Bruins

NHL Playoffs: Bruins 'absolutely could' rest regulars during round-robin games

NHL Playoffs: Bruins 'absolutely could' rest regulars during round-robin games

The Boston Bruins have known for weeks now how things are going to play out for them once the NHL returns to play after the 24-team playoff format was approved by the NHL and NHLPA last month.

It’s not exactly the most advantageous position given that they would have been the No. 1 seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the only team that had reached 100 points when the league went on pause for the 2019-20 NHL regular season.  

Still, the Bruins have made peace with being forced to defend their top seed in a three-game round robin tournament with other top East seeds in the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers ahead of the traditional four rounds of Stanley Cup Playoffs this summer.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Their approach is going to be an interesting one given that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy mentioned a “preseason mentality” for those round-robin games where the B’s might even rest some of their key players.

Perhaps they have in mind last summer’s scrimmage game ahead of the Stanley Cup Final that left B’s top liner Brad Marchand with an injured hand, and they’re instead going to err on the side of caution this time around.

But there’s also still seeding on the line in the round-robin tournament with the bottom seed potentially drawing the Pittsburgh Penguins as a first-round playoff opponent. That seems like something to play with greater than a “preseason mentality,” and instead prioritize ramping up the postseason mentality against a team that will have battled their way out of the play-in round.

Certainly guys like 43-year-old Zdeno Chara and 34-year-old Patrice Bergeron could be managed carefully while looking to keep them healthy for the elimination playoff games to follow the round-robin matches.

“We absolutely could rest players [in the round-robin],” said Cassidy on an NBC Sports Boston Zoom call on Monday. “The first area we start with, Tuukka [Rask] is our guy.  We’re very confident in [Jaroslav] Halak, but Tuukka is our playoff goaltender and he was going to start Game 1 [of the playoffs] with all things being equal. What does he need?

Do our veterans need all three games to get to the top of their game? Even if they do, should we play them and risk injuries? There’s a lot that goes into it. I think every team is probably going to have a little of the same approach [in the round-robin] and they are going to want to be at their best and healthiest headed into the playoffs.

"Would we like to win all three games? Of course, in a perfect world, but I think with all teams there’s going to be some sort of a preseason mentality worked in with how the lineups are constructed every game. But if the [veteran players] want to play every game then I’m going to listen to them. It’s their bodies and they would know best. Then in the last game in the third period we’re going to shut our eyes and hope nobody gets hurt in those situations.”

It’s going to be a strange dynamic with round-robin top seeds playing each other just a couple of weeks before they might see each other again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Could there be teams looking to run goaltenders or make physical statements knowing that the opposition might be their biggest obstacle toward making a run at the Cup?

One would hope it’s more about getting ready with a three-game tune-up prior to the elimination playoff series, but then again too much of a “preseason mentality” might leave teams like the Bruins lacking in intensity when matched up against a team that just survived the play-in round of playoff games.

It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out once the NHL gets going in a couple of months with the Bruins right in the thick of everything as the top seed when everything was put on pause.

NHL round robin, qualifying series schedule 2020: Dates, scores for every game

NHL round robin, qualifying series schedule 2020: Dates, scores for every game

The NHL is officially returning to play.

The league and NHLPA ratified the Return to Play Plan and a new CBA deal Friday, paving the way for the 2019-20 season to finish. The regular season is over, but the league is not yet jumping into the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

The top four teams in each conference will determine their seeding for the first round by playing a round robin format. The teams ranked No. 5 through No. 12 in each conference will square off in a qualifying round that will use a Best-of-5 series format. The four winners of the qualifying series in each conference will be matched up against the top four teams for the first round based on seeding.

These games will take place in two host cities. The Eastern Conference games will be played at Scotiabank Place in Toronto, and the Western Conference matchups will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Here's the schedule for every round robin game and qualifying round series. Check back to this article after each game for scores and updated schedules.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND ROBIN
Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1
Monday, Aug. 3:  Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning vs. Bruins
Thursday, Aug. 6: Capitals vs. Flyers
Sunday, Aug. 8: Flyers vs. Lightning
Saturday, Aug. 9: Bruins vs. Capitals

QUALIFYING ROUND
(No. 5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (No. 12) Montreal Canadiens
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Canadiens vs. Penguins
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Penguins vs. Canadiens
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens*
Game 5, Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins*

(No. 6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (No. 11) New York Rangers
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1
Game 3, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers
Game 4, Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Game 5, Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

(No. 7) New York Islanders vs. (No. 10) Florida Panthers
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Panthers vs. Islanders
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers*
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

(No. 8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (No. 9) Columbus Blue Jackets
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs
Game 3, Thursday, Aug. 6: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets*
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND ROBIN
Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1
Monday, Aug. 3: Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche vs. Stars
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights vs. Blues
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues

QUALIFYING ROUND
(No. 5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (No. 12) Chicago Blackhawks
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Blackhawks vs. Oilers
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks*
Game 5, Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*

(No. 6) Nashville Predators vs. (No. 11) Arizona Coyotes
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Coyotes vs. Predators
Game 3, Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes*
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*

(No. 7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (No. 10) Minnesota Wild
Game 1, Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0
Game 2, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Wild vs. Canucks
Game 3, Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks vs. Wild
Game 4, Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild*
Game 5, Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*

(No. 8) Calgary Flames vs. (No. 9) Winnipeg Jets
Game 1, Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1
Game 2, Monday, Aug. 3: Jets vs. Flames
Game 3, Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames vs. Jets
Game 4, Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames vs. Jets*
Game 5, Saturday, Aug. 8: Jets vs. Flames*
*If necessary

Christmas in August: Thoughts on Bruins, Celtics after their return

Christmas in August: Thoughts on Bruins, Celtics after their return

Winter sports are back at a furious pace.

If you're like me and spent much of the weekend absorbing constant NHL and NBA, the "Bruins and Celtics games" part of your brain is probably close to overheating after running for the first time in a while.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which begins Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Here are some thoughts from the B's and C's returning.  

♦ The best way to spin the Bruins' loss to the Flyers is to say that they don't care about seeding and were just easing back in.

I'll doubt that logic and just say they were horrible. Maybe the only positive was that the Coyle line looked good. Especially thanks to the play of Anders Bjork, that third line was a primary reason the Bruins probably came out of the first period feeling like the better team.

The rest? Whoof. Jack Studnicka did not look ready for a top-6 role and David Krejci seemed less than inspired; those could be related. The Bergeron line wasn't good; that for sure can't be a thing in the playoffs given the uncertainty of the rest of the lineup. The best team in the regular season still has no idea what its lines are and that's a major concern for me. 

♦ I thought the Flyers game was the Bruins' best chance at two points in the round robin. We’ll see how the Lightning and Capitals look today; it's possible the B's could win the next two, but we shouldn't be expecting the top seed anymore. 

♦ Jaroslav Halak was was on a long list of players who did not have it Sunday.

If Tuukka Rask was in net — especially on that fourth goal — alarms would be sounding, but then again he wasn't available with only two more chances to get prepared for the playoffs. Perhaps we should be sounding alarms either way.

Hopefully the Bruins can give Rask the next two games, because whoever they get in the first round is gonna be in playoff form. The Bruins are far from it right now. 

♦ By the end of the night, the Canadiens will either be tied with the Penguins or up two games to none and on the verge of pulling a major upset. I'd welcome the matchup if I were the Bruins, but they wouldn't get it in the first round anyway if they miss out on the top seed. 

♦ Sunday's Celtics game was hilarious, as is the fact that I’m not freaking out more over blowing a TWENTY-FOUR POINT LEAD. Why? Because Jaylen Brown had that “I decide who wins this game” mentality in the second half.

Brilliant, and he’s one of three guys I trust to do that on this team. 

♦ At 1-1 since returning, I feel good about the Celtics. Not because I'm happy that Kemba has played well despite being on a minutes restriction. That is what it is. I wasn't worried about Tatum stinking Friday; that seemed like a weird one-game thing, and it was. 

I feel good because of Gordon Hayward. He’s not on that short list of closers I just referenced and I'm not sure we'll ever stop asking if he is "back," but he's averaging 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds through two games, both of which are well above his season averages.

I already think the Celtics are the team to beat in the East. If Kemba's knee is OK — which will remain an "if" every second of the postseason for me — and if Hayward plays like he's played, I'm even more convinced of it. 

♦ Overall, I think the NHL and NBA’s returns to play have been splendid. I got out when I could this weekend, but it was a lot of two-TV time with constant texting about which game to put on/which game was interesting gambling-wise. With no disrespect meant to other sports, these are leagues that had left so much unsettled, and it's finally happening in a way that grabs our attention all day.

What a beautiful thing. 

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