The Bruins continued their rapid ramp-up toward playoff hockey on Wednesday morning, with the club participating in Day 3 of its Return To Play camp. Here are a few takeaways from Wednesday's on-ice session, along with other news and notes:
Wednesday was a scheduled maintenance day for a number of Bruins — with only 13 total players taking to the ice at Warrior Arena to get some work in with both skills/skating coach Kim Brandvold and goalie coach Bob Essensa.
And while a majority of Wednesday’s participants were the collection of Providence skaters called up as part of an expanded roster, the skills-centric practice session also marked the return of one of Boston’s key cogs — as David Pastrnak made his Phase 3 debut after sitting out the previous two practices due to international quarantine protocols.
Along with Pastrnak, fellow Czech winger Ondrej Kase was spotted on the ice in Brighton, albeit in the afternoon after the rest of the group wrapped things up earlier in the morning. With both Pastrnak and Kase back in the fold, the Bruins now have their full complement of NHL regulars accounted for now during their “Return To Play” camp.
Already sporting the early workings of a playoff beard, Pastrnak spent most of Wednesday’s workout shaking off the rust that has formed from four months away from NHL hockey — as the dynamic winger occasionally failed to connect on passes and other smaller miscues during drills.
But to close things out, Pastrnak was back at his usual office in the left circle, wrapping up the morning skate with a number of one-time blasts into twine.
Here were some of the participants from Wednesday’s skate:
David Pastrnak, Nick Ritchie, Connor Clifton, Zach Senyshyn, Anton Blidh, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Dan Vladar, Max Legace, Urho Vaakanainen, Paul Carey, Ondrej Kase*, Trent Frederic*
* - afternoon session
Cassidy named Jack Adams Award finalist
For the second time in three seasons, Bruce Cassidy will be vying for some major hardware come awards season, as Boston’s bench boss was named as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award on Wednesday — handed out annually to the head coach “who has contributed the most to his team’s success” that season.
The other finalists for the award — voted on by the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association — were Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella and Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault.
Cassidy, who finished as the runner-up for the Adams Trophy in 2018, is certainly deserving of another finalist nod, given that he helped lead Boston to the Presidents’ Trophy this season with 100 points (44-14-12) accrued on the year. Boston has now posted three straight 100-point campaigns, with Cassidy boasting a record of 161-66-34 (.682 winning percentage) in Boston since taking over for Claude Julien back in February 2017.
Still, even with his impressive accolades, it seems as though Cassidy never fully gets the true credit he deserves for steering the ship from a Bruins team that has managed to orchestrate another viable Cup contention window with this current core in place.
The B’s head coach will face some stiff competition from Vigneault — who took a .500 Flyers club and helped them earn a top-four seed in the upcoming playoff tournament — while Tortorella managed to take a rebuilding Columbus team without Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel and still lead them back into the playoffs.
My hunch is that Tortorella snags this one, given that not only were the Jackets missing a considerable amount of proven star talent this season, but were also largely decimated by injuries — leading all NHL clubs with 352 man-games lost to injury.
Cassidy talks Krug situation
For as much as Cassidy loves talking hockey, his conversations with his players in regards to the sticky situation that comes with contract negotiations often don’t go very far. But during this Return To Play format, Cassidy will likely make an exception when it comes to Torey Krug and his murky future in Boston.
While Cassidy often tends not to delve too deep on the business side of pro hockey, Krug is a special case — given that both player and coach spent years down in Providence working together before eventually getting a look back up in the NHL ranks.
“Only if I feel that there's stories out there and I sense a little bit of discomfort in the player,” Cassidy said of talking with players about impending free-agent uncertainty. “I try not to mess around in a player's business. That's his decision going forward. But a guy like Torey, I've had for a long time, so I have a lot of conversations with him anyway, some to do with hockey, some to do with the power play, some to do with life. So I suspect I will at some point, because it's Torey and I've had him for such a long time, but we're not going to get too deep and involved in it.
“It's just about being in the moment, you made a decision to be here, stay in the moment, everything will take care of itself for the most part, and we'll go from there and see where it goes. If he wants to talk about that. And again, the player sometimes doesn't want to have those conversations either. That's their personal business. They're here to play, they're professionals. So I expect Torey will give 100% and deal with whatever he has to deal with down the road in terms of his contract, so that's how I'll handle it.”
Studnicka staying focused:
While it remains to be seen just how viable a spot in Boston's lineup truly is for Jack Studnicka this postseason, the young forward has impressed during a couple of drills so far at Warrior, especially those in which the dynamic skater has been able to turn on the afterburners on odd-man rushes and end-to-end play. Speaking on Wednesday, Studnicka acknowledged that he's more than ready to step into a regular role with this club (likely on the wing next to David Krejci or Charlie Coyle), but isn't getting too carried away, especially with the club yet to take part in any extended scrimmages quite yet.
“I think if an opportunity were to arise, I’d be fully comfortable hopping in there and contributing to winning,” Studnicka said. “But right now I’m just trying to put my head down and work as hard as I can and show the management that if an opportunity like that were to happen that they should have confidence in me.”