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Taking a look at the Bruins lineup for the playoffs

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Taking a look at the Bruins lineup for the playoffs

With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins still have plenty left to accomplish ahead of the playoffs.

For one thing they have the priority of getting as healthy as possible with seven regulars out of the lineup due to injuries in Friday night’s come-from-behind win over the Dallas Stars, and that may happen as soon as this weekend with Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug at least closing in on returns to Boston’s lineup. Beyond that the Bruins still have the potential to catch up to the Tampa Bay Lightning sitting just four points behind them with two games in hand, and still two more games against each other over the final few weeks.

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But the playoffs are closing in and the Bruins have already clinched a spot that’s yet to be specifically determined within the Eastern Conference structure. So some of the thoughts go toward the B’s lineup for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and what Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will do with the expected depth provided all of the walking wounded are ready to go for the postseason.

    So here’s a first pass at the Game One lineup for the Black and Gold assuming everybody is healthy, and without the players being specifically tailored for an opponent as they will most assuredly be during any playoff series.

    Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak
    Donato-Krejci-Nash
    Heinen-Nash-Backes
    DeBrusk-Acciari-Gionta

    Chara-McAvoy

    Krug-Miller

    Grzelcyk-Carlo

    Rask

    Observation on the lineup: It’s still very early in the Ryan Donato era, so this could very well change depending on how the 21-year-old looks over the next few weeks. Right now he looks like a natural goal-scorer willing to mix it up in the danger areas, and he looks advanced beyond his years in terms of hockey IQ in the offensive zone. That being said he also got a little quiet in the St. Louis game after getting pounded into the side boards by Dmitri Jaskin about half-way through the game, and there will be greater challenges to come defensively for a youngster with very little experience. All that being said, there’s going to be a playoff spot for him in a few weeks if Donato keeps scoring goals at a healthy clip. On defense it’s going to come down to a choice between Brandon Carlo, Adam McQuaid or Nick Holden in the top-6 as the other five players should be locked in as long as they’re healthy. I like the way Carlo is playing right now as he’s shown a little mean and nasty around the net in the defensive zone, and he’s really playing to his size and strength capabilities. It’s certainly not perfect right now as Carlo is getting whistled for penalties and is still on ice for some goals against, but that’s exactly how he needs to play in order to be effective in the postseason, and really at any time of year. If Carlo falters and doesn’t make the cut, then it would probably come down to first round match-ups when determining whether to go with the puck-moving Holden or the stay-at-home McQuaid.

    Toughest omission: Barring injuries it’s expected that Tommy Wingels might start as a healthy scratch, so that one wouldn’t be too difficult for a trade deadline newcomer. Certainly Sean Kuraly would be a tough one to leave as a healthy scratch after a solid season as the fourth line center, and it could very easily become a situation where Kuraly stays in because Bruce Cassidy doesn’t want to mess with his fourth line chemistry. Tim Schaller would be the toughest omission from the Bruins lineup if it came down to that with Jake DeBrusk moving to a bottom-6 role based on the emergence of Ryan Donato. He’s scored a career-high 11 goals this season for the Bruins, has killed penalties and has been an offensive catalyst on a fourth line that’s been excellent for the Bruins. He’s gone above and beyond expectations this season, and plays with the kind of grit and toughness that will be needed in the playoffs. But if everybody is healthy, I’m not sure Cassidy could bench one of Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk or Ryan Donato for the postseason and feel good about it after the way they’ve all played as rookies. Chances are it won’t come to that as the Bruins very well could be missing at least one forward due to injury when the postseason gets rolling, but the Black and Gold will be sure to have a workable plan either way.    

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    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: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO)
    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: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1
    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: Golden Knights 5, Stars 3
    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: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3
    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 3, Flames 2
    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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