Bruins

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:

Hyman-Matthews-Nylander
Lafreniere-Tavares-Marner

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. 

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy responds to Tuukka Rask's 'exhibition' remark

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy responds to Tuukka Rask's 'exhibition' remark

Tuukka Rask's comments after the Boston Bruins' Game 2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night rubbed some the wrong way, but head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn't fazed.

Rask raised eyebrows when he said, “To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there. There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game." That isn't exactly what B's fans want to hear from their goaltender after a playoff loss, but Cassidy downplayed Rask's remarks Friday during a video conference with reporters.

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“I didn’t speak to him after his comments. Tuukka, I think the Boston media knows him well enough — he answers his questions the way he feels,” Cassidy said. “It is a unique environment, but to me, there’s playoff intensity on the ice. You’ve just gotta control what you can control when you’re a player. In my situation, as a coach, the way I look at it, at the end of the day, they’re gonna hand out the Stanley Cup this year. So we’ve gotta play our best hockey if we want to be that team.

"That was our goal at the start of the year. We didn’t anticipate it would end up in an environment like this, but here it is, right? You play the hand you’re dealt, and you prepare yourself — and in my case prepare the team — in this case, for Game 3, to play our best hockey game and that’s what my focus is on right now, plain and simple. That’s what we’re gonna do tonight and puck drop tomorrow at noon, we’re gonna put our best foot forward.”

While Rask's comments may have been off-putting, they weren't unfounded. The NHL's bubble environment is unlike anything these players have experienced before. Matching the level of playoff intensity that's in the arena when fans are in attendance is virtually impossible.

Regardless, Rask and the B's will have to be on their game if they're to regain the series lead on Saturday. Puck drop for Game 3 vs. the Hurricanes is set for 12 p.m. ET. on NBC.

Bruce Cassidy says Bruins will be making changes for Game 3; Is it Jack Studnicka time?

Bruce Cassidy says Bruins will be making changes for Game 3; Is it Jack Studnicka time?

The Bruins are expecting to make some lineup adjustments headed into Game 3 after the Hurricanes evened the series 1-1 apiece in Thursday night’s 3-2 loss in the Toronto bubble at Scotiabank Arena.

Bruce Cassidy said the B’s have some banged-up players that will also have to be factored in as well, but it sounded like he was looking to go a little smaller and faster with his group to counteract some of the speed and aggressive pressure that the Hurricanes are throwing at them.

“We’ve thought it through. There are always day-to-day bumps and bruises, but we’ll be making changes both at forward and at [defense]. Some of that is getting some energy in the lineup and changing the look of our forward group,” said Bruce Cassidy of his Game 3 lineup vs. the Hurricanes.

“Overall [Anders Bjork] did what he could with his skill set to help that line. Nobody is going to replace Pastrnak, but if guys can go in there and complement Bergeron and Marchand and help them create some offense, then they’ve done a good thing. [Bjork] may not go back there, but I don’t think that’s why we feel a goal short [in Game 2].”

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Cassidy said he “anticipates” that Rask will start Game 3 on Saturday at noontime and that David Pastrnak “could possibly play” as a game-time decision after he didn’t practice on Friday with small optional group.

Ideally, the B’s would like to have Pastrnak be able to test out the injury in practice ahead of trying to give it a go in a game, but they won’t get that chance with a noontime start on Saturday after the 24-year-old Pasta didn’t skate on Friday.

“There were some good goals and good saves, but in those one-goal games each goalie needs to make one more save along the way [if they hope to win],” said Cassidy of Rask, who has a “meh” .899 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against average in two games vs. Carolina.

“We didn’t get it and they did, and the opposite was true the game before. I think [Rask’s] game can grow like all of our games. The goalie position is probably a tougher one to get up to speed with not a lot of room for error.

“All of the goalies coming back are all in that same position. Hopefully he’ll be better [in Game 3] and we’ll be better in front of him.”

The bet here as far as the lineup changes go? One would expect that Nick Ritchie would be coming out after he was a non-factor in Game 2 with just 10:45 of ice time, and Jeremy Lauzon as well after playing just 13:16 of ice time and taking an early undisciplined penalty chasing after Carolina players after a clean hit laid on Karson Kuhlman.

If Pastrnak can’t play Game 3 and the speedy, responsible Kuhlman stays in the lineup that could open up a chance for rookie Jack Studnicka to play right wing on either the first or third line with Anders Bjork swinging over to his natural left wing side.

Studnicka is the only player the Bruins have among their current reserves that could really make a significant offensive impact with the kind of upside where the 21-year-old could be a difference-maker in a possible one-goal game. So it would make sense that the kid gets the call if the Bruins are looking for energy and a little offense with Pastrnak’s skill set potentially missing from the Game 3 lineup. 

Studnicka played in the first game of the round robin and didn't do much beyond some nice hustle plays on the back-check, but it's pretty clear he has top-6 skill and goal-scoring abilities. 

On defense, it might be time for Cliffy Hockey and Connor Clifton after he played a gritty, agitating game in the round-robin finale against the Washington Capitals. Clifton could play a role similar to the one that Haydn Fleury has played very well for the Hurricanes as a D-man that’s been unafraid to stir things up physically against the Bruins.