Bruins

Newest Bruin Ondrej Kase looking forward to possibly playing with David Krejci

Newest Bruin Ondrej Kase looking forward to possibly playing with David Krejci

As one might expect after grinding it out with an offensively-challenged group the last few seasons, Ondrej Kase is pumped at the possibilities with NHL point-leading Boston Bruins after being dealt from the Anaheim Ducks.

The 24-year-old Kase has seven goals and 23 points in 49 games with a minus-7 rating this season. He never skated on a line with a playmaker as gifted as his Czech countryman David Krejci during his time in Anaheim. So understandably, Kase is excited about a scenario where he could slide into the right-wing spot on Krejci’s line to start — and perhaps even remain there if chemistry develops quickly.

“I think [Krejci] is an unbelievable player, and I think anyone would want to play with him," said Kase, who posted a 20-goal campaign in 2017-18. "He can pass the puck very well, great passer…Unbelievable at passing. It’ll be very good to play with him. I think that it could help [my offense]. It’s hard to say; Krejci is a very, very good passer. He could find [me] very, very well. Yes, I hope it helps.”

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The good news for Kase and the Bruins is that the young right winger likes to shoot the puck. That’s something an overly passive B’s group could use at times. Kase would rank fifth on the Bruins with his 135 shots on net in 49 games this season, behind only David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk.

The newest Bruins’ shooting percentage this season is under six (5.2 to be exact). That would put him in company with guys like Chris Wagner and Brett Ritchie — players that don’t exactly scream out natural goal-scorer. It’s also well under his career-mark of 9.5 percent, and less than half of his shooting percentages from the last two seasons (13.7 and 11.7). Kase is hoping a change of scenery improves his bad luck.

“I am very, very excited to be part of the Boston Bruins and I can’t wait for the playoffs,” said Kase, who’ll be wearing No. 28 (most notably Mark Recchi's number from the Bruins' last Stanley Cup title). “I hope we win the Stanley Cup; that’s why I’m going to Boston.”

Haggerty: Kase trade's a good start, but are the Bruins done?

The talent around Kase will demonstrably change for the better in Boston. It’s still uncertain if he'll suit up immediately once he starts practicing with the team next week, as he’s working to return from a concussion. 

Then there’s the question of whether Kase ends up as a second or third-line right winger. Don Sweeney left Kase’s specific role up in the air, but pinpointed that he’d play right wing with either Krejci or third-line center Charlie Coyle.

“We did see his scoring abilities, his versatility, his own game, the ability to probably play either with [David] Krejci or [Charlie] Coyle on that right side, [and] he’s a right shot. [He] adds to the speed and offensive ability to our hockey club,” said Sweeney, who surrendered a first round pick, David Backes and young D-man Axel Andersson in the deal. 

“For us, we’ve addressed what we think we need and also [the trade] doesn’t take away from any of the players we have on our current roster. [We still have] players that have been pushing from down below from a depth perspective to continue to have our club hopefully staying healthy throughout our last twenty games, and into the playoffs.”

Either way, both the player and the team are banking on an offensive surge from Kase once he does get into the lineup.

NHL not ruling out Bruins playoff games at TD Garden in later rounds

NHL not ruling out Bruins playoff games at TD Garden in later rounds

While the NHL announced that they are moving forward with a plan for two NHL hub cities that will house the Eastern and Western conference playoffs to start, the league also didn’t rule out the later playoff rounds returning to their rightful NHL cities.

In other words, there is still a shot that some Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final games could still be played at TD Garden if the Bruins were able to advance that deeply into the playoffs.

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“Yes. It depends on what the world looks like,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in an interview with NBC’s Mike Tirico when asked if the possibility still exists for the playoffs to revert to the home cities of the NHL teams in the later rounds. "If you made me guess today I think we’ll be in one of the two hub cities, or conceivably a third city, but if things change dramatically and we have the ability to go back to the home markets [we would do it.] We anticipate playing this without fans, but if at some point things change and we could then obviously we would re-evaluate. Everything we’ve been doing for the last 10-12 weeks was having to do with preparing for anything that might be in front of us.

“[It’s about] having alternatives and having optionality and making sure we were flexible enough to adapt to whatever is going on.”

Clearly the COVID-19 numbers would have to continue to drop in Boston over the next few months for empty arena games to be played at TD Garden, but it’s nice to at least think that it could be possible if the world looks a lot different in July or August than it does right now.  

The NHL announced it had narrowed the list to 10 finalists for hub cities with three Eastern Conference sites (Columbus, Toronto and Pittsburgh) and seven Western Conference cities (Chicago, LA, Vegas, Vancouver, Edmonton, Dallas and Minnesota) still in the running. Multiple hockey sources have pegged Columbus and Vegas the two favorites to host as hub cities given the current COVID-19 climate, but the NHL is holding off naming any hub cities for at least a few more weeks to get the most up-to-date info before making a very important decision.

“The reason there are so many cities still in contention is that we didn’t want to be in a situation, with things in the world moving so quickly and changing from day-to-day, to get locked in because we don’t want to go to a place where there is a lot of COVID-19 and we don’t want to go to a place where we can’t get the testing that we need. There is going to be extensive testing,” Bettman said during his interview with Tirico. “Health and safety are the most important things, so testing needs to be available for us on a wide-scale basis without disrupting any medical needs.

“We’re probably three weeks or more from making a decision. It’s great that we have all of these options.”

Clearly there’s also an issue with the current 14-day quarantine requirement for anybody entering Canada as well, and that would rule out the potential Canadian hub city locations if that isn’t amended in the next few weeks.

Let's not shed tears for the Bruins getting 'screwed' by NHL playoff format

Let's not shed tears for the Bruins getting 'screwed' by NHL playoff format

It seems like everyone around Boston had the same two thoughts when Gary Bettman announced a return-to-play plan that stated the top four teams in each division would play a round robin to determine their seeding:

1. The Bruins are getting screwed here ...

2. ... but whatever. Just give me sports.

Hard agree on the second one. I watched Phil Mickelson babysit Tom Brady's incompetent ass on the golf course all day Sunday. I'll take anything.

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I can't really get too worked up about No. 1, though. Yes, the Bruins had a lead of six points for the Presidents' Trophy with 12 games to play, so while this is of course a disadvantage, I can't feel that badly for them.

For starters, they can still get the No. 1 seed by finishing with at least a tie for the best record during the round robin against Tompa Bay, Washington and Philly.

Here's the other reason: The Bruins are not allowed to complain about playoff logistics ever again after last year.

Do we not remember all that was handed to them last postseason? They avoided the best team in the second round thanks to the Blue Jackets giving the Lightning one drop of adversity. Then they got to face a team that didn't know its own goaltending situation in the Eastern Conference Final before getting the freaking Blues in the Cup Final.

That they lost was of course an upset/choke/whatever you want to call it, but that they got there? That seemed like a mere formality with the breaks they got.

So while I'm pulling for the Bruins to atone for last postseason, we shouldn't exactly be shedding tears. The road was never going to be as easy as they just had it. It was going to be harder this time no matter what. No matter how they fare in the round robin, they're going to face stiffer competition than they did a year ago, because even with this wacky layoff, no one can possibly expect top teams to fall off immediately the way they did last postseason.

Remember, three of the four first-round matchups in the West last year were upsets, meaning the No. 1, 3 and 4 point-getters in the West were also bounced in the first round. By the time the Bruins got past the Leafs in the first round, they had home ice and lesser opponents the rest of the way.

But back to this year and the now. The Bruins are 3-3-4 combined this season against Tompa, Washington and Philly, netting out to an even 10 points in 10 games. That's the worst record any of these four teams has against the other three. The Lightning are 4-2-2 (1.25 points a game), the Flyers are 5-3-1 (1.22 points a game) and the Capitals are 6-4-0 (1.2 points a game).

So the round robin for seeding will be an extra test that I don't think anyone wanted for the Bruins, but one we'll tolerate because we want hockey back.

And really, it's probably not like anyone thinks they're going to get the No. 4 seed and lose in the following round. It's really just an additional variable that's feared because the Stanley Cup Playoffs are already the ultimate anything-can-happen tournament.

But I'll take it. Hockey's trying to come back. We'll all take that.