Earlier this month, we looked at which Boston Bruins were most likely to benefit from the lengthy pause in the NHL season. Today, we steal a page from Harvey Dent’s book, and look at the other side of that coin. Which B’s were hurt the most by the unexpected stoppage? Who would have benefited the most from playing the final 12 games of the season? How many more miscellaneous Batman references will he add to this article? All of these questions and more will be answered below.
Down the Stretch
In what would become the final two months of the season, the Bruins were red-hot. In their final 18 games, the boys from Beantown went 14-4-0 en route to their third Presidents’ Trophy in club history. Unsurprisingly, during this stretch several prominent players were playing their best hockey of the season, only to have their momentum stalled by the COVID-19 outbreak. Three players, in particular, have a legitimate beef with the shutdown, as it not only derailed their late-season resurgence but will undoubtedly soften the UFA market.
Despite missing Boston’s final game of the season with an upper-body injury, Krug still stands to lose more than he has to gain from the pause. While the additional recovery time has given him ample opportunity to heal heading into the round-robin games, his momentum in the final two months of the season was abruptly halted by the shutdown.
Although his production through the first four months of the season was respectable, February and March were particularly fruitful for the Michigan native. He increased his shooting percentage from 5.4% to 7.7%, while also bumping his point production by nearly 20 percent. Had he played the final 13 games of the season at that pace, he would have ended the 2019-20 campaign with 61 points and vaulted himself into the Norris Trophy conversation.
Although anything is possible when the B’s return to action, it is unlikely he will be able to immediately replicate the nearly point-per-game pace he enjoyed down the stretch. As a pending UFA, Krug would have greatly benefitted from being able to ride this hot streak, and will likely suffer as a result of the revenue lost and the stagnant salary cap next season and beyond.
Coyle is another example of a player whose hot streak was cut short by the shutdown. Although his offensive production hovered around his career average for most of the season, he saw a major uptick as the Bruins approached the stretch drive. Through his first 52 games this season, he tallied nine goals and 27 points, while being deployed primarily in a third line, two-way role, (from ‘Charlie Coyle at home on Bruins third line,’ Boston Herald, 11/22/2019).
As the calendar turned to February, his shooting percentage nearly doubled (16.3%), and he buried seven goals in the final 18 games prior to the pause. This caught the eye of head coach Bruce Cassidy, as Coyle’s average ice time over that stretch increased by over a minute when compared to the rest of the season. Partly thanks to that bump, Coyle produced at nearly a 32-goal pace down the stretch.
Although it is not out of the question, it’s unlikely that Coyle will return to such a torrid pace, as his previous career-high was 21 in 2015-16 with the Minnesota Wild. Unlike Krug, however, Coyle can rest easy (probably on a pillow stuffed with money) knowing that his six-year, 31.5 million extension kicks in next year.
In the first season of a three-year bridge deal, McAvoy stumbled out of the gate offensively. Following an injury-plagued sophomore campaign that saw him notch the equivalent of 43 points, he was held scoreless through 51 games this season. Compounding the issue, even Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne found the back of the net before McAvoy. Despite those early challenges, McAvoy also went on a tear down the stretch. Finally getting the monkey off of his back in early February, he quickly made up for lost time, tallying 15 points in his final 18 games.
Perhaps even more impressive than his scorching pace, was his ability to ratchet up the offence without making sacrifices defensively. While increasing his point production by nearly 50%, and his shooting percentage by a whopping 16.7%, McAvoy improved his plus/minus rating from plus-8 to plus-24 in just 18 games. The pause in the NHL season could not have come at a worse time for McAvoy, as he had finally hit his stride at both ends of the rink.
So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance
While the case can be made that many players around the league will benefit from the additional rest and recovery during the pause, each team likely has a few players who will ultimately be hurt by the shutdown. Whether they are pending free agents, or simply looking to rebound from a slow start, many players could have used the final month to write a more positive final chapter to their season. While Krug, Coyle, and McAvoy certainly fall into this category, the team should still be considered one of the heavy favorites entering the most unique Stanley Cup tournament in history.
Jeremy is a teacher and hockey coach at several prominent Canadian Prep Schools, involved in player development both on and off the ice. He has primarily served as assistant coach responsible for defencemen, special teams and video. Jeremy has helped develop many athletes that are now playing at the next level, including the CHL, NCAA Division I, World Championship (Canadian U-18), and NHL (2017 Draftee).