Bruins

Plenty of encouraging developments for Bruins in OT loss to Maple Leafs

Plenty of encouraging developments for Bruins in OT loss to Maple Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins ended up on the losing side of Saturday night’s Atlantic Division showdown even if they picked up the overtime point.

There’s some consolation they didn’t come away empty-handed in a showdown with the Maple Leafs and have come away with points in each of the last two games against Toronto and Tampa Bay though they haven’t won either of them.

But it’s also a clear indicator the Bruins have some things to work on that may have been masked a bit by their 5-1-0 start to the regular season when they didn’t face anybody of consequence outside of a road game in Las Vegas. The scoring imbalance, the looseness defensively and the inconsistency in focus, execution and effort from period to period have been problematic at times even as the B’s have jumped out to a pretty good start.

The good news in all of this is that they are starting to trend in the right direction. After mulling AHL call-ups and going through a six-game stretch where nobody outside of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak scored for the Bruins, the B’s finally received some secondary scoring outside of their Perfection Line.

Pastrnak still came up with the big goal late in the third period that pushed things to OT against Toronto in the 4-3 loss, and we could spend an entire column on the right-winger currently being on pace for 93 goals and 154 points this season.

But the Bruins also got goals from a couple of young forwards they need more from offensively in Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen, and that’s a development that will make the B’s a far better hockey club in the long run.

“It was nice. You don’t want to rely on the top guys every night. Obviously they’ve been on fire, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to chip in,” admitted Heinen, who scored his second goal of the season and his first since opening night in Dallas. “It was nice, but it would have been even better if it would have been a win.”

Even better, Charlie Coyle, Chris Wagner and Brett Ritchie dented the score sheet for the Black and Gold as well and the B’s got offense from second and third lines that have been MIA this season.

“We definitely had more focus in those aspects,” said DeBrusk, of getting secondary scoring, improving their second-period play and getting more quality five-on-five play against Toronto. “It was talked about and everything wanted to pitch in. I think we put over 40 shots on them, so give their goaltender credit. He gave them a chance to win, but I definitely thought it was a better 5-on-5 game from our side compared to Tampa Bay.”

Other notable players like Charlie McAvoy and Karson Kuhlman still haven’t caught fire, and the B’s fourth line really struggled on Saturday night, but the hope is that things will turn for them as they did for DeBrusk against the Leafs.

The signs of offensive life will quell the talk of making a trade or promoting red-hot Anders Bjork at least in the short term, but it’s a trend that’s going to need to continue with the Bruins.

Another piece of encouragement from the overtime loss?

The Bruins played arguably their best second period on the young season after struggling for the middle 20 minutes for much of the year. The Bruins outshot the Leafs 15-3, controlled play and missed on two separate, wide-open scoring chances on the backdoor when both DeBrusk and Bergeron simply missed the net.

That essentially turned out to be the difference in a one-goal loss in overtime, but the improvement in an area that’s dogged them all year was pretty notable.

“I didn’t like that stretch [in the first period] where we just weren’t competitive enough,” admitted Cassidy. “We were trading chances a bit and it wasn’t going our way, so we need to be harder on the puck. In the O-zone I thought we were one and done, but then as the game went along in the second and third period I thought we were harder on it. It started with Coyle’s play [setting up the DeBrusk goal] where he controlled possession.”

On its face, the Bruins have lost two games in a row and come up a wee bit short in their measuring stick games against their immediate divisional rivals.

But there are arguably more things to be encouraged about in Saturday night’s loss to the Maple Leafs than during many of the empty calorie wins that the Bruins piled up in the season’s first couple of weeks against some of the NHL’s tomato cans.

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Zdeno Chara 'grateful for the opportunity' to play, not focused on NHL playoff format fairness

Zdeno Chara 'grateful for the opportunity' to play, not focused on NHL playoff format fairness

In the aftermath of this week’s NHL announcement about the 24-team playoff format, there has been plenty of talk about fairness, asterisks and whether this plan will even come to fruition this summer as NHL players begin working to get back into playing shape.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara could have complained about the Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins being forced into protecting their top seed during a round-robin tournament despite pretty much winning it fair and square during the regular season with a month left.

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Chara could have openly wondered about the safeness of an NHL return or talked extensively about whether the Cup champs will be considered regular champions despite so many oddities with this year’s proposed postseason.

Instead, the wise 43-year-old Chara simply showed gratitude that the NHL players might be able to get back to work, and perhaps in doing so can restore some sense of quasi-normalcy to sports fans eager to see games resume.

“The Players' Association with the player reps worked extremely hard to get to this point and come up with something that will be hopefully entertaining and exciting. I think the fans will enjoy it for sure. It’s never a perfect scenario. It’s not going to be set in stone like it would be after an 82-game regular season,” said Chara while speaking with B’s reporters on Zoom call on Thursday morning.

“It’s not going to be perfect. Anytime you’re going to have an unexpected kind of stoppage with teams at different peaks in their season, you had to come up with some sort of solution. What we see is probably the best [solution]. It’s one of those things where you can’t blame anyone or feel that it’s unfair.

For us, we have to be grateful for the opportunity we’re getting. When you look at the real-life perspective at what other people’s families and businesses are going through, we’re getting the chance to basically start back up where we ended the season. A lot of people aren’t getting that same chance. A lot of people lost financial support and businesses went down, and they will never get the same opportunities. We have to be grateful for the opportunity and take it as a huge motivation [and] excitement. [We need] to be grateful and embrace it.

As with most players focused on winning, Chara knows the Bruins will need to overcome all obstacles if they hope to lift the Stanley Cup, and a newfangled playoff format that was a little unfair to them is nothing compared to what’s happening in the world.

Chara is going to be a slam dunk Hall of Fame defenseman when he eventually retires from the Bruins even if that’s probably at least a couple of seasons from now.

But the 6-foot-9 D-man also showed in his answer why he’s a Hall of Fame person with the way he’s still got everything in proper perspective even as fans get a little excited about progress being made toward a return for the NHL season.

NHL announces Bruins have won these three end-of-season awards

NHL announces Bruins have won these three end-of-season awards

The NHL announced on Tuesday the 2019-20 regular season was finished, and as a result, it became time to announce the winners of some end-of-the-year awards.

Some of the awards, including the Hart Trophy for the league's most valuable player, still need to be voted on. Most of them are voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The awards based on stats, however, already have been determined.

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Three of the awards already determined will go to the Boston Bruins. The league officially announced all such awards with a press release Thursday.

Here's a quick recap of the awards won by the Bruins.

Presidents' Trophy
The team that finishes the regular season with the best record wins this award. This is the third time Boston has won the Presidents' Trophy since it was introduced ahead of the 1985-86 season. The B's also have won it in 1990 and 2014. The team that's won this trophy usually fails to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, only nine of the previous 33 Presidents' Trophy winners went on to win the Stanley Cup that same year. However, the last time it  happened was in 2013 when the Chicago Blackhawks won both in a shortened season, so maybe there's hope for the Bruins in 2020!

William M. Jennings Trophy
The Bruins had the best goalie duo in the league with starter Tuukka Rask and backup Jaroslav Halak. Boston finished the season allowing the fewest goals allowed, which means the team's goaltenders have won the William M. Jennings Trophy. Rask led the league with a 2.12 goals against average and 85 goals allowed in 41 appearances, and Halak ranked sixth with a 2.39 GAA and 73 goals allowed in 31 games played. This is the third time (1989-90 and 2008-09 previously) the Bruins have won this award since it was introduced in 1981-82. Rask has won the award for the first time, while Halak now has claimed it twice. Halak shared it with Brian Elliott when they played for the St. Louis Blues durng the 2011-12 campaign.

Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy
The league's leading goal scorer(s) win the award named after Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice Richard. Bruins winger David Pastrnak and Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin both scored 48 goals and will share the trophy. Pastrnak is the first B's player to lead the league in goals since Phil Esposito, who did it in six straight seasons from 1969-70 through 1974-75. Pastrnak fell just shy of becoming Boston's first 50-goal scorer since Cam Neely in 1993-94, but he should have plenty more chances to hit that milestone in the near future. 

Other awards?
It's quite possible the Bruins could take home other end-of-the-season awards. Pastrnak has a case to be a finalist for the Hart Trophy, but it's hard to envision him winning the award over Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon or Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron should be a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which he's already won four times. Rask also is the favorite to win the second Vezina Trophy of his career.

Of course, the real prize for the Bruins is the Stanley Cup. They came so close to winning it last year, and after another dominant regular season, the Bruins are among the favorites to hoist the best trophy in sports later in 2020.