Bruins

Ray Bourque hopes 'special player' Torey Krug re-signs with Bruins

Ray Bourque hopes 'special player' Torey Krug re-signs with Bruins

The Boston Bruins will be among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup if the 2019-20 season resumes, and one reason for their success throughout the campaign has been the performance of Torey Krug.

The 29-year-old veteran ranks among the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, and he leads all B's blueliners with 49 points (nine goals, 40 assists) in 61 games. He's tallied three consecutive seasons of 50-plus points, and his 0.80 points per game scoring rate this season is the second-highest of his career.

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It's safe to say Krug is an integral part of the Bruins' offense. The real question is whether Krug will be calling Boston home next season. He is, of course, eligible to become an unrestricted free agent whenever the league's free agency period begins. Krug would be one of the most talented players available if he were to hit the free agent market, and we've often seen teams overpay to sign defensemen with impressive offensive abilities.

One Bruins legend who understands the value of top-tier defensemen is Ray Bourque, and in a recent Q&A with Fluto Shinzawa and Joe McDonald of The Athletic, the Hall of Famer gave his take on Krug's future in Boston.

"I certainly know he would love that and the Bruins would love that, too, but the business side of it might make it hard for that to happen, because of the success and how Torey has really flourished into a top-notch defenseman on both sides of the ice," Bourque said. "He’s a special player. He’s such a competitor. He’s a great kid. He’s a great Bruin. He wants to be a Bruin. You watch that team play and you can see the joy and the fun that they have playing together and the chemistry that team has. You’ve got to look at the top and with that leadership group that they have is a special one with Patrice (Bergeron), (Zdeno Chara), (David) Krejci and that core that they’ve had with Tuukka (Rask), (Brad) Marchand and all those guys. And Torey’s a big part of that now too. I’d love to see him sign here.

"We’ve got to know Torey very well. He broke in playing in Providence with Chris (Bourque) and they were working the point on the power play together. We got to spend a lot of time with Torey after games, going to dinner with him and his wife, and Chris and his wife. Chris and Torey are really close and we got to spend some time over the holidays with the Krugs, so it’s been a lot of fun and joy watching him play and grow as a player and a person. I just hope he gets to live out his career here in Boston. It’ll be great for everybody and I know he knows that, but he knows the business side of it as well and that always makes it tough."

It's difficult to predict what kind of contract would keep Krug in Boston. Krug has every right to earn what he's worth, and there's no doubt he deserves a nice raise above the $5.25 million average annual salary in his current deal. It's also hard to figure out what the 2020-21 salary cap will look like given the revenue losses stemming from the season being on pause.

In any event, the Bruins would be wise to make a strong effort to re-sign Krug. Not only is he a tremendous player, he's also one of the team's best leaders on and off the ice.

Stanley Cup odds 2020: Bruins are co-betting favorites after schedule reveal

Stanley Cup odds 2020: Bruins are co-betting favorites after schedule reveal

The Boston Bruins' quest for redemption is back on.

The NHL and NHL Players Association officially ratified a Return to Play plan for the 2019-20 season Friday and unveiled a full schedule for the league's round robin and qualifying series, which will lead into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Boston was the top team in the NHL with 100 points when the league paused in March and will play a round-robin tournament with the other top three teams in the Eastern Conference: the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers.

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So, where do the Bruins stand among the NHL's top contenders for the Cup? According to DraftKings Sportsbook, right at the top -- along with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Here are 12 teams with better than +3000 odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup at DraftKings Sportsbook following Friday's schedule release:

Boston Bruins: +650
Tampa Bay Lightning: +650
Colorado Avalanche: +800
Vegas Golden Knights: +800
Washington Capitals: +900
Philadelphia Flyers: +1000
St. Louis Blues: +1100
Dallas Stars: +1500
Pittsburgh Penguins: +1600
Edmonton Oilers: +2300
Toronto Maple Leafs: +2900

The Bruins have their work cut out for them in the round robin format, which they'll begin Aug. 2 against the Flyers. Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia all are among the top six championship contenders, with the Lightning neck-and-neck with the Bruins at +650.

The B's are deep, talented and experienced: They boasted the NHL's best goal differential (plus-53) when the league shut down and are led by a core group of veterans -- Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask -- who know Stanley Cup success and failure.

They also have the NHL's goals leader in David Pastrnak and plenty of motivation after losing Game 7 of last year's Stanley Cup Final on home ice to the St. Louis Blues.

If Boston can avenge that loss, it will be the first team since the 2008-09 Penguins win a Cup after losing in the Cup Final the previous season. It appears the oddsmakers like their chances.

Why the Bruins are the team to beat for this unprecedented Stanley Cup

Why the Bruins are the team to beat for this unprecedented Stanley Cup

There’s nothing theoretical about it now. 

The NHL is coming back. That means the Boston Bruins, along with 23 other teams, will play meaningful hockey games less than a month from now. Credit the NHL and the NHLPA for using their vast experience, collaborative efforts and a sense of urgency to get the season back on track, as the NHL now has the best chance of any of the pro sports leagues of actually navigating and surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It’s a set of circumstances that could financially crush any pro sports league that didn’t properly prepare and the pandemic is already uncovering cracks in the foundation for sports like Major League Baseball and the NFL as they struggle to execute their plans.

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The natural question when it comes to the Bruins is exactly how they are going to fare against the competition. Many view them as a favorite after winning the President’s Trophy during the regular season and standing as the only club with 100 points when the regular season paused back in mid-March. The Black and Gold had the No. 1 seed already wrapped up for the entirety of the postseason and they ranked in the top-5 in every discernible category across the board, showing their all-around skill, their worthiness and the sheer motivation to right last season’s wrong against the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final. 

Some believe the Bruins might be at a disadvantage because they are the fourth-oldest team (average roster age: 28.5 years old) in the league with key players like Zdeno Chara (43 years old), Patrice Bergeron (34 years old), David Krejci (34 years old), Brad Marchand (32 years old) and Tuukka Rask (33 years old) all on the wrong side of 30. Clearly it’s going to take a bit to get the engine going for the Bruins and now they have two weeks of camp, one exhibition game and three round-robin games against the other top East seeds to ready themselves for the gauntlet run. 

By comparison, teams like the Avalanche, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, the Rangers and Maple Leafs are all at least two years younger on average with young legs that will bounce back more quickly.  

It’s an assumption around the hockey world that it’s going to take older legs longer to get churning at full speed after a four month layoff from skating and playing, and that led Marchand to deduce a few months ago that “older teams are going to struggle” in the return to play format. 

The B’s will have their challenges in these playoffs, but the biggest ones would probably be head-to-head playoff series against teams like Tampa and Washington that pose challenges whenever they play them. It could very well play out that one of those teams simply proves to be better than the B’s over a seven-game series. That would shock nobody when it comes to a Capitals group that has had Boston’s number for almost 10 years.  

If anything, though, the experience, the leadership and the sheer mental toughness that a grizzled team like the Bruins bring into the tournament is going to be a large advantage over the younger player groups. Just think about the scenarios we’ll see in August and September: Empty arenas, living in total isolation for the first five weeks’ worth of games before players can meet up with their families in the Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final and pushing on through while players might suddenly drop out of lineups due to positive COVID-19 test results.

It’s going to be a minefield of challenges and adversity where hockey players are going to be tested like never before.  

“I think the message for us hasn’t changed in terms of what our ultimate goal is,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said during a Zoom call with reporters in late June. “Our unfinished business is to be Stanley Cup champions. But inside that message will be a lot of the unknown and how we have to be prepared to deal with that as it comes at us. 

“That’s going to be the message. I think the mental toughness part is going to determine who ends up raising that trophy at the end of the day, and that’s where I like our chances.”

It’s going to be a wildly unpredictable and unprecedented set of challenges that these 24 teams are going to have to deal with headed into the tournament. Meanwhile, the Bruins have a long-established leadership group in Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron that’s seen and played on through pretty much everything in their almost 40 years of playing experience. 

“I’m hoping that leadership plays a big role. Once everybody is together and knowing Bergeron, Chara, Tuukka, Torey (Krug) and Brad, those guys are going to get the others [going],” Bruins President Cam Neely said during a Zoom call with Bruins reporters back in May. “The others know what to expect from that leadership group, they know what to expect from themselves and they know what to expect from the coaching staff. My hope is that they will recognize that we are going from a training camp, in essence, right to the playoffs.

“That’s unusual as we all know, and I’m hoping that the experience of having it ramp up that quickly that the guys can lean on the older players for a little bit of comfort. They don’t necessarily have the experience [of this exact situation], but more being able to get yourselves ready to go in a short period of time.”

There have been unparalleled highs for this B’s core group like winning three Game 7s on the way to hoisting the Cup in Vancouver in 2011. 

And there have been painful lows like losing last year’s Game 7 to the Blues on home ice or imploding in Game 6 against the Blackhawks in 2013 after giving up two goals in 17 seconds in the third period. Or Bergeron sitting out nearly the entire 2007-08 regular season after suffering a nasty concussion at the hands of Flyers defenseman Randy Jones.

Or these Bruins players blowing a 3-0 lead in a seven game series against the Flyers back in the second round of the 2010 playoffs.  

The Bruins know about soul-searching adversity, they run a compassionate and tight NHL dressing room. This current core group also understands that their window to compete for Stanley Cups is no longer infinite.  

In a climate where there is so much unknown to an almost intimidating degree and where some teams might simply submit to the pressure surrounding them while playing amidst a global pandemic, here’s a simple hockey truth: The Bruins might have the exact right kind of collective mental toughness and experience level to compartmentalize things unlike any other team in the entire league. There is no substitute for real-life experience during a time of crisis, and the Bruins have that over every team in the NHL at this point. 

With an expectation that this might be the most challenging Stanley Cup of all-time to win in early October, the Bruins should be the favorites based on the experience, the mental toughness, the leadership and -- oh yeah, being a pretty darn good hockey team on top of it all.