Were the Boston Bruins arrogant or smart with their ‘preseason’ approach to the round-robin round?
Can the Boston they jump from preseason mode to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a span of 53 hours?
We will find out tonight as the Bruins take on the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in a rematch of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final. One thing’s for sure, the Bruins are either going to like geniuses or arrogant fools when all is said and done. Their Laissez-faire and frankly cavalier approach have plenty of handicappers and media pundits taking the Hurricanes in what surprisingly after the Bruins started the NHL Return as the odds on favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
On Monday, Bruins winger Brad Marchand flat-out confirmed to the media that he and his teammates treated their three round-robin games as preseason games.
“I think that we’re in a position where really what we’ve gone through the last four games, it really doesn’t mean anything,” Marchand told reporters. “We’re not going to look at it and base the next series off what’s happened. Those were preseason games. I mean, let’s call it what it is. They’re exhibition games for the playoffs. And we were in the same position as other teams, and it’s hard to have the same mentality as a playoff series. So we’re not going to base our performance or what it’s going to be against Carolina on that.”
In a phone call with Boston Hockey Now, one veteran NHL pro scout couldn’t see how that was possible.
“I’m sorry but you just don’t flick a switch like that,” the scout said Tuesday morning. “I’ve played with hall of farmers and scouted future hall of famers and I can tell you that this script the Bruins decided to write and stick to in the round-robin likely won’t have a good ending.”
This well-respected bird dog acknowledged the uniqueness of the NHL Return, the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, and round-robin, and now the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and believes that should’ve provided more incentive for the Bruins to get their intensity to playoff level in the round-robin and not to wait for Game 1.
“You’re playing for the Stanley Cup here; do or die, and that intensity and momentum you usually generate from the fans are gone,” the scout said. “That’s what the round-robin should’ve been for: a chance to build that and replace that feeling gradually through a few games so you can do it off the drop in Game 1. I just don’t get purposely treating it as a preseason game and brushing off that chance to get somewhat where you need to be.”
Truth be told, this puck scribe isn’t exactly on even DEFCON 3 but this scout, who estimated that’s easily watched 1,000 games or more from his perch in NHL and AHL arenas across North America and also plenty of games in Europe, isn’t wrong to be skeptical of this nonchalant approach by the Bruins. Neither are fellow media members or Bruins fans.
Even if the Bruins were holding back and could find another gear against the Hurricanes, they still missed an opportunity to really find a groove in certain areas of their game. One key area that looked absolutely brutal was the powerplay. Yes it’s been five months since the Bruins finished second in the league on the man advantage, scoring at a were 0-for-9 on the man-advantage in the round-robin and simply looked disinterested in dictating the play or generating real chances.
The Bruins went 7-for-15 on the powerplay against the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final and on Monday head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked if they use the man-advantage as an x-factor again after the dismal round-robin showing?
“Last year, our power play was really good against Carolina, helped us a lot — particularly in Game 1 in the third period, we got on the board a couple of times, it helped us win games,” Cassidy said in his daily Zoom call with the media. “That’s something that is going to be a big X factor in this series. Can we replicate that success? So, that’s something that is a bit of an unknown because we, in the round-robin, we didn’t have a lot of success in it. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to build it, especially with certain guys out of the lineup in practice. So, that’s one area that we’re going to have to be cleaner and sharper on to help us battle through the days we’re not getting 5-on-5 scoring.”
Speaking of 5-on-5, the Bruins were outscored 8-4 at even strength and the team’s top line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak didn’t register a goal and had just one assist in the round-robin. Marchand didn’t seem worried about that, the powerplay or anything really.
“We’re going to do what we have to do and we’re all going to be dedicated and we’re going to compete,” the pesky winger said. “That’s what our team does. We compete and work and we try to play our game. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Cassidy made sure to make it clear in his game-day media zoom call Tuesday that the Bruins certainly aren’t focused on where the money in Vegas is going or what any of us couch prognosticators are saying about his team right now.
“I don’t concern myself with predictions,” Cassidy said. “We’ll be ready to play. We came in with this with a mindset that we’d build for Game 1.”
There’s no doubt here that, as he always does, Cassidy and his staff will do everything they can to have the players ready to prove the suddenly growing group of naysayers wrong. The doubt though is that the great unknown that has loomed over the NHL Return, sports, and life, has left us wondering whether this team can still flick that switch and be ready for the Stanley Cup playoffs?
The read here is yes but it won’t be easy. Bruins in 7.