For as desperate as we all are to get hockey back, there sure seems to be a lot of indifference when it comes to the round-robin the Bruins will play.
In case you’ve forgotten, the top four teams in each conference will play three games (one against each of the other top three in their conference) while the Nos. 5-12 teams match up for a five-game play-in round. The round-robin will determine the seeding for the top four teams, which in the East consists of the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals and Flyers.
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Now, because the top four teams are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and the round-robin will be the first games they play in over four months, there’s been discussion on our various programs as to whether they should use the round-robin to ease their way back or – get this – rest players to avoid injury.
Rest! After four months!
Make no mistake: The Bruins should go balls to the wall. They should do everything they can to get that No. 1 seed and avoid Tampa, Washington and Philly – against whom they’re a combined 3-3-4, by the way – for as long as they can.
Bruce Cassidy, a very good coach with a far brighter hockey mind than mine, said to Joe Haggerty and Jimmy Murphy this week that the Bruins “absolutely could rest players” in the round-robin, starting with giving Tuukka Rask a blow if he needs it in one of the games, but added that they’d consider everything.
“Veteran guys, do they need all three games to get to the top of their game? Even if they do, should we play them [and] risk injury? There’s a lot that goes into it,” Cassidy said. “I think every team is probably going to have a little of the same approach that way. They want to go into the playoffs at their best and healthiest, not come out of the round-robin [banged up].
“Would we like to win all three games? Of course, in a perfect world, but I think you’ll see more of a … certainly some preseason mentality worked in to how you’d construct your lineup every game. But if the [veteran players] want to play every game and they feel that’s what they need to do, then they’ll play every game, because I’m going to listen to them. It’s their bodies, they’ve been through it. Then in the last game we’re going to shut our eyes in the third period and hope no one gets hurt in those situations.
“Hopefully the other team’s thinking the same thing. Hopefully there’s mutual respect between the teams like, ‘Hey, we’re both after the same goal here. Let’s play hard, but play smart and get through the games and get ready for what’s most important.’ I think you’ll see that with all the teams in that round-robin.”
I see that and hope it’s gamesmanship on Cassidy’s part, perhaps in an effort to make Tampa, Washington and Philly to take that kind of approach. Doing it themselves would be the wrong play.
A lot of teams have to sacrifice things in this format. For the Bruins, it’s that they have to still go out and solidify the No. 1 seed they earned in the regular season. They should do that because it’s important.
Unlike other years, the playoffs are going to reseed after each round. That means that the No. 1 seed gets the lowest remaining seed in every round. If the Bruins get it, they could be looking at a second straight postseason of an easy path.
And don’t let the Presidents’ Trophy fool you. The Bruins should certainly want the easy path.
I think the Lightning (3-1-0 this season against Boston) are a better team than the Bruins, even if they’re one year removed from a first-round choke. Washington (2-1-0 against Boston) has always been a problem. The Flyers (2-1-0 against Boston) came on so strong over the course of the season that they’re an easy candidate to be this season’s dark horse contender, though they might be too good to even be considered that. The Bruins’ ideal scenario would be getting the No. 1 seed, having one of those three teams knocked out in the first round and not having to see any of them until the conference finals.
So play the round-robin like it’s the playoffs. There’s already been plenty of rest.
2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Bruins should go all out in the round-robin originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston