The Boston Bruins won't be the No. 1 seed in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs after losing their second game of the NHL's round robin.
The B's finished the regular season with the league's best record, but under the format of the Return to Play plan, they still had to earn the No. 1 seed in a three-game round robin. Boston gave two lackluster performances in losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning to open the round robin, and as a result, the Original Six franchise can't finish higher than the No. 3 seed for the first round of the playoffs.
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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made his first round robin appearance in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Lightning, and he didn't sound too upset about his team failing to secure the top seed ahead of the playoffs.
"I think if you want to make a run in the playoffs, you've got to beat every team, anyways," Rask said. "The situation is what it is. I think the worst thing that's gonna happen to us is we're gonna lose the locker room in our practice rink. That's about it. I really don't care where we finish. We just have to focus on our game and try to do that Sunday, and then going into next week. You gotta beat everyone, anyways."
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was disappointed his team won't be the No. 1 seed, but he does think that seeding will matter less this season given the unique setting in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles.
"Well, that part sucks, I'm not going to lie to you," Cassidy said of the Bruins failing to get the No. 1 seed. "But that's the situation this year with the stoppage of play. We knew the rules going into it that we would lose a little bit of the advantage we had gained. But we are where we are now. We're just trying to win a hockey game right now and get our game together for 60 minutes so that we can be at our best (against) whoever we meet.
"This is one year I do believe the seeding is less relevant than others. I think everyone has discussed that. Would I have rather been No. 1 seed? Absolutely, keep it. That's not going to happen. We'll get ready for Washington, play the best game we can and prepare for the postseason. That's our ultimate goal. You've got to win 16 games. We knew that going in and that will still be our goal."
One reason why the seeding isn't as important compared to previous years is the lack of home ice advantage. Every playoff game will be in one of the two host cities, and there will be no fans at these contests.
Earning a high seed also is no guarantee of a lengthy playoff run. For example, the No. 1 seeds in both conferences combined to win just a single game in last season's playoffs, and all four wild card teams advanced to the second round.
However, there is one area where seeding is important in 2020. Instead of using a traditional playoff bracket, the league will re-seed after each playoff round. So, if the Bruins were the No. 1 seed, they would play the lowest-seeded team in every round. We also can't dismiss the fact that the Bruins' disappointing results in the round robin will give them a tougher-than-expected first round matchup against the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Carolina Hurricanes.
The most important thing for the Bruins right now is finding their identity and making the necessary improvements before the playoffs begin. They'll have a few days of practice to work on those adjustments before Sunday's round robin finale against the Washington Capitals.