Teams already following St Louis' 'Blues-print' - should Bruins do the same?

Teams already following St Louis' 'Blues-print' - should Bruins do the same?

BOSTON - They always say that the NHL is a copycat league once a formula is out there for a Stanley Cup winner.

Well, it would appear that teams are actively going to try and get bigger, stronger and meaner after watching the St. Louis Blues dominate 5-on-5 play, push teams around and generally use their oversized roster en route to a Stanley Cup title this week.

The parade through St. Louis won’t even happen until Saturday afternoon and Bruins players cleaned out their lockers on Friday afternoon, but other teams are already putting the big, bad plan into action this summer. It certainly would appear that the Washington Capitals have that in mind as they landed hard-hitting, suspension-earning defenseman Radko Gudas in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Certainly, the Capitals already have their own nasty, check-throwing types in Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson, among others, but adding Gudas to that mix just makes Washington even that much more difficult to play against next season. It should also make things easier for the NHL Department of Player Safety to track down their frequent customers with both Gudas and Wilson now taking residence in Washington together.

Capitals GM Brian McLellan referenced Gudas’ “competitive, physical game” in a statement following the trade, and this is cleaned-up hockey executive speak for a player they obviously feel is going to be willing to do any necessary dirty work in the playoffs.

Just as the Blues were playing a punishing style that won the war of attrition against the Sharks and the Bruins in the final two rounds of the postseason. The Blues became the first team in Stanley Cup Final history to have two different players suspended in the series with Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev dinged for throwing dirty hits and that was certainly no accident given the heavy, punishing, in-your-face way that they played.  

Bruce Cassidy was asked about teams perhaps leaning into size, strength and physicality and away from too much speed and skill as a result of the way the Cup Final played out, but the B’s bench boss wasn’t ready to go there when the question was posed to him while the series was still going on.

“I think it’s a good discussion, right? You’ve got this decade you’ve got the Bruins [Washington] and LA and they were certainly heavy teams. You’ve got Chicago and Pittsburgh that were more geared toward speed and skill. So, it’s a good argument about how best to construct your team,” said Cassidy. “I think GMs go through it every day to figure out the best way to go. This year, I think you’ve got two heavy teams. “You’ve got St. Louis and I feel that we’re in that [heavy] category. I think they’d probably say the same thing. Comparably around the league, I think we’re both perceived in that same way. Who knows maybe the shift will go back that way? It’s a good conversation [to have].”

While it’s true that the Bruins do have some big, heavy players: Zdeno Chara, David Backes and Brandon Carlo for instance, the Boston roster is noticeably smaller than St. Louis. The heaviness was a calling card for the Blues roster as were the borderline hits thrown in the postseason. On the Boston side, it was about having enough to merely survive against the Blues, a bigger, stronger team.

It's clear now that teams around the NHL while watching the Blues hoist the Cup have received the memo that playing like St. Louis will be rewarded. It raises the question whether it’s in the best interest of the Bruins to get bigger, heavier and stronger this offseason so they’re a little more well-equipped should they get into an alley fight in a seven-game series with a team like the Blues again next season.

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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.