The Boston Bruins did all they could to avoid elimination but their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs run and 2019-20 season came to an abrupt end Monday night in Toronto when Victor Hedman scored 14:10 into the second overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 win and 4-1 series win over the Bruins.
Here’s your final BHN Five Takeaways of the 2019-20 Boston Bruins season and the most bizarre season this longtime puck scribe has ever covered:
Boston Bruins Didn’t Check Out Of Bubble Pregame
When the Boston Bruins answered a 7-1 drubbing in Game 3 with a 3-1 loss in Game 4, plenty of media and fans alike wondered if, like so many teams facing elimination in NHL Bubble life, the Bruins had checked out mentally prior to puck drop Monday night. After tying the game twice to force overtime and pouring 47 shots on Vasilevskiy, it was pretty clear that the Bruins weren’t ready to leave Toronto and wanted to keep playing. This was easily the Bruins best effort of the series since Game 1 and they left it all on the ice. As far as they were concerned, if they didn’t go down fighting, being in the bubble was pointless.
“I’m obviously very proud of this group,” Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said following the game. “Since obviously phase two, if you want to call it, everybody made some huge sacrifices and we were a committed group to get back to where we left off at some point in March.
I think that everybody showed up in great shape, ready to play, committed to coming into the hub city, and do whatever it took to play the best hockey that we could. I’m very proud of the group. Guys were playing very hard and doing whatever they could to win games. It’s a learning experience for many players and hopefully, this will make this group stronger and more resilient for the future playoff runs. Definitely, it’s still very raw and disappointing. I know personally and speaking for all the guys, they left it out there and played with their heart.”
2010 Halak Finally Showed Up
While Halak wasn’t to blame for Tuukka Rask leaving the NHL bubble during the first round, he certainly hasn’t looked like he did anytime he spelled Rask relief during the regular season and certainly not like the goalie that carried the Montreal Canadiens to the 2010 Eastern Conference Final. As I said here following Game 4, if the Boston Bruins were to keep this series going, they didn’t just need the Halak that went 18-6-6 with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage this season but they needed a reincarnation of the Halak helped the Habs upset the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins respectively in that 2010 postseason run.
Halak played his best game of the 2020 postseason in Game 5 and gave the Bruins chance after chance to stay alive and force a Game 6. The 35-year-old netminder was strong early on and got better as the game went on.
— BOSHockeyNow (@BOSHockeyNow) August 31, 2020
Early in the second overtime, he made a brilliant save on Palat to keep the game knotted at two.
Halak with the stop on Palat. pic.twitter.com/oFF84d2EEI
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) September 1, 2020
“Outstanding. Really good,” Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy said of Halak. “We didn’t give up a high volume of shots but some really good quality ones from the crease early on. Killorn I know had one, there was a post. The second period, was it Palat in front of the net, or the third?
I can’t remember now, but some good ones right in front of him. Some real good saves there. And the goals were deflections. Our D wasn’t able to get under their stick, it’s something they do well. All three goals were generated by their blue line. Credit to them. But as far as Jaro goes, he stopped everything that he literally could. So tons of credit to him. And their goalie is obviously good too, he made some big saves and it was a night where both goalies were on.”
With his team facing elimination and not reaping the benefits of their plethora of shots throughout the game, Cassidy wasn’t shy switching up his lines as the game went on. He was already dealing with injuries to rugged forwards Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Nick Ritchie, all ‘unfit to play’ and had to shuffle his bottom-six prior to faceoff. As the game went on though and the Bruins fell behind twice, Cassidy rewarded the solid play of Krejci, putting Pastrnak on his right wing and also Jack Studnicka whom he slotted in on the right side of Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork. The moves clearly paid off as Krejci scored and the Bruins were able to force overtime.
Krejci Was Mr. August For Boston Bruins
The Bruins and Krejci were clearly hoping he could follow in the footsteps of the hall of fame baseball star Reggie Jackson and become Mr. October of the NHL but Krejci was definitely Mr. August for the Bruins in this Bizzaro 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs season. Krejci finished the playoffs with four goals and eight assists in the 13 round-robin and playoff games he played. The 34-year-old veteran center now has 45 goals and 75 assists in 145 career playoff games, all with the Boston Bruins. With one year at $7.2 million left on his contract, it will be interesting to see if his continued playoff success is enough to prevent him from being a cap casualty this offseason.
Last Hurrah For Chara And Krug With Boston Bruins?
Chara and fellow defenseman Torey Krug just finished their last seasons on their current contracts and with the Bruins pushing up against the flattened $81.5 million salary cap, this may have been the last time the two leaders in the dress room patrol the Boston Bruins blue line. No one wanted to really think about that after the game but the elephant in the room was too big to ignore.
“Well I don’t want to speculate if those are their last games, so those are decisions that will be made by the player and management going forward,” Cassidy said. “I’ve said all along, grateful to have an opportunity to coach ‘Zee’ [Chara]. It was early in my NHL career so to speak, later in his playing career, so he helped me a lot. Torey is a little different, I got him more, well into my American League career and he was just basically starting out, so it’s a much different situation, where you almost feel like Zee probably helped me more than I’ve helped him and with Krug it was a little more of watching him grow and being a bigger part in his development.
Both great Boston Bruins and we’ll see what happens down the line because like I said, those are decisions that will be made and as I said, I love both those guys and what they mean to the Boston Bruins and hopefully what they’ll continue to mean for the Boston Bruins.”
Chara was non-committal when asked what his plans for the future were?
“I haven’t made that decision,” Chara said. “I obviously just finished the game. I’ll be open-minded.”