SAN JOSE, CA Its been a gradual process, but it looks like the Bs trade acquisitions are finally hitting their stride.
Both defenseman Greg Zanon and winger Brian Rolston sputtered out of the gate after arriving in Boston at the end of February via NHL trade deadline deals, but their current progress seems remarkably familiar.
Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley were both very quiet when they arrived on the Black and Gold scene last year, but both forwards hit their stride by the team the Stanley Cup playoffs arrived.
(Tomas Kaberle never really found his game like Kelly and Peverley did, but you cant win them all.)
As if right on cue both Zanon and Rolston have begun finding results and production in the last few games while the Bruins have started cracking the win column again. Rolston has seven points in his last three games, and exploded to match a career-high with four points against the Maple Leafs.
I think its just about getting those new guys the time, like we did last year with Kelly and Peverley. Until the playoffs started I know a lot of people didnt see what those guys -- and were talking about the Kellys and the Peverleys and so on -- were going to give our hockey club, said Julien. But by the time playoffs came around, and theyd found their spot on the team, they were good assets. We expect those guys to come in and help us out the same way.
Zanons progress has been a little more understated, but its there to see nonetheless. While getting used to his new teammates, his new goaltenders tendencies, and his own place within the Black and Gold tribe, Zanon has latched into the back to basics on defense philosophy shepherded back in by the Bs coaching staff over the last few games.
I dont think the comfort level didnt take too long. The other guys are pretty receptive and its been an easy transition, said Zanon. Systems-wise Im pretty comfortable now. The more games you play the more you see how guys can play, and you really start to figure things out.
Obviously there is video and we used that to get me a little more comfortable. There are still questions about things and those come up as the game is going along. Chara has been great about helping me out with things they do that I havent done in the past. Its been really good.
Zanon took a couple of penalties in a loss to Washington and was scratched in two of the next three games, but hes been a shot-blocking, physical defenseman without any major blemishes in his last two games. Zanon is a plus-3 in the wins over the Flyers and the Leafs, and managed his highest ice time total (19:41) with the Bruins in Mondays blowout victory.
Nobody likes to be scratched, but the organization has to do what they feel is best," Zanon said. "The last couple of games Ive been able to play some decent minutes. Im just happy to be playing and doing anything I can to help.
Claude Julien liked what hes seen out of the former Minnesota defenseman from the start, but he hasnt had any incidents lately around the net like he did in his first handful of games with the Bs. The Bruins coach was also quick to throw Mike Mottaus name into the mix despite the fact hes played sparingly since arriving in Boston as a key extra defenseman.
I didnt mind Zanon from the get-go. Hes just kept things simple just like Mike Mottau. Theyve both kept their games simple and moved the puck well, said Julien. They both come from backgrounds where they understand our defensive philosophies.
Its a position thats gotten stronger with the acquisition of both those guys. Certainly we have a lot of assets and we know that if injuries hit and if we have to put in another player its not going to weaken our back end.
Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence that Zanon has fully adopted the Bruins way of doing things? Zanon is letting his personality and sense of humor show with his teammates. It was underscored when he was making pigeon noises while walking through a couple of postgame media scrums in the Bs dressing room after Mondays blowout win over the Leafs.
Zanon is clearly not in Minnesota and Nashville dealing with the expectations and requirements -- including the bigger media corps -- that goes along with playing professional hockey in Boston, but he and Rolston are making the adjustment accordingly.