After NHL Draft Lottery fiasco, Bruins should hope these teams miss out on first pick

After NHL Draft Lottery fiasco, Bruins should hope these teams miss out on first pick

The Patriots had plenty of news Sunday to cap the weekend, but let's not forget that on Friday night, one of the greatest moments in sports history occurred.

The NHL held its Draft Lottery, picking the top eight picks, which consisted of the seven worst teams, then eight placeholders to represent the losers of the play-in round. The Red Wings had the single best odds at the first pick (18.5 percent), but by having their own pick and the Sharks', the Senators actually had a 25 percent chance at getting it.

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Of course, the eight play-in team spots had low odds (ranging from one percent to six percent), but when you added them all up, there was a 24.5 percent chance that that a play-in team would get the first overall pick.

And as fast as you could say "wait, are we sure this is the best way to...," the drawing was done and the first overall pick was awarded to — you guessed it — a play-in team, rather than one of the worst teams. And because the team won't be picked until we know which teams lose in the play-in round, it opened the door wide for tanking — er, sitting some guys out for COVID concerns.

It was the greatest. Hockey fans finally felt some familiarity. What a stupid, hilarious mess.

The potential winners now range from teams that could use the help (the Canadiens and Blackhawks) to the freaking Penguins. The actual team will be chosen via a drawing after the play-in round in which all eight losers have a one-in-eight chance.

Does it affect the Bruins? Nah, not really, but there's a potential franchise player up for grabs in left wing Alexis Lafreniere and you can bet the Bruins hope he doesn't end up with certain teams.

Here are the teams you're hoping don't end up lucking into that No. 1 pick if you're the Bruins:

1. Maple Leafs

The Atlantic Division has become Boston and Tampa's playground. It boasts two monster teams, but there's a drop before you get to the Maple Leafs.

Think about what the first overall pick would do for the Leafs, though. Sure, they need defense way more than they need forwards, but imagine having a top six of:


That is positively disgusting. The Leafs are already a top-three scoring team in the NHL. Adding yet another offensive star would make them... dare I say... legitimate?

2. Penguins

This seems so unlikely because the Penguins would have to lose to the Canadiens — who stink — in the play-in round. Say they did, though.

They're already a recent champion and annual Cup contender. They could use help on the wing and Lafreniere would provide them with a third elite offensive player to go with Hall of Famers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

3. Panthers

It might be a surprise to see the Panthers here ahead of the Canadiens, but Florida could very well pose the bigger threat in the Atlantic over the next few years.

The Panthers finished sixth in scoring this season and have two of the best forwards in the game in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. If they add Lafreniere and Sergei Bobrovsky remembers how to play hockey (that's a big if; he was brutal this season), the Panthers could be good for a while.

4. Canadiens

It just feels like Habs have such a long way to go that adding one star — especially considering a wing — won't suddenly make them world beaters.

Their centers are fine and pretty young, but their guys ranked 39th (Phillip Danault), 43rd (Max Domi) and 53rd (Nick Suzuki) among centers in points this season. At the very least, that would be one hell of a left side with Lafreniere, Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar. 

NHL Playoffs: Bruins in danger of wasting the season if they don't snap out of it

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NHL Playoffs: Bruins in danger of wasting the season if they don't snap out of it

The Bruins were a tad upset with the NHL's return to play format, but it turns out they should be thanking the league.

They just lost their first four games after the regular season (one exhibition, three round robin) and weren't eliminated. What a bunch of lucky ducks.

And if this thing crashes and burns against Carolina — it could; I'll explain that in a minute — there's no blaming the pandemic or the format. Sure, the stoppage was a nightmare that brought about new variables for the season, but don't we keep saying about the Patriots that the best teams are able to deal with these variables better than anyone else?

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The Flyers didn't have an issue coming back and hitting the ground running. Neither did the Lightning, and they had injuries. You can look around the league and find teams that got caught up quickly.

The Bruins not doing so is their problem — not anyone else's.

Now, there has been some weirdness across the league. The Blues were the No. 1 team out west and also got the 4-seed. Half the qualifying round series were upsets, but upsets happen in the NHL. The only one deserving of the "no one could see this coming" label would be the Canadiens upsetting the Penguins, but Mike Felger, Jim Murray and probably 100,000 Bruins fans saw that one coming a mile away. Claude Julien in the playoffs with a good goalie? It was at least going to be close.

If you want to spin the Bruins sucking in the round robin, you can liken it to them swinging a weighted bat. They played the other three best teams in the conference, so maybe their effort in Sunday's loss to the Capitals gets them a win against a different team.

The Bruins should be better than that, though. I've gone on breathlessly about the team's roster issues, but things like the Bergeron line struggling, Zdeno Chara looking out of sorts and the team not having a power play are new. In addition to being flawed, the Bruins were plain bad in the round robin.

Tuukka Rask has given quotes about the round robin games not mattering much, but those games held meaning. The Bruins were clearly trying to win Sunday (Ondrej Kase finally played and the forward group resembled what they'll probably go with in the playoffs) in order to get the No. 3 seed and get the Islanders in the first round.

Instead they have the Hurricanes, who had absolutely no problem getting going again. They're young, they're skilled and they've got to love the way they're playing after sweeping the Rangers in the qualifiers. Sebastian Aho was second in points in the play-in round despite his series only lasting three games. His line with Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen is freaking legit.

On the back end, old friend Dougie Hamilton could put them over the top. He was having a career year before a left fibula fracture ended it... or so everyone thought.

The Hurricanes traded for Sami Vatanen to replace him on the top pair, but now after a setback caused Hamilton to miss the Rangers series, he’s back practicing with the team. That’s reason to think he’ll be back for some — if not all — of the series, which would bump Vatanen down to the second or third pair and further bolster Carolina’s back end.

They're obviously beatable, and the Bruins should hope Carolina just sees the uniforms, thinks about last year's Eastern Conference Final and shrivels up. Yet if the Bruins are what they've been so far in the return, Carolina could easily win this series. This will all come down to whether the Bruins find what they were before the break.

If they don't, they could be out after one round, which didn't seem like a possibility pre-COVID, but last year's Presidents' Trophy-winner experienced that very fate. Teams that aren't prepared lose, which is what happened to the 2018-19 Lightning.

Maybe the Bruins didn't take the round robin seriously, but they should have. If they take that same "eh, we'll figure it out" approach against Carolina, they'll have wasted a chance as Cup contenders.

That won't be the NHL's fault. 

NHL Playoffs: Bruins still need to answer these offensive questions

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NHL Playoffs: Bruins still need to answer these offensive questions

Clearly there are myriad things that could have gone better for the Bruins during the round robin portion of the NHL’s Return to Play.

They could have won one of the round robin games to begin with, or even just held a lead at some point rather than being tied or trailing for all 180 minutes they played against the Flyers, Lightning and Capitals over the last week of action. But it’s plainly obvious the Bruins viewed the three round robin games strictly as a ramp-up instrument to get them ready for the real playoff games rather than anything to be concerned about when it comes to wins and losses.

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Still, there are lingering offensive questions with this Presidents' Trophy-winning group that will need to be answered as they ready for the first-round matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes beginning Tuesday night at 8 p.m.

Pretty much all those questions concern the Bruins offense, which never showed up in three wholly unimpressive round robin losses.

The good news is that the chances were plentiful on Sunday afternoon against Washington, but the bad news is that Braden Holtby very clearly still owns Boston after stopping 30-of-31 shots.

“We clearly generated more offense tonight than we have in other games more consistently. [We] didn’t finish well around the net a lot 5-on-5. Our power play is still work in progress,” said Bruce Cassidy. “[David] Krejci’s line looked comfortable, scored a goal obviously. They played well, had their legs, made some plays. Ondrej [Kase] was good on the walls.

The last few games [were] better offensively so that’s starting to come. Guys that have been there, obviously those stakes are still in the ground. You look at our top line, they’ve been held off the scoresheet. I believe that it’s going to be a tough task for Carolina to do that on a consistent basis. I think those guys will be able to get their game going. We’re going to need that primary scoring for one. Maybe some of that will come to life on the power play.

The Bruins averaged 1.33 goals per game in the three round robin games and went 0-for-9 on the power play while managing more than one goal just once in the four games played (one exhibition and three round robin games) since arriving in the Toronto bubble a couple of weeks ago. That’s a far cry from the Bruins team that finished 9th in the NHL with 3.24 goals per game this season and 2nd in the NHL with a power play that scored on over 25 percent of its possessions during the regular season.

The Perfection Line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak finished with just one point in the three round robin games while struggling to finish plays, but they did manage a combined 11 shots on net and 21 shot attempts in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Washington. Bergeron was Bergeron for most of the three games and Marchand finally looked like himself in Sunday’s round robin finale after forcing a lot of plays while knocking rust off during these last couple of weeks.

The good news is that the game-breaking Pastrnak is shooting the puck early and often while generating numerous offensive chances as he did against the Capitals. It’s a far cry from last postseason when a thumb injury clearly eroded his confidence shooting the puck and forced him to become a passive offensive factor in a decidedly uncharacteristic development. A confident, healthy Pastrnak at the height of his game, as he is right now, will be a game-changer for the Bruins in these playoffs.

And that’s really what it comes down to for the Black and Gold.

The concern is that Boston can be stopped in the postseason if the Perfection Line can be contained, as they were by the St. Louis Blues last season and the Lightning a couple of seasons ago in the second round of the playoffs. Certainly, the Hurricanes aren’t that kind of defensive team, which will make this a problematic matchup for Carolina and a series where the B’s top guys could do tons of scoring damage.

The later rounds will likely be the question mark when it comes to secondary scoring and support players stepping up and doing their thing for the Bruins. Chris Wagner and the B’s fourth line were consistently Boston’s best players during the round robin, and Jake DeBrusk scored the team’s only goal on Sunday afternoon in a needed show of offense ahead of the first playoff round next week.

When it comes to the later rounds and possible showdowns with teams like the Lightning, Capitals or Flyers, the Bruins will need to get some answers from their middle six forwards and some consistent production from DeBrusk, David Krejci, Ondrej Kase, Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork just to name a few key players.

Clearly there weren’t enough of those offensive answers in the round robin games while Bruce Cassidy was tinkering with different line combinations and fine-tuning ahead of the “real hockey” as Tuukka Rask called it after Sunday’s game.

“I think we kind of improved over these three [round robin] games,” said Tuukka Rask. “We worked very hard for our goals and just didn’t get rewarded. But I think that’s going to come, you find a way [to get through offensively].”

Some will look at the Bruins' struggling offensive game in the round robin and see a trend that could lead to their demise in the next couple of weeks. Others — including pretty much everybody inside the B’s dressing room — have already moved on to next week’s series against Carolina and started building the offensive swagger needed to win during the playoffs.

The B’s clearly aren’t worried about the round robin or their offense, and we’ll know pretty quickly whether everybody else should be or not.