Bruins

Talking Points: Happiest of returns for Bergeron

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Talking Points: Happiest of returns for Bergeron

GOLD STAR: After missing 16 games and the past month-plus, it was Patrice Bergeron’s turn to shine as he scored a pair of goals and added up four points in Boston’s win over Nashville. The first goal was pure Bergeron on the power play as he pulled a double move in the slot and completely faked out Pekka Rinne. The second was a shoveled rebound while crashing the net for a loose puck. Bergeron played a little less than usual with only 16-plus minutes of ice time, but he was still playing in every situation and out there for all the big face-offs - taking 25 of them. Getting your best player back is a big difference-maker for every team, and Bergeron proved it once again he's the B's best while showing virtually no rust out there.  

BLACK EYE: Ryan Johansen did score a goal for the Predators, but otherwise he was completely held down by the Bruins defense. It was to the point where Nashville was trying to get him on the ice when Bergeron’s line wasn’t out there, and it showed with a minus-2, just the one shot on net that accounted for the goal and only 7-for-16 performance in the face-off circle. As much as anything else, the proof of Bergeron’s impact is being able to shut down the other team’s elite players and eliminate the strength of an opponent. When Bergeron was out, the Sabres' Jack Eichel dominated the Bruins and ended up winning the game for Buffalo. When Bergeron was back in, he was able to turn Ryan Johansen into a ghost on the ice.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a 5-on-3 to start the third period thanks to a dumb play by Mattias Ekholm where he slammed David Pastrnak right in the chops as the buzzer sounded at the end of the second period. The Bruins already were on the power play, so they had 1:05 of two-man advantage to start the third with the score tied at 1. They didn’t score in the 5-on-3, but did eventually score on the plain old power play to take a 2-1 lead less than two minutes into the final frame. That allowed them to pull away from a Predators team that had hung in there for 40 minutes. Nashville tied it once more, but then the Bruins scored three unanswered goals.

HONORABLE MENTION: Zac Rinaldo somehow manages to stay in the NHL without any discernible skill and played 7:41 of ice time for the Predators. He also managed to not cheap shot anybody or take any bad penalties in his brief stay on the ice in addition to being a complete non-factor. The fact that the Bruins actually gave up a third-round pick for that guy still astounds me. Certainly, you’re willing assets and draft picks for a tough guy who can intimidate, be a good teammate and defend your team’s best players. But Rinaldo was never that kind of animal and now basically plays a fourth-line role while bringing very little to the table.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of assists for Jaroslav Halak this season after he picked one up on Sean Kuraly’s empty-netter late in the third.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The ref came back to the bench with the puck and I said 'No, I don't think that one is for me.' That's how much I know my own stats, I guess." –Patrice Bergeron, on scoring his 300th goal and being presented the puck. 

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David Pastrnak falls short of milestone, but still makes Bruins history

David Pastrnak falls short of milestone, but still makes Bruins history

When the NHL suspended its regular season in mid-March, David Pastrnak's quest for 50 goals was put on hold. 

On Tuesday, that quest officially ended when Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that when the league does resume play, it will jump directly to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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With 48 goals in 70 games, the 24-year-old budding superstar finishes just shy of the elusive half-century mark, a milestone that no Bruin has reached since Cam Neely in the 1993-94 season.

Overall, five Bruins have scored at least 50 goals in a season: Phil Esposito (5 times), Neely (3 times), Rick Middleton, Ken Hodge, and Johnny Bucyk. With a dozen games left in the regular season, Pastrnak easily would have become the sixth Bruin with a 50-goal campaign if the global COVID-19 pandemic hadn't halted the season.

But Pastrnak was still able to achieve a feat that no Bruin has accomplished since the mid-70s.

His 48 goals are tied with Alex Ovechkin for the most in the NHL this season, meaning the two players will share the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal-scorer. Pastrnak becomes the first Bruin to lead the league in scoring since Esposito accomplished the feat in six straight seasons, from 1969-70 to 1974-75.

Pastrnak, who also led the league with 20 power-play goals and tied for the league lead with 10 game-winning goals, becomes only the fifth Bruin who played the entire season in Boston to lead the league in goals, joining Esposito, Bronco Horvath (tied with Bobby Hull in 1959-60), Roy Conacher (in 1938-39), and Cooney Weiland (in 1929-30).

The cancellation of the rest of the league's 2019-20 regular season means that the Bruins also won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 2013-14 with a league-high 100 points, while the B's goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak claims the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league this season (167 for a 2.39 goals against average).

Stanley Cup odds 2020: Updated betting lines after 24-team return format unveiled

Stanley Cup odds 2020: Updated betting lines after 24-team return format unveiled

The NHL announced Tuesday a return-to-play plan that will consist of a 24 teams, as well as the format to be used for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was a positive step for sports fans hoping to see the return of live games this summer.

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Given the unique situation surrounding COVID-19, it's difficult (if not impossible) to find a format that benefits all 24 teams fairly. Some teams will benefit more than others, but a return with a different format than normal is still better than the 2019-20 season not resuming at all.

The Stanley Cup currently belongs to the St. Louis Blues, who defeated the Boston Bruins in a hard-fought seven-game 2019 Stanley Cup Final series. These two teams both sit atop their respective conferences and, under the 24-team format, they will automatically earn a berth into the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins, Blues and the other top-four teams in each conference will play a round robin format to determine their seeding for the first round.

Boston and St. Louis also are among the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup following the league's return-to-play announcement.

Here are the latest Stanley Cup odds, via William Hill:

The Bruins finished the regular season with the best record and also ranked No. 1 with a plus-53 goal differential. Boston is aiming to become the first team since the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins to lose in the Stanley Cup Final and come back to win it the following season. 

It's impossible to predict how the long layoff will impact these teams, but there are some benefits for the Bruins. They've played a ton of hockey in recent seasons, and the roster as a whole is not a young one. The rest could help, and some of the team's players who were battling injuries before the season was suspended have had extra time to heal. The Bruins' veteran core also has played many years together, and it has loads of playoff experience.

Picking a winner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is one of the hardest tasks in sports, but if the league is successful in returning to game action, the Bruins will have a great shot to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and win their first championship since 2011.