David Pastrnak held his first press briefing since he was set free from quarantine on Tuesday and he seemed very much like the same shaggy, carefree soul who has endeared himself to fans and teammates alike during his young Bruin career.
But Pastrnak was ever-so-slightly chastened for landing on the outside looking in on the Phase 3 practices. The B’s right wing confirmed that he was compelled to do a do-over on his quarantine because he worked out at a rink in Malden with local skaters after quarantining upon his return to Boston from the Czech Republic. Team president Cam Neely said last week that he wished some better decisions had been made.
“I was never sick so I don’t think I did anything wrong. It was a tough bounce there,” said Pastrnak on a Zoom conference Tuesday. “What happened happened and I had to miss some time … unfortunately I had to be at home for a while and I couldn’t control (that). I take full responsibility for my actions.”
But Pastrnak sounded more frustrated that he had to do the double quarantine than he was contrite about finding himself in the second go-round in detention.
“To be honest, it was really tough to be spending 28 days in quarantine,” said Pastrnak. “The toughest part about it was that I was healthy for the whole quarantine but at the same time I still couldn’t do anything. It was really tough and frustrating at the same time. It was a really long month and I’m really happy that that thing is over and I’m finally back with the guys. They’re the reason why I came back to America from Europe to finish the season, so I’m really happy to be back with them.”
All will be forgotten and forgiven quickly, of course, if he can return as the same player he was when he pumped in 48 goals, earning him a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy. Both he and coach Bruce Cassidy were happy with his first day of practice on Monday, though it has not been determined if he’ll be ready to play in Thursday’s exhibition game.
“Thursday will be determined once we get through a little contact with him,” said Cassidy. “I think his legs will be there. That wouldn’t be the issue. There’ll be discussion with the player — how much is enough time to get ready, if he feels he needs the exhibition game — so his opinion will matter. I thought he looked great, lots of energy, he was flying around. I thought it rubbed off on his linemates (Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand). His shot looked good. A couple of plays in tight he fumbled the puck. The timing, execution, we’re all going through that a little bit this week so that’s to be expected. But all in all, I’d give him an excellent grade.”
If it was all up to Pastrnak, he’d be in. But as we’ve seen, the sharpshooter still needs a little guidance on occasion.
“I felt great. I was actually surprised. I love the game and I will always be up for playing, so it’s probably not up to me. We’ll see what Butchie will think of it. Right now I’m just focusing on getting better every day and, for sure, I’m up for it. We’ll see on Thursday,” said Pastrnak.
Arm in arm
In the wake of protests and riots following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some Major League Baseball players have chosen to kneel during the national anthem in protest while teammates have decided to remain standing. The Bruins released a statement on Tuesday regarding their intentions for the anthem playing.
“Over the past several months we have been trying to educate ourselves and learn more about racial injustice in our country and around the world,” read the statement. “As a team we have decided to lock arms during the playing of the United States and Canadian anthems as a sign of solidarity with the Black community.
“This action is solely intended to be a positive sign of support for the Black community and a way for us to use our platform to help end racism.”
Studnicka next in line
With Ondrej Kase still not with the team and, as of right now, needing a four-day quarantine whenever he does arrive in Toronto, Jack Studnicka appears to be the favorite to ride on David Krejci‘s right wing. With the return of Pastrnak to the Bergeron line, Anders Bjork was bumped down to Charlie Coyle‘s line while Studnicka has remained with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
Studnicka appears to be winning over Krejci.
“I talked to David about his right-side options. I’ve done a lot of that over the last few years. He likes the way Jack plays,” said Cassidy. “He makes plays in traffic. Jack seems much more confident with the puck than in training camp in September and October, so if he can do that and balance his shot-versus-pass mentality … he likes to hang on to it an extra second to try and make a play with it and sometimes at the National League level, especially in the playoffs, you have to have more of a shot mentality. That’s something he’ll have to sort through. I think all the young guys have gone through that.”
The organization has been grooming Studnicka at center in Providence, but right wing represents his better chance at making the Boston lineup, not just in this emergency situation but also in the short-range future. Studnicka himself has been buoyed by his performance in Phase 3.
“I definitely feel the most comfortable I have through training camps, Black Aces and stuff like that,” said Studnicka. “Every single time we’re able to join the team in a situation like this I think I get more comfortable, getting to know the guys, being around them in a scenario like this pretty much 24/7. Definitely, every day gets easier but in terms of comfort, I’m 100% comfortable now in comparison to past times when I would have been nervous or even a little starstruck to share the ice with some of these guys. I think I’ve matured in terms of being comfortable.
“Within the right wing/center (situation), I’ve played right wing in my past so it’s something I’m comfortable with. Throughout the past couple of months I’ve been watching video, watching some high-end players in the league battle along the boards playing wing. It’s definitely been a learning experience playing at such a high level at right wing, but I definitely feel comfortable there.”
Whenever Kase is ready to return — like Pastrnak, the Czech missed the entire Phase 3 — there’s no guarantee he’ll get his spot back as Pastrnak did. He had not had time to build up enough of a track record with the Bruins before the pause to enter Cassidy’s circle of trust.
“For me personally, it’s about the loyalty that’s built,” said Cassidy. “For example, if there’s a guy who’s been with us the whole playoff run last year and the regular season and I know that he’ll be ready to do his job, it would be a little easier for me to give him his job back because of the trust factor. Ondrej came late. He came at the deadline. That’s not a negative. I just don’t know. I don’t know the player well enough right now. He only had a handful of games to integrate himself with the group, to try to develop chemistry. We tried him with Krejci first and moved him around a little bit. So that would be an interesting one. Say it’s Jack, say it’s Bjork or whoever that takes off and Ondrej’s not ready and they’ve played five, six, seven games and played a round or whatever. I’d have to seriously consider making a change to a guy I’ve seen more of. Again, those are things that you decide down the road. There may be other situations that come with injuries or whatever and then Ondrej gets his chance then.”
Big Z back
Zdeno Chara returned to practice on Tuesday after missing Monday’s session due to what Cassidy called a testing “hiccup.” Nick Ritchie, however, missed his sixth consecutive practice.