Brandon Share-Cohen The Hockey Writers
Bruins News & Rumors: NHL Hub City, Player Playoff Availability & More
In today’s edition of Boston Bruins News & Rumors, head coach Bruce Cassidy discussed the potential for Toronto being a Hub City for the playoffs, the concern players may have about playing given the circumstances and he would announce his goalies for the playoffs. Additionally, Joakim Nordstrom has returned to Boston.
Bruce Cassidy Speaks on Toronto as a Hub City
When it comes to the 2020 NHL Playoffs, there is still so much uncertainty surrounding a timeline, the way teams are going to handle playing competitive hockey again after essentially a full offseason-length pause as well as the locations of the hub cities in which these games will be played.
In regards to the hub cities, Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked about how he felt about Toronto being discussed as a potential city where the NHL would resume play. The question makes sense given the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs have re-formed a legitimate rivalry in recent years and have played in each of the last two postseasons against one-another.
Cassidy didn’t seem to be too worried about Toronto as a destination
“We’ve played well in that arena in the playoffs for the most part, so that’s a positive. There’s 12 teams from the east, so the chances you’re going to run into [the Toronto Maple Leafs], who knows, right? That would be speculation. I think it is an advantage; if someone told me we could play at the Garden, I’d happily do it first and foremost than travel somewhere else.”
The Bruins have gone 3-3 in Toronto since Cassidy took over as the head coach of the team and those six games in the playoff mindset certainly hold some weight. At the same time, nobody can anticipate exactly how the playoff atmosphere will feel this year given the circumstances and the fact that the arenas will be null of fans.
Cassidy did mention that the ideal situation would be for the league to resume play in two non-playoff city venues, but he also has no idea what’s going to happen and feels that the Bruins will be ready regardless of the location.
Bruins Players’ Playoff Availability
While the Bruins are expected to be ready and are likely to be at full-strength minus Kevan Miller, there’s still some concern about whether players will make themselves available during the postseason or not.
Related: Bruins News & Rumors: Miller, Awards & Playoffs
For the most part, many players in the NHL seem to be on board with a return to action, but there’s also legitimate reason to be hesitant or to sit out from the playoffs altogether.
Though hockey and sports as a whole may be nearing returns, there’s no denying the seriousness of the situation at hand. We’re still in the middle of a global pandemic and because of this, players who either don’t feel comfortable for their own personal safety or for the safety of their families are well within their right to stay home and not play in the postseason.
Though the Bruins don’t appear to have anyone looking to sit out due to the virus right now, Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy did mention that players have the right to work in a safe environment and if there were concerns, he’d be willing to have a conversation with those players and figure out a solution.
“We’d try to get to the root. Is it a health issue or is something deeper in there? If that’s the way they felt, I don’t know how we stop them. It’s that simple. I think it’s the player’s right to work in a safe environment,” Cassidy said on the subject. “That’s why the NHL is doing everything they can. They don’t want this to happen … We’d have to have an internal discussion. See if there’s something that would make them feel more comfortable. But at the end of the day, if that’s the way they feel we’d have to honor their request.”
If any player on the Bruins’ playoff roster is to feel uneasy, they should rest assured that they can express themselves freely and safely rather than keeping those concerns to themselves.
Joakim Nordstrom Returns, Self-Quarantines
One player who recently returned to the United States from Sweden was Joakim Nordstrom. Though Nordstrom did spend the first two weeks of the NHL’s pause in Boston, he and his girlfriend would return to Sweden to spend the majority of the off-time before returning to Boston.
Due to the fact that he was abroad, Nordstrom has been self-quarantining since his return. He’s already tested negative for COVID-19 three times and should he test negative one more time later in the week, he’ll be cleared and eligible to skate at Warrior Ice Arena as early as Monday, July 6.
Nordstrom scored four goals and seven points in 48 games this season and is in the final year of his contract; something he’s thought about as he’ll be playing for a new deal when the playoffs begin.
“I think [playing for a contract in the postseason is] definitely something that crossed my mind,” Nordstrom said in a call with media Tuesday. “With the season that I had too, with injuries and sickness … if we get to play now that’s also a positive for me in terms of putting myself in a better position for free agency or what happens next for next year. So yeah, it’s a little bit different than years in the past, so this is probably the new normal.”
Nordstrom has scored 11 goals and 19 points in 118 games sinc ejoining the Bruins in 2018. He’s been an effective fourth-line forward and it’ll be interesting to see if he and the Bruins have mutual interest in a new deal or if he’ll find himself playing elsewhere next season.
Bruins Playoff Goalies
Another topic of discussion heading into the postseason was playoff roster personnel. Though teams have the ability to carry as many goaltenders as they’d like in the playoffs this season, the Bruins are opting to go with just four in Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak, Manny Lagace and Dan Vladar.
This was the expected route for the Bruins to go and it keeps things simple for them as they prepare for what could be another long playoff run this season.
Rask and Halak remain the two goalies most likely to see any sort of game action when the playoffs commence with Rask as the starter and Halak as his backup. The two would win the William M. Jennings Trophy t his season for the fewest goals allowed this year with a combined 167, or a 2.39 goals-against average in 70 games.
Lagace and Vladar were both successful in Providence this season as Lagace would go 22-7-3 while allowing just 74 goals in 33 games. He’d record a .919 save percentage and 2.37 goals-against average with five shutouts this season.
For Vladar, injuries took a toll on the 22-year-old but didn’t stop him from putting up a stellar season in the AHL this year. He’d go 14-7-1 with a .936 save percentage and 1.79 goals-against average with three shutouts.
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