The Boston Bruins and 23 other teams are set to become Rocket Men as they embark on a journey into the unknown that is Phase 4 of the NHL Return and bubble life.
Bear Force One will take off at 5:30 PM ET and for the Bruins, the 11 other NHL teams headed to the NHL Eastern Conference hub city of Toronto and for the 12 Western Conference teams headed to Edmonton, this isn’t going to be your typical road trip. The two Stanley Cup finalists will be locked in the NHL bubbles until October, still unsure of whether or not they will be able to see their families or significant others until then. As Sportsnet analyst, Brian Burke pointed out on a recent episode of The Bruins Craic:
“This isn’t going to even be like walking on the moon because we did that; this will be like going to Mars.”
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked Saturday what he might have or will say to his family and his hockey family, the Bruins players before they leave for this new frontier Sunday night?
“I’ve talked to my kids obviously and explained the situation but I think today with FaceTime and all that, it’s a little bit easier,” Cassidy said. “You can follow along their activities and catch up. The players, we talked [Friday] and we’re making sure they’re diligent and responsible because we’ve put a lot of work into this. So hopefully we’re all good [Sunday] and we’ll have more tests snd hopefully everyone gets a good result.”
Unfortunately, for the Bruins, not everyone was diligent when it came to COVID19 safety precautions as forwards David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase broke quarantine two weeks ago just prior to the beginning of Phase 3 and training camp. The two Czech forwards have only practiced once and Pastrnak’s agent J. P. Barry confirmed that his client had come into contact with someone who is positive for COVID19 but thankfully tested negative. Pastrnak was put back into quarantine on July 16 but was expected, along with Nick Ritchie who missed the last three practices, to be on board the flight to Toronto. As for Kase, his status remains unclear and Cassidy was not sure he would make it to Toronto with his teammates Sunday night.
Note: An email Saturday night to Barry, who is also the Kase’s agent, was not returned.
What would Kase’s absence do in terms of the Bruins roster for the playoffs?
“I think we are two players over,” said Cassidy. “We’ll see what the best fit is for us. We do plan on taking four goaltenders. All 10 defensemen are here, but we do have some decisions to make [with forwards].”
Cassidy did say Saturday that Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was submitting the final cuts and roster Saturday night but as of Sunday, there had been no final word from the Bruins on who was heading north and who would be left behind.
As he has been throughout camp, Cassidy continues to be a realist and roll with what can only be described as very unique punches. Overall, the two-time Jack Adams Award winner has been pleased with the demeanor of those that have been present at camp, both on and off the ice.
“Everyone’s worked hard to this point, and is looking forward to getting to Toronto,” coach Cassidy said. “I think (Toronto) is a great set-up, by the sounds of it … I think we’ll be well taken care of there. Now we’ve got a job to do. I think I wasn’t sure on the demeanor of the guys in terms of having to leave to go into a bubble. They seem fine with it. Steve Kampfer explained why he opted out. Other than that, I don’t see anyone begrudgingly going to Toronto. We all have a singular focus and goal, and that’s to win the Cup. I think that’s been evident with the guys’ work ethic when they’ve come to the rink. That part of it’s been excellent.
We scripted it out as best we could with the assumption that everyone would be here, and obviously that didn’t happen. We missed some players. We did get a lot of scrimmaging in, five-on-five. We tried to build as much of that as we could. Some special teams. I guess as a coach you’re going out of here thinking, ‘OK we got two weeks, we took care of the details in every zone, video, got some special teams.”
Now it’s time for these Black and Gold Rocketmen to go finish what they started last season and finally erase the memory of losing Game 7 of the 2019 Stanely Cup Final on home ice. If they can do that, they won’t be hoisting the Cup at TD Garden but rather in an empty Scotiabank Arena. The read here though is that they’ll still feel ‘high as a kite’!