If all was right in the world, the National Hockey League would be in the middle of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As we know, all is not right in the world as we work our way through the coronavirus pandemic that has broken out worldwide.
When the NHL went into their protective pause on March 12, there was uncertainty if the league could resume to finish out the 2019-20 season and award a Stanley Cup champion. Sixteen teams are hoping that the league can safely return and begin a quest for a championship. One team that was and will be a favorite to win the Cup is the Boston Bruins, who were in a position to win the Presidents’ Trophy as the only team in the league with 100 points.
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For teams like the Bruins, they hope the league can resume operations for the playoffs. Boston has a roster of a core group that is not getting any younger and faces some difficult free-agent decisions this offseason.
Bruins Aging Forward Group
The Bruins have a rising star in 23-year-old David Pastrnak (48 goals and 47 assists this season) who was the Atlantic Division captain for the All-Star Game this season. But from there, other key forwards are not getting any younger. Patrice Bergeron, who is 34 years old and in his 16th season may very well be the next Bruins captain if Zdeno Chara retires. Brad Marchand is 31 years old with 11 seasons under his belt. These three forwards have turned the Bruins top line into one of the best in the NHL, but Bergeron and Marchand have a lot of minutes and games in their careers to date.
On the second line, center David Krejci is in his 13th season for Boston and is 33 years old. He also has played in 132 playoff games, with his best postseason in 2011 when he had 12 goals and 11 assists in 25 games helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup. Left-wing Jake DeBrusk is 24 years old, but his contract expires following this season.
A Lot of Questions Surround Defense
It’s no secret that the Bruins blue line could look very different next season. With Chara at 43 years old and Torey Krug a free agent that will look to cash in with a big contract, this could be a very young grouping in 2020-21.
Chara has been a mainstay on the Bruins defense since he signed in the summer of 2007 as a free agent from the Ottawa Senators. He was part of the Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and helped the Bruins reach the Final in 2013 and 2019. He is still in elite physical condition for his age and plays through most injuries.
Krug has played himself into a big contract this summer. Whether or not that happens in Boston remains to be seen. He has said that he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Bruins, but he then retracted that comment.
Boston does have defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo playing major roles at their young age, but losing Krug would be a devasting blow. If Chara decides to walk away as well, that would leave another hole within their top-six defenseman.
Goalies Not Getting Younger Either
The Bruins have the best goalie tandem in the league with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Rask has one more season remaining on his current eight-year $56-million contract. He is 33 years old with two trips to the Stanley Cup Final, only to come up short both time against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and the St. Louis Blues in 2019.
Rask (28-8-6) leads the league with a 2.12 goals-against average (GAA), is second in save percentage (SV%) at .929 and tied for second in shutouts with five. He is in the running for the Vezina Trophy this season and was primed for another deep playoff run. The one thing missing from his resume is a championship.
Halak (18-6-6) is 35 years old and has had a solid season with a 2.39 GAA and a .919 SV% in 31 games. His contract expires following this season and could look to hit the open market and try to compete for a starting position next season with another team instead of returning to the Bruins.
Window Slowly Closing
When and if the league is able to continue the season safely and play the playoffs are yet to be determined. There are bigger issues we are all dealing with right now than hockey. However, this Bruins’ main core is aging with each passing day. With three of their top-six forwards north of 30 years old, their captain in his 40s and their two goalies working in their mid-30s, their window is closing quickly.
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Boston is one of the teams in the league that hopes hockey can return because they were setting up for another deep playoff run. In sports, a deep playoff run is not a given every season and with a team that has a window to compete for championships closing slowly, the Bruins need to take advantage of every opportunity.