Chara the lone spark for B's offense

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Chara the lone spark for B's offense

SAN JOSE, CA Zdeno Chara could have had every excuse in the book not to play well against the Sharks on their first step of a three-game swing through California.

The 35-year-old Chara was on the same late season coast-to-coast flight as the rest of his team and he was asked to play upwards of 27 minutes in Bostons 2-1 loss to the Sharks at a sold out HP Pavilion in San Jose.

But Chara choked down the excuses and alibis and instead played like a warrior ready for the playoff challenge. The Bruins Captain soaked up the large chunks of ice time, finished with a game-high eight registered hits including a big statement hit on Michael Handzus in the opening minutes of the game and he scored the teams only goal in the third period. He also had a team-high three of the Bs pitiful 17 shots on net at the end of 60 minutes of hockey against a desperate San Jose bunch.

It wasnt enough for the Bruins to earn a victory, given that not enough of the Bs forward group came to play, but a reinvigorated Chara and Tim Thomas give the Bruins hope that things are indeed different this time around.

Not everyone was sluggish. Some guys werent. There were different reactions to the West coast travel, said Claude Julien. The Chris Kelly line was our best line tonight. Some of our top lines cant get scored on if theyre not going to produce.

Zee has been pretty good lately every night and leading us very well, and the Kelly line has been good for us lately as well. They had their legs tonight; you could tell.

Charas goal was a thing of marksman beauty when Chris Kelly had battled to get to the puck toward the net before throwing it toward the front while battling defenders. A spinning Benoit Pouliot had managed to graze the puck as it floated by him on the doorstep of the net, and by that time Antti Niemi had dropped onto his backside trying to cover the bottom of the net.

Chara was thinking pass to the front of the net until he saw goaltender overboard, and then he changed up and throw the puck at Niemi while using the goaltenders body as a bumper. It worked to perfection as the puck bounced off Niemis shoulder and into the back of the net to get Boston on the board.

But it wasnt enough.
I followed up the play with a few minutes left to go. The rebound came out after a few missed opportunities to shoot it and Brian Rolston did a good job of letting it get to me for a shot, said Chara. I was looking pass at first, but with so many bodies in front at that angle its almost impossible to make a pass. So I threw it at the goaltender and it worked.

"The first half of the game we werent generating enough in the offensive zone. We were playing way too much on the outside, said Chara. If we want to score then we have to put more shots on net. In the first half of the game we werent playing to our potential.

"It was still a close game when we made it a one-goal game, but to win games you cant rely on 20 or 40 minute efforts.

But the Bruins couldnt even get the puck out of their own end in the final minute to stage an empty net rally, and that was par for the course on a day of struggles.

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

BOSTON – It’s easy to forget that Kelly Olynyk went several months without doing anything basketball-related as he was on the mend from shoulder surgery.

His return had its share of ups and downs, but it seems the 7-foot center has found his stride and he’s making opponents pay for it.

For the second time in as many games, Olynyk came up big for the Celtics as Boston continued on its winning ways with a 108-98 win over Charlotte.

Olynyk, who scored a season-high 26 points in Boston’s win at Atlanta on Friday, had an efficient 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting against the Hornets on Monday.

Assertive. Aggressive. Contract year.

It doesn’t matter how you describe what or why Olynyk is ballin’ so hard lately.

The point is he’s doing it a better job of recognizing opportunities to make plays and executing whatever role he’s being asked to play.

“Just feeling good with the second unit,” Olynyk said. “I’m just trying to be aggressive and help the starters out.”

In the past, teams have mixed up their defensive coverages on Olynyk which frequently left him being guarded by a quicker but smaller player, or a big man with limited mobility.

Often Olynyk settled for long range shots and 3’s, regardless of the defender.

But as we’ve seen the last couple of games, he has hurt teams with his scoring around the rim which has in turn opened things up for his teammates or himself.

“We need him to play like that all the time,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “When he’s aggressive, looking for his shot, shooting open shots, even getting in there getting rebounds, offensive put-backs, that only helps us as a unit. And he’s done a great job of that the past couple games. We need that from him.”

And as he gets further removed from his offseason surgery, opportunities for him to be an impactful player for Boston will only grow.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game.

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics win, and Isaiah Thomas has another offensive flurry in the fourth quarter. So what else is new? He led all scorers with 35 points which included 17 in the fourth quarter.

Kemba Walker

He’s still playing at a level that puts him in the All-Star conversation, but it’s not going to happen with the Hornets continuing to struggle. They’ve lost five in a row now despite Walker’s 24 points on Monday.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

Boston is playing more inside-out basketball of late, and that’s opening things up for both Horford and his teammates. Against the Hornets he had 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting along with six rebounds and four assists.

Kelly Olynyk

For the second straight game, Olynyk had a strong, impactful performance for the Celtics utilizing his strengths as a perimeter threat and a 7-footer who can take advantage of smaller defenders around the rim. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Marvin Williams

He was the only other Hornet besides Kemba Walker who really impacted the game significantly. Williams had 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting which included 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Jae Crowder

The 6-foot-6 Crowder continues to have a sneaky-good season for the Celtics, particularly with his 3-point shooting which ranks among the league leaders. On Monday he had 15 points which included a trio of 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

 

DUDS

Nicolas Batum

Avery Bradley put most of his effort and attention into defending Batum and man, did it ever pay off. Batum grabbed 10 rebounds, but wound up missing nine of his 11 shots from the field to finish with just four points.

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t show anything on the ice in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 matinee loss, and that’s not really any kind of an overstatement.

The scoring chances were almost nonexistent despite 32 shots on net, the second period was dreadful as the Bruins gave up three goals over the course of a six minute span and there was zero added urgency in the third period once the B’s fell behind. The emotion was missing from the drop of the puck to open the game and it never showed up once the Islanders began taking control of the game.

It was a bitterly disappointing result after the Black and Gold had played so well in their previous five games, and put in strong, winning efforts against the Panthers, Blues and Flyers.

On Monday afternoon, the passes were sloppy and errant all over the ice, there was zero physicality and the Bruins buckled once the Isles turned the intensity up just a little bit in the second period. The game was basically over once Nikolay Kulemin snapped one home wide open from the slot area with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and David Krejci all blowing their defensive assignments, and then Tuukka Rask followed it up by allowing a softie to Josh Bailey from a bad angle close to net.  

So Bruins head coach Claude Julien termed it a “flat” performance once it was all over with, and openly wondered whether it was fatigue-related result linked to the compacted schedule Boston has played through this season. Monday marked the seventh straight day that the Bruins held some kind of formal skate, though most of the veteran B's players stayed off the ice during last week's Wednesday off-day practice in Nashville.   

“We were flat tonight, obviously, flat from the get-go. I think that first half of the game, we didn’t give much until they scored that first goal. We were able to stay in, but we certainly weren’t generating much ourselves, from that point of view,” said Claude Julien. “His is really the first year, for me as well, going through a condensed schedule, and I’m certainly not using that as an excuse, is it fatigue?. . . But we were flat tonight. How do you explain it? I don’t know. I know that it’s frustrating. I know that it’s disappointing. That’s all I can say.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue, whatever it is. We made some mistakes tonight like, from the goals you look at, we weren’t even in the position that we’re normally in. So we were totally out of whack, as far as even defending. When you give that first goal that much room in the middle of the ice, your D’s go on the wrong side, your weak-side forward is way on the other side, and you open up the slot area, that’s something I haven’t seen much of this year. I think it said a lot from our game tonight.”

The compacted schedule certainly could be a factor for a Bruins team that’s played more games than anybody else in the Eastern Conference to this point, but the B’s also had 48 hours to recharge after winning a Saturday matinee over the Flyers. So the fatigue excuse seems a little far-fetched for a hockey club that’s no-showed a few too many times this season, and did it again on Monday afternoon against one of the worst teams in the NHL.