3 Keys: Calgary Flames @ Boston Bruins

How Boston can ensure The Flames don’t burn down TD Garden

The 9-12-1 Calgary Flames are visiting Boston tonight, looking to capitalize on a vulnerable Bruins’ team that is certainly lacking confidence after last night’s loss. Former Bruin Chad Johnson is expected in net tonight for Calgary, while the Bruins’ goalie situation is unknown, and will likely remain that way until gametime. Seeing as Rask had a less than impressive start last night, there’s a good chance Anton Khudobin will get the start. However, with Zdeno Chara out, Boston will likely want their starter in to give some reliability in net. As I said, it’s unknown. Tune in at 7:30 to find out!

 

Regardless of the goalie, the Bruins are going to need the win tonight, and if they’re going to do that, they’ll have to do these three things:

 

1. Take Advantage of a Beaten Up Opponent –

There have been very few games where Boston is playing against a team with as many or more injuries as they have, but tonight is one of the rare occasions. Without Gaudreau already, its possible Calgary could be without Kris Versteeg as well. This would mean 4 players, 2 of them established stars, would sit tonight  for the Flames, whereas Boston would be missing only Zdeno Chara, Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano who has missed the entire season to date. Boston needs to take advantage of the lack of firepower (pun absolutely intended) on the Flames’ offense, and respond by pushing the puck, and giving no room to the beat-up Calgary team.

2. PASTA! PASTA! PASTA! –

Man, I love David Pastrnak! The kid does great things, and helps the team. Of course, I’d never put him ahead of a guy like Bergeron (have you noticed he’s been quiet lately?), but he’s on a tear right now, and you need to put the puck where it’s got a shot at going in. Right now, your best chance at a goal, is through David Pastrnak.

3. Play Smart Defense – 

We do NOT need a repeat of the mistakes last night. Our defense has to play smart, disciplined hockey. They need patience, and to play with instinct. They’ve been overthinking things lately, and in hockey, there’s no time to think. Play as if Zdeno was in the lineup still, and just be smart. Smart hockey, is winning hockey, and winning hockey, is fun to watch.

 

Projected line-ups:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Spooner-Krejci-Backes

Beleskey-Nash-Czarnik

Schaller-Moore-Hayes

Liles-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-K Miller

?
?

 

MY LINE-UP:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Spooner-Krejci-Backes

Beleskey-Nash-Czarnik

Schaller-Moore-Hayes

Krug-Carlo

Liles-K Miller

Morrow-McQuaid

Khudobin

Rask

 

PREDICTION: CGY 2-5 BOS

Chara’s First-Period Injury Costs Bruins, Blues Pick Up Victory

Chara leaves ice early as Blues fall 4-2 ahead of Thanksgiving

In the first period, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara went down with a lower-body injury, and did not return to action. This left Boston with just 5 defenseman, and without their “top” guy. The younger guys were forced to step it up on the spot, and ultimately were unable to climb the 6’9″ mountain in front of them. St. Louis would take advantage, scoring 3 goals in the second, and an empty-netter in the third to clinch a 4-2 victory.

 

The first period started out pretty good for Boston, as David Backes, former St. Louis star,

625155352_slide
Backes celebrates with Moore following opening goal (courtesy: Getty Images)

scored against his former team on the power play to give Boston a lead. The goal was only Backes’ 4th of the year, but it had to be a very satisfying goal to have scored. David Krejci factored in as the secondary assist, his 10th of the year. That mark him just one assist behind Brad Marchand for the team lead in assists. Torey Krug picked up his 5th assist on the Backes goal.

In the second, playing without Big Z, Boston struggled defensively. 3 goals were scored by St. Louis in a span of 13 minutes. After the first St Louis goal, which was unsuccessfully challenged, Dominic Moore scored a shorthanded goal to give Boston a second chance at playing with a lead. Both Boston goals were scored on special teams, which isn’t all that interesting, but what is interesting is the fact that one came on a power play, and the other was shorthanded. Boston, though, was unsuccessful in defending the lead, and left the second trailing 3-2. After an empty net goal in the 3rd, Boston left the Garden in defeat, dropping to 11-8-0.

 

3 UPS:

1. SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS! – 

Boston put 41 shots to the net of St. Louis last night. They did all they could to try and get the W from the offensive zone, but it just wasn’t enough. Jake Allen was an absolute stud in front of the Blues’ net, allowing only 2 of the 41 in. This isn’t the first time Boston has taken 40+ shots on net, as it happened against Colorado in a 2-0 win last week. Coincidentally, both games have seen Boston score only 2 goals.

2. Backes Scored – 

625155200_slide
Backes scores against his old team (Courtesy: Getty Images)

It’s been a while since David Backes has scored. Well, it feels like it anyway. It was nice to see the major off-season pickup score in his first game against his former team. Perhaps when these two teams meet again, this time in front of a St. Louis crowd, Backes’ emotions will be even further escalated, and he’ll elevate his game to a new level. Either way, seeing him score last night was a welcomed sight.

3. Without Chara, They Still Looked Okay –

Look, I know playing without Chara hurt the team in the second, but they had a very solid third period. The only goal St. Louis scored was an empty netter, and they didn’t really have too many chances. Give this team a few days to adjust, and we may see a defensive unit that doesn’t need to rely on Chara. I’m cautiously optimistic about this injury.

 

3 DOWNS:

1. Chara Hurt, Already Declared Out Thursday –

I know I just came from saying this injury isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not ideal. Losing your “number one” isn’t ever a good situation. This injury may have long-term benefits, but in the short run, we may still be in danger. The fact that he was already declared inactive for tomorrow night, tells us that this is no light injury either. We may not see Chara for one to two weeks. Nothing has been said to lead us to believe that this injury is a 4-6 week or beyond, and right now, it appears as though he will be day-to-day for some time.

2. Torey Krug –

Despite factoring in on the Backes goal, Krug had a very poor game. This is something we haven’t really seen from him this season. Despite getting a lot of flack from fans on social media, Krug’s play has been quite solid. He’s much different than the guy we saw a few seasons ago, now playing a more defense-oriented game, rather than the guy pushing the puck. Plus, he’s paired with Adam McQuaid every game, what do you want from him?

3. 3 Goal Second Period –

Yeah, Chara was hurt and the team wasn’t ready for it, but that’s not an excuse for giving up 3 even-strength goals in a period. I hate second periods, man.

 

3 Takeaways:

  1. David Pastrnak and Kevan Miller are both expected back in action on Thanksgiving
  2. Backes scored in front of his old team, totally disproving my pre-game report. Thanks.
  3. Once again, the Bruins-Blues game was one of the best ones so far. These teams always put on a magical performance against each other

 

3 STARS:

1. Jake Allen (G-STL)

2. Colton Parayko (D-STL)

3. David Backes (RW-BOS)

 

What did you think of the game? Are you worried about Chara’s injury? What do you think of BOSTON playing in CANADA on AMERICAN THANKSGIVING? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share this post with friends! B’s lose 4-2!

Keys to the Game: St. Louis Blues @ Boston Bruins

The winged-quarter notes fly into Boston tonight, in the first of two encounters this year between the Bruins and the Blues. The last few years, this game, when the Blues come to the Garden (not so much the other way around), has been in my top 5. Whether low-scoring or high, the games are full of action and physicality, and I expect tonight to be no different. I’m a bit short on time so how about we jump right into tonight’s 3 keys to the game? Ready? Let’s go.

 

Quick notes:

David Pastrnak (day-to-day: undisclosed) will miss game number 3 in a row. He will be missed.

David Backes is playing in his first game against his former team, tonight. Look for him to play with emotion.

 

3 Keys:

1. Find an Offensive Spark –

They’ve done a pretty good job the last few games, them being the Bruins, of scoring enough goals to look better than they actually are. Doing this without Pastrnak was tough against Minnesota, but the team found their stride against Winnipeg, en rout to a 4-1 win (I’m so sick of being within one goal of getting it right). Tonight, against a team that is no slouch, Boston needs to keep hitting what they found Saturday and put the puck in the net.

2. Keep Backes’ Minutes Down – 

He can play, for sure, but with this being against his former team, and a team he stayed with for a very long time, no less, he’s going to be a bit emotional. When you play with your  heart and not your head, you make mistakes. Now, I’m probably wrong and he’ll end up playing 19 minutes and score a hatty, but I think keeping his usage to a minimum could benefit Boston in the long run of this game.

3. THUMP THUMP DE-FENSE! THUMP THUMP DE-FENSE – 

St. Louis is by no means a stellar team, offensively, but that doesn’t mean they can’t score. They do have more total goals than Boston, albeit playing one extra game, but they aren’t a great team. Both of them are at the bottom half of the leaderboard. This will likely be low-scoring, meaning Boston’s defense needs to step up and have another Winnipeg-like performance. A good defensive unit equals less work the offense has to do.

 

Prediction: STL 1-3 BOS

 

That’s my take on the game, and now I want to hear yours. Let me know your thought’s ahead of tonight’s game in the comments. Don’t forget to share with your friends to get their take as well. GO B’S

 

TRIVIA: When did David Backes play his first game for the Blues?

Bruins Return From 3-Days Off To Face Wild

8:00 on NESN

For the first time in 3 days, Bruins’ hockey is finally returning, and all is right with the world again. Boston improved to 10-6-0 on Sunday in Colorado with a 2-0 win over the Av’s. In there first game since then, Boston hits the ice in  Minnesota to take on the Wild, who absolutely annihilated the B’s on home ice last month. Back when Rask was hurt, the Wild rolled into TD Garden and scored 5 goals in a shutout victory. Boston is now a much better team defensively, and Rask is healthy, so we’ll see if this game is any different.

 

Pastrnak Out:

David Pastrnak has missed the last few days of practice, and has been ruled out for tonight’s game. It is not really known the extent of his injury, but the league’s second-best goal scorer is going to be watching from the press box tonight. Riley Nash is slated to ride shotgun on the Marchand-Bergeron line, in Pastrnak’s place. Nash only has one goal but has shown, when he isn’t playing with Hayes, that he is top-6 potential.

Minnesota Struggling:

Not from a record standpoint, but as a team, they are struggling. The offense has scored 2+ goals in only 2 of their last 6 games, and have been shutout twice in that span. With Rask playing the way he is, it should keep Minnesota’s low-scoring streak alive. Without, Pastrnak, it is better for the Bruins to face a low-powered offense where they will not need to light up the scoreboard, and just need to play a smart game.

3 Days of Rest:

Boston has not played in 3 whole days (4 by the time the puck drops). Hopefully, this means we will see a rejuvenated and energetic team in the first period. They had been playing at an incredibly high rate, and looked tired in the Arizona-Colorado back-to-back. The extra days of practice must have been a good thing too. It should have allowed Boston to work on some weak areas of their game (Power Play, Defense, etc.). But, knowing the past, we will probably have a rusty start to this game, and end up behind after the first.

 

3 Keys:

 

1. Fast Start – 

Boston, as mentioned, is coming off a 3 day break. Minnesota, however, is playing their 5th game in 8 days, and their 4th in 6. Boston needs to exploit this by pushing the pace early, and tiring out the Minnesota defense.

2. 3rd Line Needs to Step Up – 

Without Pastrnak, the Bruins need to find production from their lower lines. Specifically the 3rd. The 3rd line, no matter the combination, has been the least productive group this season. If they’re going to win tonight, they’re going to need to step up.

3. Forget About Being Shutout –

The Bruins need to put the 5-0 shutout last month out of their minds tonight. There were many circumstances beyond the Bruins control that contributed to the loss. Tonight, only Pastrnak’s injury stands in the way. Rask is healthy, the defense is good, and we aren’t playing at home. We can win.

 

PROJECTED LINE-UPS

Marchand-Bergeron-Nash

Spooner-Krejci-Backes

Beleskey-Moore-Czarnik

Hayes-Schaller-Kuraly

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Liles-Miller

 

Rask

McIntyre

 

MY LINE-UP

Marchand-Bergeron-Czarnik

Spooner-Krejci-Backes

Beleskey-Nash-Kuraly

Schaller-Moore-Hayes

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-Miller

Liles-McQuaid

 

Rask

McIntyre

 

Prediction: BOS 3-1 MIN

With the struggling Minnesota offense, and Rask playing like he is, it’s almost guaranteed to be low-scoring.

 

What do you think of tonight’s game? Can Boston win or am I blindly optimistic? Let me know in the comments and share with others to get their opinions.

 

Trivia: Who won the 2001 Art Ross Trophy?

 

Boston Bruins @ Arizona Coyotes

The Boston Bruins fly out west to start a back-to-back against, first, the Arizona Coyotes, before taking on the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow. The Bruins come into tonight’s game with a 5-2 win in their previous game against Columbus. In the recent past, Boston has had the upper-hand against the Coyotes. Can they keep the momentum up? Let’s find out.

Things To Watch:

Khudobin Travels –

Anton Khudobin, who has missed recent weeks due to injury, is traveling with the team to Arizona. Considering the back-to-back scenario, it is likely that a backup will get the call in one of the 2 games.  It’s now a question of which backup, and which game, the B’s go with.

Playing on the Road – 

The last 2 years, the Bruins have been impressive on the road. They have had more success away from the Garden, than when playing in it. Coming off a win at home, and now heading into their “preferred” terrain, watch for Boston to be even better than they were against the Blue Jackets.

Kuraly Recalled – 

Sean Kuraly was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis. This is likely in response to Noel Acciari’s injury. It will be interesting to watch how Kuraly is used, and whether he will replace Hayes in the line up.

3 Keys:

1. Don’t Look Too Much At The Standings –

It’s important that the Bruins don’t overlook Arizona. Just because they are low in the standings does not mean they cannot defeat Boston. If the Bruins walk in expecting an easy game, it’s not going to happen. Like every other game in the National Hockey League, this is a game in which the winner is going to have to fight for the 2 points.

2. Get Shots On Net – 

All shots that hit the net, are good shots. With a team that struggles offensively and defensively, Boston could very well dominate the time of possession aspect of the game. That won’t mean anything if the Bruins don’t shoot the puck. Just getting the puck towards the net against this Arizona (I still want to call them Phoenix) defense can cause problems for the Coyotes.

3. DON’T PLAY STUPID DEFENSE –

Chara had a ridiculous turnover that led to a goal, and then Colin Miller scored on the wrong goal. These are mistakes that can really turn a game on its head. Against Arizona, mistakes are likely the only way you’re going to give up goals, so play smart hockey. Don’t turn the puck over, don’t take penalties, and DO NOT SCORE ON YOURSELF!!!

Likely Line-up (Nothing confirmed)

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Spooner-Krejci-Backes

Beleskey-Nash-Czarnik

Schaller-Moore-Hayes

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Liles-Miller

Rask

McIntyre

My Lineup (Always Confirmed)

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Spooner-Krejci-Backes

Beleskey-Nash-Czarnik

Schaller-Moore-Kuraly
Chara-Carlo

Krug-Liles

Morrow-McQuaid

Khudobin

Rask

Prediction: BOS 4-0 ARZ

It’s not an easy win, but it is one they can win, and by a lot, if they play it right.

What do you think? Who is your pick to win? What are your 3 keys to the game? Let me know in the comments and please SHARE THIS POST WITH YOUR BRUINS FRIENDS! GO B’S!!

Tuukka Rask — Do The Numbers Tell The Whole Story?

Why Rask’s numbers are a bit misleading

As I have documented on multiple occasions, Tuukka Rask is having an incredible start to the 2016-17 season. He holds a record of 8-1-0, a 1.76 GAA, and a .938 SV%. All of these numbers put Rask on pace to have a career year. But, do the numbers tell the whole story? Statistics never lie, but they can leave out key parts of the story. So is Tuukka really as good as the stats suggest? Let’s take a look.

 

The Other Side of the Stats sheet (criticisms):

620942632

Strength of Opponents:

The first thing I want to take a look at is the strength of the opponents Rask has won against this season. As documented, Rask has 8 wins so far, and a lot of them have been dominated by Rask’s ability to stop the puck. Of those 8 wins, against 7 different opponents, how many were against quality teams? Rask has won against Columbus, Winnipeg, New Jersey, Detroit, Florida, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo. Of those seven teams, only 2 Tampa Bay and Detroit rank above Boston in the early season standings. Teams like Florida and Buffalo rank outside of 20th place so far. Of the 2 wins against better teams, one came in an incredible showdown against Detroit where Boston won 1-0, and the other was a 4-3 shootout win against Tampa. The only other game against a formidable opponent, was a devastating 5-2 loss against the New York Rangers. While a lot of that game was mistakes by the team as a whole, Rask is still accountable for not saving the puck. In his six games against lower ranked opponents, Rask holds a GAA of 1.51. Against teams ranked higher than Boston, Rask has a 2.67 GAA. That’s over a goal per game more. And it kind of makes you wonder…

bruins_rangers_grabner_110516
Courtesy: CSNNE.com

Is He Choosing His Opponents?:

Early in the season, Tuukka Rask was dealing with some kind of lower-body injury that kept him out-of-action for multiple games. During his absence, the Bruins played against Toronto, Montreal, Minnesota, and New York. While he was said to be injured, all that was ever told was that he was battling soreness. What goalie in the NHL doesn’t fight soreness every game? It’s practically in the job description, but Rask was held out. Do I think he was hurt? Yeah, I do. Do I think he was injured? No, and yes, there is a difference. Then while healthy, the Bruins took part in a back-to-back, first playing Buffalo and then Montreal. The thought of many close to the team, and anybody with half a brain, expected rookie Zane McIntyre be called on to play the less challenging Buffalo Sabres, and Montreal would be taken care of by Tuukka Rask. Instead, the opposite happened, with Rask taking the net in the Buffalo game and Zane playing the hated Habs. When you look back at the schedule, when Rask missed 3 straight, it was Montreal that was the first game of his hiatus. Knowing how good Montreal was, did Rask feign injury, and ask for the game off against Montreal both times? If so, is that a red flag that he is scared to play good teams? Is he fighting for his stats, or for the team?

 

He’s Just That Good (defending Rask):

Tuukka Rask, Ryan Callahan
Courtesy: John Snyder

2 Shutouts:

Rask has 2 shutouts on the season so far. In 3 other games, he’s only given up one goal. Those are impressive numbers, regardless of who they are against. If you are giving up a goal or less in most of your games, you are giving your team a chance to win. He has only given up 3 or more in 3 games, giving up 2 goals in the other game. Those are numbers any team would love to have from their goalie. A low-scoring opponent, is the ideal opponent.

620941080.jpg

Only One Real Hiccup:

Rask really does only have one bad game on his 2016-17 resume. He only has one loss, and it was his only bad game. He’s played a great season. In his games when healthy, he has tracked the puck, moved quickly, and given shooters nothing to shoot at. The stats are not lying to us, he’s just that good.

 

Verdict: No, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

There’s no denying he has had an incredible start, but until he starts putting up consistently good numbers against good opponents, Rask’s stats will not be a reflection of his talent. I know he is good, but these numbers, considering who they came against, paint him as being better than he is.

 

What are your thoughts on this? Is Rask really the 4th best in the league, or is he only ahead through circumstance? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and share the post and the page! It really helps me feel good about the page. Good day, and go B’s!

Bruins Honor Military by Scoring 5 Goals, En Route To Victory

Final Score: CBJ 2-5 BOS

Taking a page out of their opening night notebook, the Bruins walked out of their 2nd encounter with the Jackets victorious, again by 3 goals. Everything seemed to click for the B’s last night, and production came from multiple places. After a slow start, the Bruins found their way to the lead, and never looked back.

cbj-bos1
Courtesy: Getty Images

The first period started a bit slow, as Columbus came out ready to play. They struck first when a turnover by Zdeno Chara turned into a goal by Nick Foligno, just 2:29 into the game. It was that goal, though, that put the Bruins into overdrive, and they quickly turned the game around. 6 minutes later, Torey Krug’s one-time bomb from the point set off a span of 4 goals in 4:01 in the middle of the period. After a beautiful feed from Krejci, Krug loaded up and let it rip, and with traffic in front Sergei Bobrovski was left no chance to save it. Just over a minute later, another Bruin scored his first goal of the season. Matt Beleskey scored following a centering pass from rookie Austin Czarnik. Beleskey, who seemingly every other fan except for me wants out, has turned his game around since Jimmy Hayes was benched, and then moved to the fourth line. 2 and a half minutes later, Beleskey would return the favor, earning the secondary assist on Czarnik’s goal, putting Boston up 3-1. Not yet done with the scoring, though, Boston would pick up another goal in the 1st, after Tim Schaller’s shot (initially thought to hit the post) was ruled a goal. The call did not come from the officials on the ice, but by the NHL headquarters in Toronto, who slowed the footage down, and saw the puck actually hit the post on the inside of the net. The review put Boston up 4-1, their 2nd 3 goal lead in 3 games.

cbj-bos2
Courtsey: Getty Images

The rest of the game was like the average game. Boston only put up 1 more goal, this one coming off the stick of David Backes. Meanwhile, in the 3rd period, Columbus would “score” their final goal of the game. The Bruins failed to control the puck on a faceoff, and Rask was caught sleeping, as Colin Miller slipped the puck past him. It was an embarrassing asterisk on an otherwise impressive game. They were able to survive a late-game surge from Columbus and clinched a 5-2 victory, their second win against the Blue Jackets.

 

3 Ups:

1. The Unlikely Scorers –

5 goals were scored last night, all from different players. What’s interesting about that, is only one of the goals came from somebody who already had multiple goals this season (Backes). Torey Krug and Matt Beleskey both tallied their long-awaited first of the year. Neither man has played poorly, they just haven’t been able to find the net. Austin Czarnik and Tim Schaller both netted their second goals of the year. Each man came into the night only having one goal to their name. It was nice, as a Bruins fan, to see production come from people not named David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand (as much as I love those guys).

2. Defense – 

cbj-os3
Courtesy: Getty Images

Columbus only took 18 shots last night. And it was really 17, except they had to count the own-goal as a shot for Columbus. The defense did an outstanding job of limiting the amount of chances the Blue Jackets had. Other than on the first goal, not many mistakes were made by the once porous Bruins’ defense.

3. Great Puck Movement – 

Specifically by the Krejci line, the Bruins moved the puck with ease in the offensive zone. There were several instances during the game in which it appeared the Bruins were on the power play, despite all 5 skaters being on the ice for both teams. This puck movement was exactly how the first Bruins goal was scored. After a great stretch of about 30 seconds, Krejci and crew finally found Krug out high, and he buried a slap-shot to tie the game. We need to move the puck like that all the time.

3 Downs:

1. Own Goal –

I know it was a fluke thing, and the first time it’s happened this year, but scoring on yourself is embarrassing. They’re lucky it wasn’t a close game.

2. Being Out-Hit –

cbj-bos4.jpg

Courtesy: Getty Images

Columbus recorded more hits than Boston last night. Not by a small margin either. With guys like Matt Beleskey, Brad Marchand, David Backes, and Zdeno Chara, there is no reason for the Bruins not to get the better of the physical play. Intimidation is a key component in hockey games, and we’re just not getting it.

3. The Fans –

We won 5-2, but outside of right after the goals were scored, you’d think the game was 100-0 Columbus! What the hell do the fans want? We blow out teams at home, silence. We get destroyed at home, silence. We have closely-contested games where we barely escape with the win, silence. Are Bruins’ fans just zombies who are never satisfied, and therefore are wasting their money? Perhaps.

 

3 Takeaways: 

1. Brandon Carlo led the Bruins in ice time last night. The young defenseman has been one of the only consistent bright-spots on the back-end this year (along with Krug).

2. Tuukka Rask improved to 8-1-0 last night, his best start to a season in his career. He has been very impressive in all but 1 game this year, and he is giving the non-zombie fans something to cheer for.

3. The bottom 3 lines all scored a goal last night. Production has been limited to the first and fourth lines this year, so to see production across the board was a welcome sight.

 

3 Stars:

3. David Krejci (C-BOS)

2. Austin Czarnik (RW-BOS)

1. Matt Beleskey (LW-BOS)

 

Did you enjoy the game last night? What stood out to you? Who are your 3 stars of the night? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to LIKE and SHARE this post with your fellow B’s fans.