By: Jeremy Grabowski | Follow Me On Twitter @JeremyBNGhockey
As we all know, the Boston Bruins took it to the limit last season once the playoffs started. In the first-round, they eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in 7 games once again! Then they went on to eliminate the high flying Columbus Blue Jackets in 6 games. A team that had swept the Presidents Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. Then in the Conference Finals, they met with a team that was a surprise to me to even be there, the Carolina Hurricanes. They swept them to move on to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013 and the third time in a decade. Ultimately losing in a brutal seventh game on home ice to the St. Louis Blues 4-1.
With the devastation of another Stanley Cup Final loss on home ice, the Bruins could have easily come back in the 2019-2020 season and laid an egg, but they were far from doing that. The Boston Bruins came out hot at the beginning of the 2019-2020 season. Winning five of their first six games and going on a 17 game point streak to start the season at home. They were unbeaten on home ice until a cold December night when the Colorado Avalanche rolled into town and handed the Bruins a decisive 4-1 loss snapping their streak.
But, the Bruins picked up right where they left off after that for the rest of the year until the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. The Bruins finished the season at 44-14-12 with 100 points, the most in the NHL. Also winning the President’s Trophy for the first time since 2014.
Now, here is where things start to get interesting. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the NHL paused its season on March 12th, 2020. The players have had pretty much four months off before training camps are supposed to start on July 13th, 2020, which is phase three of the NHL’s Return to Play plan. That’s basically another whole month more than they have off during a regular off-season if you were to make it all the way to the Finals like the Bruins did last year.
The NHL and its players have now set a firm timetable…barring any unforeseen pandemic issues:— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) July 6, 2020
July 13 – Start of formal training camps
July 26 – Clubs travel to hub cities
August 1 – Start of Qualifying Round.
In my head, I think this could work tremendously in the Bruins favor. Players that were injured at the time the season paused have had time to heal up and get back to playing condition during this break. Older players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci have gotten the extra rest that they need to push them over the edge in the playoffs. And maybe give them a little extra left in the tank that they didn’t have last year against the Blues. And most importantly, in my opinion, Tuukka Rask.
Proven in the past, Tuukka has run out of gas in the playoffs because of his excessive workload during the regular season. Most of the time, it’s because of poor backup goaltending and not much faith from the coaching staff. The last two years, however, with Jaroslav Halak now in the backup spot, it has given Tuukka the much-needed rest in the regular season that has made him primed and ready for a deep playoff run.
In the 2016-2017 season, he had to play 65 games with three different backups throughout the season. With Anton Khudobin playing 16 games, Zane McIntyre playing eight games, and Malcolm Subban playing one game. In the 2017-2018 season, he played 54 games with only Anton Khudobin as his backup. Then Jaroslav Halak joined the fray in the 2018-2019 season and Tuukka only played 46 games and Halak played 40.
Since then, Tuukka’s regular-season games total has been steady at that number or close to it taking a lot of the workload off his shoulders. Tuukka tends to perform better when he has had a good amount of rest. So four months should be plenty of rest for Tuukka and the Bruins to catch lightning in a bottle and get back to the finals and win it all this year.
Stats credited to hockeyreference.com