Claude Julien wasnt going use all of his bullets during the regular season, but hes unloading them now with the season on the line.
With a team that dropped out of the divisional lead for the first time since November and was riding a four-game losing streak, the Bruins head coach decided it was time to start making a few adjustments on his defensemen corps. One decision led to Joe Corvo being a healthy scratch for the first time this season after struggling nearly all season for the Bruins, and the other was slotting Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg together as a shutdown defensive pair.
Chara and Seidenberg were put together in the Montreal series during last years playoff series, and it was no coincidence the Bruins turned things around when Bostons two best defensemen were joined together. Julien put both blueliners together in the latter stages of the blowout loss to the Florida Panthers, and they played every shift together in Saturdays 3-2 shootout victory over the Flyers.
Not a single goal was scored by the Flyers when the new CharaSeidenberg pairing was out on the ice.
Everybody likes that pairing because of what they did last year in the playoffs. Its a long year, and we said maybe eventually youd see that combination. But we had other things we had to do first and foremost. For now, that is a pairing. Whether it disappears for a while and comes back, thatll depend on the teams were playing against, on whos in the lineup, and what players theyre playing etc, said Julien. Those are decisions you make almost on a game-to-game basis. But at the same time, youre not going to hide the fact that you like that pairing especially if both of them are at their best. Theyve probably become one of the best pairs in the league when theyre together.
Both Chara and Seidenberg topped 28 minutes of ice time in the needed win and there was a marked difference in clearing the net in front of Tim Thomas. Of course Philadelphia worked and managed to get a pair of tipped goals to push things into overtime, but Julien finally likes the way his defensemen crew is shaping up in front of the grit.
Last year Ference and Boychuk were a good pair during the playoffs. Youve got Johnny -- when hes on his game, hes a real physical player, and Andrews going to battle like he plays twice his size. Then youve got a guy like Adam McQuaid on the third pair whos also a real physical, tough individual, said Julien. Greg Zanon is a good shot blocker, whos a gritty player, who goes in and battles hard.
You know, youve got to have guys, when its time to play against other lines, thatll wear them down. I think weve got some of those guys that can do that.
What Julien didnt say is that its pretty clear the defensively weak Corvo isnt one of those guys, and that makes him a real potential liability when things get rough during the playoffs.
The defensive miscues and softness around the net were nowhere to be found against the Flyers after it had been rampant in allowing 36 goals over the first nine games during the month of March. Both Chara and Seidenberg are ready to work together just as they did to such great success last spring.
Honestly, we are used to playing everybody with everybody. Its just the way it is right now. We got together and we played together the whole playoffs last year, so were used to each other, said Chara. Thats the way this group has been working for as long as Ive been here. But, you know, we try to keep the pairings against certain guys and it worked well.
Julien did a lot of talking over the last couple of days about stabilizing things defensively and finding Bostons structure and layers a couple of vital steps in regaining their game and the desired won-loss results. Working in practice was certainly one step in accomplishing the goal and the other was putting the right personnel out on the ice to get the job done.
Pairing Chara with Seidenberg and dropping Corvo out of the top six achieved that goal and gave the Bruins the air-tight defense they were looking for all around the cage. Its an effective formula that Julien and the Bruins should be looking to carry out over the final 11 games of the season with results so very important.