When National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement Tuesday that the league is looking to move forward with a 24-team tournament this summer, it put an end to the shortened 2019-20 regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 12 when the league paused the season, the Boston Bruins had 12 regular-season games remaining and were on pace to win the Presidents’ Trophy, which they officially did when the league put an end to the regular season on Tuesday. They were the only team in the league with 100 points and were six points clear of the St. Louis Blues and eight points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Not only were the Bruins having a good season record-wise, but 24-year-old David Pastrnak was having a breakout year in terms of goals. In the running for the Hart Trophy, he became the first Boston player to win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, as he is a co-winner with the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin. Both players finished with 48 goals this season.
Pastrnak Joins Bruins’ Elite Club
The Rocket Richard Award was first handed out in 1999, but until this year no Bruins player won or shared the award. Boston has not had a player lead the league in goals since the 1974-75 season when Phil Esposito led the NHL for the sixth-straight season with 61 goals.
Over the past three seasons, Pastrnak has increased his goal total from 34 in 2016-17, to 35 in 2017-18, to 38 in 2018-19. This season, his 48 goals were part of his breakout season that saw him two away from becoming the first Bruin since current Bruins president Cam Neely to score 50 goals.
He was on the cusp of becoming only the sixth Bruins player to net 50, joining Esposito who did it five times and Neely three times, while Rick Middleton, Ken Hodge and Johnny Bucyk each did it once.
Special Season for Pastrnak
Drafted 25th overall in the first round of the 2014 Entry Draft, Pastrnak took his goal-scoring totals to another level in 2019-20. He started with 12 goals in each of October and November, before adding 10 in February.
Pastrnak has been key to the league’s second-ranked power play during the season. He led the league with 20 power play goals and became the first Bruin to reach that number of power play goals in a season since Neely in 1993-94. He also finished tied for first with 10 game-winning goals with Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and tied for first with four hat tricks with Ovechkin.
Scoring goals has not been the only stat number to make a jump this season for Pastrnak. He had a career-high 47 assists on the Bruins’ top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. He finished the season with 95 total points, just 5 shy of 100. There was a good chance that he was going to be the first Bruin to score 50 goals and have 100 points in a season since Esposito did it during the 1974-74 season with 61 goals and 127 points.
Pastrnak also became the fifth Bruins player to have played his whole season in Boston and lead the league in goals. He joins Esposito, Bronco Horvath, Roy Conacher and Cooney Weiland in that elite category.
50-Goal Season in Pastrnak’s Future?
Barring something unforeseen, it is not out of the question that Pastrnak will have at least one 50-goal season in his career before he is done. It will be tough to top the season he just had, but his goal total has trended upward each season.
He might not win the Hart Trophy this year, but finishing as a co-winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy at the young age of 24 leaves the sky as the limit for him moving forward in his career.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.