By Carrie Young | Follow me on Twitter @carrieyoung512
The National Hockey League is planning to hold the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at some point this summer, though the exact dates are yet to be determined. The Boston Bruins hold the number one seed in the playoff bracket, having finished the shortened regular season as the President’s Trophy winners with a 44-14-12 record and 100 points. Finishing the season strong is no guarantee of success, however, especially with the new playoff format that the league has instituted this year. The Bruins will need both their stars and depth players to perform well in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
Which players should fans keep an eye on when the playoffs begin? There are the obvious choices: David Pastrnak, who shared this year’s Rocket Richard Trophy alongside Alex Ovechkin for the most goals scored in the regular season (48); Tuukka Rask, who has been one of the best goalies in the league for years but has yet to win the Stanley Cup as a starter; and dependable veterans like Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. For this list, I chose players who are not quite so obvious but could still impact any potential playoff series.
“There’s so many unknowns. You can only control so much of that.”— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 7, 2020
📰 Krug talks NHL pause and more during media video conference: https://t.co/t2MkJsCAGe
Torey Krug has been a mainstay on the Boston blue-line for years and is a top offensive defenseman in the league. He performed well during the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2019, leading all players in playoff assists with 16. He scored 49 points 2019-20 regular season including 28 power play points.
This year, Krug is an unrestricted free agent. The Bruins are certainly interested in keeping him, but he could demand big bucks on the free agent market and there are other teams that would love to coax him away from Boston. A strong performance in the playoffs would be a cherry on top of an already impressive resume for the 5’9″ defenseman.
I think that Krug will be one to watch when the playoffs get underway. He is the power play quarterback for a Bruins team that was second in the league in power play goals and power play percentage this year. A strong man advantage is crucial to a deep playoff run, so Krug will need to keep it running smoothly (and get the puck to Pastrnak!) if the Bruins want redemption for last year’s Finals loss. A few big hits like the one on Robert Thomas in game one wouldn’t hurt, either.
Torey Krug lights up Robert Thomas. pic.twitter.com/0U3cp1m60T— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 28, 2019
🎥 Ondrej Kase on getting set for his #NHLBruins debut: “Very excited and happy to play my first game…I can’t wait for the game tonight. Hopefully I make it a good nap and be ready for it.” pic.twitter.com/Tyd54IgDuS— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 27, 2020
As a trade deadline acquisition meant to aid the team in the playoffs, Ondrej Kase is a player looking to turn heads. Unfortunately, he was never able to settle into his role on the team because the season was paused so soon after the trade deadline. If he can stay healthy and remain on David Krejci’s right wing, he could be an impact player when the playoffs begin.
The Bruins traded a 2020 first-round pick, David Backes (25% of salary retained), and prospect Axel Andersson to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Kase.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Though Kase scored just 24 points in 55 games this season, he is only 24 years old and has the chance to play with a highly skilled center in David Krejci. If the Bruins’ second line can score consistently and take some of the pressure off the Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand top line, it would mean better chances for a deep playoff run.
One of the players that impressed me the most during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was Marcus Johansson, who fit right in on the Bruins third line with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen. That third line scored some huge goals and were definitely a factor in propelling the Bruins to the finals. This year, I think Ondrej Kase has similar potential. Fans of analytics already know that Kase is an impact player when given the opportunity. This is why I consider him to be a player to watch.
Announcing the #NHLBruins 2019-20 awards winners!— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) June 18, 2020
𝗘𝗱𝗱𝗶𝗲 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗔𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱 – presented by the Gallery Gods to the Bruin who demonstrated exceptional hustle and determination throughout the season.
Congratulations, @1996_Carlo! pic.twitter.com/W8Mt59cZvl
Brandon Carlo has been one of my favorite unsung heroes on the Bruins roster for a few years now. Beginning in his rookie year, his shutdown style and ability to move past mistakes have been impressive to watch. Bad luck and timing meant that Carlo was unable to participate in the playoffs for his first two years in the league: first he was concussed in the last game of the 2016-17 season, then he suffered a leg injury late in the 2017-18 season. 2019 was finally his chance to contribute in the playoffs. He played a strong defensive game and was second among all players in plus/minus (trailing only Zdeno Chara). I would argue that Carlo was a huge part of the Bruins’ success.
Brandon Carlo shutting down Artemi Panarin directly led to the Pastrnak goal to make it 4-3 pic.twitter.com/D00ct3Sgwn— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) May 5, 2019
This year, Carlo has the chance to do the same. 2019-20 was his best season yet in regards to points production, recording 19 points in 67 games. His game has matured and he has become a stronger and more physical player, which will translate well into playoff hockey. His shorthanded play is another asset. The Bruins were third in the league this year in penalty kill percentage (84.2). Carlo was ranked 13th in the entire league in shorthanded time on ice per game (second on the team behind Chara). As important as the power play is in the playoffs, so is the penalty kill. The combination of Chara and Carlo should help to keep the puck out of the net.
Boston is a well-rounded team, boasting superstar scorers, underrated analytics darlings, puck-moving defensemen, and shutdown blue-liners. They also have an elite goaltender as the last line of defense. This team should be fun to watch when the playoffs begin.