Bruce Cassidy: David Pastrnak, Ondrej Kase’s conditioning ‘wasn’t where it needed to be’

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At the time, the Bruins mostly downplayed David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase’s lengthy absences early in the return to play process.

Boston’s top two right wings both missed the entirety of the team’s two-week training camp in Brighton while being “unfit to participate.” Pastrnak returned to the ice once the team got to Toronto, while Kase missed nearly another full week before getting back on the ice, and didn’t play in a game until round-robin finale.

Coach Bruce Cassidy and team president Cam Neely both acknowledged Pastrnak and Kase would have some catching up to do, but Cassidy also said -- and probably even believed at the time -- that Pastrnak always kept himself in good shape and should be able to get back up to speed.

Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand even joked that they were the ones who had to play catch-up with Pastrnak.

Now that the Bruins’ season is over, and with the benefit of hindsight, Cassidy acknowledged that Pastrnak and Kase’s lengthy absences clearly hurt them.

“We missed some players in training camp and there's no doubt in hindsight that set them back,” Cassidy said. “I mean, if you take a month off when everyone else is skating and then get right into it, we play the exhibition games, three games, there’s some catching up to do.”

Pastrnak’s agent said he had to go back into quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and Pastrnak later confirmed rumors that he violated NHL protocol by skating at a rink in Malden with non-NHLers.

Neither Kase nor his agent ever commented publicly about the reason for his extended absence, but he was reportedly spotted with Pastrnak several times in the days leading up to camp, including at the rink in Malden.

Kase looked good from a skating perspective, but struggled all playoffs to finish his chances and wound up finishing with zero goals in 11 games. Given that seemingly every player and coach acknowledged that hands and timing were coming back slower than their legs, it’s fair to suspect that was a factor in Kase struggling to score.

Pastrnak, meanwhile, missed three games against the Hurricanes with an injury that was undisclosed at the time, but that Cassidy said on Wednesday was “lower body.” Pastrnak averaged a point per game over the course of the whole restart, but there were definitely times in the second round that it still looked he was struggling with the injury.

When discussing the various injuries players were dealing with, Cassidy again made note of Pastrnak and Kase missing time, saying they were behind in terms of conditioning.

“I know that Pasta had a lower body injury he played through the whole playoffs,” Cassidy said. “You could see he wasn’t at top speed. Obviously missing time, him and Kase, their conditioning level wasn’t where it needed to be to stand the rigors of that. And that was a bit of circumstance. Typically you have the whole year to build that up if you miss a bit at the start. We didn’t have that luxury this year.”