We know what we’re missing when it comes to the Bruins and their team accomplishments during this Coronavirus pandemic-induced NHL shutdown.
Atop the NHL standings when the league hit pause, the Bruins looked headed toward a Presidents’ Trophy and a long Stanley Cup playoffs run.
We also know what the pandemic putting the league on hold has done to individual milestones in reach for veteran Bruins players.
But what about accomplishments that are less tangible? What did the loss of the last few weeks of the regular season ruin? What will be missed if there’s no postseason, or even if there’s a late-summer, early-fall playoffs?
Here’s a quick look at what opportunities are being missed by several Bruins players and prospects:
The first-year pro forward was injured in the Providence Bruins’ last game before the AHL followed the NHL’s lead and shutdown. Sources close to Studnicka confirmed to WEEI.com that he would’ve been healthy enough to make an appearance in the NHL down the stretch, something general manager Don Sweeney hinted at after the NHL trade deadline.
Studnicka was leading the P-Bruins in scoring with 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 60 games and before he went point-less in the game he was injured he had a six-game point streak (three goals, five assists).
The absence of games means Studnicka didn’t get to add to his NHL experience of two games, and the Bruins didn’t get to see if the 21-year-old was ready to play in the NHL regularly in the postseason or how close he might be to contributing next season.
Even if the season resumes months down the road, it’s unlikely the Bruins would throw one of their prized prospects into the fire. So it’s going to be more difficult to determine if Studnicka can be the Bruins’ second- or third-line center when Sweeney and the brass are making their roster decisions this offseason.
The 22-year-old second-year pro is in the same boat as Studnicka. The Bruins were hoping Nick Ritchie’s arrival in a trade with Anaheim was going to provide the necessary bulk up front not just in the regular season but in the postseason. There was a chance, though, Frederic was going to get another look at the NHL level before the season was through.
One silver lining is that if the season is done, Frederic has made major strides both as a player (32 points in 59 games after just 25 points the season before) and a physical presence (148 PIM).
The P-Bruins took over first place in the Atlantic Division by one point over Hershey just before the shutdown. There’s no way to quantify what a race for playoff seeding and then a playoff run would’ve done for the Bruins’ prospects that weren’t going to be part of Boston’s run unless there was an emergency. Studnicka, Frederic, Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril are missing out on lessons in what it takes to advance one year after Providence lost in four games to Charlotte in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Turning our attention back to the NHL, Clifton had seemingly loss his job to injury and Jeremy Lauzon but was just about to get a chance to reclaim a role on the team because of injuries to Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug. Clifton played in Boston’s last game before the shutdown.
It was interesting the Clifton, a key contributor to Boston’s run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2019, didn’t get an earlier look from coach Bruce Cassidy once healthy. Was Clifton falling out of favor?
Well he missed his chance to get back into Cassidy’s good graces and to make himself a vital piece of Boston’s D corps. That three-year extension at an average annual value of $1 million he signed last summer gives him financial security but also makes him tradeable.
He was a healthy scratch for four of the last five games before the shutdown and now he might become a restricted free agent off a 19-point season that ended with him as the 13th forward. Aside from that, he’s losing vital development time in playoff-like atmospheres, where playing against teams playing for postseason berths or in the actual playoffs.
If there’s a postseason, it’s going to be a free-for-all. If the season is completely cancelled, that’s one fewer chance for the 33-year-old goalie to get the critics off his back. He had a chance to take the NHL’s No. 1 team into the postseason and finally end the Cup hex many use his tarnish his legacy.
There still might a postseason, games where unrestricted free agent fourth-liner players sometimes boost their stock by doing something outstanding with the whole hockey world watching. Otherwise Nordstrom’s going to hit the open market off a down year that saw him often out of Cassidy’s lineup.