The world is in an unprecedented pandemic. It’s been a week since the sports world shutdown. When an NBA player tested positive for the coronavirus March 11, the league took action and shut down operations immediately. Eleven NHL teams share arenas with NBA teams. Of those 11 cities, the infected Utah Jazz player played in three of those arenas in Boston, Detroit and New York less than a week before testing positive. Commissioner Gary Bettman made the right decision to pause the season the next day to keep the chances of catching the virus as low as possible.
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When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people for up to eight weeks, the NHL told players to go home and self-quarantine for two weeks. At that point, the situation will be revisited with the hope that the league could resume the season at the end of the 60-day period without the fear of spreading or catching the virus.
The league has said that they still hope to award the Stanley Cup this season, even if it means playing hockey until July. With that said, below are three thoughts regarding the Boston Bruins during the league’s pause.
3. Regular Season Awards
The Bruins have at least two, maybe three players in the running for an NHL award. David Pastrnak is having a career-year and should be a finalist for the Hart Trophy. He is tied for the league lead with 48 goals with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. He also has 47 assists and is tied for third in the league with Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers in points with 95.
Goalie Tuukka Rask (28-8-6) should be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. He leads the NHL with a 2.12 goals-against average (GAA) and is second with a .929 save percentage (SV%). He is second with five shutouts and despite missing four games before the All-Star break with a concussion, he is a big reason Boston has the best record in the league.
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A case could be made just about every year for Patrice Bergeron for the Selke Trophy and this year is no different. While he is not the clear favorite, he has won the award four times and could be a finalist. There are not many better forwards in the league that have the defensive game that Bergeron has had over the last decade year in and year out.
2. Questions Hover Over Future Roster
When the season does end, whether it be because of the virus or during the possible playoffs, the Bruins will have some big decisions to make heading into the 2020-21 season. With a number of pending free agents, the roster could look a little different next season.
Has Torey Krug played his last game in a Bruins’ uniform should the league cancel the rest of the season? They hope not. The 28-year-old defenseman will be looking for a big payday either in Boston or elsewhere. He could be looking at an average salary of about $7-8 million a year. It would be in the best interest of the Bruins to lockup one of their most important players and make him a staple of the blue line for years to come.
Backup goalie Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6) becomes a free agent this summer as well and his value to the club over the last two seasons has been nothing short of important. He has teamed up with Rask to make one of the better goaltending duos in the league. He is sixth among goalies this season with a 2.39 GAA and has a .919 SV%. In two seasons in Boston, he is 40-17-10 with a 2.36 GAA and a .921 SV%. With a lot of questions surrounding the goalies in the minors, it would be a benefit for the Bruins to make bringing him a priority.
Zdeno Chara at 43 years old has been playing on a year-by-year basis recently with his contracts. He has played in 68 of the teams 70 games this year, but you have to wonder what the future holds for the captain.
1. What It Means for Boston
Playing some of their best hockey of the season in the last month, the Bruins sit on top of the overall league standings as the only team with at least 100 points. They are primed for another deep postseason run. Will they get that opportunity to erase the Game 7 memory of last year’s Stanley Cup Final loss on home ice to the St. Louis Blues? Time will tell.
Over the course of an 82-game regular-season, NHL players get many bumps and bruises. Like every other team, the break can do them some good. The Bruins have a window that could potentially close soon for winning a championship. With the uncertainty that could swirl around their roster heading into next season, they hope to get a shot at some point over the next few months to finish what they have started.
There are bigger things in life right now than the game of hockey. The health of everyone around the world with the COVID-19 outbreak takes top priority at this time.
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.