When the National Hockey League announced their 24-team playoff format at the end of May that is scheduled to begin Aug. 1, the Boston Bruins knew that they would have time to get some games in under their belts before the playoffs start. In the first place of the Atlantic Division at the time of the league pause due to the coronavirus on March 12, they will be one of four teams that will participate in the Eastern Conference round-robin tournament that will determine the top four seeding positions for the playoffs.
The Bruins will play one game each against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals. Coach Bruce Cassidy has said that the club will take a cautious approach to the tournament since seeding is not a big deal in their eyes with no home-ice advantage at stake. With that said, there is an advantage to playing in the round-robin tournament for the newest Bruins who will benefit before they officially begin their playoff march.
Nobody on the current roster will use the three tournaments more to their advantage than two players that the Bruins acquired before the trade deadline in separate deals from the Anaheim Ducks in February.
Bruins Get Right-Wing Help in Kase
In February of 2019, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney made two trades to acquire Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild and Marcus Johansson from the New Jersey Devils. Both players struggled in the final month-plus of the regular season in Boston, but both played key roles in the Bruins run to the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.
This year at the trade deadline, Sweeney’s first deal with the Ducks was to get Ondrej Kase for David Backes and the Bruins first-round pick in the 2020 draft. The Bruins were looking for Kase to solve their right-wing problems on the second line next to David Krejci. In a short sample size of just six games with Boston, he only registered an assist before the league pause.
The 24-year old Kase has 13 playoff games under his belt in his young career, all with the Ducks. In 2016-17, he had two goals in nine games, while he failed to get on the score sheet in 2017-18 in four postseason games. A 20-goal scorer in that regular-season, he has the skill and ability to solve the Bruins problem of second-line scoring as a right-wing next to Krejci, but needs to learn to on the fly.
Kase has yet to practice with the Bruins along with fellow countrymen David Pastrnak as they have returned to Boston from the Czech Republic, but they have not fulfilled the required COVID-19 testing to be on the ice. When he does get on the ice, Kase would benefit from the three round-robin games the Bruins will play to get some chemistry down with new linemates and teammates.
More Wing Help with Ritchie
The second trade Sweeney was able to make with Anaheim was to acquire Nick Ritchie in exchange for struggling Danton Heinen. Ritchie had a goal and an assist in seven games for the Black and Gold before the season was paused. He played six games alongside Krejci and Kase, but the trio struggled and was unable to form any chemistry.
There are a lot of moving parts to the Bruins forward grouping this season. Ritchie at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds can play a couple of different roles. He could be a fit on the Bruins third line with center Charlie Coyle to give the Bruins a foundation of a heavy line that brings a physical presence with their bottom-six forwards should things not work out with Kase and Krejci. Ritchie has played in 19 playoff games himself with the Ducks over two seasons with four goals in 15 games during the 2016-17 postseason.
Two weeks of training camp and the three round-robin tournament games would go a long way to Ritchie finding chemistry with whichever line he ends up on.
Round Robin Games to Benefit Duo
The Bruins have arguably the top line in the NHL with Rocket Richard Trophy co-winner David Pastrnak (48 goals), Patrice Bergeron (56 points) and Brad Marchand (59 assists). After that, it gets a little unclear. Kase was acquired to add right-wing scoring on the second line with Krejci and Ritchie was added as a second or third-line left wing.
Wherever Cassidy decides to play them, the three Bruins round-robin tournament games will go a long way in giving Kase and Ritchie more time learning the Bruins system and forming chemistry before their first playoff series in mid-August.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.