Jaroslav Halak

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.

It wasn't tough for Jaroslav Halak to sign Bruins extension given the uncertainty

It wasn't tough for Jaroslav Halak to sign Bruins extension given the uncertainty

In the last year of his initial two-year contract with the Bruins, Jaroslav Halak probably could have tried for a No. 1 goaltending job somewhere in free agency based on the two seasons he’s had in Boston.

But the 35-year-old goalie was also facing unprecedented uncertainty given the coronavirus crisis that’s put the 2019-20 season on pause and has put into question exactly when next season will even begin. So, Halak made the smartest move and instead signed a one-year extension with the Bruins for next year that will pay him $2.25 million along with a very easily attained $1.25 million in bonus money.

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Halak will again back up Tuukka Rask, but he’ll also get plenty of playing time, continue to suit up for an elite NHL team and make certain he’s got a job next season no matter what the salary cap landscape looks like.

"It made me think, not knowing what's going to happen this year or next,” said Halak, who is still in Boston while quarantining with his family the past few months. “There's always positives that the team is great, the fans are great. It wasn't tough to take a one-year deal. It’s been a special group. We have unfinished business.”

Halak was 40-17-10 in his two seasons with the Bruins with save percentages of .922 and .919, and has, even more importantly, allowed the Bruins to limit Rask’s workload to the ideal 50-game range. At the time of the 2019-20 regular season being shut down, the Bruins goaltenders were leading the NHL with a 2.39 goals-against average and .921 save percentage on the way to winning the Jennings Trophy as the league’s best goaltending duo.

Now that will continue for at least one more season while young B’s goaltending prospects Daniel Vladar, Jeremy Swayman and Kyle Keyser get another season of development before they might be pushed into action.

Signing of Jaroslav Halak shows Bruins believe Cup window goes beyond this season

Signing of Jaroslav Halak shows Bruins believe Cup window goes beyond this season

Clearly, the Bruins believe their window to win a Stanley Cup will go for at least one more season beyond this current one.

That was evident on Friday when they announced they had signed 35-year-old backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a one-year, $2.25 million contract for the 2020-21 season. With a very reachable bonus, Halak could end up making $3.5 million for the B’s next season and will have the Bruins shelling out more than $10 million for a goaltending duo that’s been the best in the NHL the past two seasons.

That’s not insignificant given the lack of a true salary cap picture for next season in light of the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, and given that the Bruins have Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk and Zdeno Chara, among others, that they are hoping to sign following this season. It’s also an interesting situation because Rask and Halak will be lame-duck goaltenders without contracts beyond that season.

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Behind Rask and Halak the Bruins have still-developing young goalies Daniel Vladar, Jeremy Swayman and Kyle Keyser and they will have no idea if any of those young whippersnappers are NHL material as long as both Halak and Rask are locked down. For the 2020-21 season, there’s an argument to be made that all three young goalies would benefit from more development time in the minors, but that’s going to leave the Bruins without a readymade answer between the pipes if both the 34-year-old Rask and the 35-year-old Halak move on after the 2020-21 season.

Those are all questions for another day, though.

Halak is 40-17-10  in two seasons with the Bruins with save percentages of .922 and .919 and, even more important, has allowed the Bruins to limit Rask’s workload to the ideal 50-game range. At the time of this season being paused, the Bruins goaltenders were leading the NHL with a 2.39 goals-against average and .921 save percentage on their way to winning the Jennings Trophy as the league’s best goaltending duo.

It was clearly a strength for the Bruins this season after the shared workload allowed Rask to be at his best in the postseason, so that part of it is a no-brainer to continue for the Black and Gold for at least another season.

Certainly, the Bruins feel like they are still in a very competitive place after making it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season and leading the NHL with 100 points this season at the time when the regular season was shut down.

“They all realize that their careers are ticking down,” said Bruins President Cam Neely last week in a virtual town hall with season-ticket holders. “They have played more years than they have in front of them and they see the opportunity in front of them. My guess is because of the group we have, the opportunity we have in front of us and how many years they might have left to compete, they will be ready to go [when the season resumes].”

It will be interesting to see what happens beyond next year when the aging NHL core in Boston will really be getting into the twilight of their careers. Will that be the time specifically for a change in goaltending or will the Bruins simply be making moves for a hockey team that’s no longer realistically in their competitive window to raise a Stanley Cup?

It could be all the above, but inking Halak for one more season indicates they feel like there will be at least one more hurrah with an aging group for a Stanley Cup bid next year regardless of what happens this season.