David Pastrnak set to practice as Bruins begin life in Toronto
The Bruins will have their first full practice in Toronto later Monday afternoon, their hub city for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And for the first time since March, David Pastrnak will join his teammates, skating in his usual spot to the right of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
Although he won’t practice Monday, Nick Ritchie—who missed three straight practices before heading to Toronto—did fly with the team on Sunday. Ondrej Kase was the only Bruins skater who did not travel with the team.
“David was here, Ritchie was here, Kase will meet us later. We were short one guy, Ondrej was not on the plane,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said Monday as the league began media availability for the 24 playoff teams. “David will practice today, Ritchie I don’t believe will practice today, obviously Ondrej not here won’t, everyone else will.”
Cassidy expects Kase to join them in Toronto at some point.
Per the NHL’s rules on quarantining, once Kase is cleared and allowed to travel to Toronto, he will be required to quarantine in his hotel for four-days, putting the odds of Kase being available for the beginning of round-robin play at risk.
Although it’s a disappointment not having Kase available as the Bruins hit the ice in Toronto on Monday, getting Pastrnak and his 48 goals back is a positive step forward for a Bruins team that hit some road bumps getting through things back in Boston.
“David, young guy, typically in good shape. He’s going on the ice today with the main group and we’ll mix him in with Bergy [Bergeron] and Marsh [Marchand] on line rushes. We were off yesterday, there is no real plan to scrimmage today. It’s get our legs back under us, get acclimated. For him, it’s more about himself than worrying about what line he’s on. That’s the plan for David, we’ll see how he progresses,” Cassidy said.
“He looks great, probably needs a haircut. Other than that, I expect him to be ready to go, excited to be with his teammates. You know Pasta, he loves the game, loves being around his teammates, has lots of personality, very gregarious young guy, good to have him back. I expect he’ll pick up fairly quickly.”
Skating as his center for nearly all of Pastrnak’s tenure in Boston, Bergeron has built tremendous chemistry with Pastrnak and Marchand as linemates. Despite the lack of practice time together since training camp began, Bergeron does not expect any chemistry issues when Pastrnak joins the line Monday.
“For us, chemistry has always kind of been—we just pick up where we left off. For him it’s just going to be get used to getting on the ice and skating and getting his rhythm back, timing and all that.,” Bergeron said. “We’re going to try and help him as much as we can, but I don’t think he needs that much help. He’s one of those guys that he gets back and he’s so talented and it always seems effortless."
The Bruins got to Toronto late Sunday night, and with media availability Monday morning, followed by practice later in the afternoon, the Bruins haven’t had much time to explore the inside of their bubble and see what protocols the NHL has put forth to keep everyone safe.
But in their limited time in the bubble, Bergeron has been pleased with what he has seen.
“So far so good. We got in late last night so we haven’t really been around too much. But so far the hotel is great, no complaints. Lots of unknown I guess when we stepped on the plane, and kind of excited, looking forward to what’s coming next,” said Bergeron.
“It seems like the protocols have been working along great, and people have followed the rules and guidelines. From what I’ve seen, we’ve only been here for a few hours, but it seems very safe and thought out and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to finish this playoffs.”
On Monday the NHL revealed that in Phase 3 there were just two positive COVID-19 test results, and since July 18 4,256 tests have been administrated with zero positive tests coming back.
Of course one positive test could trigger an outbreak and cause chaos inside the bubble as we are now seeing with the Miami Marlins and Major League Baseball. But being inside a bubble as the NHL is doing, hopefully is enough to contain the virus, and the spread of it should any tests come back positive.
“Obviously it’s a concern. Different sport then ours obviously, I just think sports coming back in general is good for society. The players and staff are able to stay healthy, put a good product on the field or on the ice, whatever the case may be, like I said, good for everybody,” said Cassidy.
“Hopefully it’s a one-time incident to Florida being a little bit more of a hot spot right now. So far, we’re all healthy here. Haven’t heard of any issues in regards to the National Hockey League, players or staff.”
Like Bergeron and Cassidy, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is happy with the phases and protocols that the league has put into place.
“I think everybody is trying their best to make everything safe and possible for us to return to play,” said Chara. “That’s why we had these different phases of protocols and safety rules. I think so far it’s been good and we just to continue to follow the regulations and safety protocols and hopefully it stays that way.”
Before heading to Toronto on Sunday, the Bruins had to trim their roster, cutting Paul Carey and Anton Blidh from the group. Cassidy said the final cut came down to Zach Senyshyn, Trent Frederic and Blidh.
“All the guys that came from Providence, were told we would have to bear down the roster. We pretty much determined that we were going to take the four goaltenders because we didn’t want to get stuck in a position for guys not practicing needing to come in all of a sudden, so that took away an opportunity from a forward,” said Cassidy.
“When Steven Kampfer opted out, we were looking at 10 D and they were here. They were instructed that two forward would not be going unless the rules changed, which they didn’t.”
One of the benefits of Pastrnak and Kase missing training camp to date has been the opportunity given to players such as Karson Kuhlman and Jack Studnicka, as both have seen time on the right side of the Bruins top two lines.
But from the sounds of it, Studnicka has left quite the impression through this hybrid training camp.
“Jack was a little different scenario. I thought he was a little ahead of those guys. His performance dictated more of his presence here, whereas the other ones were looking at filling in down the road,” said Cassidy. “With Zach being a right shot and David and Ondrej not practicing, we’re a little light on right shots at times anyway. Now we’ve moved Jack to the right side and that’s alleviated some of that on the right wing, but that was the ultimate decision.”
How much of a role Studnicka, if any, plays remains to be seen. But if anything, Studnicka has improved his stock in the Bruins organization heading into what will be a rather unique 2020-21 season.
“I think he’s a very good player, very talented. It’s pretty amazing seeing him from training camp to now, he’s taken a huge step forward,” said Bergeron.
“Seems to be getting better, got stronger also. His speed—seems like he’s getting faster which is scary. Very good player, smart, seems to play the right way.”