Bruins Are Right to Rest Key Players Down the Stretch

Baseball has the Dog Days of Summer, hockey has the what? Thawing Days of Early Spring? I don’t know, it needs work for sure, but the verbiage is less important than the concept, that spring is a time for rejuvenation. The NHL season is a marathon, and 82 games of physical play take their toll on a player and a team. That is why wrapping up a playoff position early is so important. It allows players who will be important to a team’s playoff success to rest and recover, ever so slightly, before the even more physical brand of playoff hockey rolls around.

While the Bruins have not officially locked in their playoff seeding, it is a foregone conclusion the team will make the playoffs. All that remains to be seen is who the opponent will be. With this playoff certainty comes the luxury to rest some key players. Granted, the seeding still remains an important factor and this is one reason they continue to take to the ice rather than presenting a lineup closer to the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins. But the comfortable cushion on even the second wild card team, the Washington Capitals, has allowed their coaching staff to give extra days of rest and recovery to nagging injuries for players like Hampus Lindholm and David Pastrnak.

Hampus Lindholm

Following his arrival from the Anaheim Ducks, Lindholm has seamlessly slid into the Bruins’ top pair, creating one of the league’s strongest duos with Charlie McAvoy. He has played a heavy dose of minutes since the trade and has given Bruins fans reason to applaud general manager Don Sweeney’s work to make the deal happen.

Hampus Lindholm Boston Bruins
Hampus Lindholm, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Head coach Bruce Cassidy has shown he relies on the Lindholm-McAvoy pairing, and this reliance will only intensify in the playoffs, where one bad shift could swing a series. It is not unreasonable to think Lindholm’s ice time will jump from his regular-season mark, where he averaged just under 24 minutes per game. While endurance is not an issue here, the fact that he has some extra time to rest his body for what he and the team hope will be a long playoff run is a luxury to take advantage of.

David Pastrnak

The Bruins’ best goal scorer has been out of the lineup recently nursing a core injury. It sounds like the injury is annoying, but if they needed David Pastrnak in the lineup for, say, a playoff game, he could play. This is another example of the team and player utilizing the luxury their playoff cushion allows.

Related: Bruins Benefiting from Pastrnak’s Elite Play in Recent Stretch

After a slow start, Pastrnak had been on a torrid pace prior to his injury. The chemistry he showed with Erik Haula and Taylor Hall alleviated the secondary scoring concern so many fans held towards Bruins teams for so many years. In an ideal world, Pasta would be able to return to the Bruins’ lineup for a “tune-up” in the final few regular-season games, to get his skates back under him and back up to game speed before hitting the ice for a playoff game. This return would also allow the Bruins’ second line to utilize in-game reps, rather than reconnecting only on the practice sheet of ice.

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I would contend, however, that Pastrnak is the quality of player who could step right into a playoff series after an extended layoff and remain impactful. In my mind, a fully healthy, or as close to fully healthy as possible, he is more important than rushing a return for the final three games, for example, so he can regain touches during the 60 minutes of an NHL game.

Give The Boys a Rest

Every team in the East will be playing a very solid opponent. That means there will be no easy round at any point for the Bruins or any of the other seven representatives from the Eastern Conference. In that vein, having a top-pair defenseman with an added amount of rest may be the deciding factor in a series. While it sucks as a fan going to a game and not getting to see some of the top players in action, pulling back to the 50,000-foot view, the chance to watch these players push for a Stanley Cup and potentially bring a championship back to Boston is more important than whether or not “Pasta” suits up to play the Buffalo Sabres in late April.

The Bruins have earned the ability to coast into the playoffs. While seeding is relevant (for my money I would much prefer a date with the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Tampa Bay Lightning), the health and fitness of the team are more important than burning valuable energy in an attempt to jockey for playoff position for a first-round series that will almost certainly be intense, as any playoff series is likely to push closer to the full seven games rather than the shorter end of four or five.

The Bruins should do everything in their power to roll into the playoffs with as healthy a roster as possible, rather than being so concerned with whether they end up third in the Atlantic Division or as the first Wild Card team in the Eastern Conference. What matters is if the team can string together 16 victories and raise the Stanley Cup. Those games carry more weight than game 77 of 82 at the end of April, so they should give the guys a rest while they still can afford to.

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