July 29, 2014

Bruins Clubhouse: Bergeron, Rask score big at NHL awards

By Andrew Merritt


Patrice Bergeron, left, accepts the Selke Trophy. Tuukka Rask, right, poses with youth hockey player Will Lacey and the Vezina Trophy. Photos/Getty Images

The Bruins fell short in their chase for another Stanley Cup, but the trophy case wasn’t left totally empty this year.

At the 2014 NHL Awards held on June 24, the Bruins brought home a trio of trophies, plus an honor of the virtual kind to cap off the 2013-14 season.

Sidney Crosby, who took home the Hart, Art Ross and Ted Lindsay trophies, was the big winner on awards night. But Patrice Bergeron stole some of the show, winning his second Selke Trophy in three years as the league’s top defensive forward, as well as the NHL Foundation Player Award for his off-ice charitable work. Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask won the Vezina Trophy, bringing hockey’s top goaltending award to Boston for the second time in five years.

Bergeron, who won his first Selke in 2012 — the first time a Bruin had won it since Steve Kasper in 1982 — took home this year’s Selke by an overwhelming margin, earning 112 first-place votes. That’s the most ever for a Selke award winner, breaking the record 106 Bergeron himself earned two years ago. And Bergeron earned 1,283 total votes, more than 400 better than second-place Anze Kopitar of the Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings.

“The Selke — it’s just an honor to be up against Jonathan (Toews) and Anze,” Bergeron said. “Like I said before, it’s such a team sport that I have to give this award to all my teammates. So, like I said, it’s an honor but it really is about all teamwork.”

Bergeron led the league with 1,015 faceoff wins, which was more than any player in the last seven years, and helped the Bruins to the lowest goals-against average (2.08) in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, the B’s also relied on Rask for that mark, too. Rask became the first Boston goaltender since Tim Thomas (2011) to win the Vezina, and only the second in the past 31 years. Of the 30 general managers in the league, 16 picked Rask to win the award, and he took 103 of the 270 votes cast in all, edging Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov by seven first-place votes and 13 total votes.

Rask was the only goaltender to rank in the top five in all four of the major statistical categories, leading the league with seven shutouts and finishing second with a .930 save percentage. He was fourth in GAA (2.04) and fifth in wins (36).

Throughout the season, Rask was a model of calm consistency, which made it funny to see him a shade nervous when he went up to the Las Vegas stage to accept the Vezina, said GM Peter Chiarelli. “It was actually pretty comical, but we’ve all seen him in nets and how ice cool he is,” Chiarelli said. “So let him be nervous here and we’ll get back to the season and get back to normal.”

In addition to the traditional hardware, Bergeron picked up another honor: His photo will grace the cover of EA Sports’ NHL 15 video game, set to be released for the major consoles on Sept. 9. Bergeron is the first Bruin to appear on an EA Sports game since Andy Moog was on the 1994 edition.

The cover was revealed at the awards show, capping off a long-running campaign involving Twitter hashtags and online votes.

“It is very special,” Bergeron said. “So many great players have appeared on that game in the past and to be part of that list is very humbling.”

Captain Zdeno Chara was a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, but finished second to Chicago’s Duncan Keith.

Defenseman Torey Krug also got some recognition on awards night, as he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. He’s the first Bruins player to make the team since Brad Boyes in 2006, and earned the nod after scoring 14 goals in 79 games in 2013-14.

THE NOTEBOOK

The big news from the Bruins at the start of free agency was no news at all. On a frenzied day of transactions that saw dozens of players switching teams, the Bruins were one of only two teams in the entire NHL not to sign an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and were the only team without a UFA signing by the end of July 2. With a 2014-15 salary cap of $69 million, the Bruins were extremely hemmed in when it came to potential moves. In fact, the only transactions that involved the Bruins were departures: Jarome Iginla ended months of speculation by signing a three-year, $16 million deal with Colorado; goaltender Chad Johnson signed a two-year deal with the Islanders worth $2.6 million; and defenseman Andrej Meszaros inked a one-year, $4.125 million deal with Buffalo.

“I really wanted to try and keep most of this group together, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that to sign Jarome (Iginla),” GM Peter Chiarelli said. “Those are hard decisions that sometimes you have when you are cap challenged, but I kind of like where we are. … We’ll find someone to fill that role, whether it’s someone from within or maybe through a trade.

“Bigger picture, it was OK to handle from a perspective of losing a good goal scorer. It wasn’t fun, but you move on.” …

Even before free agency began July 1, Chiarelli made it clear that one familiar face would no longer be putting on the Black and Gold — Shawn Thornton. Thornton, whose pugilistic power, engagement in the Boston community and status as a fan favorite was tempered by several ugly on-ice incidents throughout his seven years as a Bruin, inked a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers. “The decision on Shawn was a very hard one,” Chiarelli said. “He’s been here and part of this group for a long time and that would apply to all these guys who have been here and who have given us good service and that have been part of winning teams and Cup-winning teams. So there will be hard choices but it may be that we don’t make hard choices and we keep as many people as we can and we go into the year and maybe we do make those hard choices as the year progresses.” …

The Bruins will also have to make some adjustments to the coaching and front office staff, as assistant GM Jim Benning and assistant coach Geoff Ward both departed — Benning to become the GM in Vancouver and Ward to take over as head coach of Mannheim in the German DEL. Chiarelli announced June 27 that the club has promoted Scott Bradley to assistant general manager and Ryan Nadeau to director of hockey operations/analytics. Chiarelli also announced that the team hired John Ferguson as its executive director of player personnel.

This article originally appeared in the July edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to read the digital edition for free.

Email: amerritt@hockeyjournal.com

Twitter: @A_Merritt