Bruins

Morning skate: Are Penguins NHL's next dynasty?

Morning skate: Are Penguins NHL's next dynasty?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while impressed an NHL team in the salary cap era was able to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. That’s extremely difficult to do and it could be another 20 years before we see it again. 

*It’s always encouraging to see somebody prosper after they’ve really paid their dues, and that’s exactly what Mike Sullivan had done over the last ten plus years after being let go by the Bruins. He’s worked hard during that time as an NHL assistant coach and an AHL head coach, and prepared for this moment that now sees him flourishing behind the bench with the Penguins. He was a very young head coach when he was in Boston and that might have come through at times with the Bruins, but he is the right guy at the right time for the Penguins with a whole lot more experience under his belt at this point in time.   

*Anson Carter and Brian Boucher ask if the Penguins are the next NHL dynasty during the postgame portion of the NBC broadcast following the Stanley Cup Final.

*Steve Simmons weighs in on the terrible first period whistle that eliminated a good goal for the Predators, and potentially cost the Predators a chance at a Game 7 back in Pittsburgh. That’s a tough way to lose for the Preds.

*Frank Seravalli says that Sidney Crosby has now passed Mario Lemieux as Emperor Penguin in Pittsburgh.  

*Barry Melrose says that the Predators are “hypocritical” for silencing PK Subban prior to Game 6 after previously complaining about the lack of media coverage for their team in year’s past. I think the Mullet has a point there. I still think the NHL shares some of the blame for letting this happen as they should have forced the Predators to make him available given his standing as a star player at the league’s marquee event.   

*Bruce Arthur puts a bow on the Stanley Cup Final that goes to Pittsburgh in six games, and officially closes the door on the 2016-17 NHL season.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Brian Wilde details the Montreal search for a top line center that isn’t going to be an easy search for the Canadiens. There is a great deal required of centers in Claude Julien’s system, so they’re going to need to be very selective about the player that becomes the “1C” in Montreal.  

*For something completely different: That’s it…lock it down. Gordon Hayward is going to be a member of the Boston Celtics when it’s all said and done, because I believe everything posted on Instragram and Facebook

Grzelcyk looks "good to go"; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

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File Photo

Grzelcyk looks "good to go"; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

TORONTO – It looks like Matt Grzelcyk will be making his return to the Bruins lineup after a one-game absence with a lower body injury.

The Bruins rookie D-man took part in an optional skate at the Air Canada Centre for the Black and Gold on Thursday morning, and will be playing provided he gets through the pregame warm-ups without any hitches. A healthy Grzelcyk will replace Nick Holden in the B’s lineup and give Boston that puck-moving, fast-skating D-man that can be pretty effective counteracting a speedy, aggressive Toronto fourth line that’s been pretty good in the series thus far.

“He’s out there [skating] now, so he should be good to go. Obviously, it will be warm-ups and a game-time decision, but I anticipate he’ll go in,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s complemented well by his partner, who is usually [Adam] McQuaid or [Kevan] Miller. So you get a duo where he’s able to transition the puck very well by himself, and get out of some piles with the D-zone coverage and make a good first pass.

“He can track down pucks before defenses get set or during a line change, he’s good at getting it up [the ice] and seeing who is available. He’s very low risk generally in his game, and he does some very good things at the O-zone blue line to keep plays alive for us.”

The return of Grzelcyk appears to be the only change to the Bruins lineup ahead of a pivotal Game 4 made a little more intriguing by the NHL’s selection of South Boston native Chris Rooney as one of tonight’s referees (along with Gord Dwyer). Rooney has always carried the well-worn reputation of a referee that goes extra-hard on the Bruins to prove there isn’t a bias toward the hometown team, and the Bruins have a 7-9 record over the last three seasons in games officiated by Rooney. It’s not a main reason for the Bruins to either win or lose the game, but certainly something to keep an eye on as things unfold tonight in Toronto.

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. the Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on morning skate:  

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

Rask

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Bergeron on Game 4: "It's about giving everything we have tonight"

Bergeron on Game 4: "It's about giving everything we have tonight"

TORONTO – Every game in the Stanley Cup playoffs is of great importance obviously, and teams approach each one with the kind of singular focus and intensity that makes for great postseason theatre. But some games within a particular best-of-seven series are more important than others, and Thursday night’s Game 4 at the Air Canada Centre will be one of those kinds of games.

The Bruins are up 2-1 in the series and should still have plenty of confidence based on the offensive chances they’ve been able to carve out again a compliant Toronto defense, even if they were stopped in Game 3 by some bad luck, an appearance by Auston Matthews for the first time in the series and a superhuman effort from Frederik Andersen in the third period of that game. In many ways -- whether it was liming Boston to just one power play or holding down Boston’s top line despite their 22 shot attempts -- it was the Leafs playing at a level they may or may not be able to replicate a few more times in this series.

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All that being said, if the Maple Leafs can ride their streaky hot goalie or have Matthews take over a game with his undeniable skill they will head back to Boston tied at 2-2 apiece with two-way forward Nazem Kadri entering back into the series following his suspension. That would be a big swing that certainly could shake the confidence of the Black and Gold, who have looked like the better hockey club through the first three games of the series.

With that in mind, the B’s bench boss was taking the “straight ahead” approach to Thursday night’s pivotal game and not looking to put additional pressure on a result that clearly would make a big difference for either club.  

“We try to play the game in front of us and we’ve done that all year,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s Game 4 tonight and we’ll live with the result. We just want to play our game and improve in the areas that we thought we could be better at that Toronto did well. I think offensively we’ve been pretty consistent generating chances. The defensive side of things, there some plays that we need to defend a little better to limit their chances.

“I thought we did a better job of that at home than we did [in Game 3]. Give them credit, they came home and kind of like us they had a lot of energy coming out [of the gate]. So, we need to expect that and match that.”

It’s a much different series if the B’s can once again impose their will on the game, take a decisive 3-1 lead in the series and head back to Boston where they enjoyed two blowout victories over Toronto in the first two games.  The Bruins weren’t shying away from the game’s importance on Thursday night, or how key it will be to keeping the momentum on their side in the series.

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“There’s a big difference and we all know that. At the same time, we’re approaching this game like we have from the start of the series,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s about giving everything that we have tonight. We know last game was about the way they came out and [in Game 4] we’re expecting the same. So hopefully we can handle that better.”

The best guess here: The Bruins offense breaks through against a Leafs defense that hasn’t been able to effectively stop them, Toronto can’t replicate the highly disciplined approach they took in Game 3 and Andersen again becomes a mere mortal that’s given up some soft goals in this series. But if Toronto can play at that high level again for a second straight game, well then, it’s a whole different-looking playoff series that could indeed go the distance as many people predicted at the outset of the seven-game series between Boston and Toronto.

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