Bruins

What we learned in Bruins' 5-0 win over Islanders: Are B's better off without Krug?

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What we learned in Bruins' 5-0 win over Islanders: Are B's better off without Krug?

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 5-0 decimation of the New York Islanders at [what I’m going to still call] the Nassau Coliseum.

1) Are the Bruins a more difficult team to play against with Torey Krug out of their lineup? Certainly the argument can be made that the B’s are better defensively with No. 47 off the ice, and that's an easy case to make after a Tuesday night shutout in which the B’s limited the Islanders to just two shots in the first period and only 13 shots total. With undersized defensemen Krug and Matt Grzelcyk out of the lineup, the Bruins don’t have any D-men that opposing forwards can really pick on, though it should be noted Grzelcyk is actually pretty strong defensively despite the size and strength disadvantage. But the installation of Connor Clifton along with John Moore back into the Bruins' lineup makes them a more rugged defensive unit and certainly gives them a tougher look in the defensive zone. Does it mean they should go with that when Krug and Grzelcyk are healthy and ready to return? Absolutely not, given that the B’s also need to score goals and they rely on Krug running things on their top power-play unit. That’s going to be a massive key to the postseason. But it’s interesting to note how the B’s play differently based on the personnel.

2)  Jake DeBrusk didn’t waste much time jumping back into the scoring fold after coming back from injury. Sure, he didn’t make a huge production splash after missing a week-plus, but he did connect on a breakaway goal after jumping out of the penalty box midway through the third period. So now DeBrusk has 9 goals in his last 12 games, and 23 for the season, as he builds momentum toward the postseason. It also goes without saying DeBrusk has the best goal celebration on the team, and he didn’t get any rust on those after not scoring for a couple of weeks.

3)  The fourth line had a confidence-building game on Tuesday night, and that’s a very good thing this close to the playoffs. While the fourth line was good during the regular season last year as well, they really got outplayed in the postseason, particularly in the second-round series against the Lightning. The B’s will need a much more effective, impactful fourth line during this spring’s playoffs and they were a dominant, energetic bunch against an Islanders team that's fighting for the Metropolitan Division title. It was Sean Kuraly who scored the first goal 1:10 into the first period when he spun and fired on an unsuspecting Robin Lehner, and then he scored again in the second period when he hopped on a Cal Clutterbuck turnover right in front of the Islanders net. Granted it was Chris Wagner with Kuraly and Danton Heinen in this game while Noel Acciari centered the third line against the Isles, but it will be Acciari, Kuraly and Wagner as the fourth line in the postseason. And -- as Acciari also scored Tuesday night -- they were definitely humming against the Isles from the very drop of the puck.

PLUS

-- Sean Kuraly registered the first two-goal regular-season game of his NHL career, set the tone with the first goal of the game just a minute into the first period, and finished with six shots on net while active all over the ice.

-- Patrice Bergeron finished with a third-period goal, was a plus-1 for the game with eight shot attempts while winning 13 of 22 draws in just 14:36 of ice time. It was a bonus that the one-sided nature of the game got No. 37 some rest.

-- Noel Acciari scored a much-needed goal and finished with a plus-2 rating, five shot attempts, two hits and a strong 5-of-6 performance in the face-off circle.

MINUS

-- Robin Lehner just completely whiffed on the first goal of the game, a Kuraly shot he definitely should have stopped, and that set the bad tone for the Islanders for the rest of a horrendous night.

-- One shot, one hit and a minus-3 for Leo Komarov in a totally ineffective night for an Islanders forward who's almost always noticeable when he plays. But at least he didn’t get licked on the face by Brad Marchand.

-- Nick Leddy, Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas were all minus-3 and just played bad hockey. Honestly, everybody outside of Matt Martin was pretty bad for the Islanders in the 5-0 loss. 

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Bruins considering adding Karson Kuhlman back into lineup for Game 6

Bruins considering adding Karson Kuhlman back into lineup for Game 6

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins rookie Karson Kuhlman has been a healthy scratch for the last couple of games, but it looks like the speedy, smart young forward might draw back in for do-or-die time with the Black and Gold.

Kuhlman was among the top-12 forwards during the line rushes for the Bruins at Saturday’s practice at Warrior ice Arena, and Bruce Cassidy indicated that the former University of Minnesota-Duluth standout is knocking the door to get back into the lineup.

“We might make a few adjustments. Tuukka is going to be in the net and then we’ll go from there,” said Bruce Cassidy of his Game 6 lineup. “We’re considering [Kuhlman]. Certainly he’s played well for us and he adds an element of speed and responsibility.”

The 23-year-old Kuhlman suited up for the first three games of the series against the Maple Leafs and finished with an assist and six shots on net in three Stanley Cup playoff games with the Black and Gold. It appeared that 34-year-old David Backes would be the odd-man out if Kuhlman draws back into the lineup for Game 6 at Scotiabank Arena. Backes played under five minutes in Friday night’s Game 5 loss to the Maple Leafs, and has increasingly had difficulty making an impact in the series as his skating game has slowed against Toronto.

With that in mind trading out Backes for Kuhlman would up the speed factor for the B’s against a Maple Leafs team that’s controlled them in the series with their speed and skill level.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairing against the Maple Leafs for Game 6 based on Saturday’s practice:

LINE COMBOS

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Johansson

Heinen-Coyle-Kuhlman

Kuraly-Acciari-Wagner

D-PAIRINGS

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Moore

Rask 

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Bruce Cassidy on underachieving Bruins: "We have to reach our level if we expect to advance"

Bruce Cassidy on underachieving Bruins: "We have to reach our level if we expect to advance"

BOSTON – When the first round playoff series against the Maple Leafs is over with and the Boston have either advanced or started making tee times, one thing will remain true about the games played. It feels pretty clear at this point that many people, the fans, the media and perhaps some people in the B’s organization as well, vastly underestimated how difficult things would be against the Maple Leafs, and just how much that Toronto team has grown in a season.

One would have assumed that the Bruins would be the victorious team in a scoreless defensive battle that went into the third period before the first goal was scored. That assumption would have been wrong in Game 5 as Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen scored third period goals to pace the Leafs to a tight, defense-heavy 2-1 win over the B’s at TD Garden.

The Bruins have now lost two of their three home games in this series and have been held to just one goal in two of those three defeats at TD Garden. It’s a far cry from the Leafs team that ranked 20th in the league in defense during the regular season averaging three goals allowed per game, and the B’s are learning that the hard way.

Clearly some credit is due to the Maple Leafs for the way they’re playing, but Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy also sounded like he’s pretty tired of watching his team fail to get to their highest level of play in this series.

“This is a whole new group, and they’ve got to find their way. That was the message [to the team]. There was a lack of urgency in our play [in Game 5]. At times it was there, but in general I don’t think this team has reached where it can get to in the playoffs in terms of team play,” said Cassidy. “We’ve had pockets of it and we’ve played well at times, with value for both of our wins. But we have to reach our level if we expect to advance.”

While it’s clear that the Bruins aren’t playing at their level best, it’s also about the Maple Leafs improving from last season. It’s almost as if adding a world class two-way center in John Tavares and a shutdown defenseman in Jake Muzzin have made the Maple Leafs significantly better than they were last spring.

“We obviously would like to see them generate more, but there’s not a lot of room out there. We’ve said it. I think Toronto has done a better job defensively on us. We have to fight our way through it, find different ways to crack at it, and I think we did out there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I thought we got some goals [in Game 4] because we caught them in between on a pinch. We recovered a puck, got it to the top of the crease for the Marchand goal.

“Obviously, our power played helped, but we did get three even-strength goals, and I thought tonight we were having a tough time.”

So what are the Bruins to do if they want to change things in the series?

It starts with getting offense from Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak given the overwhelming success the Bruins have enjoyed when they get on the score sheet, and it continues with getting Jake DeBrusk going after he was a key offensive figure with five goals in last spring’s first round series. It sounds like the Bruins think part of the problem has been worrying too much about what Toronto is doing, and not putting enough into dictating terms in the series with their own play.

One would expect that’s going to change in Sunday’s Game 6 at Scotiabank Arena with the B’s backs against the proverbial wall.

“We’re all capable of so much more, especially collectively as a group. We have the ability to beat anyone in this league and play at the top consistently, and we showed that throughout the season,” said Torey Krug. “Now we reach this point where both teams are working hard. They’ve done a good job, but I think we just need to play up to our potential, focus on ourselves and make them adapt to us. Don’t worry too much about what they’re doing and instead focus on ourselves.”

If the Bruins carry through with all of their real talk following Game 5, there will be probably be a good result in Game 6 and an ensuing Game 7 at TD Garden next week. If they don’t then everybody will be left to wonder how this 107-point team from the regular season never quite made it to that level once they hit the Stanley Cup playoff circuit in April. 

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