By: Jack Gotsell | Follow me on twitter @jackgotsell
Jack Stunicka was impressive in his post COVID break debut. The game was a tryout of sorts for the 21-year-old natural center. However, he found himself in an unusual spot on the right side of David Krecji with Jake Debrusk on the left. After his performance you will likely see him there again when the Bruins take on the Flyers at 3PM.
What we saw from Studnicka was good; what we didn’t see was even better. There were no glaring rookie mistakes and he played a solid game in his own end. The Ontario native got stronger from when we last saw him in camp at the beginning of the season. Things are going to get a lot more physical as this tournament proceeds, so we are going to see if the muscle Studnicka put on is going to make an impact in the dirty areas and along the boards.
With his first shift Studnicka was able to show off some of his skills when he intercepted a pass and had a great chance to take a shot on goal. The rookie passed it up and tried to feed a covered Krejci to the dismay of Cassidy and the rest of the Bruins faithful. However, he got more comfortable and confident with each shift and took some great shots. “Certainly [Studnicka] had some of our better chances,” said Cassidy in a post game interview. One that sticks out to me was his breakaway chance, where he showed off his electrifying speed when he received a pass from Krejci and put a nice move on the goalie. He also set up Debrusk for a scoring chance at the end of the second period.
He didn’t look out of place on the power-play either. He played in Patrice Bergeron’s famous bumper spot on the second power-play and was able to create some chances. He had a scoring chance but was unable to convert.
Cassidy was critical of Studnicka, but said he played good. His decision making wasn’t quite where Cassidy would like it to be. “The shooting versus passing, I mean we’re gonna have to live with that for a while. Until he learns the league, what he can get away with,” Cassidy commented referring to the chance Studnicka had early in the game. He didn’t stop there saying “I liked his initiative. A couple of back soft backhand plays, again a lot of young guys, those aren’t gonna happen in this league. Sticks are too good. Certainly had some of our better chances, unfortunately didn’t finish but I thought he played well.” These are all things that are going to be fixed with time. Unfortunately, the Bruins don’t have time since the playoffs are here and he’s gonna need these improvements to come quickly.
Ondrej Kase has now arrived in Toronto and will be eager to earn his spot back. I expect Studnicka, because of his lack of experience, to be on a short leash until he can earn the coaches’ trust. Studnicka could be a key player for the Bruins in these playoffs with his speed and his offensive abilities and it will be interesting to see if he has the physicality now to go along with those skills. He is a smart two-way hockey player and can play at the NHL level, but this is a team that won the President’s trophy in the regular season and he will have players pushing him for his spot in the lineup.
Studnick did not stick out the way he did versus the Flyers like he did against Columbus. You didn’t see too much of his speed or his offensive ability on display. He had a great back-check that really stood out to me at the end of the Bruins power play, but that was really his only highlight. I did like seeing him down low in front of the net on offense and after whistles. However, if he is going to keep a job through the playoffs, he needs to make an impact.
The line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Studnicka did not look good on Sunday but it was not all on Studnicka. The Bruins as a whole were trying to force extra passes and did not have a shoot-first mentality. With the ice in the playoffs seeing multiple games in a day we are gonna see a lot of bouncing pucks and passes are going to be harder to make and receive. Kase and Ritchie look like they should be ready to go when the Bruins face Tampa on Wednesday.
I would not be surprised to see Studnicka in or out of the lineup. I would like to see the kid get another shot but it is playoff time and everyone needs to contribute every shift or find some pine. Nobody looked great out there besides Kuhlman and he has all the skills to play at this level. When the rookie’s decision making starts to click, Studnicka has the potential to be a star.