Boston Bruins president Cam Neely spoke to the media via zoom on Thursday. Neely touched on topics from Tuukka Rask’s decision to opting out of the Stanley Cup playoffs to players he believed stepped up.
Neely did confirm that Rask did leave due to a family emergency, but did not answer on if Rask would possibly return to the bubble.
“I have not spoken to Tuukka the last few days,” said Neely. “Obviously, as you know, as Don [Sweeney] mentioned, he came to us and spoke to us the morning of game three, where he said he had to go home and deal with a family emergency, so we respected that. Now it’s about the guys that are here and the team that we have here that we have to focus.”
Neely On Bruins Players Stepping Up
And with the remaining players that the Bruins have, they have stepped up. Jaroslav Halak went 3-0 after Rask left, and when David Pastrnak missed games 2-4 due to being “unfit to play”, players such as David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle, and Connor Clifton all seized the opportunity to fill the hole.
“He’s a competitor,” said Neely on Halak. “Both on and off the ice. He’s well focused. I think obviously a little surprising to get the call when he did. As a backup goaltender, you have to be prepared to come in at any time. I thought he stepped in and did a good job for us. He’s very intense, but he’s got a great sense of humor. I don’t necessarily compare him to Tim [Thomas]. He battles out there. He wants to stop all the pucks, like most goalies obviously do.”
Krejci took Pastrnak’s spot on the power play while Pastrnak was out. And during those games before Pastrnak’s return, Krejci had five points (1g, 4a), but had 8 points in the five games against the Hurricanes in the first round. 5 of those points game on the power play during the series.
“I might compare him a little more to Craig [Janney],” said Neely on Krejci. “He makes those nice soft feathery passes. He’s more of a pass first guy but he’s worked on his shot. He’s scored some big goals for us over the years in the postseason. But he sees the ice extremely well. He does like to slow the pace down a little bit when he gets into the offensive zone. He really wants to see what his options are to move the puck. What I’ve found with him over the years is that if he doesn’t see a pass right away, he won’t be afraid to put it on net.”
Players like Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle also stepped up with the absence of Pastrnak. DeBrusk had two goals in the Game 4 comeback for the Bruins, while Coyle had two goals and one assist during the series.
“We had a taste of what they could do last postseason,” said Neely. “Obviously, Jake [DeBrusk], and he’ll say it himself, he’s somewhat of a streaky player. He got hot at the right time for us there, and Charlie [McAvoy] just continues to grow and develop into one of the top defenseman’s in the league. Charlie Coyle, he’s a great – he’s a workhorse. Fits in really well on that third line. He controls the puck really well. These guys knew what it took to get do game seven last year in the finals. We expected them to elevate their game once the playoffs started. The actual playoffs.”
And, if there is one new player who may have a permanent spot on the roster for the remainder of the Stanly Cup playoffs, that guy just may be defenseman Connor Clifton. Clifton, a plus-3 during the series against the Hurricanes, and two points (1g, 1a), has shown his ability to move the puck of the defensive zone, and has quick decision making skills and foot speed.
“He brings an element of physicality to his game,” mentioned Neely. “When he simplifies his game and just makes a good first pass in our zone, it certainly helps his game and gets some confidence. We like him playing physical. I think he surprises a lot of people still about how solid he is. He’s a thick kid. When you are in those depth roles, it’s a little bit challenging mentally. But these guys have done a good job. You’re practicing more than playing. You’re on the ice longer than the players are. But you also have to mentally prepare yourself to play and that’s what Connor did.”
After taking down Carolina, the Bruins will play the waiting game. While Neely does no know who the Bruins will be playing due to the different scenarios that could happen, he hopes they be able to start the second round by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.