Boston Bruins fans experienced the ultimate hockey heartbreak in June of 2019, but if current trends continue, they could be the first team in more than 60 years to flip the script when the playoffs roll around in 2020.
The team’s loss at home against the St. Louis Blue in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final sent some concern throughout New England as fans wondered whether or not the team’s championship window had closed.
Cornerstones like Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara continued to add some wear and tear to their bodies, with the latter breaking his jaw through the team’s playoff run. Inconsistency among the team’s first line of Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand proved to be a fatal flaw late in the postseason.
All in all, fans wondered if another year would help the team as its young players continued to develop, or hurt the squad as some key veterans added another digit to their age.
Speaking of numbers, the statistics spanning across the NHL’s history didn’t help their cause. The team played in the 17th Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history, and no team since the 1955 Canadiens had won a championship in the year following a Game 7 loss in the Final.
In fact, in only two of the 17 instances has a team bounced back to win the Stanley Cup, with both titles coming in the NHL’s Original Six era, giving those two teams less competition to worry about.
Fast forward to February of 2020, and the Bruins have proven any doubters wrong through the first four months of the year. They sit atop the league’s standings with 90 points through 64 games played; five points more than the Eastern Conference rival Lightning, and six points ahead of the Western Conference-leading Blues.
On the same date in 2019, the Bruins were in second place in the conference with 83 points through 63 games, trying to overcome a 17-point deficit from the league-leading Lightning.
So, what has changed this season? Why have the Bruins been able to overcome the Game 7 hangover through three quarters of the NHL season? It’s simple. The one-word answer which disappeared in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final: Consistency.
Sure, they suffered from a few extended losing streaks towards the start of the season, with a four-game losing streak in November, and a five-game losing streak in December. But, they’ve combatted those losing streaks in the best way possible, putting up numerous winning streaks of at least five games throughout the year, and no losing streak longer than three games since the start of the calendar year in 2020.
They won eight straight games in November, six straight from the end of January through the start of February, and five more after the loss that separated their two most recent winning streaks.
Looking for consistency numbers as it relates to specific players? How about David Pastrnak, who has 45 goals and 43 assists through 64 games played. Or, what about Brad Marchand, with 25 goals and 54 assists through his own 64 games. Even the “old-timer,” 34-year-old Patrice Bergeron, finds himself with 29 goals and 24 assists through 55 games played.
The team’s first line is rising to the occasion, and if they can keep up their rapid pace through the months of April and May, they could help the Bruins break the Game 7 slump that has ruined teams over the last six decades.
Luckily for the Bruins, not much has changed as far as the lineup is concerned, and their younger players have continued to progress over the last year. Pastrnak looks like an absolute star, and despite a lack of scoring this season, Charlie McAvoy ranks second among the team’s defensemen as it relates to overall points with his three goals and 23 assists.
The other key factor that’s tough for any team to gain? Stanley Cup Final experience.
Yes, the end result last season wasn’t what the Bruins wanted. But, if they are able to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, and especially if they are able to gain home-ice advantage in the process, any potential postseason jitters may fade away in favor of the consistency that the team should expect after a strong regular season.
Overall, one word continues to show up throughout the entire conversation. It’s the concept that killed the team in 2019, and one that’s helped them build up an impressive resume just one year later. Consistency is key, and that’s going to make or break the Bruins in 2020, along with their chances of breaking the Game 7 curse as it relates to the Stanley Cup Final.