'Great to be back' in playoffs for Bruins after two-year absence

'Great to be back' in playoffs for Bruins after two-year absence

BRIGHTON, Mass – Lost amid the suspensions, injuries and match-up drama for the Boston Bruins in the final week of the regular season was the simple fact that the Black and Gold were finally back in the postseason. It’s been a welcomed departure over the last couple of days with the Bruins excitedly chatting about playoff hockey and their first round opponent in Ottawa after missing out on all of this in each of the previous two postseasons.

Absence has clearly made this core group of Bruins players very fond of Stanley Cup playoff hockey, so they’re looking forward to making up for lost time once the puck is dropped for Game 1 on Wednesday night at the Canadian Tire Centre. It will be interesting to see what this combination of Cup-proven veterans and young upstarts can do in the postseason matched against the trap-happy Senators along with 1-3-1 mastermind/head coach Guy Boucher.

“We’re all very excited. This is the best time of year. This is what you fight for and sacrifice for all year long, so it’s great to back,” said Brad Marchand. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but we’re really excited. I think we had a really good run where we were in the playoffs for a while, but when you miss it you really start to appreciate how hard it is to get there.

“You can’t take it for granted. It’s great to be back again and we’re really looking forward to it.”

With many young B’s players like David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Colin Miller, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano that haven’t ever appeared in a Stanley Cup playoff game, it may come down to grizzled playoff performers and Cup champions like Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask stepping up and carrying a dinged-up Bruins roster to start the series.

“Those are the guys that are going to have to carry this club [in the playoffs],” said Bruce Cassidy. “Our best players are going to have to be our best players. We know that. The younger guys, Vatrano and I’d even put Pastrrnak in that group with Spooner, McAvoy and Colin Miller, they’re going to have to adjust quickly. But I’m not going to say that if they’re not our best players tomorrow night that we have no chance, because I don’t think that’s fair to them.

“They may need some time to adjust, so it’s going to be our veteran players that are going to have to push the younger guys along early. I think that’s an advantage no matter who we line up against. We have guys that have won the Stanley Cup and they’ve been through the grind. They know what to expect, so they’ll have to do their part leadership-wise with the younger guys, and I have no doubt they will.”

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.

Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.

“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”

Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.

Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.

Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.


Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

File photo

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.

*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.

*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.

*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.

*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.

*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.

*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.