When the calendar turns to February in the National Hockey League, it usually indicates that the end is in sight.
Sure, it might mean the end of the season for half of the league, but the other half will have the chance to partake in the two-month grind known as the Stanley Cup playoffs. That is still over six weeks away, though. There will be plenty of time to cover that extravaganza.
What is approaching even sooner is the NHL trade deadline, which will take place on Monday, February 24. February is an important month in the sense that teams will start realizing whether they want to be buyers or sellers. In retrospect, that question may not always come with an easy answer.
For the Boston Bruins, the answer was never in doubt.
Entering Saturday (February 15) as the number one ranked team in the entire NHL (82 points), the B’s are currently positioned to make another deep run. An argument can be made that the Bruins do not need to do anything at the trade deadline considering their place in the standings. However, it would be in their best interest to make a move that would really separate themselves from the rest of the elite teams in the league.
With over one week away from the deadline, let’s take a brief look back at how the Bruins arrived at this point:
Since returning from the All-Star break as well as their bye week, the Bruins have only lost one game; Boston has gone 6-1-0 during that span and has only allowed seven total goals. The lone loss came at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, which is the same team that the B’s played host to this past Saturday afternoon.
Also, the Bruins have won 20 games on TD Garden ice this season. They are setting an early tone for the playoffs in the sense that it will be tough to play in that building when the games really start to matter. Good luck to the opposition.
Joakim Nordstrom and Danton Heinen have recently returned to the lineup. Nordstrom has had his fair share of bad luck this season with injuries and illness, but when healthy he has been one of the most effective players for the Bruins. In fact, do not be surprised if he gets some NESN 7th Player of the Year Award consideration.
Heinen, on the other hand, has been having some performance issues in 2019-20. The 24-year-old left winger was placed on a line with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork this past Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens, and he did not look out of place. It might just be a matter of consistency in getting a shot to play with linemates that can help him produce offensively. The last thing Heinen wants is another trip to Level 9 while watching the games from the press box.
Back on the blue line, Charlie McAvoy finally recorded his first goal of the season. It was a big one, too. He notched the overtime winner in the B’s 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks last week.
The defensive part of his game has been great this year and he is starting to look like he is rounding into form. Although being paired with Zdeno Chara for top defensive responsibilities and only seeing time on the second power-play unit, he still can accumulate his points. McAvoy just needed to get that first one.
Of course, we cannot talk about Boston’s success this season without discussing David Pastrnak. For those who tuned in for the Bruins’ 4-1 victory over the Habs this past Wednesday night, you witnessed another great performance from the Hart Trophy candidate.
Not only did Pastrnak record his fourth hat trick of the season, but he did so while cracking 40 goals for the first time in his career. His four hat tricks are the most in a season by a Bruins’ player since 1974-75 when Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito each had four. It also marked Pastrnak’s second hat trick against Montreal this season.
It is safe to say that Pastrnak is having himself a historic season.
Lastly, one aspect of the team that has gone somewhat under the radar has been the performance of Tuukka Rask. The 32-year-old netminder has quietly built himself a Vezina Trophy-caliber season. Entering the start of the day on February 15, Rask leads the NHL with a 2.11 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. He has also posted a 21-5-6 record in 33 starts with three shutouts.
With all due respect to Pastrnak and the Hart-worthy season he is having, Rask winning the Vezina seems more likely. Imagine that?
We will certainly see what happens at the trade deadline for the Bruins, but the remaining 24 games of the regular season should be very interesting for this team.
They are almost there.