With the NHL nearing a return-to-play, the Boston Bruins had the best record in the league. Despite their success in the regular season, the long layoff and recent developments could spell trouble for the Boston Bruins.
What Will Put the Boston Bruins in Trouble
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask, revealed that he fractured a finger on his glove hand a few weeks ago. As training camp got underway, Rask had to exit practice multiple times leading to speculation about his health. The Vezina Trophy nominee is still nursing his injury with under two weeks to go before the Bruins first round-robin game on August 2.
The Bruins haven’t played a game since March and with Rask not practising in full capacity it raises questions on how effective he’ll be when games start.
If Rask can’t play or doesn’t perform well, the Bruins are lucky to have one of the best backups in the league in Jaroslav Halak. Even Rask admits that he’ll likely split time with Halak when the playoffs begin, “I’d be surprised if you see goalies play every minute of every game during these playoffs because the situation is so different.”
With Rask not fully healthy and Halak getting dinged up in practice, the reality of going from the best goalie tandem in the league to neither in the playoffs is all-too-real. It’s part of the reason why Boston is carrying four goalies on their postseason roster.
The biggest question to the return-to-play was centred around testing and the availability of players. David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase have both been deemed “unfit to participate” for longer than a week. It’s still undetermined when either player will be able to return to the team.
Pastrnak tied for the league lead in goals with 48 and was one of the best players in the NHL this season. His importance to the team is astronomical and missing a large amount of camp will put him behind the rest of the team and league.
Kase was still trying to find chemistry with his new teammates in Boston. Missing camp will only hinder the little chemistry Kase had made since arriving in Boston.
Both players will have to catch up quickly in a little amount of time which is something that worries Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy. “When you start missing weeks on end — which we will end up having a couple of players in that category — you certainly have rust as a problem,” said Cassidy.
The Bruins had fairly good luck in the injury department this season. The key pieces remained relatively healthy and none were out of the lineup when play paused in March. Unlike other teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets or Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins don’t have players returning from long-term injuries.
It’s certainly better to have a healthy team at all times, but the infusion of a key player back into the lineup at the right time can spark and rejuvenate a team. The Bruins will try to recreate what they had all season except do it after nearly four months off.
What Could Put the Boston Bruins in Trouble
The biggest change for this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs is the hub cities without crowds. The 24 teams are relegated to Edmonton and Toronto, playing in front of no fans. While this theoretically makes it an even playing field for everyone, it may not be that simple.
Players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Torey Krug, and Rask played the entire decade (and careers) in Boston. Half of their games came in front of a sold-out and rowdy TD Garden crowd. TD Garden has posted attendance numbers over 100 percent capacity during the decade. The Bruins roster may have grown accustomed to the adrenaline rush of playing in front of a sold-out and passionate crowd.
Teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, and Columbus Blue Jackets were in the bottom ten of attendance this season. Those teams may adapt better to a crowd-less playoff than the Bruins.
The return-to-play format the NHL adopted puts the top teams at a possible disadvantage. The league awarded the Bruins with the President’s Trophy for the most points, however, it does not guarantee them a top seed.
The Bruins can determine their fate in the three round-robin games. They could end up anywhere from the first to the fourth seed. With Rask hurt, Pastrnak and Kase unfit to participate, and a long layoff, the Bruins only have three games to secure the first seed.
The Bruins could finish the regular season with 11 more points than the Philadephia Flyers, 10 more points than the Washington Capitals, and eight more points than the Lightning yet be a lower seed than all three.
The new format could put the Boston Bruins in trouble as the postseason begins.
What It All Means
The injury to Rask certainly raises questions heading into the postseason. Rask says he’ll be ready when games start but that’s not a guarantee. Pastrnak and Kase still have not returned to the team and it’s unsure when they will. It’s unlikely the Bruins will go far without Pastrnak, and rust is a big question when he returns.
The Bruins have no key players returning from injury to give the lineup a boost. Playing in front of sold-out TD Garden crowds for a decade could make it tougher for Bruins players to get in a rhythm when playing in front of nobody.
The Boston Bruins troubles could come to a head if they slip up and get the fourth seed in the playoffs. However, it’s not all gloom for the Bruins. They’re still an exceptional team with some of the most experienced players in the NHL.
When play paused, the Bruins had everything they needed to make a run at another Stanley Cup but new developments could spell trouble for the Boston Bruins.
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