Just beyond the halfway point of the NHL season, it’s time to hand out the Boston Bruins awards at the mid-season point. The most valuable player, best performer, most improved player and comeback player of the year will all receive a Bruins award.
Boston Bruins Awards: Most Valuable Player
The Boston Bruins award for most valuable player this season goes to Jaroslav Halak. A strong number-two goalie is important in the NHL and Halak is in the top tier of them. Tuukka Rask is the number-one but Halak is putting together a campaign that would land him a number one spot on another team. In 21 games-played, Halak has posted a .919 save percentage (17th in NHL), 2.49 goals-against-average (12th in NHL), and five shutouts (tied for second most in NHL).
Halak’s outstanding play gives Rask time off while maintaining a high level of play in the Bruins net. Halak has kept the Bruins afloat at times during the season. Giving Rask time off is important if the Bruins want to make a deep playoff run again. It appears that Halak’s role will be increased as Rask suffered a concussion against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 14. Halak’s value to the team is unmatched by giving Boston a chance to win every time he’s in net.
Boston Bruins Awards: Best Performer
The next Bruins award is for the team’s top performer. It’s tough to argue for anyone but David Pastrnak to receive this award. Pastrnak leads the NHL in goals with 36, two more than Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews. Pastrnak is effective in even strength play and on the power play. He ranks first in the NHL with 16 power play goals and third in the NHL with 20 even strength goals. He has also scored six game-winning-goals, tied for third most in the league.
Pastrnak also has 30 assists for a total of 66 points on the season. Pastrnak is a prolific goal scorer and has proven himself in this league. Without his consistent offensive production the Bruins would have major offensive problems. He has not missed a game this season and his availability and durability this year has been important for Boston. He could become the first Bruin to lead the NHL in goals since Phil Esposito scored 61 goals in 1974-1975.
Boston Bruins Awards: Most Improved Player
The Bruins most improved player is Brandon Carlo. Carlo’s name rarely lights up a box score and he isn’t a highlight-reel type player. His offence isn’t going to win games and he doesn’t see any time on the power play units. However, this Bruins award goes to Carlo for his defensive play and positioning. He showed flashes of it last season and his best play came during the Bruins playoff run last year. His shutdown defense of Artemi Panarin in the playoffs last year showed the world how impressive his defence can be.
Carlo is just 23-years-old and is transforming himself into the future of the Bruins defence. He doesn’t block the most shots nor does he lay the most hits but he’s almost always in the right position to make the right play and is a strong penalty killer. He clogs up passing lanes and wins puck battles while rarely gambling on plays that could hurt the team. Carlo is a second-pair defencemen but he has elevated his play this season when Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara have missed time. He hasn’t missed a game and is on pace for career highs in goals and assists.
Carlo has shown he is capable of shutting down the leagues top players with his defence and has been asked to do so at times. “I love having more responsibility. It really forces you to elevate your game and play to the best of your ability,” said Carlo. Now in his fourth season, Carlo has taken a big step forward and will likely become a top defensive pair in the near future.
Comeback Player of the Year
There’s only a few players applicable for this Bruins award. John Moore and Anders Bjork returned from shoulder injuries and have seen plenty of game action. David Backes has not been able to reprise a constant role in the starting lineup and Kevan Miller has still not appeared in a game this season.
Bjork is the winner for comeback player of the year. The 23-year-old has played in a career-high 40 games this season and finally finding his way into a consistent role at the NHL level. His first two campaigns were plagued with injury and he’s finding his game now that he’s healthy. Bjork has already set a career-high in points with 14 and has been a solid player in his first healthy season.
As Bjork gains confidence and gets more comfortable with the puck he looks to be a role player for the remainder of the season. He doesn’t light up the scoreboard but it looks like he’s finally battled through early career injuries and earned a spot on an NHL roster — enough to win this award.
The offensive cornerstones Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are having another good season. Paired with Pastrnak they are the engine to the Bruins offence. Chara has shown the toughness and dedication to his team even at 42-years-old. Chara is essentially the only player willing to drop the gloves when necessary, adding some toughness to a team that needs it badly.
Charlie Coyle has been streaky with his offensive production but is a physical player who is strong with the puck. He consistently brings his physical play and energy to the Bruins lineup even when his production isn’t there.
The Bruins might need to add a piece or two at the deadline in order to have another shot at a Stanley Cup run. Despite the struggles they’ve had the last two months, the mid-season awards recognize the strengths of the team thus far.