In a time of uncertainty, the Boston Bruins were reassuring everybody why they were the team to beat in the National Hockey League for the 2019-20 season.
For starters, the Bruins currently sit at the top of the league with 100 points—the only team to accomplish that feat. As all hockey operations have been suspended indefinitely with no guarantee that play will resume, the Bruins were the Presidential Trophy frontrunners with 12 games left in the regular season.
All of that work potentially wasted.
In addition, the Bruins saw David Pastrnak take a tremendous leap forward in his overall game. Not only did he work himself into Hart Trophy consideration with his 48 goals and 95 points, but his defensive game is no longer a liability. He can be trusted to take extended shifts with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
If you add in the development of key prospects (Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman, and Jeremy Lauzon, just to name a few) and several player milestones that took place over the course of the last six months, then you should have a season worth remembering for the right reasons.
But as previously mentioned, nothing seems to be a lock.
However, one thing that absolutely seemed to be a lock this season was Tuukka Rask winning the Vezina Trophy.
The 33-year-old netminder was having one of the best seasons of his career, racking up solid statistics in the process. In 41 games played this season, he posted a 26-8-6 record with a 2.12 goals against average (1st in the NHL) and a .929 save percentage (2nd in the NHL) with five shutouts.
The goaltenders that rank in the top-five lists for those categories are not full-time number ones, which means that Rask had posted those stats while playing more games. Impressive. Also, Rask currently ranks 7th in the NHL in wins while having a very capable number two in Jaroslav Halak behind him to lighten some of the workload.
Essentially, Rask is playing above and beyond this year. Just for comparison, he has a professional career goals against average of 2.28 and a save percentage of .921. The Finland native had only allowed 85 goals while stopping 1,189 shots in 2,402 minutes played in 2019-20.
There should be little debate as to who was the best goaltender in the NHL this year. Rask deserved to take home the Vezina Trophy for the second time in his career.
Lastly, we cannot forget about the movement at the trade deadline. To summarize, the Bruins unloaded the David Backes contract, Danton Heinen, a prospect, and a first-round draft pick to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie in two separate deals. The moves themselves were made with the intention of gearing up for another deep run at the Stanley Cup.
It is safe to say that Ritchie has made the biggest impact since arriving in Boston. In seven games with the Black and Gold, the 24-year-old winger recorded 23 hits and one fighting major. Ritchie has also not been afraid to get involved in scrums and stick up for his new teammates.
As for Kase, he has only tallied one point in the six games that he has dressed for Boston. It is not like he has played poorly, though. Kase has still managed to rack up nine shots on goal since joining the Bruins, so he is getting his chances. With Ritchie and Kase spending the majority of the time skating with David Krejci on the second line, the depth had been solidified.
Again, we may never know what could have been. It was very realistic to assume that the Bruins were legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup this year, and it was all for not. What a waste.