Per league reports this week, the NHL is on its way back to restarting hockey. However, a recent decision to jump straight into the postseason — where teams will move to playoff battles without finishing the regular part of the campaign — has raised many questions and debates.
According to many around the sport, that is not fair towards some teams. Even so, the circumstances were pretty rough and the league had to make some unpopular moves in order to save the 2019-20 season.
The biggest losers in this scenario, by far, are the Boston Bruins – who were pretty close to capturing the No.1 spot in the league and the Eastern Conference. Last year’s Stanley Cup runners-up were presented with a President’s Trophy earlier this week, but that won’t mean anything to them. Coach Bruce Cassidy’s side will now have to play a series of games to determine post-season seedings because this year teams will be re-seeded after every round, matchups will not be bracketed in advance.
More specifically, Boston had 100 points after 72 games, while second-placed Tampa Bay Lighting had 92, the Washington Capitals 90, and Philadelphia Flyers 89. As noted, despite being the top seed in the Conference, they now face a situation in which their hard work could disappear because of two games.
Then again, the bookies still see the Bruins as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference for the second straight year. Currently, the odds on that are 17/5, but last year’s President’s Trophy winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are slightly behind at 18/5. The surging Flyers are third with 11/2, and Alex Ovechkin’s Capitals are fourth with 13/2. Behind that group are the Penguins with 7/1. For additional information and some of the best betting tips of the day, see this link.
Looking further ahead to which team may claim the Stanley Cup in the months ahead, Boston is also the top candidate among a crowded field. This comes after last season, where the Bruins lost in the finals after seven games to the St. Louis Blues. That last contest was at the TD Garden in Boston, with most believing home ice advantage would have been enough to put them over the top. However, the Blues were able to cap off an incredible run over the final few months of the regular season with a run through the post-season and eventually capturing the title, after being the last-placed team in the league around the New Year.
Some predicted the Bruins would fall apart after this massive disappointment. Throughout history, just a few teams in any of the major US sports have been able to rebound from a Game 7 loss in a championship final to claiming their sport’s respective title the following season. Yet, this generation of Boston’s players have shown incredible character, and thus far they’ve continued as if nothing happened, erasing any lingering bad memories from the year before and pushing ahead.
Right now, they are the favorite for capturing the 2020 Stanley Cup. Odds on them are 9/2, and are slightly better than Tampa Bay’s 19/4, as well as the Colorado Avalanche at 5/1. Following that trio, the Vegas Golden Knight’s are 21/4 and the Flyers are at 11/2. Then, the reigning champion St. Louis Blues are sitting at 7/1; with the Capitals at 8/1. A little further down the board, there are the Dallas Stars at 11/1, Pittsburgh Penguins at 12/1, and the Edmonton Oilers at 18/1.
Looking at individual player award categories, the Bruins have several players who were superb this year and were recognized for their outstanding regular season performances. For example, David Pastrnak shared the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with Alex Ovechkin. Meanwhile, the goaltending duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak earned the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest number of goals. Hart Trophy candidate Leon Draisaitl from the Oilers earned the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in points, ahead of his teammate Connor McDavid and the Bruins’ David Pastrnak.
According to the bookies, Draisaitl also holds a slim edge in the running for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league MVP. He’s sits atop the list at 19/10, while second on the list is McDavid at 11/5. Pastrnak is 4/1, and the New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin, considered a viable dark horse by many experts, is currently 7/1. Another Bruins’ forward, Brad Marchand, can be had at 10/1, followed by Caps defenseman John Carlson at 25/1, and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov at 33/1.
Overall, Boston’s solid results during thus far have been fueled by enormous talent, as they have several elite players in various positions. When the NHL comes back soon, the Bruins players should be more than ready for the restart, and for another chance to chase down the most coveted trophy in sports. Does this crop of players have what it takes to win it, and possibly lay claim to being one of the best in Bruins history? It’s what all Bruins fans are hoping for.