After four-month pause: the chase for Lord Stanley begins!
Its official! Hockey is back and the black and gold are poised for another Stanely Cup run. The Bruins now have the opportunity to silence all the doubters after 2013 and extremely ugly and disappointing performance in Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues last June.
When the NHL paused the season; the Bruins had 12 games left to go on the schedule. The B's had became the league's first 100 point team. When the return to play format was finalized and announced on May 26th, the Bruins were the only 100 point team and were deemed President's trophy winners for having the league's best record.
It was earlier this month that the NHL and the NHLPA completed the full "return-to-play" protocols and also announced that the current CBA (ratified in January 2013) was extended an additional four-years, which means the current CBA is now set to expire on September 15, 2026. With these announcements, the league was able to proceed with phases three and four. Training Camps opened up July 13th.
The Bruins and the rest of the Eastern Conference playoff teams will be playing their games in Toronto while the Western Conference playoff teams will be in Edmonton.
The Bruins have a chance to be a rare team. Return to the Stanley Cup Final and win after losing the previous year. The last team to accomplish that feet were the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bruins have the talent to do so as this four-month pause gave grizzled vets like Captain Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and others a chance to get off their feet and recover from any nagging injuries they suffered prior to the pause.
This restart also raises questions for the Bruins not only heading into the playoffs, but also for future seasons. Questions like, how will the team respond after such a long layoff? How will David Pastrnak look? Will Rask be up to the challenge to play every single minute of the restarted season? How much gas does Chara have left in the tank? Will these be Torey Krug's final games as a Bruin?
We won't know the answers to any of the questions until they start playing games. We will find out the answer about Krug once the Bruins season is officially over.
What is known is that the Bruins may have to play their round-robin games and potentially the beginning of their playoff run without the likes of Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase. Both who came from the Czech Republic, had to quarantine for 14 days; might have to again as Pastrank was seen in Boston's North End working out and possibly came into contact with someone who has the virus. Both players have been placed on the "unable-to-play" list. However, both players can return to the team after they receive negative tests.
Along with Pastrnak and Kase on the "unfit-to-play" list are David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Charlie Coyle, Chris Wagner, Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask. Currently Pastrnak and Kase are under COVID quarantine procedure. Meanwhile Krug, Krejci Kuraly, Colye and Wagner are under precautionary hold out. Rask on the other had has a splint on his index finger on his catching hand. Jaroslav Halak and Max Lagace will be taking the load of the work until Tuukka is ready to go. Rask should be ready for the Bruins fist game of the round-robin.
According to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy earlier in the week when camp opened, he said they practiced with a lot of energy, the tempo was there and guys already seemed focused one the task at hand. That is a positive sign to hear as a fan given how the Bruins were playing at an extremely high level prior to the league pausing on March 12 due to the pandemic. Given how this was the Bruins first full team practice since the middle of March, and for Cassidy to make those remarks, sounds like the Bruins are not all concerned with the suddenly condensed schedule that they could potentially see in the playoffs.
It is expected that the Bruins will travel to Toronto on either July 25 or July 26 to gear up for the restart. The Bruins are slated to play the Columbus Blue Jackets in an exhibition game on July 30 to prepare.
The Bruins first game in the round-robin will be against the Philadelphia Flyers on August 2 where they are going to be deemed as the home team. The Bruins play the Tampa Bay Lightning on August 5 and the Washington Capitals on August 9. If the B's win two of the the three games, the Bruins will be the number one overall seed for the playoffs as they own all tiebreakers against the Flyers, Lightning and Capitals. Plus the Bruins will have benefit of the President's trophy so they will get the final line change in games 1,2,5 and 7 of each series. The Bruins could fall to the fourth seed if they lose all three round-robin games. All round-robin games will be played under regular-season overtime/shootout rules.
NESN; who is the television home for the Boston Bruins; is expected to air all three round-robin games and select first round games. If the Bruins make it past the first round, all games will be nationally televised on either NBC or NBCSN going forward. All Bruins games will also be broadcasted locally through 98.5 The Sports Hub. The radio home of the Boston Bruins.
(Note: both radio and television broadcasts will be done remotely)
The official start to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers is August 1st. The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is slated to begin on August 11. the Second Round will begin tentatively on August 25. The Conference Finals beginning tentatively on September 8th, with the Stanley Cup Final set to begin tentatively on September 22. The last possible game for the playoffs is set for October 4. These starting dates are subject to change. Both the Conference Finals and the Cup Final will be played in Edmonton.
Can the Bruins run through gauntlet again and capture Lord Stanley? Or will the 2019-20 Bruins season end in yet another disappointing fashion?