Bruce Cassidy

Bruce Cassidy hopes Bruins 'don't get screwed' based on new NHL playoff plan

Bruce Cassidy hopes Bruins 'don't get screwed' based on new NHL playoff plan

While Bruins players thought at one point they might have already been skating in small groups by this week, that moment will wait for at least another couple of weeks as Massachusetts goes through the phases of re-opening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the NHL remains on target for a potential return in July and August that’s been building since the league put the regular season on pause in early March, and the plan is beginning to take focus.

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As early as this week, the NHL and NHLPA could approve a 24-team playoff that would include play-in games for the bottom playoff bubble teams, and a warm-up tournament for the higher seeds to get ready for a more conventional playoff to follow once they get down to 16 teams.

It would give new potential playoff life to teams like the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers that might have thought their season was over and would set up some interesting matchups.

Based on the 12 Eastern Conference teams being ranked by points percentage, the top-seeded Bruins would play the winner of a Maple Leafs/Blue Jackets play-in series once the East was pared down to eight playoff teams.

Here’s how the Eastern Conference seeding would look:

1. Boston Bruins 7. New York Islanders
2. Tampa Bay Lightning 8. Toronto Maple Leafs
3. Washington Capitals 9. Columbus Blue Jackets
4. Philadelphia Flyers 10. Florida Panthers
5. Pittsburgh Penguins 11. New York Rangers
6. Carolina Hurricanes 12. Montreal Canadiens

The Bruins defeated both of those teams last season on the way to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and would clearly be the heavy favorites against either the Maple Leafs or the Blue Jackets.

All that being said, Bruce Cassidy would rather have the normal four-round Stanley Cup playoff format if he had his way with how things would proceed.

“From our position, I’d rather it be just 16 [teams] with four rounds of seven games and let’s go. That’s the integrity of the playoffs and it’s always been that way. I understand the players' perspective of wanting to get some games in because it gets ramped up in a hurry,” Cassidy said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s "Toucher and Rich Show" on Wednesday morning. “You understand it’s no-holds barred once you get to the playoffs. That’s tough on the players. Other years they’d be allowed to work out and skate. Most guys are doing nothing. The odd guy in Sweden or in Europe might be skating, so they do need time to ramp it up health-wise.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be unfair to somebody and that’s just the way it is. If you go with just 16 teams, then what about the last one or two teams on the bubble that don’t make it. Hopefully we got to the 16 teams the right way and it doesn’t hurt us.

That’s where I’m coming from that we don’t get kind of screwed in this process. Because we shouldn’t be. We should be rewarded for our regular season. I don’t think any scenario is going to be perfectly fair and I understand that. I’m just hopeful we get a chance to play, to be honest with you. Our guys know what’s at stake, so they will be ready no matter what the format will be.

The NHL is leaning toward a pair of Hub cities to host the Western and Eastern Conference playoff series with 12 teams in each of two designated NHL locales. Hockey sources have pinned Las Vegas as the top NHL choice for the Western Conference Hub city, but it remains unknown as to where the Eastern Conference Hub city would be located.

Florida would seem to be an ideal location based on the way the state has already opened up to pro sports leagues, but there close to 10 NHL locations that the league is looking at before settling on their two hub locations for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy gives his take on proposed NHL playoff formats

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy gives his take on proposed NHL playoff formats

The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs might not look like the 16-team tournament we're accustomed to watching.

The 2019-20 season remains on pause amid the outbreak of COVID-19, and while the NHL has not officially announced if games will resume, it reportedly has discussed different proposals for how to finish the campaign if it's safe to do so.

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Earlier this week, TSN reported the league and the NHLPA were "making progress" on a 24-team format, one that could include a play-in series before a 16-team playoff. Nothing has been finalized, but it's possible we might see the Stanley Cup awarded using a unique postseason format.

Each league tries to maintain competitive equity. However, COVID-19 has presented a situation where that could be difficult to achieve. It's possible that some teams could benefit more than others depending on which format the league adopts if it comes back.

Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is well aware of this fact, and it sounds like he's hoping the typical playoff format of 16 teams and four rounds is what the league ultimately decides in the event play resumes.

“Well, from our position, I’d rather it just (be) 16 (teams) — again this is just me and you talking, I don’t have a say in all of this — but I’d rather it be 16 teams, four rounds of four-out-of-seven, let’s go,” Cassidy said Wednesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" morning show. "That’s the integrity of the playoffs. It’s always been that way. I understand the players’ perspective wanting to get some games in before that, because it gets ramped up in a hurry, you know playoff hockey there’s no holds barred and off you go. And I think that’s tough on the players. Other years they'd be allowed to work out and skate -- talk about a training camp, the guys typically going into September, if that was the case, they'd have been working out in August. They've been able to do nothing, for the most part. Some guys might be skating in Sweden or a couple of the European countries that are open, so they do need the time to ramp up health-wise. I get that. So that's the tough part about a scenario I'd like to see.

"At the end of the day, it’s going to be unfair for somebody down the road, that’s just the way it is. Even if you go with 16, what about the two teams who are at the bottom, there’s the points versus the points percentage. Sometimes, I think, you know what, nobody’s going to remember if you do a blind draw, one team is in, one team is out. They’re not going to remember that a year from now, it’s still a legitimate playoff. But hopefully we get to that 16 in the right way and it doesn’t hurt us. I guess that’s where I’m coming from, that we don’t get kind of screwed in this process, because we shouldn’t be. We should be rewarded for our regular season. But I don’t think any scenario is going to be perfectly fair, I understand that.”

There's no way of knowing how the long layoff will impact the Bruins if the playoffs do eventually take place, but Cassidy is confident his team will be up to the challenge regardless of what decisions are made.

“I think we’re going to be ready no matter what the scenario,” Cassidy said. “Our guys know what’s at stake.”

Peter Cehlarik should be done with the Bruins after his latest comments

File photo

Peter Cehlarik should be done with the Bruins after his latest comments

Let’s make this as clear we can.

It should be the end of the line for an underachieving Peter Cehlarik and the Boston Bruins.

The 24-year-old Cehlarik managed to appear in just three NHL games in Boston this season while the B's were actively searching for a top-9 winger who could bring some size, strength and offense to their lineup. That should tell you all you need to know about what the organization's evaluation is for a Bruins player who was once considered one of their top forward prospects.

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On paper, Boston’s top-9 wingers this season could have — or should have — included Cehlarik given that the Bruins prospect is 6-foot-2, 202-pounds and had posted 16 goals and 37 points in 48 games with Providence this season.

He has never been overly physical by any means, but he had displayed flashes while posting five goals and 10 points in 37 games for Boston headed into this season.

This year really appeared to be end of the road for him, however, as Cehlarik managed just the three games and hadn’t appeared at the NHL level since November. It was clear there wasn’t much trust in his game, and even when he did get chances at the NHL level this season, he only managed one assist, zero shots on net and a minus-1 in those three games, making zero impact.

Once the Bruins traded for Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie at the NHL trade deadline, it seemed very clear that Cehlarik wouldn’t be getting any more chances in Boston again anytime soon.

Cehlarik has given a few interviews in Slovakia since coming back from the NHL with the regular season on pause due to the coronavirus outbreak, and it sounds like the player thinks there’s a trust issue with head coach Bruce Cassidy. It also sounds like Cehlarik had designs on exploring things as a restricted free agent elsewhere prior to eventually re-signing with the Bruins last summer — and now he wants a fresh start somewhere else.

"I also feel like I have been working with the same people for four years and I can't cross the line to convince Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy permanently. Sometimes I felt like he was just waiting for my mistake and could send me back to the farm,” said Cehlarik, per a Google translation of the Slovakian article. “It's up to him who he trusts. I would find a change. My agent and I tried for [that] last summer. However, they immediately caught me with a qualification contract. The rules still play their cards.

“They know what they are doing. They invested years of education in me. It's all about the trust from the coach that I don't get. I still hear I'm ready for the NHL, I have it, but when it goes like this, I need a change and a new start. It's high time."

It will be interesting to see what happens with Cehlarik if/when the NHL resumes this summer. He would likely have been one of the extra players called back that all NHL teams are expected to carry when their three-week training camp gets going ahead of the resumption of the season. He still might be one of those chosen players given that he was one of Providence’s best players in the AHL this season, and likely would have likely been a “Black Ace” for the Stanley Cup Playoffs had they gone off this spring.

"As far as the performance in Providence is concerned, I am satisfied. I had goals until the end of the basic part, unfortunately I couldn't move the numbers anymore,” said Cehlarik. “I tried to detach myself from not being in the NHL. I enjoyed hockey, I was more comfortable. There weren't many moves up in the Bruins, not only did I have only three matches. This year, Boston had a very busy staff. It wasn't perfect for me.”

If this humble hockey writer was running the Bruins, Cehlarik would be out the door at this point after publicly airing his frustrations.

Beyond this season, though, it feels like Cehlarik will be headed the way of discontented Russian winger Alexander Khokhlachev after speaking out against a head coach. Khokhlachev’s camp did the same with Claude Julien at the beginning of Don Sweeney’s tenure running the Bruins with very similar comments and hasn’t played a game for the Bruins organization since then. Cehlarik is still a restricted free agent with arbitration rights following this season and spoke extensively in the interview about playing in Europe next season rather than going back to North America for another season in Providence.

Perhaps the underachieving Cehlarik will end up firing his way out of town with a trade after venting his feelings over the last month in Slovakia.

But it feels much more likely that the Bruins will do exactly what they did with Khokhlachev and not really reward a player for being critical of the staff while he was still a member of the organization. At last check, Khokhlachev wasn’t exactly lighting it up with Moscow Spartak in the KHL after blasting his way out of Boston and will probably never again get an NHL opportunity following the need to clear the air publicly with the Black and Gold.

Either way, it should be the end of the line for Cehlarik with the Bruins after he popped off in his native country earlier this month.