By: Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio
As we await the NHL’s decision to extend or cancel the 2019-2020 season, there is much to discuss as it relates to the Bruins and their peak performers. Before the NHL suspended the season, the Bruins had played 70 of a possible 82 games, which is more than enough sample size to hand out NHL awards to the Bruins players. The NHL hands out its league-wide awards after every season in June.
The Bruins have their handful of players who deserve to be in contention with the league’s best awards, which speaks to their current place in the standings. Some may end up winning the league-wide award, but what if the awards were eligible for only the Bruins?
Hart Trophy: NHL’s MVP
The NHL’s Hart Trophy has awarded the league’s MVP since 1923. Last year, Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning forward) won the award after completing an unprecedented year. He played in all 82 games tallying 128 points, which broke Alexander Mogilny’s 127 point total back in 1992-93 for most by a Russian-born player. Even more impressive, Kucherov’s 128 points primarily comprised of 87 assists.
Before the season’s suspension, the Bruins have a forward who was on a torrid point pace. Czech right-winger David Pastrnak has tallied 95 points in all 70 games. He is two goals away from the impressive 50-goal plateau and has scored at least one goal in over 50% of his games played. Bruins fans could think of at least five of David’s best goals, but one that sticks out the most came against one of the Bruins’ most hated rivals.
David Pastrnak goes between-the-legs and signals “goal” pic.twitter.com/X5Qo5Z9eP0
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 22, 2019
His 48 goals are tied for the league’s most with top perennial goal-scorer, Alexander Ovechkin. Pastrnak, a former first-round pick, has increased his goal total every year since he entered the league in 2014. He would be the unanimous Hart Trophy winner for the Boston Bruins, and if this season’s playoffs occur, he will be leaned on heavily to provide timely goal-scoring.
Norris Trophy: NHL’s Best Defenseman
The Norris Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s top defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability. It has been awarded since 1953. Only three Bruins players have won the award since its inception: Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, and Zdeno Chara. Bobby Orr holds the record for most Norris Trophy wins with eight, all of which happened consecutively.
For the 2019-20 Bruins, their Norris trophy winner is Charlie McAvoy, which may come as a surprise to some. The Norris Trophy has received some scrutiny over the years because a few offensive-minded defensemen have hoisted the trophy. Historically, it has been given to defensive-minded players. Erik Karlsson won the award twice, the first year netting 78 points and the second year with 66. Though his second win came with an uncharacteristic minus 2 rating.
In 70 games, McAvoy has a plus 26 rating, which sits second on the Bruins (behind former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara), and he averages two more minutes a game than big Z. He leads the Bruins in blocks and hits, both with 131. One of which, Bruins fans cannot forget.
The Bruins win over the Jets was a turning point, making fun of Charlie McAvoy not scoring doesn’t mean you hate him, the future of Torey Krug, and Ondrej Kase…? @PeteBlackburn joined me on the latest Bruins Beat on @BruinsCLNS to discuss.
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) February 4, 2020
Even more so, McAvoy didn’t score his first goal until the calendar had changed to 2020. It came at quite an opportune time as the Bruins were looking to extend a four-game win streak and looking to avoid (probably another) shootout loss.
CHARLIE MCAVOY SCORES A GOAL, BRUINS WIN pic.twitter.com/2zHFkAx9dF
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 6, 2020
McAvoy had just begun to pick up momentum before the NHL halted the season. His dynamic play is a key cog in the Bruins’ playoff picture and beyond. They’ll certainly need a Norris Trophy-type performance from Charlie to hoist the Cup in Boston once again.
Frank J. Selke: NHL’s Best Defensive Offenseman
These next two awards are layups in the eyes of Bruins fans. The Frank J. Selke Award is awarded annually to the NHL-forward, who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. It is a relatively new award, beginning in 1977, and is named after a former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. Patrice Bergeron and Bob Gainey hold the record for most Selke wins with four. For this year’s Bruins team, who leads the league is least goals-against, Bergeron breaks the record and wins his fifth Selke award.
Patrice Bergeron has always carried himself with the utmost humbleness and loyalty. He came to the Bruins as the 45th overall draft selection in the 2003 draft. Bergeron best exemplifies what it means to be a Bruin and a top player in the league every year. He is the next unanimous captain of the Bruins and has earned it year over year.
He is the epitome of a clutch hockey player, delivering goals in the most crucial times in the franchise’s history. Even more impressive, Bergeron is almost always the reason a goal is scored for his team.
The Bruins have given up 167 goals in the 2019 season, which sits first in the league. The Dallas Stars sit second with 174. Since the 2011 season, Bergeron is second in the NHL with a +191 rating. Interestingly enough, the top three players in the league in plus/minus since 2011 are all Bruins: Brad Marchand (+199), Bergeron (+191), and Chara (+172). Bergeron has totaled 532 points in the nine-year span. He is the unanimous Bruins player for this award and hopefully, for the NHL, if the season starts back up.
Vezina Trophy: NHL’s Best Goaltender
The Vezina award has awarded the NHL’s best goaltender since 1926. Jacques Plante holds the record for most Vezina trophy wins at seven. Tuukka Rask earned his first Vezina in 2013, making him one of three Finnish goalies to win the award. After the year he was having before the suspended season, he has undoubtedly earned himself his second Vezina award.
Goalies who have played in more than 31 games this season, Tuukka Rask leads the NHL in both save percentage and goals-against average, .929 and 2.12 respectively. In his 48 games played, he’s recorded five shutouts and sports a 26-8-6 record. He’s performed incredibly well in almost all 40 games and is in contention for save of the year.
Throwback to this incredible save by Tuukka Rask against Buffalo. pic.twitter.com/pawnVQMg3T— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin1217) March 30, 2020
When Rask won the Vezina in 2013-14, he ended the year with a 36-15-8 record, a .930 save percentage, a 2.14 goals-against average, and a career-high seven shutouts. Rask ranked first in shutouts and save percentage and third in goals-against, which shows a goalie does not have to lead the league in all categories to win the award. Rask’s career-best save percentage is .931, which he is not far off from surpassing if the season continues.
Rask was the glue that kept last season’s playoff run extend into game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. He led last year’s playoffs in goals-against and save percentage. His elite stature can also be relied on heavily throughout a long future playoff run.
Seventh Player Award: Bruins Player Exceeds Expectations
Before puck drop of the last home game every year, the Bruins hand out their seventh player award. It is awarded to the player voted on by Bruins fans who performed beyond expectations since 1968. The current holder of the award is Chris Wagner. Wagner has been a career-long fourth-liner. He was signed to fill the spot of Noel Acciari when Noel left for Florida. Wagner’s first year as a Bruin was a career year. He set a few career highs in goals (12), points (19), and plus/minus (+3). He rightfully won the award after having a year no fan expected.
This year, the seventh player award should be awarded to Brandon Carlo. Carlo has been one of the quietest budding stars on the Bruins. He anchors the second-line defensive pairing with offensive-mind, Torey Krug. Carlo currently has set a career-high in points with 19 and can hopefully continue to build that total this season.
Carlo is not going to score the flashy goal like his teammates Krug and McAvoy. He has scored some clutch goals, like in the Stanley Cup final last year, but his bread and butter is his play in the defensive zone. Carlo can be relied on heavily for shutting down the opposition’s best playmakers. He is almost always in the right place at the right time, which is not by accident.
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) November 11, 2019
In the video above, Carlo acts quickly like a defenseman needs to. He notices the puck is entering an area where Halak is out of position and a Flyer forward can score a high-danger goal. That Flyers forward (Kevin Hayes) is a mammoth 6’5 216-pound presence. Carlo not only boxes out Hayes from gaining space near the crease, but he also allows the puck to be tracked by Halak for the eventual cover. When a defenseman’s play goes unnoticed, its usually because he is ding his job.
Hockey is missed by virtually everyone, especially its playoffs. The NHL playoffs have been widely deemed as the best in all of sports. It would be quite an unfortunate way to end such a promising season the Bruins were having, given how well its players have been performing. Hopefully, come the summer, we’re not only back to our healthy lives, but that includes watching playoff hockey at the TD Garden.
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