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TBD Draft Lottery result was chaotic fun - and just what the NHL needed

TBD Draft Lottery result was chaotic fun - and just what the NHL needed

Why are old school hockey people so angry about last weekend’s NHL Draft Lottery result?

Granted, it’s extremely unconventional that the draft lottery ended with a TBD (to be determined) NHL team.

The No. 1 overall pick could conceivably go to a strong playoff team like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers or the Toronto Maple Leafs depending on the qualifying round playoff results and that would certainly get the tin-foil hat crews lathered up and chirping that the NHL Draft is rigged for any of those teams.

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That whole thing set off people like Brian Burke, who is not one to hide his opinions or relax his disdain when new NHL innovations cross the boundaries of hockey traditionalism.

"This result is nothing short of a disgrace," Burke said on Friday's draft lottery show on SportsNet. "This makes no sense. It should've been just the seven teams that weren't in the play-in round in the lottery. Give the teams who need the most help the best players."

Certainly, the Detroit Red Wings have a valid argument after they finished with the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft after clearly being the worst team in the NHL this season. Where once the Red Wings had visions of Alexis Lafreniere teaming up with Dylan Larkin to lift Detroit out of the Atlantic Division basement, now Detroit is going to have to settle for a fourth overall selection that most agree will be a drop down in talent from the top three players in the draft class.

But that’s not the first time the NHL’s worst team has been screwed in the draft lottery and it won’t be the last.

Who can forget when both the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes tanked for Connor McDavid while finishing below 60 points in 2014-15, but they both lost out to an Oilers team for the No. 1 overall choice despite Edmonton holding the third-worst record in the league?

Any Celtics fan will tell you all about the unfairness of the NBA draft lottery that gave them Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer instead of Tim Duncan back in 1997.

The draft lotteries for the NBA and the NHL have never really been about strictly rewarding the team that needs the most help, but that’s all really beside the point.  

These are unconventional times with COVID-19 forcing the NHL to put the season on pause for close to four months and introducing summer hockey to the equation with the NHL return to play expected to happen a month from now.

Now there’s going to be a second NHL draft lottery in the first few weeks of August, and there will be eight qualifying round losers that have an equal chance of landing that coveted No. 1 overall pick. It could be the Montreal Canadiens finally landing the Francophone superstar they’ve lusted after for years but were never able to make happen when first round picks like Guillaume Latendresse and Louis LeBlanc never panned out.

There’s already even frenzied talk in Montreal about whether the Habs should just throw their playoff series against the Penguins given their decent chances of landing the Quebec-born Lafreniere. Or what about a stud young player getting added to Sid the Kid’s group in Pittsburgh or getting uploaded to an Oilers roster that’s already star-studded with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?

Lafreniere could be looked at as the next star player to take the baton in Chicago from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews if the Blackhawks somehow captured the No. 1 overall pick after being in a legit Stanley Cup playoff hunt for most of this season.

There are a lot of fascinating permutations to this TBD No. 1 overall pick that never would have happened if the draft lottery had gone according to chalk on Friday night. Instead, the fact that a No. 1 overall pick is hanging in the balance is going to inject considerably more drama and intrigue to this qualifying round of NHL playoff games expected to begin at the end of July.

There will be a ton of eyeballs watching the upcoming second NHL draft lottery just to see what’s going to happen and that’s a nod to this being something that nobody has ever seen before.

All of this befits the strange times we’re living in where we’re going to see playoff hockey in August and September played in empty arenas at hub cities. Things are very, very different right now, so it’s the exact right time for the NHL to get creative and do things way outside the box even if it rubs the old hockey fogies the wrong way.

This is the right level of chaos and fun that’s going to give hockey fans something else to chew on until the games actually start again.

The simple fact is that last weekend’s NHL Draft Lottery was the first league event in three months and it got people talking afterward. It got people interested to see how things are going to go in the play-in round and it got people wondering about the kind of impact that a player like Lafreniere could have on the ice.

In other words, it got us all thinking about hockey instead of COVID-19 for a change last weekend. How can that ever be a bad thing?

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.