By Joe Russo
Battle drills, wind sprints, and ending the day with an inter-squad scrimmage; all the signs that meaningful hockey is on the horizon.
Last Tuesday’s practice was admittedly more intense and uptempo than in previous days according to Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. Yet as things ramp up on the ice speculation suggestions there isn’t set in stone certainty that David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase will be rejoining their teammates. Cam Neely offered some candid insight “well, we’ll see once we get to Toronto what really happens with the lineup.”
In Pastrnak’s absence, natural centerman Jack Studnicka found himself rotating through Boston’s top two lines. Slotting in on the right-wing with Marchand and Bergeron in the early portion of the week and Krejci and DeBrusk during the latter half. The best ability is availability.
Before Studnicka was an AHL All-Star this past season, he was a steady presence in the OHL. His numbers weren’t otherworldly but his transition from junior to the Providence Bruins was seamless. Studnicka truly looked as if he belonged alongside far more tenured opposition. Which makes you wonder what can a youngster with limited professional hockey experience bring to the table when the hockey matters most?
For starters Studnicka flourished in a penalty-killing role for the P-Bruins, amassing seven goals while shorthanded, tying a rookie record. A lethal combination of speed, presence of mind, defensive positioning, and finish. All of which are on display in the video below.
Realizing his responsibility is covering the right defenseman, he moves quickly as Bridgeport cycles the puck to the point, exploding to the right side following the d-to-d cross-ice pass he takes away the shooting lane. Narrowing the defender’s options for a play, he keeps his feet moving and stick on the ice and active, by being the aggressor he forces the defender to hesitate for a split second, more than enough time to steal the puck. From there its a foot race, using his quick strides to put distance between himself and the trailing defense. Sensing the backside pressure he shifts his body to help protect the puck, as he closes on goal and scores with the Forsberg backhand. A thing of beauty.
Transitioning play with speed has become a focal point in many NHL offenses. Team Canada has all but perfected that in their junior ranks as well, albeit an easy system to implement when you are able to handpick the best of the best; never more evident than in the video above. The entire play is set in motion with an impressive break out pass, from the neutral zone chipping the puck to center ice, and from there Studnicka hits the blue line with speed, catching the defender flat-footed. A simple flick of the wrist saw the puck explode across his body.
Studnicka possesses all the talent to make an impact in the NHL. One trait, in particular, has caught my attention, he loves to shoot the puck. With secondary scoring being the primary question for this team heading into the playoffs a player who doesn’t shy away from offensive opportunities should be a welcome sign for Boston.