Bruins’ 2021-22 Mid-Season Awards

With the NHL in their annual All-Star break, the Boston Bruins will get much-needed rest while captain Patrice Bergeron is the team’s representative at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas. It was an up and down first half of the season for the Black and Gold, who sit nine points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot.

As the Bruins sit back and watch the All-Star festivities, let’s hand out some mid-season awards for the 2021-22 regular season.

MVP: Brad Marchand

There is no doubt as to who was the Bruins MVP through the first half of the season.  It’s scary to think where the Black and Gold would be without their first-line left wing. Marchand is second on the team in goals with 21, one behind David Pastrnak, first with 28 assists and he has a team-high 49 points in 38 games.

Brad Marchand Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Marchand does it all for the Bruins. He has six power play goals, a team-high 16 assists, and 22 man advantage points. He also leads the team with two shorthanded goals. He has points in 30 of the 38 games he has played in this season. A durable player, he took an ugly hit from Garnet Hathaway of the Washington Capitals in January, missed the remainder of the game, but did not miss any games after that when it looked like he would be down for some time.

It’s safe to say, as Marchand goes, so do the Bruins. He excels in all situations, he has become one of the team’s top playmakers and makes everyone around him better.

Top Defensemen: Charlie McAvoy

Prior to the season, McAvoy signed an eight-year, $76 million contract to remain in Boston for the foreseeable future. Since Torey Krug left in free agency in October of 2020, McAvoy was looked upon as the new leader on defense, and the former Boston University standout has not disappointed.

This season, the 24-year-old has taken his game to another level. He is averaging 24:04 a night of time on ice in 40 games, one more minute than his career-high. He plays in all situations, including taking over for Krug as the Bruins defenseman on the first power play unit. He has seven goals and 21 assists and is well on his way to career-highs for both. He has four power play goals, including two game-winning goals against the Capitals and Arizona Coyotes in the last month. He also has seven power play assists.

More than his production, McAvoy has taken on a leadership role too. In a game against the Capitals on Jan. 18, Washington’s Tom Wilson delivered a clean hit on Anton Blidh, who knocked the Bruins’ fourth-liner out of the game. Later in the period, McAvoy returned the favor by delivering a big hit on the Capitals Trevor van Riemsdyk to send a message that the Black and Gold were not going to back down. If it wasn’t for Marchand’s play, McAvoy could easily be seen as the team MVP through the first half of the season.

Top Newcomer: Linus Ullmark

Following the 2020-21 season, general manager Don Sweeney was facing a dilemma in goal. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak were free agents and there were questions as to whether or not Rask even wanted to continue his career in Boston or in the NHL. With youngsters Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar in the wings, Sweeney had a lot of decisions to make for the future.

Related: Bruins Untouchable Prospects for 2022 Trade Deadline

The Bruins GM agreed to a four-year, $20 million contract with Ullmark and traded Vladar to the Calgary Flames. The signing of the former Buffalo Sabres goalie raised some eyebrows, but after a slow start, Ullmark has been as good as the Bruins would have hoped he would be.

Linus Ullmark Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 24 games, he is 16-6-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average (GAA) with a .913 save percentage (SV%). Along with Swayman, Ullmark is a big reason why the Black and Gold made a mad dash up the Eastern Conference standings in December and January. On Jan. 11, Rask signed a one-year contract with Boston and has struggled in his first month. During Rask’s struggles, Ullmark was 6-1-1, which contributed to Boston’s 11-4-1 month of January.

Ullmark was one of five free agents brought in by Sweeney last summer, but for most of the season, Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek, Nick Foligno, and Derek Forbort have struggled while Ullmark has been the most consistent. 

Unsung Hero: Oskar Steen

Steen has only played in 18 games this season in Boston, but the 165th overall pick in the 2016 Entry Draft has provided the bottom-six with a spark and has become a nightly member of the lineup. In 18 games, he has two goals and six points, but the 5-foot-9, 199-pound Steen makes things happen when he is on the ice.

Related: Bruins Prospect Oskar Steen Deserves More NHL Playing Time

He scored his first NHL goal against the New Jersey Devils in January, but since being placed on the third line, he was recently moved up to the first line with Bergeron and Marchand by coach Bruce Cassidy. A gritty forward that has improved his game the last two seasons with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), Steen is making it hard to be kept out of the lineup.

Despite being undersized by NHL standards, there is a lot to like about what he is providing the Bruins right now. His energy has reignited the bottom-six and played a big part in the team’s January hot streak. There is no doubt Steen is beginning to carve out a role in the future on the roster in Boston.

Most Improved: Curtis Lazar

When the Bruins acquired Taylor Hall at the trade deadline in April of 2021, Lazar was part of the deal and considered a throw-in to complete the trade. When he arrived late in the season to Boston, he provided a spark to the fourth line with Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly and the trio became a tough line to play against with their forecheck and physical play.

Curtis Lazar Boston Bruins
Curtis Lazar, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

This season, he was moved to the wing with Nosek and Haula added as bottom-six centers, but he has gone about his play on the wing and is becoming a key part of the Bruins. He is relentless on the forecheck, he is a key part of the penalty-killing unit while adding five goals and six assists. The former first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators, 17th overall in 2013, is playing himself into a nice contract following the season either in Boston or somewhere else. Along with Steen, he has been a key part of the bottom-six forwards.

Overall, there have been some surprises this season for the Bruins. The case could be made that some of these awards could have been handed out to other players, but the truth is, Boston is going to need to get contributions from these players in the second half of the season to get into the Stanly Cup playoffs this spring.

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