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Murphy: Pastrnak Let Down Bruins, Could Have League-Wide Implications



Boston Bruins David Pastrnak

David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase were irresponsible. There isn’t another way to say it, write it, or express it. Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy downplayed any anger or emotion of the release of the social media photos, which showed Pastrnak and Kase rolling through the city, Kase without a mask. They were in public despite both being in quarantine, but that’s not the full story.

Not everyone downplayed Pastrnak’s actions this week. A source within the Bruins organization had stern words to BHN, as the source expressed disappointment at the players’ actions, even if the coach declined. The source did, however, say that the Bruins’ leadership core was addressing the situation.

“They’re already on it,” the source told Boston Hockey Now Friday.

There was, however, no disciplinary action.

On Sunday, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney addressed the situation and while expressing forgiveness and understanding for Pastrnak’s and Kase breaking quarantine in an educational and ever-evolving process, he did hint that a public apology and/or explanation from the two Czech wingers would be nice.

So far, there have been no statements from either player regarding the social media photos that showed them breaking quarantine. Sweeney himself apologized for the league-mandated ‘unfit to play’ explanation for absences the Bruins and all NHL teams must give.

“Players were coming from different environments where things weren’t on the same level of concerns you may or may not have,” Sweeney pointed out. “So you have to assimilate to what’s necessary for our environment and that’s part of the balancing act here. We have protocols that the league has put forward and we’ve been operating under every one of those but we also have guidelines that Massachusetts requires in Boston and the Boston Public Health Department. 

So, it’s a balancing act here for players along those fronts and at times players have to react after the fact when you have things that don’t go your way and I think that’s probably the case here. We’re all apologetic. I hope you [media] understand (per league rules) we respectfully have to decline any more information with regards to the players that haven’t been on the ice. That’s what was collectively bargained and we apologize for that but if the player wants to come out after the fact and explain it – and we’ve seen some players around the league that have been forthright in that situation – but we don’t mandate that we don’t dictate that. We have to follow the guidelines and we have done that to a tee as well as trying to continue to educate all of the team. This has been an educational process throughout and it will continue to be that way.”

Good for Sweeney to slide that hidden message in there for Pastrnak and Kase to get their act together but from Bruins winger Brad Marchand joking about Pastrnak’s absence on Saturday to every player just basically ignoring what their teammates did, one has to wonder if and when the serious implications their actions have on and off the ice will set in for the Bruins.

Breaking quarantine, or not wearing a mask, or denying the other things most of us are trying to do to protect others in this unprecedented global pandemic, are not limited to one political party or demographic.

Simply walk around your neighborhood or local park, or downtown. You’ll find a broad cross-section of folks who shun the safety measures, which apparently included highly paid athletes with a lot to lose.

There is no overreaction to the actions of Pastrnak and Kase but sadly there seems to be a lack of action. No one, including Pastrnak and Kase should’ve been offended if Marchand or another player called the teams top two right wings out for their careless and selfish actions but sadly that appears to be the stigma we’re stuck with here.

Bigger Implications

In fact, the full story has the potential to be the iceberg that Capt. Edward Smith didn’t avoid, just before it sank the Titanic. The David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase gaffe has the potential to be the equivalent to the hockey return.

This situation differs from the Pittsburgh Penguins group. In Pittsburgh, nine mostly AHL and depth players voluntarily quarantined after secondary exposure, which resulted from someone else’s bad luck or irresponsible behavior.

We cannot know, but the coincidence bears noting. Shortly after social media outed David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase, five more Boston Bruins were shoved to the “unfit to play,” category, which brought the total number to nine.

FIVE more.

We’re not counting goalie Tuuka Rask, who is nursing a hand injury.

Forwards David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Charlie Coyle, Chris Wagner were also “unfit to play” on Saturday. So, too was defenseman Torey Krug. Forward Joakim Nordstrom also spent a day away from the rink and ‘unfit to play’ as well.

A few of those players could be suffering from injuries, or even all of them could be injuries. Still, five injuries in the days following the new information would be even worse luck than the Columbus Blue Jackets suffered this season.

And highly improbable.

“Anytime players miss a session where we expect them back up to full speed until he’s out there, then it is a concern for us as a team,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But we’re going to forge ahead.”

The individual fallout from Pastrnak’s actions is additional quarantine, which puts him further behind and out of shape. The Bruins are a top-heavy team, and a gassed Pastrnak would have cascading effects through the lineup. The NHL co-winner of the Rocker Richard trophy with 48 goals is going to miss at least half of the Phase 3 training camp, if not all of it. Or more.

Pastrnak’s agent, J.P Barry, publicly stated his player tested negative. That’s good, but it can take a while for that nasty little bug to surface, too.

One week later, the nine Pittsburgh players are still in quarantine. So, don’t expect Pastrnak and Kase to get out of quarantine that easily. Or any other Bruins who are being isolated because of possible contact with quarantined individuals.

The domino effects go well beyond being out of shape for the Stanley Cup pursuit on which the Boston Bruins have been singularly focused all season. The irresponsible actions possibly pulled other players into the same situation, as they too have to quarantine without hockey activity. There exists the possibility some players will not be ready for Game 1 of the NHL Playoffs.

In the pandemic, the only thing we know is that we don’t really know.

The biggest potential collective fallout of the Bruins player’s actions could be forfeiting their chance at the Stanley Cup and forcing the league and NHLPA into a difficult decision. The Phase 3/4 protocols allow for a suspension of play if one or more teams are unfit to play because of an outbreak, or too many players undergoing quarantine measures.

Last week, Patrice Bergeron made the public proclamation to his team.

“Professionalism is going to be huge. We need to rely on everyone for this thing to work,” he said. “Right now, in phase 3, you’re allowed to go home, and we’re not going to babysit you on your whereabouts and all that. So, it’s trusting one another and making sure that everyone is doing the right thing … I think that’s the most important thing, to be professionals about it, be smart and use common sense.”

Without thinking, David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase kicked Pandora’s box harder than an Adam Vinatieri 48-yarder to win the Super Bowl.

Let’s hope it stays closed, and we don’t find out what is inside.

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