The Boston Bruins are going to keep things simple heading into training camp and the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, coach Bruce Cassidy said Monday.
No major changes. No revamping systems.
The Bruins just want to get back to where they were when the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. They went 16-4-0 in their last 20 games before the pause, which helped them finish the regular season with the best points percentage in the NHL (.714) and win the Presidents' Trophy.
"We're not going to introduce a whole lot of new concepts, obviously," Cassidy said. "Even though you've had a lot of time to dream up a lot of different things, I don't know if it's the best time in a short turnaround with a lot on the line to start messing too much with your game.
"So we're going to try to keep it as simple as we can, as consistent as how we finished early on. Then we'll make the adjustments as we go and that'll be that."
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Training camp, which is part of Phase 3 in the NHL Return to Play Plan, is expected to open July 10. When Phase 4 begins at a date and hub city to be determined, the Bruins, as one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference based on points percentage, will play in the round-robin portion of the qualifiers against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers to determine the conference's top four seeds for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Given the Bruins' success this season, Cassidy said it's unlikely there are going to be lineup changes.
"The obvious scenario is necessity, which is injury or if there's positive (coronavirus) tests within the group," he said. "Otherwise we have confidence in our guys. Obviously we had a strong regular season. We used different players. We had depth. Probably realistically 15 forwards, eight defensemen all played.
"So in that regard they would have to excel to push someone out who's done a good job for us to this point."
Cassidy said that if a player is not in the right place with his conditioning given the extended time off during the pause, he believes that the team can get him there by the time games start. But that could be another scenario where a young player could be used in place of an established player. The Bruins will have the numbers to have that option.
"It looks like we'll be 30 skaters (at training camp). We've got a list of 28 and 30, because I knew that those were the two numbers, plus four goaltenders," he said.
Cassidy confirmed that the Bruins will have goalies Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak, Maxime Lagace and Dan Vladar available for the round-robin and playoffs. Rask (41 starts) and Halak (29) shared the William M. Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed with 167 (2.39 goals allowed in 70 games). Lagace and Vladar played for Providence of the American Hockey League.
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The coaching staff will begin to consult with veteran leaders, including captain Zdeno Chara and center Patrice Bergeron, between now and the opening of training camp to "make sure everyone's in a good place, get a temperature from those guys."
"I think the message for us hasn't changed in terms of what our ultimate goal is," Cassidy said. "Our unfinished business is to be Stanley Cup champions. But inside that message will be a lot of the unknown and how we have to be prepared to deal with that as it comes at us, which can be difficult."
But in the end, Cassidy said he's glad the Bruins will get a chance to complete the season, participate in the playoffs and attempt to finish the goal they left unfinished last season when they lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues.
"We've got to be grateful for the opportunity to play for the Cup," Cassidy said. "Might infringe on a little bit of what you'd like to do away from the rink, but that's the sacrifices we make. There's always sacrifices in playoff hockey and these ones are going to be a little bit different than in years past.
"That's going to be our message. We've got to make the appropriate sacrifice to get our name on the Cup and hopefully guys are accepting of that."