BostonBruins.com — It has been a long season for Zach Trotman
and David Pastrnak
, but still, they are by no means eager for it to end.
Both players received lengthy call-ups to Boston during the course of the 2014-15 season, and both finished the NHL regular season with the Bruins.
As soon as it was over, though, both were ready — and more than willing — to join the Providence Bruins as they begin their push for the Calder Cup.
“Obviously, you want to stay up there, but the season’s over, unfortunately, and there’s a lot of work left to do here,” Trotman said on Tuesday after Providence’s practice at the Rhode Island Sports Center in North Smithfield, R.I. “We have a good group going into the playoffs, so you’re excited to be down here, and to make a run for the Calder.”
Trotman’s first recall of this season came in late October, following a knee injury to Boston’s Zdeno Chara. For the better part of two months, he became well acquainted with Boston’s system and with the NHL lifestyle. He returned to Providence for two months before rejoining the Bruins for their final playoff push in late March and early April, spending much of his ice time on the top pairing alongside Chara.
No, the 2014-15 NHL season did not end the way he would have preferred, but that does not diminish the value of the experience he gained with the big club as it embarked upon its most critical stretch of hockey.
“[You learn] a little bit of everything — how the guys carry themselves up there, the way they handle themselves around the rink,” Tortman said. “And then as far as my game, just keeping it simple and strong. I learned that if I was able to do that up there, and play a simple game and not try and make things too complicated, then I ended up playing better.
“So I’ll just try and continue that down here.”
The P-Bruins will need the stability Trotman provides as they embark on their own playoff push, which begins on Wednesday night in Hartford. They will also need the skill, speed and NHL experience Pastrnak will bring to the ice.
Granted, the 18-year-old rookie’s NHL experience was limited to 46 games, but his impact was obvious, on and off the ice, during his time in Boston.
“Obviously, I didn’t want to finish the season that early; I would rather stay in Boston as long as I could,” Pastrnak said. “But unfortunately, it ended like it ended, and I can’t do anything [about] it right now, so [I’m] just focusing on playoffs right now and want to win the Cup.”
Though Pastrnak bristles at the idea of being called a leader amongst a group of peers who, in most cases, have more professional experience than he does, he knows that he can bring something extra to the table, having spent the second half of the regular season in the NHL. In those 46 games, he registered 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points with a plus-12 rating. He received valuable power play time. He skated alongside the likes of Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
He knows that experience will prove valuable as the P-Bruins push forward.
“I just maybe feel a little more comfortable, but at the end of the day, it’s still just hockey,” Pastrnak said, shrugging. “I have to play the same game like I did in Boston and work hard every day.”
P-Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, for one, is thrilled to have Pastrnak and Trotman, as well as forward Ryan Spooner, back in the fold for the playoff push.
“Those are three guys that have played very well at the NHL level — not for long periods of time, but a long enough stretch where certainly they’ve made a name for themselves,” Cassidy said. “We just want them to come back here in a good frame of mind, and because they spent time with this group, to come in and be a piece of the puzzle and help us get where we want to go.”
Both Trotman and Pastrnak insisted that there is no mental hurdle to overcome after finishing the season with Boston and immediately packing up for Providence. They insisted that there is no more disappointment to overcome, no part of them that is still thinking about what could have been for the 2014-15 Boston Bruins.
Cassidy has taken it upon himself to make sure they mean what they say.
“That’s the biggest challenge,” he said. “I’m not worried about them physically; I’m not worried about their game. It’s more about mentally — be invested. And I think they are.
“They’re great kids — all of them. I’ve spent a lot of time with Ryan, Trots; not as much with David, but he just loves the game. So I don’t anticipate any issues there, and it makes for good competition within the room.”
Though Providence finished the AHL regular season having dropped three of its final four games, Cassidy feels good about his group as it prepares for Game 1. The infusion of skill that Pastrnak and Spooner bring to the table certainly helps, as does Trotman’s dependability and experience.
Cassidy knows his players have the skill it takes to compete with the best of them; for him, the big question is how to most effectively deploy the late additions to his club.
“The only question mark for us is integrating David and Spoons into the lineup because they haven’t been here for a while, and see where they fit best,” Cassidy said. “The obvious choice is play them together, but by the same token, if they’re separated, it makes for tougher matchups; they can pull some players along in our lineup as well, so we’ll have to look at that.
“So that’s sort of the biggest question mark. Other than that, I think we’re ready to go, and we’ve got as good a chance as anyone.”
Arnesson Fitting In
Just over a month ago, defenseman Linus Arnesson packed up, left Sweden and arrived in Providence just in time to help the P-Bruins make a playoff push.
The Stockholm native was selected by Boston in the second round of the 2013 NHL draft, and after playing in 41 games with Djurgarden of the Swedish Hockey League in 2014-15, he joined Providence for its final 11 games of the regular season, tallying a goal and three assists.
“I’m very comfortable,” Arnesson said. “All the guys here are so kind and everything, and everybody has welcomed me to the team a lot.
“It’s been a big experience, of course. The reason I came here at the end of the year after my season in Sweden is because next year [I’ll] know what it’s all about, I think, and it’s been good so far.”
The transition from the Swedish game to the North American style has not been simple for Arnesson, but having played just 11 games in the AHL, that is to be expected.
Most importantly, he has committed himself to making the necessary adjustments.
“You’ve got to be more fast with the puck because back home, you can always turn around because of the bigger rinks,” Arnesson said. “But here, you’ve got to take the puck forward and shoot a lot on the ice.
“I played last year in the top league in Sweden, so I think that was a big part of my development because we have some good players there — some players that played in the NHL for a couple of years — so I think that has been important for me.”
Cassidy said that Arnesson’s adjustment to the North American game has been just that — an adjustment — and it is going to take him some time to get up to speed in the Bruins’ defense-first system. But already, he is making strides.
“With the smaller rinks, the more aggressive games, and then us trying to get him to fit into the Bruins’ way of playing, it’s been a little more of a challenge for him,” Cassidy said. “But every player goes through that. It’s just a different game over [in Sweden], so he’s going to have to learn to protect the middle of the ice, when he can activate, when to be available for puck support for his partner — those things are different with the smaller ice surface and the way the Bruins play.
“So he’s had good nights, and he’s had other nights where he’s gotten ahead of it a little bit, but I like his compete. He’s good one-on-one, he initiates — that part of the game, the aggression, does not phase him at all. It’s just, I think, the positional part, which is normal with the young guys, no matter where they come from, and even more so for him when he’s used to playing in a bigger rink and more of a puck-possession, slow-it-down type game.”
Providence’s Playoff Schedule
The P-Bruins will kick off the 2015 postseason slate with a matchup against the Hartford Wolfpack at the XL Center on Wednesday, April 22 at 7 PM.
They will play their first home game of the postseason on Saturday, April 26 at 7:05 PM.
Below is Providence’s full first-round playoff schedule:
Game 1: Wednesday, April 22 in Hartford (7 PM)
Game 2: Saturday, April 25 in Hartford (7 PM)
Game 3: Sunday, April 26 in Providence (7:05 PM)
Game 4: Tuesday, April 28 in Providence (7:05 PM)
Game 5: Friday, May 1 in Hartford (7 PM)