By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Joining Toucher & Rich on Wednesday morning, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted that he’s unsure how he’ll celebrate his 55th birthday. Fred suggested a Zoom birthday party, and Cassidy himself brought up the possibility of a birthday parade down his street.
The fifth-year B’s head coach knows the perfect gift, though currently impossible as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, and that’s a return to the ice in pursuit of a Stanley Cup.
“I’m just hopeful we get a chance to play, to be honest with you,” Cassidy, whose team entered the pause as the league’s top team, admitted. “Because I love our chances no matter how it shakes out.”
But it’s hardly that simple for Cassidy, the Bruins, or the NHL.
Just moving beyond the logistical nightmare of a return to play and establishing a legitimate timeline, the league is looking at a 24-team playoff format. Others have floated a 20-team format. No matter the number, the belief is that you’re going to see more than your usual 16 in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Cassidy agrees with that being the most likely case for 2020. But he doesn’t love it.
“From our position, I’d rather it just 16 [teams],” Cassidy said. “This is just me and you talking — I don’t have a say in all of this — but I’d rather it be 16 teams, four rounds of four out of seven, let’s go. That’s the integrity of the playoffs. It’s always been that way.”
The hope, at least to Cassidy, is that the Bruins aren’t punished by whatever format the NHL decides to move with to crown a 2020 champion. It wouldn’t make any damn sense to throw the B’s 70-game sample as the league’s best team out the window for the sake of helping the 12th-best team in each conference.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be unfair for somebody down the road,” Cassidy offered. “But hopefully we get to that 16 in the right way and it doesn’t hurt us. That’s where I’m coming from: That we don’t get kind of screwed in this process. Because we shouldn’t be. We should be rewarded for our regular season.
“I think our guys like Cam [Neely], Donny [Sweeney], and ownership will argue for the best deal possible.”
Coming off a 15-win run in 2019, the concerns are real: The Bruins looked like a team on a warpath and with redemption on their mind after last June’s Game 7 loss. I mean, every time you had even a slight doubt creep into your mind about this team, they came through with an effort that reminded you that this team’s mettle as a legitimate Cup-caliber squad was still there. There’s an undeniably uncomfortable feeling that comes with potentially boiling that year of work down to a short-series against a team that wouldn’t have been there under normal circumstances. And after multiple months off. A hot goalie, a bad call, a soft-tissue injury. The doomsday possibilities are endless, and could last just 72 hours. It’s not normal.
But with nothing about this entire thing being normal, Cassidy will hang on to what he knows about his team and their repeated ability to rise to the occasion in 2019-20.
“I think we’re gonna be ready no matter what the scenario,” said Cassidy. “Our guys know what’s at stake.”
You can listen to Cassidy’s complete interview with the guys below.