It’s the beginning of March. You’re sitting on top of the hockey world, on pace to take home the Presidents’ Trophy for the second time in a decade. You’ve got the NHL’s leading goal scorer and potential Hart Trophy candidate in David Pastrnak. You’ve got the Vezina Trophy frontrunner in Tuukka Rask. You’ve got a deep team, basically the same team that came within a couple goals of winning the Stanley Cup last season. For the most part, things were looking good for the Boston Bruins. Then, it all changes.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the NHL to shut down and now it’s unclear when/if the season will return. The NHL could finish out its regular season, it could finish out the playoffs, it could cancel the remaining games entirely. We don’t know. For the Bruins, the hope is that hockey returns and they can try and duplicate what happened last season: a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals (this time with a win in Game 7). With the league on a break, we’ll be taking a look at each playoff team and where they stand. Let’s get into it.
Where do the Boston Bruins stand during the break?
Points: 100 (preseason over/under: 103.5)
Place: 1st in Atlantic (No. 1 overall seed)
Stanley Cup odds (March 10): +550
If the playoffs started today, the Bruins would be the No. 1 overall seed in the entire postseason. Personally, I don’t think that means anything in the NHL and Stanley Cup Playoffs, as we’ve seen in years past. If the playoffs started today, the Bruins would be set to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs. This would be a different Blue Jackets team than the one from last season, the same squad that lost to the Bruins in six games in the second round. This is less about the playoffs though, and more about how the Bruins look heading into the playoffs. The answer to that? Fine.
Boston is a veteran group led by Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. The goal every season is the Cup and that’s been the case for over a decade now. David Pastrnak has 95 points and is third in the NHL in scoring. His 48 goals are tied with Washington Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin for most in the League right now. Tuukka Rask is on track to win his second career Vezina Trophy for top goaltender. He may not have the wins, but his 2.12 GAA leads the NHL and his .929 save percentage is his best since 2014, when he won the Vezina. Let’s not forget Brad Marchand, who continues to perform at a high level with 87 points in 70 games this season.
The formula for the Bruins hasn’t changed at all. They’re a team that limits scoring chances and clamps down on defense and beats you on special teams. Last season in the playoffs, the Bruins basically rode a hot power play to the Cup. They still have the second-ranked PP unit and third-ranked penalty kill unit this season. Special Teams: Check. Rask and backup goalie Jaroslav Halak have been a strong tandem all season, and the Bruins rank first in team save percentage at .921. The stars are aligned for the Bruins to make another Cup run and it would be a disappointment if anything less comes of this season.
The issue is the NHL is the deepest League in sports and the playoffs are usually up in the air. Also up in the air is the status of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Both defensemen entered the break with injuries, though it’d be surprising if one or either of them misses additional time once the NHL returns. If both are healthy — with all the rest the veterans are getting right now — the Bruins are well positioned to make another deep playoff run.