Bruins Black Aces Could Serve as X-Factor in Playoff Run

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of the 2019-20 season and postseason in the NHL. With a global pandemic still dominating the headlines, it’s easy to see why this is the case.

As it stands, it’s still unclear whether or not the 2019-20 season will resume or if it will be canceled. The former seems to be the more likely scenario of the two, but even in that regard there’s still a lot of discussion going into whether or not the NHL will resume in the regular season or postseason and what type of structure those options would take.

If the NHL does resume play, the Boston Bruins will look to finish what they started last season. A trip to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final may have ended on a bitter note, but it also helped the Bruins bond in a way that couldn’t be replicated otherwise.

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This is a big reason why the team didn’t hang their heads heading into the 2019-20 season and instead propelled their way into the limelight as the best team in the NHL.

One of the true powerhouses of the league, the Bruins led the NHL in wins (44), goal-differential (53) and were the only team to reach the 100-point mark prior to the postponement of league activities.

Bruins Depth Has Shined Bright

While the lineup is full to the brim with NHL-caliber talent, some of whom will be forced to sit in the press-box for games, the group of players known as the Black Aces will likely have a more hands-on experience this year than in years past.

The Black Aces are a group of extra skaters selected from the Providence Bruins who fill up the playoff roster in the event that the Bruins deal with injuries throughout the postseason.

Given how physical and grueling playoff hockey is, it’s never more important to have a plethora of depth and a series of fail-safes in place as a last resort.

Fortunately, the Bruins have a tremendous amount of depth throughout their roster and in their system which has also helped catapult them into the position they’re in. Injuries happen every season but few teams have been as well equipped as the Bruins to withstand them even at the top of their lineup.

Trent Frederic Providence Bruins
Trent Frederic, Providence Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If, or likely when the NHL resumes action, there’s undoubtedly going to be some sort of training camp prior to game action to help ease players back into things.

Bruins Black Aces Could Play Bigger Role This Year

While the Black Aces have typically been used exclusively as reserve players in the past, their presence could be invaluable this season as the Bruins look to put their best foot forwards in the playoffs.

If the team wants to prepare for a run, they’ll need to be prepared with a lineup they can trust. Practicing against some of the best the AHL has to offer is a nice added bonus for the team and it could also be a good opportunity for the players from Providence to show what they’re all about.

With the Calder Cup Playoffs being canceled, the Providence Bruins, winners of 12-straight games at the time of the pause, were unable to prove themselves in the postseason despite an excellent year that saw them finish in second place in the league and first place in their conference.

Preparing against players who could very likely already be in the NHL in some cases could give the Bruins a competitive edge as they get back into the thick of things once the season resumes.

Players like Jack Studnicka, Urho Vakanainen, Trent Frederic, Zach Senyshyn Jakub Zboril, Alex Petrovic and more could all see themselves on the playoff roster and could all play bigger roles behind the scenes than many will realize.

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As Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach mentioned, he’s been in contact with players and despite their season being over in the AHL, he’s instructed them to be ready when the time comes.

“I told them but they know they have a responsibility to hone their craft and make sure they are ready when that time is called,” Leach mentioned via Zoom. “It’s going to be called and it’s just a matter of when and they are very aware of that.”

For many of the players in Providence, including Studnicka, this opportunity would be a welcome one, especially after getting a taste of the Black Ace experience last year.

Jack Studnicka Boston Bruins
Jack Studnicka, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“I think it was a confidence booster for sure, to be able to be a part of that organization. The team did a very good job at making us feel like we were a part of it and to stay ready,” Studnicka said during a Zoom meeting. “I think I got a lot better as a hockey player because we were skating every day and we were able to, with the group we had, pick on certain things we needed to get better at just because we had that time and that luxury.”

Perhaps the Black Aces will play the same role they have in the past and despite the circumstances, their impacts won’t actually change things. It seems more likely than not, however, that they will have a greater impact than in the past, even if it’s not quite as clear on the surface for most fans to see.