Each year, at the last home game of the regular season, NESN bestows the Seventh Player award on the Boston Bruins player “who has performed above and beyond expectations,” according to their online ballot. This award has been around for more than 40 years–Derek Sanderson won it in 1972–and the tradition continues to this day. Last year’s winner was Brad Marchand, feted for his 21 goals and 19 assists in his first full season as a Bruin, those 21 goals coming as part of a promise to team brass that he could perform above the 10-goal expectation they set for him.
But who should win it this year? There’s certainly an abundance of choices.
Let’s consider Marchand’s good friend Tyler Seguin. Seguin’s so fast with the puck that you blink and all of a sudden he’s gone from being around Boston’s net to walking in on the other goaltender, sparking excitement in Jack Edwards’ voice. Rarely is there a stretch where he doesn’t have at least one point on the board, even if it’s just an assist, like when his line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron is serving one another sweet chances. For much of the season, Seguin had a stranglehold on the top of the plus-minus chart, and though he’s slipped a little, he’s still at +28. And hey, don’t forget when he scored his first hat trick of the year against Toronto with his family in attendance.
Jordan Caron may still really be a Providence Bruin, but he’s been with the parent club for a long stretch coming into the end of the season due to injuries. With his team in desperate need of production, Caron went to work recently. Scoring and assisting during the Bruins’ 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers at the beginning of March sparked confidence in him and he embarked on a four-game, seven-point streak. He even scored the Bruins’ only goal in that disastrous outing against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Chris Kelly has really made a name for himself this season. Given an A along with Andrew Ference to use alternately for home and away games, he’s proved himself adept at both scoring and assisting. He’s played all 71 games so far this season and scored 17 goals, potted 14 assists and racked up a +24 rating, fourth best on a team that isn’t exactly lacking in guys with high +/- ratings.
Zdeno Chara has certainly done some good this season. In addition to that 108.8 mph slapper he fired off at the All-Star Game, he’s a pretty good helper, having 32 assists to his name in addition to nine goals of his own. Big Z also has a +24 rating, which right now ties him with Kelly!
It seems a little hard to remember now, but during the best of times this season, Boston’s goaltending tandem was on fire. When both Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask were operating at their best, there were times when they were around or at the top of the entire league in terms of save percentage and goals-against average. Thomas won every single game he played in the month of November and has four shutouts. Rask put together a nice seven-game win streak in December, including that great 8-0 game against Florida just before Christmas, and has notched three shutouts. These two are also the only tandem to appear together in The Hockey News‘ list of the top 50 players as voted on by other players. But considering how it’s gotten recently, is that enough to merit the award?
Personally, my votes go to Patrice Bergeron. He is stellar this season. Even during the not-so-great stretches of play that have gobbled up about half of the season, he still tries really hard to make plays, wins his faceoffs so frequently that Bruins fans take it for granted they’ll get the puck if 37 is on the draw and is oft-mentioned as a Selke Trophy nominee or potential winner. Edwards seems to mention it as often as possible, which is to be expected of your home broadcaster, but when people from NHL.com and ESPN are taking note as well, that’s good. In addition, he provides steady leadership and is an all-around nice guy. Plus, his +31 rating is the best in the NHL as of this writing.
March 18 is the deadline to vote for this year’s Seventh Player and you can vote once a day.