BUFFALO — Picked-up pieces and shots fired high off the glass in the wake of the Bruins scrambling home Friday evening with their season again on hold because of COVID-19:
If a critical mass of Bruins test COVID-free over the weekend and into the new week, practice will resume Wednesday morning at the club’s Brighton workout facility.
If not ... consult bostonglobe.com 24 hours a day for updates. Such is the way of the NHL’s pandemic landscape as spring arrives in 2021.
The Bruins learned Friday morning that forwards David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Craig Smith, and Jake DeBrusk, along with Sean Kuraly, were “unavailable” for play after undergoing daily COVID-19 testing and thus placed “in protocol” for the foreseeable future.
Translation: The Original Six franchise, born shortly after the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, is shut down through Tuesday at a minimum. We likely won’t know until then if they can resume workouts Wednesday “as expected,” per the NHL’s media release Friday afternoon.
According to a club release mid-morning on Saturday, all players and team personnel left here Friday, though not in the same travel party. The five players in protocol returned home separately.
The release did not say whether Pastrnak, Krejci, Smith, DeBrusk, and Kuraly traveled as a group. It only stated that all five were in Boston “after communication and cooperation with the league and NHLPA.”
From here, if more players test positive, then the lockdown could run a week or more, based on previous cases around the league, such as Dallas, New Jersey, and Buffalo. If so, the May 8 finish to the regular season will be pushed out by at least a few days. Both a league and players’ association spokesperson said on Friday that the postponed games could be rescheduled beyond May 8, if necessary, and games between other clubs already have been rolled into that week.
All we know for now is the Bruins were unable to face the Sabres in their scheduled 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday. They also will not play the Islanders in what was to be Tuesday’s 7:08 p.m. faceoff at TD Garden, in front of a live studio audience for the first time in more than a year.
Roster remains a mystery
No telling how the ongoing roster disruption will impact the 20 players coach Bruce Cassidy will suit up for the next game, whenever that happens.
Had Saturday’s game gone off as planned, it’s a good bet rookie defenseman Jack Ahcan would have dressed for his second career game. The downsized blue liner made his NHL debut Thursday and played well in his No. 3 pairing role with veteran journeyman Steven Kampfer.
Cassidy, once a prime puck-moving prospect for the Blackhawks himself, was impressed with Ahcan’s first dalliance with the big boys.
“He’s going to have to learn that guys are stronger and quicker here — they’ll strip you of pucks,” cautioned Cassidy. “But I like the fact he was ready to go offensively, knows what his strengths are, needs to be involved in the rush, needs to be active at the O-zone blue.”
Ahcan did not figure in the scoresheet, but he did land three shots on net and showed no timidity when chances were there to shoot. Rookies too often defer to elders in shooting situations. Ahcan arrived with his holster unbuckled, trigger finger ready.
“I did not notice a lot going on without the puck — in terms of his battle,” said Cassidy. “But with the puck he certainly wants to impact the game. I like that in a player. If that is his thing as a D-man, he’ll have to do that on a regular basis to stay here.”
Cassidy made a point of saying the game against Buffalo was “probably the right game for [Ahcan] to make his first start.”
Read: The Sabres right now are barely a cut above an AHL team, and Ahcan made his NHL debut after only a dozen games with AHL Providence.
“They didn’t stress us too much in our own end,” said Cassidy.
Keep this in mind when it comes to Ahcan: Cassidy is impressed with what he calls the rookie’s “deception game.” The kid shows a willingness and an IQ to create. It’s a rare characteristic in today’s game, which usually strips young players of all creativity and dare along the way to the show.
The injury list already lengthy, the Bruins added Trent Frederic Thursday when he took a shot off a leg.
Per Cassidy, X-rays proved negative, but he did not rule out Frederic undergoing an MRI upon the rookie forward’s return to the Hub of Hockey.
“Day to day, but we’ll see where it goes,” said Cassidy after the game. “If it’s not better in the next couple of days, we’ll go to the next step, probably an MRI in Boston to see if there’s further damage or some sort of bruise.”
Staying on top
The Bruins hit the midseason 28-game mark still holding the No. 1 spot for penalty killing, having burned off an astounding 89.4 percent of their shorthanded situations.
On the sunnier side of the man-advantage, they ranked a mediocre No. 11 (25 percent success) on the power play.
Much has been made (including by your faithful puck chronicler) of the Black and Gold’s struggles to score at even strength. As of Friday morning, they were a lowly 28th for five-on-five goals (44), better than only Nashville (43), Dallas (41), and the not-ready-for-prime-time Sabres (36).
However, the Bruins also had allowed only 43 five-on-five goals, which Friday morning ranked them fourth best in the league, behind Dallas (39), Tampa Bay (40), and Montreal (40).
All in all, they stand plus-1 in five-on-five scoring. Great? Obviously not. But they are essentially even at five on five and they are plus-11 (21-10) when comparing their power-play vs. penalty-killing goals.
One last stat: Through 28 games, the Bruins have led for 569:59 and trailed for 437:21. They didn’t trail for a second in seven of their last 10 games through Friday’s 4-1 win here.
Tuukka Rask, who appeared to strain his lower back in the final moments of the March 7 game against the Devils, was inching closer to a return prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Cassidy said on Thursday that his No. 1 goaltender might have been able to reassume net chores Saturday vs. the Sabres.