Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while checking in for the final weekend of hockey on the Bruins calendar. After the Bruins development camp comes to a close, it’s about six weeks of Canadians retreating to their cottages and hockey moving to an absolute standstill until the end of August.
*So what is better than stirring up a hornet’s nest of Pittsburgh Penguins fans by forcing them to look at a photo of Tom Brady throwing his paws all over the Stanley Cup? Nobody seems to know where or why TB12 was mugging with Lord Stanley recently, but he looks magnificent doing it. It also means that Penguins fans are pissed off about it after the Pens won their back-to-back title last month. Anything to completely rattle the highly irrational Pittsburgh fan base is okay with me.
*Larry Brooks has his thoughts for the week, and it includes calling out Alex Ovechkin to get into better shape if the Washington Capitals finally want to get over the hump next season.
*Steve Simmons finds it ridiculous that we’re already talking about how much Auston Matthews is going to make in his next contract. A reminder that he’s coming off his rookie NHL season, and that shouldn’t even be a real consideration until he finishes up this coming season, and likely continues to build toward a Connor McDavid-like second deal.
*Veteran New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein announces his retirement from the NHL after a solid career with several stops along the way.
*The natives are restless saying it’s “status quo” for the Habs, and that’s not good enough. Didn’t they make a major trade for Jonathan Drouin and sign Karl Alzner in free agency while re-working a big part of their defense? How the heck is that status quo in Montreal?
*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Calgary Flames scoring star Johnny Gaudreau excited about the big changes for the Flames in the offseason, and what it means for their immediate future.
*For something completely different: The opioid epidemic is one of the scariest, saddest things happening in this country right now.
TORONTO – The Bruins will need to take a pivotal Game 4 without their best player as Patrice Bergeron is out for Thursday night’s playoff game at the Air Canada Centre with an upper body injury. Bergeron will be day-to-day moving forward, but that’s not going to help the B’s as they lose one piece of a forward line that’s dominated the Maple Leafs through the first three games of the series.
It’s really not a great sign when the Bruins had two days off in Toronto between Game 3 and Game 4, and Bergeron still wasn’t able to give it a go on Thursday night. Instead it will be Riley Nash centering the top line between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and Tommy Wingels entering back into the lineup with No. 37 out of the lineup. There was a faint sign that something might be up with Bergeron when Riley Nash took some turns in his place at practice on Wednesday afternoon at Air Canada Centre, but no signal whatsoever that something was serious enough to keep him out of the lineup.
It goes without saying that the Bruins might be in big trouble if this Bergeron injury proves to be something that could cause him to miss multiple games in a best-of-seven series where the B’s currently hold a 2-1 lead. Bergeron had five assists and was a plus-4 rating in the first three games of the series with his line amassing 20 points in the first two games of the series.
Here are the Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on pregame warm-ups at the Air Canada Centre:
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: