In a pre-pandemic conversation, former NHL goalie and longtime Anaheim Ducks analyst Guy Hebert described Bruins forward Ondrej Kase as The Energizer Bunny.
The 24-year-old forward clearly had his batteries fully charged in the Bruins’ 4-3 double-overtime win over Carolina in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first round on Wednesday.
Kase was all over the place in his 22:09 of ice time. Without even delving into his counting stats, all you have to know about the former Ducks right winger’s performance filling the often-alternated space next to David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk is that in 14:01 of 5-on-5 ice time that line had a 76.7 Corsi For percentage and had 12 scoring chances to Carolina’s five.
Kase’s addition to Krejci’s line made sure the Bruins were a balanced attack, with Charlie Coyle chipping in from the third line, and David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron (game-winning goal) producing from the first line.
“I’d love to replicate that every night with those guys,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said during his postgame video conference from Toronto.
Cassidy had to be relieved not just because his team prevailed in Game 1 despite squandering two one-goal leads but also because Kase was finally able to fill the role he was brought in to do. Kase was in the midst of a three-week injury absence when he joined the Bruins in late February, and then he only skated in six games for Boston before the NHL paused for the pandemic.
5OTs not needed this afternoon. Patrice Bergeron wins it for the #NHLBruins in double overtime.
— Full Press NHL (@FullPressNHL) August 12, 2020
Then he got a little too energized and decided to take a twirl on the ice with David Pastrnak at a local rink other than the Bruins’ practice facility and Kase’s chance to show the Bruins what he could do was postponed a couple of extra weeks because of protocol. Had he not managed to keep himself somewhat sharp while being kept off the ice, he might never have earned a shot from Cassidy.
But a couple of practices and one exhibition game was enough to convince Cassidy to give Kase the coveted role of second-line right wing. All Kase did was fire five shots on net (among 10 shot attempts) assist on a goal by Krejci and block three shots. The NHL’s questionable giveaway/takeaway counters didn’t credit Kase with a single takeaway, but he was in the passing lanes all night and took a couple of hits to make plays, which considering his concussion history is valiant.
Had DeBrusk cashed in on a couple of open nets, the Bruins’ second line might’ve outscored the Hurricanes itself.
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Krejci was quick to downplay the line chemistry that was birthed Wednesday – “Like they always say, never too high, never too low, correct some mistakes, look at some positives, improve on those and move on” was his only commentary on the situation – but the Bruins may have found their ideal healthy lineup. And when the second line is rolling, it opens things up for the likes of the first and third line.
“I thought Krech’s line and [Sean] Kuraly’s line, they got some momentum for us, they got us going and I thought we followed up,” Bergeron said, noting that the fourth line also held its own against Carolina despite a lot of ice time against the Hurricanes’ first line.
Kase, though, started the series with just 13 games of Stanley Cup playoffs experience, and we’ll see how he holds up over the course of a best-of-7, especially as the physicality increases. But considering the revolving door that second-line right wing has been for the Bruins, even during their failed trip to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final last year, even a little less out of Kase than the Bruins got in Game 1 could provide the charge the Bruins need for another long run.