The end of the National Hockey League regular season was scheduled to be this weekend on April 4. The two-plus month grind to a Stanley Cup championship for 16 teams was about to begin before the league put the season on pause on March 12 amid the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak.
Some teams give out season-ending awards that are voted on by fans. One award that the Boston Bruins hand out is the 7th Player Award, given to the player who performed above expectations for the season that is voted on by the fans. The past three winners have been David Pastrnak (2016-17), Charlie McAvoy (2017-18) and Chris Wagner (2018-19).
There are several possible winners for this year’s award, but below are three players that are deserving of the award. Each has played a role in the Bruins sitting on top of the NHL standings and in position to win the Presidents’ Trophy should the season start up again.
3. Jaroslav Halak
This is an out of the box candidate, but looking deeper into the season he has had, Jaroslav Halak should get some consideration as the backup goalie. Backing up a Venezia Trophy candidate and All-Star in Tuukka Rask, Halak is near the top of the league in some of his stats despite being a backup.
A free agent at the end of the season, Halak has an 18-6-6 record in 29 games started and 31 overall appearances this season. He is sixth in the league with a 2.39 goals-against average (GAA) and sports a .919 save percentage (SV%). He has three shutouts and allowed just 73 goals on 905 shots.
His biggest stretch of the season came in January after Rask was sidelined with a concussion in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Halak won two of his last three starts before the All-Star break following the injury. His last loss came Jan. 19 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and he had won seven in a row until the NHL pause.
With Rask being injured and out for three weeks, he had been working back in slowly by coach Bruce Cassidy since the All-Star before the season pause because of Halak’s hot play. Without his stint as a backup, there’s a very slim chance that the Bruins hold off the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division.
2. Matt Grzelcyk
In his third full season in a Bruins uniform, Matt Grzelcyk has had his best season of the three in Boston. He has played in 68 of the 70 games this season, which is a career-high for the 26-year-old defenseman.
Bouncing back and forth between the second and third defensive pairings this season because of injuries, he has been a consistent presence on the ice with a plus-15 rating. He has 4 goals and 17 assists for 21 points, which are all career highs. He has spent time as well on the Bruins second power-play unit and has one goal and six assists with the man advantage.
Despite being undersized at 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, Grzelcyk has had a season that deserves recognition no matter how it ends.
1. Charlie Coyle
Acquired from the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline in 2019, Coyle has been a jack of all trades for the Bruins this season. He has floated between a second-line right wing and a third-line center, with his best fit for the team coming as a center on the third line.
Coyle has played in all 70 games this season with 16 goals and 21 assists, but the Weymouth, Massachusetts native has been a part of the Bruins special teams units. He has been a part of the league’s second-ranked power play and kills penalties. He has two shorthanded goals, one power-play goal and three of his 16 goals have been game-winning goals.
There are other candidates that could be in line for this award this season, but these three players come to mind when you look at the second tier of players that have helped the Bruins settle into the top spot in the league.
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.