Patrice Bergeron keeps driving the Bruins; Does he have an MVP argument?

11 Comments

The Boston Bruins continued to roll on Wednesday night by pretty much embarrassing the New York Rangers in their building by a 6-1 margin.

It was a laughably one-sided affair that saw Henrik Lundqvist get benched midway through the second period and several Rangers defenseman get completely embarrassed. Sometimes on the same play. Keep in mind this was a Bruins team that played on Tuesday night and a Rangers team that, well, had the night off and came in rested. It was just a poor, poor showing by the blue shirts.

The win helps the Bruins gain some additional ground on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Atlantic Division — and the NHL — and brings them to within one point while still having a game in hand.

After Wednesday’s win Boston is now 27-4-4 in its past 35 games, which is just an absolutely ridiculous run.

Leading the way on Wednesday night, once again, was the Bruins’ dominant duo of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

They were reunited after Marchand served his recent five-game suspension and wasted no time picking up where they left off.

Bergeron scored a pair of goals in the win (one of them a shorthanded goal that was set up by Marchand) to give him 24 on the season and continue what has been a mostly wonderful season. Given how well he has played all over the ice he is starting to get a little bit of a push in the MVP discussion. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said this week that Bergeron has been the best player in the NHL this season.

Is it something to take seriously?

Since this game was not even close to being competitive and was over from the middle of the second period, let us take a little bit of a dive into this.

It is not hard to see why Bergeron’s name would be entering into that discussion.

He centers the best line in hockey between Marchand and David Pastrnak and is the heartbeat behind one of the best teams in the league, a true Stanley Cup contender. He is a point-per-game player, one of the absolute best defensive forwards, and one of the top possession-driving players in the entire NHL.

There is nothing he does not do well.

But if Bergeron were to win the MVP award, or even end up as a finalist, history suggests it would require one of two things to happen over the second half of the season — either Bergeron would have to go on a torrid scoring binge that brought him among the league’s top scorers, or the voters would have to change the way they vote for the MVP award.

Does either of those things seem likely?

After Wednesday’s game Bergeron has 46 points in 47 games, placing him 37th among the league’s scorers. Obviously missing seven games earlier in the season has put him behind the rest of the pack a little bit, but even if you look at him on a point-per-game level he is 25th in the league. Still great, especially when you combine his all-around play and the impact he makes all over the ice, but still not what we see from a typical MVP contender.

I went back over the past 20 years and looked at all of the forwards that either won the MVP award or were in the top-three of the voting.

Only five of them finished the season lower than fifth in the scoring race and only three were outside o the top-10.

Two of them finished tied for the league lead in goals, while another led the NHL in points per game. Another one finished in the top-three in the goal-scoring race. Here is that list.

  • Teemu Selanne, a finalist in 1997-98, finished eighth in the points race … but finished tied for the league lead in goals with 52.
  • Alexei Yashin, a finalist in 1998-99, finished sixth in the scoring race
  • Mario Lemieux, the runner up in 2000-01, finished 29th in the scoring race … in a season where he only played in 43 games (this was his comeback season) and still finished with 76 points. He was the top point-per-game player in the NHL.
  • Jarome Iginla, a finalist in 2003-04, finished 16th in the scoring race but also finished in a three-way tie for the NHL goal-scoring lead
  • John Tavares, a finalist in 2012-13, finished 17th in the scoring race. He finished third in the goal-scoring race.

That is all pretty telling. Only three of them were outside of the top-eight, and one of those three was Mario Lemieux in one of the most baffling and mind-blowing seasons in NHL history.

In the eyes of the NHL awards voters (worth noting: I am one) you clearly have to be some sort of an elite scorer, whether it be as a goal-scorer or just a total point producer, to really get serious MVP consideration, and there is nothing to suggest otherwise. Just think of how many times people tried to call Jonathan Toews, a player whose skillset and production virtually mirrors Bergeron’s, the best player in the world because of his two-way play, and leadership, and intangibles, and whatever else you wanted to throw in there. Even at the peak of his popularity when his team was a Stanley Cup winning powerhouse he only finished in the top-five of the MVP voting once, and was never a finalist.

It’s just the way the voting goes.

As a voter, I can the see argument for Bergeron, and I would at least entertain it simply because of how good his line is, how good he is, and how I think he is probably the guy driving the bus for that trio (that is not to say Marchand and Pastrnak are not great players on their own — Marchand is a top-tier player in the NHL).

But there is still something to be said for being an elite scorer and having that ability. So for as great as Bergeron is, and as great as his season has been, history is not terribly kind for him when it comes to his MVP chances.

He might just have to settle for being the No. 1 center on a team that has a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup.

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins will way to Game 7 win against Maple Leafs

17 Comments

Once again, the Boston Bruins finished a Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, riding an overpowering third period. In the case of Wednesday’s game, the end result was a 7-4 win for the Bruins.

The 2018 edition featured some similarities to the Bruins’ 5-4 win back in 2013.

  • A Maple Leafs team headed for the summer shaking their heads and with some serious soul-searching to do.
  • The heartache that comes with the Leafs giving up leads. Toronto was up 1-0, 2-1, and 4-3. This wasn’t a collapse of the “It was 4-1” variety, but the Maple Leafs squandered multiple leads nonetheless.

  • The Bruins simply ran away with things in the third period. Boston went from being down 4-3 to winning 7-4. That domination included the Bruins keeping the Maple Leafs from registering a shot on goal through the first eight minutes of the final frame.

In the case of this latest Game 7, there were times when it seemed like the last shot on goal might be the winner.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Really, it was a nightmare game for both goalies. Frederik Andersen‘s Game 7 heartache is no longer limited to his time with the Anaheim Ducks, as he gave up six goals, including a few that are likely to haunt him during the off-season. The Lightning must be licking their chops at the prospect of exploiting what might be a fragile goalie in Tuukka Rask; the Bruins ended up on top in this one, yet Rask gave up four goals on 24 shots.

(Maybe a solid finish will help bolster his self-esteem? Rask stopped all eight Maple Leafs SOG in the third period after giving up those four goals on the first 18 shots he faced.)

If you want to summarize Game 7 in one video clip, Jake DeBrusk‘s second goal of the night (and eventual game-winner) could suffice. The Bruins simply demanded this win, showing off their skill and will while flabbergasting the overmatched Maple Leafs and a struggling Andersen:

Several players came up big on each side. DeBrusk scored those two goals and was quite the presence overall. Charlie McAvoy logged 26:43 of ice time with a +1 rating, while a blocked shot apparently didn’t really throw off Zdeno Chara, who managed a +2 rating and 28:38 TOI. Despite some warranted criticisms, David Krejci did manage to generate three assists, adding to a substantial playoff resume for his career. Patrick Marleau provided more than just a “veteran presence” for the Maple Leafs, scoring two goals during a zany first period.

Still, when it comes to the Maple Leafs, many will linger on those who fell short.

Andersen’s struggles were considerable, rounding out a remarkably hot-and-cold series overall. Auston Matthews failed to score a point despite firing four SOG, finishing the series with just a single goal and single assist. Jake Gardiner had an awful Game 7, suffering a -5 rating and absorbing some of the blame for multiple bad moments.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that Gardiner said “most” of the loss was on him and that the defenseman had tears in his eyes while asking questions.

“I didn’t show up,” Gardiner said.

The Bruins eliminated the Maple Leafs in an exhilarating fashion, carrying over an impressive regular season of puck-hogging play. They have plenty of room for improvement, something Jack Adams finalist Bruce Cassidy will surely emphasize as they turn their sights to a rested, versatile opponent in the Lightning.

If it’s anything like Bruins – Leafs, it should be thrilling … and maybe a goalie’s nightmare.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second round schedule, TV info

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs is now set, thanks to the Boston Bruins winning Game 7 over the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-4. The Bruins will move on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the Pittsburgh Penguins will meet the Washington Capitals to complete the Eastern Conference bracket. Out West, the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets will battle out of the Central Division and the Vegas Golden Knights take on the San Jose Sharks.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Here’s the full second round schedule, which kicks off with two games on Thursday night:

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kapanen overwhelms Marchand, scores ridiculous goal

9 Comments

To the chagrin of the coaches and goalies, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are keeping things hectic during the second period of Game 7.

Kasperi Kapanen seems like he’s perpetually battling for a permanent/more prominent spot with the Maple Leafs, but it’s not for a lack of trying or moxie. He’s been hitting posts on some near-misses lately, but saved some magic for tonight.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS DECISIVE GAME LIVE.

You can see that in a 4-3 goal that currently stands as the Maple Leafs’ lead. Kapanen overpowers Brad Marchand and then outwaits Tuukka Rask for an absolutely tremendous shorthanded goal.

(Check out that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

Impressive, especially considering who that came against. At one point, the Maple Leafs had converted on both of their shots on goal early in the second period to go from being down 3-2 to up 4-3. As mentioned after that wild first period, you have to wonder about both goalies’ confidence, but that’s especially true of Rask right now.

To be fair, Kapanen’s showed a real knack for scoring big goals so far during his brief NHL career. As you may remember, he scored the game-winner in double overtime of Game 2 against the Washington Capitals during that tight series to start the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He also helped them punch their ticket to the postseason in 2016-17 with his first NHL goal.

Then again, maybe this sort of goal is in the blood? Kasperi Kapanen’s shorthanded goal feels reminiscent of a great goal by his father Sami Kapanen:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins – Leafs Game 7 off to wild start, Reilly hit by puck

NBC
9 Comments

You can forgive fans of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs for hyperventilating right now, unless they’re merely staring blankly at their screens.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS DECISIVE GAME LIVE.

Game 7 accelerated to 100 mph seemingly in mere seconds on Wednesday:

  • After a Sean Kuraly penalty, Patrick Marleau deflected a puck past Tuukka Rask to give Toronto a stunning 1-0 lead off of a power-play goal just 2:05 into the contest.
  • A delay of game infraction gave the Bruins a chance to tie things up on the power play, and they did just that as David Krejci and David Pastrnak set up Jake DeBrusk. That happened 4:47 into the game.
  • Less than two minutes later, Patrick Marleau scored again, giving Toronto a 2-1 edge that wouldn’t last.
  • The two teams combined for four goals through less than half of the first period, as Danton Heinen showed why he should be playing with the 2-2 goal with 11:50 remaining in the opening frame.
  • The Bruins took their first lead (3-2) of Game 7 with less than a minute left in the first period thanks to a goal by Patrice Bergeron.

Those were just the goals, too, as there were some close calls, making you wonder about the confidence of Rask and Frederik Andersen:

The two teams are also accruing some bumps and bruises, which must be to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s liking.

In the most dramatic instance, Brad Marchand ducked a high Zdeno Chara shot, leaving an unsuspecting Morgan Rielly to take a puck to the face. It’s a scary moment, although the good news is that Rielly was able to return for the beginning of the second period.

Yikes.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Chara also seemed stung by a blocked shot during the first period, as he took a puck to his ankle/foot area. He didn’t appear to miss any time, and it would be tough to imagine him not fighting through it during a Game 7, yet you wonder if the hulking defenseman’s mobility might be hindered after that.

The Bruins and Leafs already put on a show through 20 minutes. We’ll see who’s left standing to face the Bolts, whether this game ends in regulation or hits sudden death in a Game 7.

*Gulp*

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.