The Boston Bruins completed their 0-for-3 showing in the NHL Round-Robin with a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Bruins will now play the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and a rematch of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final that the Bruins swept.
Here’s your Boston Hockey Now five takeaways from another so-so at best showing by a team many picked to win the Stanley Cup or at least come out of the Eastern Conference again. Would they do the same now? We dissect that and more from what was best described as a one long waking up from hibernation for the Bruins in the round-robin.
Bruins Ready To Switch To ‘Real Hockey’
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask probably said it best after he and his teammates dropped their third and last of three round-robin games Sunday.
“It’s over now. Now we start real hockey.”
The question for the Bruins though is whether they can just turn that switch on for their first round tilt with a Hurricanes team that just swept the New York Rangers with ease in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers?
Throughout the round-robin round and even in their dismal 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in an exhibition on July 30, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has been adamant in his and the team’s approach to the last four games that were all losses. The Bruin lost 4-1 to the Blue Jackets and then to the Flyers by the same score in their first round-robin game on August 2. They looked absolutely dismal in both games and better in a 3-2 loss to the Lightning last Wednesday and then to the Capitals on Sunday. Following the loss Sunday, the Bruins bench boss wasn’t changing the tune-up mantra as far as the round-robin goes and once again seemed encouraged.
“We got better defensively against good offensive teams in Tampa and Washington,” Cassidy said. “We tightened up there structurally. I thought we got through the neutral zone well the last few games, better offensively so that’s starting to come. Guys that have been there, obviously those stakes are still in the ground. You look at our top line, they’ve been held off the scoresheet.
I believe that it’s going to be a tough task for Carolina to do that on a consistent basis. I think that those guys will be able to get their game going. But we’re going to need that primary scoring for one. Maybe some of that will come to life on the power play. I liked our compete today. That’s the other thing. You’re not going to win in the playoffs if you’re not competitive. That part, we’re generally healthy through these four games. Got some guys some much-needed work that missed camp. Those are the positives.”
The second Line Comes Together For Bruins
Ever since the Bruins acquired forward Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks on February 21, Cassidy has been envisioning Kase finally being that regular scoring presence on the right side of center David Krejci and left winger Jake DeBrusk. On Sunday he got his wish and while it was just one sample size of what this trio might be able to provide in terms of scoring depth in the playoffs, they delivered. DeBrusk took a nice feed from Kase and put a nice move on Capitals goalie Brayden Holtby at 10:30 of the third period to cut the Capitals’ lead to 2-1. Krejci had the secondary helper and the goal was the result of some smooth puck cycling the new linemates had going all game.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) August 9, 2020
DeBrusk was impressed with Kase in his first game of the round-robin.
“He’s obviously a fast skater. He pushes the pace and I like to play that way too,” Debrusk said of his new right wing. “I think we wanted to keep it simple today and just getting everything deep, even if it didn’t look clean in the neutral zone, just put it to an area. I thought that he was on pucks and he almost got a good look there as well. Obviously, there’s positives, it’s just a matter of staying consistent now and learning each other. Like you said, I haven’t really played with him. I thought it was a decent first game.”
Is Top Line Ready?
Let’s be real! As the top line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak goes, so go the Bruins. Yes, on paper, the Bruins have scoring depth but the revolving door of the second line right wing and the streaky play of DeBrusk, leave enough in doubt to know that ‘The Perfection Line needs to be as close to perfect a possible for the Bruins to get back to the Stanley Cup Final. There’s no doubt that the Bruins weren’t concerned about wins in the round-robin but the performance of their top trio is a bit worrisome.
As Dan Kingerski pointed out in an in-depth shift breakdown of Patrnak’s game Sunday, the co-Rocket Richard winner, who tied Alex Ovechkin for the league-lead with 48 goals this season, played better in the third period Sunday and that could be a good sign going forward. Pastrnak had plenty of shots in the round-robin with 13 but he finished with no points and was a minus 3. Marchand was also a no-show in the points department and a minus 3 as well. The pesky winger had five shots on goal in the round-robin. Bergeron did notch an assist and had nine shots on goal but was a minus 1.
There’s no doubt this line can dominate but they will need to turn that switch on ASAP to do so!
Rask Is Ready To Go!
Sometimes. …well too many times, the relaxed attitude of Rask gets misinterpreted and if there’s one player who’s proven he can just turn that frequently mentioned switch on, it’s the Finnish netminder. To be honest, what I’ve learned from covering plenty of Finnish hockey players over the years, is they’re simply chill dudes but they’re also passionate about the game! They show that passion with their play and in two round-robin games, Rask, while chill in Zoom calls with the media, has been in the playoff zone. After making 34 saves against the Lightning last Wednesday, Rask stopped 23 of 25 saves in what was a boring and nightmare game for goalie’s to stay focused.
“I think these first round-robin games or whatever they were, you just try to shake the rust off and get your team game in a place you want it to be,” the 2020 Vezina Trophy Finalist said Sunday. “I think we kind of improved over these three games. We worked very hard for our goals, just didn’t get rewarded but I think that’s going to come, you find a way. It doesn’t matter what seed you are, you have to beat every team anyways if you want to advance. I think we feel good. It’s over now and we start real hockey.
Sure yeah, got to play a couple games. I think there’s enough action that you got your rhythm back. Obviously the first period today there was nothing going on besides the goal. But then in the second they had some looks there on the power play and got some saves too so felt good.”
Could Clifton Replace Lauzon for Game 1?
Jeremy Lauzon has been a mainstay on the Bruins’ third defensive pairing since late January and through this NHL Return but after Cassidy decided to put Connor Clifton in to shake off some rust, it sounds like Clifton may have done more than that. Clifton was a minus 1 but in 15:39 he had two shots and didn’t shy away from pinching in on a play. He also had five hits and one blocked shot. Following the game, Cassidy intimated that he may choose last year’s playoff surprise over Lauzon for Game 1.
“We’ll look at it closer, but yeah, Cliffy is a guy that is not afraid of the moment,” Cassidy said Sunday. “It keeps lefty, righty. It’s a smaller pair with him and Grizz [Matt Grzelcyk] but we saw it last year. It played well at times against good teams so we are certainly not afraid of that look. We can certainly move people around to balance the size aspect. I guess to answer your question, I don’t know yet if it’s going to be [Jeremy] Lauzon, Clifton – Johnny Moore is another guy that we know can play. We looked for the balance in size with the Griz with the Lauzon pairing. I think Jeremy has been ok but like when he first came to us, some repetitions for the bigger guy take time. So do we have that luxury or not? We’ll have to make that decision in the next few days.”