Bruins

David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron among NHL's midseason award contenders

David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron among NHL's midseason award contenders

The NHL regular season midpoint is a natural time to take a peek at the candidates for the NHL Awards, and that’s exactly what the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) does with their Midseason NHL Awards timed to come out at All-Star weekend.

The first-place Bruins are well-represented, as Boston’s lone All-Star player representative David Pastrnak has been named one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy at the halfway mark.

The 23-year-old Pastrnak leads all players with 37 goals scored in 51 games played for the Bruins at the break and is fourth in the NHL with 70 points while on pace for 60 goals and 114 points this season.

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While Patrice Bergeron has missed time with injuries and Brad Marchand went ice cold in much of December and January, Pastrnak has been the constant game-breaker and power play weapon who, at times, has been the one thing pulling the Bruins through some of the tough times. Pastrnak was one of three players on the midseason Hart Trophy list along with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon in some very select company.

The Bruins were also represented on the Selke trophy midseason ballot as Patrice Bergeron was one of three finalists for the award for best defensive player, an award that No. 37 has already won four times in his esteemed NHL career.

Bergeron is winning 58.3 percent of his faceoffs while ranking fourth in the NHL with 550 draw wins overall and has posted 21 goals and 41 points in 42 games along with a plus-15 rating. Bergeron was named a Selke Trophy midseason finalist along with Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier and St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly, a trio of names who are no strangers to being considered for the league’s top defensive award.

Here are the full results for the PHWA Midseason NHL Awards with 117 writers from all 32 NHL chapters participating who will also be voting on the genuine NHL Awards ballot at the end of the season. So it's a pretty good indicator both Pastrnak and Bergeron could be finalists at the end of the season as well:

Hart Trophy — to the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.

  • 1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
  • 2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
  • 3. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

Norris Trophy — to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position.

  • 1. John Carlson, Washington Capitals
  • 2. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
  • 3. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes

Selke Trophy — to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

  • 1. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
  • 2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
  • 3. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

Calder Trophy — to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.

  • 1. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
  • 2. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
  • 3. Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres

Lady Byng Trophy — to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.

  • 1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
  • 2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 3. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

Vezina Trophy — to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position.

  • 1. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
  • 2. Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars
  • 3. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes

Jack Adams Award — to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success.

  • 1. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 2. John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets
  • 3. Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues

Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award — to the General Manager adjusted to have contributed most to his team's success.

  • 1. Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
  • 2. John Chayka, Arizona Coyotes
  • 3. Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues

Rod Langway Award — to the defenseman who best excels in the defensive aspect of the game.

  • 1. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
  • 2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 3. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators

Comeback Player of the Year Award — to the player who returned to a previous high level of performance that was interrupted by subpar play, long-term injury or major illness.

  • 1. William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 2. Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators
  • 3. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights

NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Lightning a clear top two

NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Lightning a clear top two

It took nearly five months into the regular season for it to happen, but the Bruins and Lightning have separated from everybody else in the NHL.

The two Atlantic Division powerhouses are just one point apart in the division, but they are both more than five points ahead of everybody else in the league. That includes a Pittsburgh team that’s been hot recently and a Washington club that’s back to their deep, dangerous selves after taking a season off last year after celebrating their Stanley Cup title.

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The Lightning have won 11 games in a row and lost two regulation games since Christmas, and they are finally living up to the massive potential within their roster. And now they’ve added the speedy, gritty Blake Coleman in an impressive deal to make them even tougher to play against.

Through it all, the Bruins have managed to stay on top of Tampa Bay, and keep one step ahead of them. That’s just as impressive as the Lightning’s scorching hot run over the last two months.

Click here for this week's NHL Power Rankings:

Bruins needs are no secret ahead of NHL trade deadline

Bruins needs are no secret ahead of NHL trade deadline

There are few secrets about the Bruins or the strengths and weaknesses that face them heading into the stretch run and Stanley Cup Playoffs that follow.

The Bruins rely on the NHL’s best line — the Perfection Line — superior special teams play, and the NHL’s top goaltending duo along with a strong defensemen group for their winning formula, and it’s proven plenty good enough during the regular season in recent years. The B’s currently sit at an NHL-best 86 points on the season and have a six-point lead on everybody else in the NHL aside from their hard-charging divisional rivals in Tampa Bay.

The Bruins have won nine of their last 10 games after a ragged stretch of play in December/January and have been rolling since the NHL All-Star break while understandably feeling good about their game right now.

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“We’re taking a lot more value in [the defensive] part of the game, and some of it is getting the balance in the lines so that they’re fresh, getting everyone involved,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think most of our minutes now you’ll see, our forwards are typically at the least amount is 10 minutes sometimes for the lower guys if they’re not killing too many penalties, so I think that helps everyone stay in the game as well.”

When the Bruins are going well as they are right now, they are getting balanced play from their roster. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and it’s something that gets exposed when they play high-quality competition.

The weaknesses on the Bruins roster are equally clear and easy to diagnose because it’s been the same old thing for the last handful of years.

The Bruins have tried multiple times to acquire top-6 wingers who can produce offense, whether it’s been band-aid deadline solutions like Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford, or a stab at an attempted long-term fix when they traded for Rangers power forward Rick Nash. They couldn’t predict the abrupt, concussion-influenced retirement from the NHL for Nash following a few months in Black and Gold, and so a top-6 winger continues to be Don Sweeney’s "white whale" on the Bruins roster.

Once the playoffs begin and the Bruins face deeper, bigger and stronger defensive groups, the prolific Perfection Line routinely goes through stretches where they are held in check by opponents. It’s a prominent factor when the Bruins lost to the Lightning in the second round two years ago, and one of the prime reasons the B’s fell in seven games to the St. Louis Blues last June in the Stanley Cup Final.

When it happens, the Bruins become almost completely reliant on their power play to provide offensive punch while the other forward lines haven’t been able to effectively fill the scoring void.

The only way that’s going to change is for the Bruins to bring in a top-6 forward who can play the role of game-breaker and finish off the offensive chances set up by linemates David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins need another forward line that can put a scare in opponents offensively and they simply don’t have it consistently right now, just as they haven’t had it in the last handful of seasons.  

With names like Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman and Jason Zucker now off the trade deadline board, the Bruins are down to some of their top big-name trade choices in Chris Kreider, Kyle Palmieri and Josh Anderson.

Kreider would be the optimal choice because of his skating speed, consistency and the size and occasional mean streak that the Bruins could surely use among their top-6 group. But there are options out there provided Sweeney doesn’t get hung up waiting for Kreider to be made available to teams.

The other need for the Bruins at this point?

With Kevan Miller out for the entire season to this point with a fractured kneecap that sidelined him for last spring’s entire Stanley Cup Final run as well, the Bruins are a little light on the back end. The B’s could use a big, strong, hardnosed and physical defenseman capable of holding other teams accountable and doling out physical punishment in the D-zone.

The Bruins may have found an in-house solution in 22-year-old Jeremy Lauzon, who most recently served a two-game suspension for drilling Derek Stepan with a big, high hit against the side boards in a home win over the Coyotes. But that particular roster need is the reason they were linked to defenseman Brenden Dillon in trade rumors before he was eventually shipped from the San Jose Sharks to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for a couple draft picks.

It’s also less than ideal to rely on a rookie like Lauzon as a rugged, grizzled enforcer on the back end when it comes to playoff time. That’s something else to consider when Don Sweeney goes shopping over the next five days ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline, a date that’s quickly becoming anticlimactic given all the trades getting consummated well ahead of time.

Sweeney knows the team’s greatest needs, he’s on the clock and the pressure is on the Bruins general manager to adequately address them ahead of next Monday’s deadline.