NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s announced Tuesday that the NHL Return To Play Committee’s 24-team playoff proposal was approved and in the process, officially confirmed that the Boston Bruins are the new Presidents’ Trophy Champions. With the league going straight to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs in its Return To Play Plan, the 2019-20 NHL regular season is officially over and the Bruins (44-14-12, 100 points) finished with the best record in the NHL. The Bruins also won the Atlantic Division for the second time in team history.
With a career-high 48 goals, David Pastrnak tied Alexander Ovechkin for the league lead in goals and won his and the Bruins’ first Rocket Richard Trophy.
Thanks to the Bruins allowing the least amount of goals (167) they will also be awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy for the best goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak.
“On behalf of the entire Boston Bruins organization, I would like to express how proud we are of our players, coaches, trainers, and hockey operations staff for winning the Presidents’ Trophy,” Bruins President Cam Neely said in a press release Thursday. “From the start of the regular season, until the pause, our group was focused and determined every day when they came to work. Although the regular season did not end the way anyone hoped, we are honored to win this award for the second time in seven years.
I would also like to congratulate David Pastrnak for winning the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak for winning the William M. Jennings Trophy. David, Tuukka, and Jaro each had incredible seasons, and while these awards are given to individuals, I know they would be quick to acknowledge the entire team and coaching staff for their accomplishments.”
Reaching the century mark in points for a third straight season could go to waste in terms of seeding for the first round of the playoffs. The NHL decided to let the top four teams battle for seeding in a round-robin before the first round while the fifth through 12th seeded teams battle in the qualifying round. The Bruins could actually end up being the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference if they don’t fare well with the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers but they will officially go down as the best team in the Coronavirus-shortened regular season.
Boston beat out the defending Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, 94 points) by six points after they lost to them in seven games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. This is the second time in seven seasons that the Bruins have won the Presidents’ trophy as they finished atop the standings in for the 2013-14 regular season when they finished 54-19-9 for 117 points and beat out the Anaheim Ducks (54-20-8, 116 points) by a point. The Bruins suffered the Presidents’ Trophy jinx (only eight winners have won the Stanley Cup) when they lost in a seven-game heartbreaker in the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. The B’s were also hit by the jinx in 1990 when after finishing with the best record (46-25-9, 101 points) they fell to the Edmonton Oilers in five games in the 1990 Stanley Cup Final.
Now the Bruins will look to emerge from the NHL Coronavirus Pause that began back on March 12 and become the first Presidents’ Trophy winners since the 2008 Detroit Red Wings and only the second in the salary cap era that began in 2005-06.
Bettman didn’t say whether or not there will be a virtual 2020 NHL Awards Show but said later in a Zoom Call with the media that the league is working to honor the award winners. Given the current Coronavirus climate, Bettman indicated that as of now they would do so virtually.
“If we had to plan it today, it would certainly be virtual,” the NHL Commissioner told reporters early Tuesday evening. “It is something that our events people are thinking about because the recognition that has been earned should be given. But I think as we look at it today and the timing, I think it’s more likely than not that it would be virtual. But I never rule anything in or out until I have to.”
When those award winners are recognized, the Bruins will definitely be bringing home more than just the Presidents’ Trophy.
Pastrnak First Bruins Player To Win Rocket Richard
Ovechkin, an eight-time Rocket Richard winner, will add to his all-time record and win his ninth Rocket Richard Trophy this season with a league-leading 48 goals but he will have to share the honor this time as Pastrnak also lit the lamp for 48 times in 70 games. This is the first time since the league started awarding this trophy in 1999 that a Bruins player has won it.
After scoring 38 goals last season but having his Richard Trophy bid shortchanged by a hand injury that forced him to miss 16 games, Pastrnak was actually short-changed again on a chance to surpass one the NHL’s greatest goal-scorers this season thanks to the Bruins’ season getting capped at 71 games.
Pastrnak had 47 assists to finish the season with 98 points and place fourth in the race for the Art Ross Trophy behind Edmonton Oilers forwards Leon Draisaitl (110 points) and Connor McDavid (97 points) as well as New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin who racked up 95 points in his first season on Broadway.
Rask And Halak Win Jennings; Another Vezina For Rask?
The Bruins will also be the 2019-20 William Jennings Trophy winners. Bruins goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak combined to only let a league-low 167 biscuits slip by them.
Rask was 26-8-6 with a league-leading 2.12 GAA and was second in save percentage at .929. However, Rask’s former teammate and Dallas Stars backup goalie Anton Khudobin who was first at .930, played 12 fewer games (16-8-4) than the Bruins starter. Halak – who signed a one-year extension earlier this month – was 18-6-6 with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Rask will almost certainly be a Vezina Trophy candidate again as he goes for a second Vezina in seven seasons after winning it for the 2013-14 regular season when he went 36-15-6 with a 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy could be up for the Jack Adams Award as best head coach and Patrice Bergeron will seek a league-record fifth Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward.