Are the Boston Bruins still going to play like the Presidents’ Trophy winners if and when the NHL Return To Play 24-team 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs commence likely in early August?
TSN’s Darren Dreger and Ray Ferraro joined Joe Haggerty and yours truly on the latest edition of the weekly NBC Sports Boston Zoom calls Haggerty and I do and Ferraro thinks the Bruins will live up to their billing as the Stanley Cup favorites if there is an NHL Return later this summer.
“My feeling is that the best teams are still going to be the best teams,” Ferraro said. “If you didn’t have a No. 1 goalie or a top defenseman, they didn’t just show up [during the break in the season] over the last few months. If you’re a team like the Bruins that are deep, and strong, and has good goaltending and lots of depth, then they are still going to be the Bruins.”
Bruce Cassidy has emerged as one of the best coaches in the NHL since taking over for former Bruins head coach and current Montreal Canadiens bench boss Claude Julien back in February 2017. Ferraro believes coaching will be a major factor as teams gear up for the qualifying round and in the Bruins’ case, the round-robin round which will determine the top four seedings for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I think this is why you pay those coaches millions of dollars,” Ferraro said. “Even though these round-robin games won’t be the same, as the leader you need to get that group to buy-in and check-in. When those round-robin coaches get their teams going in camp, they are going to have to find ways to ramp up the intensity and ramp up the conflict in practice. The guys [will] have to learn to battle again.”
On Thursday, the NHL confirmed that via the best points percentage, the Bruins (44-14-12, 100 points, .714) will win any tiebreaker with the Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points, .657), Washington Capitals (41-20-8, 90 points, .652) and Philadelphia Flyers (41-21–7, 89 points, .645) in the round-robin.
Dreger, Ferraro’s co-host on the Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast, agreed with Ferraro’s thoughts on the Bruins but cautioned that we are still far from mission accomplished when it comes to this NHL Return To Play plan coming to fruition. One of the main hurdles right now is getting Phase 2 (involuntary workouts and skates) and Phase 3 (training camp) going in earnest and that’s partly because of Canada’s strict guidelines for anyone – including pro athletes – having to no matter what, undergo a 14-day self-quarantine when they enter the country. This is also affecting Phase 4 because some Canadian cities (Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto) are in the running to be an NHL Hub City.
“Health Canada and the provincial officials and the federal government here in Canada are being incredibly careful,” Dreger pointed out. “I’m appreciative of that and so is Ray [Ferraro]. We both live in Canada. But it’s gummed things up a little bit, no question about that, in terms of the NHL moving things forward.”
NOTE: On Thursday, three days after this call was recorded, an unnamed Pittsburgh Penguins player tested positive for the Coronavirus
Ferraro concurred and compared the process of making this a successful return to the playoffs by August as a bare foundation when you’re building a house.
“What I got from when we talked to the commissioner is that they’ve got this plan, but now it’s like if you’re building a house and you’ve poured the foundation and put the studs up,” the former NHLer said. “Now they’re trying to fill in everything else inside the studs. Each time you finish one thing there is something else that comes up. Even just in the conversation we had, you start running ahead on what you need to accomplish just to get [the NHL] back as safely as possible… never mind whether you like the format or whether the Bruins as the best team in the season are getting the short end of the stick, which they kind of is… but that doesn’t even matter right now. It’s about can you even execute an incredibly complicated and detailed plan? For me that’s what this is about first and foremost, is can you even execute it?”