.  With 419 wins under his belt, it will be quite some time till another head coach takes that benchmark away from him.

Julien’s return earned him a tribute video during Wednesday’s nights game.

The B’s family came to their feet to give Julien a standing ovation. It was well deserved in this fan’s opinion.

On the other side of the coin, there are Bruins fans who don’t have such a soft spot for Claude. He didn’t seem to connect well with the young players. He kept engaging in a defensive-minded hockey system that alienated the more aggressive players on the squad.

Love him or hate him, the former Bruins bench boss came to town tonight. It’s the first time he’s been here as a member of the visiting team since he was dismissed by Cam Neely last season after spending nearly a decade with the B’s. Julien returned to Boston at the head of the infamous Montreal Canadiens, the B’s most loathed rivals.

(At this moment, you can hear your average Montreal fan muttering something about “24 cups”. It’s a pity they haven’t won any since the start of the salary cap era.)

Boston Bruins fans owe a debt of gratitude to Coach Claude. If it wasn’t for him, the Bruins roster would be missing an integral component of their current roster. If it wasn’t for Julien, it’s likely we wouldn’t have the ‘Little Ball of Hate’ in Boston.

Brad Marchand is the best example of what Claude Julien did for the Bruins. Marchand started in the NHL as a young player with a lot of talent, but absolutely no discipline. Marchand started his career in Boston as a fourth-line grinder, playing minimal minutes due to his unpredictable style of hockey.

Julien believed in Marchand’s potential. He pushed an undisciplined pest to become a more complete player. His lessons didn’t just cover what to do on the ice. Julien helped Marchand (who currently leads the team in goals and assists) temper his demeanor and make him a better professional player overall.

Had Brad Marchand not came to Boston during the Julien era, it is very possible that Marchand would have become one of those bottom-six pests that would have been bounced around the league, never finding a home in his career.

“He gave me an opportunity to play, dealt with me more than I think a lot of coaches would have, worked with me tirelessly,” said an appreciative Marchand of his former coach. “Had plenty of conversations about how to act and how to be a good player, a good pro, how to learn the game and become a better player.

“He definitely gave me a huge opportunity and allowed me to grow into a better player.”

“You could go through a lot of different things, but the biggest thing he preached to me was how to be a good pro and how to be consistent,” continued Marchand. “That’s one thing we talked about is consistency. And if you want to be in this league for a long time you have to be able to bring your best game every night or close to it. That was probably one of the biggest things I took away.”

Marchand has become an All-Star in the league. He has become less known for his agitations, and more for his skill. He’s advanced from a part-time grinder to an elite player that causes most teams fits on any given night. He’s #63 on the roster and #1 in the hearts of many fans (and a #2 to those who love Patrice Bergeron more).

Brad Marchand is part of the legacy of Claude Julien.  Love him or hate him, Julien’s place in the history of the Boston Bruins is secure.

Boston Bruins Rookies Impress In Strong Win Over Blue Jackets

 

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Charlie McAvoy #73 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at TD Garden on December 18, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts.
(Dec. 17, 2017 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                   Twitter:@godwentwhoops

The Boston Bruins have had to rely a lot on their younger players this season. This forced the Black and Gold rookies to learn as they go, and it certainly caused a lot of growing pains. As the season has progressed, the young Bruins have taken those lessons to heart and have shown that they can play a consistent 60-minute hockey game against some of the best teams in the NHL.

 

The young Bruins put up three of the B’s seven goals on Monday night. Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, and Jake DeBrusk all lit the lamp for Boston (earning a total of eight points in the process).  These three young players have certainly put in the effort this season for the Black and Gold. They are now ranked fourth, sixth, and seventh respectively on the team in points this season.

Charlie McAvoy was the total package player for Boston tonight. McAvoy earned his first Gordie Howe hat trick of his career. He earned the goal in the second period, and the assist and the fight in the third. McAvoy finished with two points, a plus-2 rating, and four hits. Not bad for just 19:41 of ice time.

McAvoy earned the first Gordie Howe for the Bruins since the B’s captain Zdeno Chara tallied one back in 2013. After the game, the 19-year old McAvoy commented on his first Gordie Howe. He’s already just one behind the legend Howe, who only had two of those hat tricks in his career.

Danton Heinen earned First Star of the Game Honors for his one goal, three-point performance tonight. Heinen put in his three points in just 13:15 of ice time. Jake DeBrusk had a similar three-point performance as well, putting in four shots on goal, a plus-2 rating, in just 12:03 on the ice.

The young players were everywhere they needed to be, especially on McAvoy’s power-play goal. The five players on the line for that goal were Patrice Bergeron and four rookies. The team played like seasoned professionals against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Boston Bruins have asked an awful lot of their large rookie contingent. While it was a rough start for those young players, they’re showing that they can rise to any challenge given them. With the veteran players (more-or-less) finally back in the lineup, the Black and Gold look like a team on the rise. They’ve improved leaps and bounds over their ugly October and November and are primed to claim and hold onto a playoff position.

Boston Bruins And The Future Of Matt Beleskey

 

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Matt Beleskey #39 of the Boston Bruins forechecks during the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 15, 2017 in Anaheim, California.
(Nov. 14, 2017 – Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                  Twitter: @Godwentwhoops

When the Boston Bruins placed forward Matt Beleskey on waivers last Thursday, the fan base was generally in favor of the move. He’s spent the majority of the season either on the bottom-six or watching the game from the ninth level. (In fact, many were saying that it was about time.) In the last two years with Boston, Beleskey has only put in three goals in 64 games.

It’s a shame that a player that had so much potential may never play as a Boston Bruin again.

 

“Matt [Beleskey] is very well liked in the room”, shared Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy to the media. “So, no one likes to see a player get waived. The way we look at it as an organization is, he hadn’t played much, and I think the best way for him to get back to helping the Boston Bruins is to get playing,” said Cassidy. “So, he goes to Providence, finds his game, what he did well before previously – from my end, we just thought there were some players in the lineup that outperformed him, plain and simple.

“We are trying to reward the players that earned it on merit and not look so much at maybe contract status, et cetera. You know, within reason. I think some of the young guys have pushed him. We’ve seen it at different positions and that’s as simple as I can make it. Like I said, I like Matt. He’s very respectful of the coaching staff of what we are trying to do. We just felt we had better in the lineup. The team is going well. The decision was made.”

Matt Beleskey was a polarizing figure for the Bruins fan base. While he had a strong first season with the Black and Gold, his performance fell off the radar after that. Two seasons of sub-par play, coupled with injuries gave the front office no choice but to put him on the waiver wire.

The Bruins likely knew that there wasn’t much chance of another team picking up Beleskey. Even the Anaheim Ducks (who are having their own front-end problems) to pick up their former forward. The 29-year old’s $3.8 million cap hit is just too extreme for any NHL team to pick up at the moment.

So where does Beleskey go from here?

Beleskey now finds himself on one of the hottest teams in the AHL right now. The Baby B’s are 18-7-2 and are near the top of the AHL’s Atlantic Division.  He’ll certainly get some playing time in Providence. The team will be able to use his skill and experience at the AHL level.

Beleskey (short of injuries in Boston) will likely finish the 2017-18 season in Providence. The talent pool in Boston is just crazy right now, and it would be very hard for him to break his way back into the NHL this year.  If he stays in Providence, the Bruins organization will get a refund of sorts.  ($1.025 million in savings on the salary cap.)

The Bruins won’t (or REALLY, REALLY shouldn’t) buyout his contract either. To do so would cost the B’s $4.6 million over the next four years. The team is already paying out for Jimmy Hayes (who seems to be doing alright with the Devils), and Dennis Seidenberg (who is happy to be playing with Johnny Boychuk on the Islanders). The Bruins organization can’t afford to be footing the bill for three players not suiting up in the spoked ‘B’.

Now it’s up to Bells. If he has a strong remainder of the season, he can become a trade piece of moderate to above-average value.  He may even fight his way back on the team next season. If he flounders at the AHL level (which seems very unlikely), then the B’s may just wash their hands of him.

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins: One Quarter Down, Three To Go

 

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Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins watches his shot as he is followed by Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in a 2-1 Bruins win at Staples Center on November 16, 2017, in Los Angeles, California.
(Nov. 15, 2017 – Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                           Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

The Boston Bruins are about to play in their 20th game of the season. This wraps up the first quarter of the 2017-18 season for the Black and Gold, and the results certainly could have been better.

The Bruins are currently 8-7-4 at the moment, and they’re near the bottom of the Atlantic. They’re a few points back of a playoff spot.  The team is nursing a slew of injuries, and the B’s are doing the best they can with what they have.

Still, it isn’t all bad for the Black and Gold. The Boston Bruins found a way to put together two wins on the road against California teams that should have had their number. The B’s find themselves on the start of their first win streak of the season, and it took a combined effort of a lot of younger players to make this happen.

There are a few major takeaways from the start of this season, and the Bruins will have to continue to cultivate the positive aspects if they want to find themselves back in the playoff hunt by Christmas.

The Bruins youth movement is on the right track. The Bruins are about to play their 20th game of the season. Of those 20 games, they’ve only had their top-six forwards all together once this season. Coach Bruce Cassidy has had no choice but to go with the ‘next man up’ philosophy.  While that has caused the team a lot of growing pains, several of the young players are transitioning well into their NHL careers and are putting up respectable numbers early in this season.

Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen are tied for fifth place (10 pts) in scoring. Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork are one point behind them.  The younger players are providing the necessary secondary scoring to support the B’s top line. But they’ll need to do a little more. At the moment, the B’s top line (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak) are responsible for 43.1% of all the Bruins goal this season.

The Bruins are playing better when in front of Anton Khudobin. I don’t know if it’s a subconscious thing or not, but the younger Bruins play better defense when they’re in front of the Bruins backup goaltender.  The Bruins have left Khudobin out to dry less often than they have Tuukka Rask.

The B’s better play in front of Khudobin has certainly made him look a strong netminder. Khudobin remains undefeated while in regulation play this season. He’s currently 5-0-2 this year, with an outstanding .935 save percentage and a respectable 2.17 goals against average.

Bruce Cassidy is certainly pleased with his performance. He may even keep Khudobin in net when they play Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils. “Clearly [Khudobin] he’s played well. We haven’t made our decision yet,”  said Cassidy about the B’s goaltender on Monday. “That tells you we want to make sure we balance it right. Listen, he’s got a hot hand. We’ll look into that a little bit more [on Tuesday].”

While he’s not playing ideal hockey, Tuukka Rask is still Boston’s #1 goalie. There will always be members of the fan base that hate a certain player for whatever reason. There is a certain percentage of B’s fans that aren’t fans of Tuukka Rask, Boston’s current number one netminder. Some don’t like his playing style, some don’t like his hot-and-cold performances, and a few people don’t like him because he isn’t Canadian.

Cassidy has ignored many of the haters and given Rask the lion share of responsibility for defending the crease this year. With so many injuries among the veterans and the defencemen, it has opened Rask up some nights, and that has cost the team crucial points.  Even with the problems they’ve been having, Cassidy still believes that Rask is the team’s primary netminder.

“Not to over-evaluate,” mentioned Cassidy on Rask. “His numbers are what they…what we’re missing is we need to make one more big play to score a goal or he needs to make one more big save. It’s not a situation you go, ‘Man, technically he’s off’…it’s just that one more play that we’re getting out of Dobby right now.”

Rask isn’t playing Vezina hockey right now. That’s obvious, but he usually has periods within the season where he isn’t playing his best. Personally, I’m hoping he’s getting it all out of the way now. It will certainly make watching the next 60 games easier.

 

Boston Bruins Looking At A .500 Season

By Andrew Thompson                                                                         Twitter: @godwentwhoops

3057046664_b3f51d70c9_zThe Boston Bruins are already in trouble. The B’s find themselves near the bottom of the league with just 15 points earned in the 14 games they’ve played.  It’s been a rough start for the B’s, and most signs point to more trouble in the future. The Bruins are doing all they can just to play .500 hockey.

Several factors have hurt the team.

Key injuries have hampered the team’s ability to score and play solid three-zone, two-way hockey. The B’s are racking up the number of games players have lost due to illness or injury. Bruins forward David Backes will likely be out until late January/early February due to his colon surgery.  David Krejci and Adam McQuaid have both missed eight games this season due to various injuries.

Without players like Krejci and Backes, the B’s have had to push people up into top-six roles. Bruins forward Riley Nash has found himself working a lot on the B’s top two forward lines. A lot of the younger kids have found themselves playing on the big lines as well. This has led to some hits-and-misses and it certainly cost the B’s a game or two this year.

With the loss of players like Adam McQuaid, the B’s have a second problem that they haven’t been able to resolve so far. They’ve lost a serious level of snarl in their game. The younger, faster Bruins have found themselves out-muscled on several occasions this year. The B’s gave up several goals to the Rangers on Wednesday because they were out-muscled in front of the crease.

Finally, the 2017-18 Bruins are proving to be a mostly one-trick pony.  The Bruins have put up 41 goals so far this season. That puts them in 25th place in the NHL. (The Bruins are tied in goals with the Arizona Coyotes, and if that doesn’t set off some alarms in your head, nothing will.) 48.78% of those goals have been scored by David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, or Patrice Bergeron. It’s great that the B’s top line has been producing, but the B’s haven’t had that much luck when it comes to heavy secondary scoring (last week’s game against the Wild was an exception), and that’s cost the B’s a game or two as well.

As fans, we howled for the youth movement to come to Boston. By and large, we got our wish. The Bruins have a lot of young players on the roster, and there have been (and will continue to be) growing pains with this year’s squad. At the start of the season, I had the B’s snagging a wild card slot in the playoffs. After these first 14 games, I’m pretty sure that won’t be happening unless there is a massive turnaround.

The Bruins do have a few bright spots in this season’s rough start. The B’s special teams have done an outstanding job for them so far. The Black and Gold’s power-play is currently sixth in the league (23.5%) The penalty kill is even better. The B’s have stopped a power-play goal 87.5% of the time, good enough for third overall in the league.

(For the Rask haters out there, the goalie is usually the best penalty killer a team can have on the ice. The B’s have missed some of their best natural PK players this season, while Rask’s 5-on-5 numbers haven’t been spectacular, a fair percentage of that is due to young blueliners learning on the job. The Rangers game showed the gaps in the B’s blueline and New York exploited them big time.)

Thanksgiving (US) is about two weeks away. That is the first benchmark of how a team is doing during the season. At the moment, the B’s are chasing the Ottawa Senators for the third spot in the Atlantic. With so many key players hurt, and so many young players getting a rough NHL education, we should get used to seeing the B’s on the outside looking in until Christmas time.

 

 

‘Hein Sight’ was 20/20 in Boston Bruins Win

 

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Eric Staal #12 of the Minnesota Wild defends Danton Heinen #43 of the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on October 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.
(Oct. 24, 2016 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By Andrew Thompson                                                            Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

Boston Bruins Danton Heinen has been a bubble player for the Black and Gold. He’s found himself vacillating between Providence and Boston. Play in Boston while the team has injuries, and then get sent back down to Providence once those injured players returned. He was among the final cuts at this year’s training camp.

With David Krejci’s most recent injury, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy had to make a few changes to make up for his absence.  That left a spot open for Heinen on the right wing of the Bruins third line (along with Tim Schaller and Sean Kuraly). The 2014 fourth-round pick was given another opportunity to earn himself a more permanent position in Boston.

Heinen may have finally earned himself that spot after his performance against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.  Heinen tallied the first two goals of his NHL career in a 2-1 win over the Sharks. He earned first-star honors while playing just 8:39 on Thursday.

Heinen earned his first career goal while on the penalty kill.  Nothing like a short-handed goal to start your scoring career on the right foot. Heinen’s second goal showed what the Bruins can do when they play to their strengths and keep up with an aggressive forecheck. If the B’s can continue to play at this level, they’ll quickly claw themselves out of the mediocre place they’ve been since the start of the season.

Bruins alternate captain David Backes was thrilled for Heinen’s accomplishment. “Quite a storybook day for him and we’ll humble him back down tomorrow but he can certainly enjoy the night,” said Backes. “He deserves it. He worked his butt off tonight.”

Heinen is making a case for himself as a middle six winger who isn’t afraid of taking the shot. In just four games with Boston, he’s tallied five points (two goals). That puts him in fifth place among the B’s for scoring. That’s rather outstanding work for a ‘part-time’ player.

“He’s kind of realizing his role, he’s accepting it and it hasn’t affected his offense, obviously,” said Coach Cassidy of Heinen’s first-star performance. “He’s embraced the penalty kill, he’s embraced playing on a different kind of line with (Tim) Schaller and (Sean) Kuraly and those type of players, who are more north-south than a (David Krejci or David Pastrnak).

“That is the biggest thing I like about him. He’s learning how to be a good pro.”

No matter where he’s playing, Heinen has done a solid job for the Bruins organization. Thursday’s play may have given him the boost he needs to evolve into a full-time NHL player.  While it’s likely that Heinen will be sent back down to Providence once Krejci returns, his continued hard work shows that he won’t be down in Providence for long.

 

 

 

Boston Bruins: Way Too Early To Blame Tuukka Rask

 

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Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins is introduced before the game against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden on October 5, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts.
(Oct. 4, 2017 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                        Twitter: @Godwentwhoops

 

Tuukka Rask. Among fans of the Boston Bruins, the Finnish netminder is the most polarizing player on the roster. Fans love him or hate him. While some fans love the 30-year old goaltender, there are others that are desperate to see him run out of town.  Not since Tim Thomas sat in net has there been a player to invoke such strong feelings among the B’s fan base.

The first three games haven’t done Rask any favors. He’s gone 1-2-0 with an ugly 3.75 goals against average and a .870 save percentage.  He was pulled at the end of the second period after giving up four goals to the Avalanche on Wednesday. These numbers are ‘Malcolm Subban against the Blues’ bad, and it has given the ‘Trade Tuukka’ team a reason to spew vitriol at the rest of the fan base.

So, how much of this is Rask’s fault? How much blame does he deserve, and what are the other reasons why the Bruins are having (another) a slow start out of the gate? For those of you who are already rolling your eyes and formulating an ad hominem response to the article, let us start with Rask. In the two games against the Avalanche, Rask let in two soft goals on Monday and misplayed a puck allowing Nail Yakupov an easy open-net goal.

Rask is certainly a streaky goaltender. He’s capable of putting up Vezina numbers for a good 10 game period, only to have one or two games like we saw against Colorado. Thankfully, it’s still mid-October and we (hopefully) won’t be seeing this kind of play in early March.

“I should have watched closely that it was Yakupov,” said Rask after Monday’s 4-0 loss. “He’s pretty quick. I just couldn’t beat him, that’s all. It’s a split-second decision. You see you have a chance for the puck and you go for it. You’re just trying to make a play and give the puck to your own team. I didn’t do it, obviously, so that’s all you can really say about that.”

While Rask certainly isn’t blameless, there is an awful lot of guilt that can be found on the team’s entire roster.

“We hung Tuukka out to dry,” said B’s bench boss Bruce Cassidy to the media following Wednesday’s 6-3 drubbing. The Bruins played sloppy hockey in those two games. There were breakdowns across the board, and bad shifts led to Colorado opening up a shooting gallery on the Bruins net.

The B’s were without Patrice Bergeron and David Backes.  With the B’s bereft of their leadership, the remaining core of Bruins letterman looked a little lost on the ice.  In all honesty, Riley Nash and Matt Beleskey aren’t great substitutes for Backes and Bergy. While it wasn’t ‘herding cats’ bad, the mistakes made by the younger players were obvious against Colorado.

The youth movement showed its green in Colorado. To be fair, that was expected. Only a small percentage of Bruins fans are expecting to see the 2018 Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, and Charlie McAvoy looked a little lost in the two games against the Avalanche.  If the B’s have a couple of more rough games like that, Bjork and DeBrusk could find their top-six time in jeopardy.

Zdeno Chara looked like a 40-year old on the ice as well. While he was making good plays, he was consistently being outrun by the much younger and faster Avalanche team. Chara even stated it was a full-team failure after Wednesday’s debacle.

There is plenty of blame to spread around folks.  Besides, we still have 79 games left in the season. It’s still way too early to write off the Bruins. It’s also way to early to start up the ‘Trade Tuukka’ talk in Boston (despite what certain members of the Boston media would say).

 

 

Boston Bruins: Leadership Lacking In 6-3 Loss To Avalanche

 

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Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins is introduced before the game against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden on October 5, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts.
(Oct. 4, 2017 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                 Twitter: @Godwentwhoops

The Boston Bruins are only three games in the season. While it is way too early to hit the panic button, there does seem to be a problem at the TD Garden.  The lettered members of the Black and Gold were nearly invisible in their home-and-home games with the Colorado Avalanche. The B’s were outscored 10-3 by a team that is normally a doormat for other teams in the league. The B’s -6 goal rating is one of the worst in the NHL (only topped by the -8 fielded by Montreal and Buffalo).

 

The B’s -6 goal rating is one of the worst in the NHL (only topped by the -8 fielded by Montreal and Buffalo).

While the B’s feel the loss of David Backes, these last two games show how critical the absence of perennial Selke winner Patrice Bergeron is.  The B’s usually count on Bergeron to be their go-to guy in the face-off circle. With the Bruins’ alternate captain out of action (missing his third straight game with an undisclosed lower-body injury), the team needed a bigger performance from top-line center David Krejci.

Krejci had an opportunity to step up big on Wednesday, but he wasn’t there for the Black and Gold.  Krejci’s minus-2 rating and a single shot on net was disappointing. But his 9-for-21 in the face-off circle was even worse.

Things were better (but not great) for Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. Chara finished with a +2, the only Bruin to finish with that high of a plus/minus. Chara once again led all B’s defenceman for time on the ice (22:34). He had three hits and a shot on goal as well, but the 40-year old Chara looked a few steps behind in half of his shifts.

“I have no words,” offered Chara after the game. “Just not a very good game, obviously. We were not strong on the puck, with the puck, under the puck. Just not good enough all over the ice…it’s up to us that we make sure we fix it.”

The young players needed to turn to the lettered veterans for guidance, and there wasn’t much of it on the ice for them.

The only true bright spot among the lettered Bruins was acting alternate captain Brad Marchand. Boston’s Ball of Hate had his first multi-point game of the season, netting his second goal of the year on a strong off-side rush in the first period.  Marchand is making a case for keeping that ‘A’ on his jersey once Chara retires and/or Backes leaves Boston.

“I’m disappointed in the group because this is where the veteran guys, your leadership, should be better than that. I think we know that our young guys need to learn the ropes a little bit, but you could see our decisions were lacking tonight,” said B’s bench boss Bruce Cassidy after the game.

I’m not saying we need to trade Krejci. I’m not against signing Chara for another year either. But the leaders in the locker room need to step up and make an equal impact on the ice.

Hopefully, the Boston Bruins will take this hit on the chin and use it to right the ship during this road trip. The B’s leadership need to help the young players play a more controlled game.  (Tuukka Rask’s .870 save percentage certainly could use some work as well.) Players like Krejci and Chara will have to lead by example. If they do that, then this disappointing start will quickly be forgotten.

Boston Bruins Lose Malcolm Subban To Las Vegas

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Malcolm Subban #70 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period at TD Garden on September 25, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts.
(Sept. 24, 2017 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                 Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

When the Boston Bruins selected Malcolm Subban in the first round of the 2012 Draft, tounges wagged furiously. Malcolm, the younger brother of then Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban would have brought another dimension to the century-old rivalry between Boston and Montreal.

Times change though. P.K. Subban headed out to Nashville, and now Malcolm is heading to Las Vegas. The Golden Knights picked up the younger Subban off the waiver wire earlier today.  The 23-year old Subban struggled in the few times he played at the NHL level.

The 23-year old Subban struggled in the few times he played at the NHL level.

Subban has spent the last few seasons in Providence, where he has alternated with the starting job in net. He had decent seasons in 2014 and 2015 and was expected to start this season as the number one netminder for the Bruins AHL franchise.

There are several takeaways from this:

Once again, the Boston Bruins wasted a first-round pick. The B’s have had rotten luck with their first round picks over the years. Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel, Jordan Caron… the list goes on.

Subban took just a little too long to develop. Even now, he’s considered a very streaky goaltender. He’d have very strong periods of play followed by letting in multiple easy goals.  It was frustrating for the fans (and certainly for the B’s front office) who often wondered why the B’s couldn’t find a way to package Subban with other players (like Ryan Spooner) in a trade deal with another team.

With Subban heading out to Vegas, this changes the dynamic for the Boston Bruins organization. On the NHL level, Anton Khudobin is secure in the number two job in Boston.  It’s likely that Khudobin could get another one or two year contract to stay as Tuukka Rask’s backup. Zane McIntyre will now be the P-Bruins number one goaltender, and the odds of Daniel Vladar seeing some AHL time (maybe even an NHL game) has increased by an order of magnitude.

Good luck Malcolm Subban. The big club barely knew you.