Bruins

Bruins' Matt Grzelcyk on NHL's hub cities: 'I’m prepared to be pretty isolated'

Bruins' Matt Grzelcyk on NHL's hub cities: 'I’m prepared to be pretty isolated'

Like everybody else, Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk knows it’s first and foremost about the health and well-being of everybody when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak that’s put the hockey season on pause.

But Grzelcyk has also begun to think about life in the Hub Cities when the Stanley Cup playoffs get going in late July, and what it’s going to be like for everybody including the players, coaches and the team and league personnel needed to put on the actual games. The NHL is expected to announce the Hub City choices this week with the games tentatively scheduled to begin on July 30, and it continues to look like Las Vegas and one of the Canadian cities are the lead candidates to host the games.

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But it’s all going to come with challenges, to be sure. The positive COVID-19 test for one of the Bruins players a couple of weeks ago and the Tampa Bay Lightning shutting down their skating group due to a handful of positive test results are just early signs that there will continue to be bumps on the road until there’s a vaccine.

Grzelcyk is assuming it’s going to be a pretty quiet couple of months as he’s approaching the situation with the sober seriousness it deserves considering that COVID-19 has already killed well over 100,000 Americans in a little more than three months.

“In terms of the hub cities, I’m not sure what to expect. I have full confidence that the league is going to handle it as best they can,” said the 26-year-old Grzelcyk, who is a single guy with less of the family hardships that many NHL players will be facing as they go away to the Hub Cities for perhaps two or three months away from their families. “I know they are taking a lot of suggestions on things. I can’t speak to a lot of people in terms of their family situations, but I’m sure it’s going to be quite a lockdown. I’m prepared to be pretty isolated [in the hub cities].

“Just having myself aware of those things will help. Things probably aren’t going to go as planned the whole time. Things are going to happen. I think that’s been apparent with this whole situation. You realize that adversity is going to hit, but realizing that and preparing for that mentally is going to go a long way on the ice. You make sure that if it’s a long, grueling process to get to the end then you know it will certainly be worth the prize.”

That’s a refreshingly mature attitude, particularly in light of the news that tennis star Novak Djokovic is COVID-19 positive after playing in a tennis tournament and partying with no social distancing protocols over the last week. It also shows a mindset that’s pretty common throughout the NHL where players want to help be part of the solution rather than complicate things with irresponsible or reckless behavior.

“First and foremost, you want to make sure anybody that tests positive is healthy and is taking all the necessary steps to make sure everything is going to go smoothly,” said Grzelcyk. “It’s definitely eye-opening, but at the same time you definitely expect that to pop up. You see more and more cases to pop up across the league and that’s to be expected as well. It’s nerve-wracking and you’re not sure what it all means moving forward. I try to realize the seriousness of the matter. You watch the news every day and you see the seriousness of all of this, and you just want to make sure you’re helping to be part of the solution.

“You want to make sure you’re following all of the guidelines that the CDC is putting in place. When you’re going to the rink and things like that, we realize that it’s a little bit more freedom than maybe at first. But you still have it in the back of your mind that people are losing their lives over this situation and you want to make sure you’re doing more good than harm. Wearing a mask at all times and washing your hands and following those precautions so you don’t spread it on to other people. It’s a serious matter and we want to play, but you realize there are more serious things in life.”

Bruins-Hurricans Preview: Which team has the edge in NHL playoff series?

Bruins-Hurricans Preview: Which team has the edge in NHL playoff series?

The Bruins certainly didn’t take the path of least resistance in losing all four games of the round robin.

Instead, they plopped themselves into the path of the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round after they trounced the New York Rangers in the qualifying round. The Canes are young, skilled, fast and have pretty good depth up front and on defense and are almost as adept at the special teams game as the Bruins at this point in their development.

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Interestingly, both teams are loading up on top lines of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak against Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov, and both teams have considerable talent on the back end. Carolina might be a little lighter when it comes to their shutdown defensemen than the Black and Gold, but they are also younger and faster as a group headed into the seven-game series. Plus, the addition of Dougie Hamilton would be significant if he’s healthy enough to play.

Either way, though, Bruce Cassidy expects the same coaching staffs and similar personnel to play out in the same type of hockey as it during last spring’s Eastern Conference Final. That would seem to bode well for Boston.  

“Same coaching staffs on both sides and a lot of the same players, so you can see the tendencies from last year will probably play into this year’s series. For us, we felt when we were able to counter Carolina’s puck pressure with good support and execution and good decision-making, that’s when we were at our best in that series. So that will be our game plan going in,” said Cassidy. “It comes down to making the right plays at the right times against that pressure. Who wins the battles against the walls? Who wins the foot races to loose pucks in the neutral zone after those board battles?

“Last year our power play was good against Carolina and it helped us out a lot. It helped us win games, so that’s something that will be a big X-Factor in this series. Can we replicate that success?”

So who has the edge in the head-to-head matchups in a Tale of the Tape? We’re so glad you asked.

Click here for the gallery.

Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak 'unfit to participate' in practice as Bruins ready for Carolina

Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak 'unfit to participate' in practice as Bruins ready for Carolina

The Bruins had a couple fairly important faces missing from practice on Monday as both David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask were “unfit to participate” with the rest of the group in the Toronto bubble.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said both were expected to be on the ice for Tuesday’s opener against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs, but it certainly gives Bruins fans a little anxiety knowing the NHL’s top goal-scorer and their Vezina Trophy finalist goalie were both held out of practice the day before a playoff game.

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“They were unfit to participate, and I expect they’ll be on the ice tomorrow,” said Cassidy, with a quick turnaround time to prepare for the Hurricanes when NHL teams usually have closer to a week to get ready for their first-round playoff opponent under normal circumstances. “We did work this summer [preparing] for every team and how we install any adjustments we make from team-to-team had to happen on the ice this morning.

“You’d like a day to get yourselves back together, but we don’t have that luxury. We start on [Tuesday] and the schedule is what it is. I would have liked another day just for rest after Sunday’s game, but maybe for us it’s good to get back in it right away. We haven’t been involved in the sudden death playoff atmosphere.

“We’ve been involved in good, hard hockey games [in the round robin], but this just reseeded us. So for us, the first game can’t come soon enough and I think we’ll be completely healthy for that game. We’ll make adjustments as we go along.”

After watching Victor Hedman go down with some kind of lower body injury during Tampa’s round robin games last week, the complete health for the Bruins roster headed into the real playoffs is the best news of all regardless of their wins and losses over the last two weeks.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings at Monday’s practice with Pastrnak and Rask fully expected to play in Game 1 against Carolina:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron Karson Kuhlman
Jake DeBrusk David Krejci Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie Charlie Coyle Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner
  Par Lindholm  

DEFENSE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Jeremy Lauzon
John Moore Connor Clifton

GOALTENDERS

Jaroslav Halak
Dan Vladar