Season rests on Chara's injury

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Season rests on Chara's injury

COLUMBUS The Bruins got to experience life without Zdeno Chara for roughly 27 minutes in Saturday nights grudge match against the Blue Jackets.

Give them credit for rising above the Chara injury, a rare Tim Thomas benching and an early two-goal hole for a needed victory, but none of that is a normal recipe for long-term success.

The Bruins cant love the prospects of moving on without Chara after he suffered what appeared to be a left knee injury in Saturdays 5-3 victory over Columbus at Nationwide Arena. The team is calling it a lower body injury for the time being, and coach Claude Julien couldnt or wouldnt tell whether it was minor or serious.

We dont know if its minor or major, or anything, said Julien. Im not quite sure. I havent had a chance, so its hard to comment until I know the severity of it. Throughout the season, youre going to have some injuries and youre going to have to live with them.

But in that very statement, major hasnt been ruled out for the 6-foot-9 freak of hockey nature, who was spotted walking under his own power in the visiting dressing room following the win.

I hope its nothing too serious, right? said goaltender Tuukka Rask. Thats a big load for a lot of other guys to be carrying if Chara is not in there.

So at this point its not a great leap to paint a scenario where Chara misses some time. Maybe its not the entire season, maybe its not a month, and maybe its not more than a game or two.

But its telling that the Bs captain never returned to the ice during a tight game after exiting with seven minutes to go in the second period.

If Chara is lost for any extended period of time, the Bruins would be hard-pressed to maintain their current status near the top of the Eastern Conference. They would also essentially be kissing any Cup hopes goodbye if their franchise defenseman is out for the season.

But enough about worst-case scenarios and could be situations with regard to big Zee and his mystery knee.

The facts are indisputable: It was a tight one-goal game when Chara collided awkwardly with Antoine Vermette during a Columbus forecheck near Bostons blue line. The big defenseman went right down the runway with trainer Donnie DelNegro once he finished up that shift, and was never seen again. It appeared on video replays Charas knee buckled after hitting Vermette.

With Chara down for the night it was up to Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid to step up and become a shutdown tandem in Charas absence.

It was also Dennis Seidenbergs job to absorb a whopping game-high 26:20 of ice time in a game that saw the Bruins empty the tank.

Boychuk was instrumental in keeping Columbus 1-for-6 on the power play with 5:36 of shorthanded ice time, and the blossoming blueliner nearly showed his effectiveness isnt just a byproduct of skating regular shifts with Chara.

McQuaid blocked a team-high four shots and Andrew Ference was quietly effective while logging his most ice time since mid-October (22:03). Up and down the lineup, each defenseman did his part to fill in for the fallen leader.

Its great to see them step up, said Milan Lucic. Weve had to deal with a lot of injuries in years past. Obviously last year we were lucky to stay healthy as long as we did, but when injuries happened somebody always stepped up. As a defense corps everybody stepped up in the second half of the game.

Hes big Zee for a reason and hes been the best shutdown defenseman in the league for the last couple of years. Hes our captain and our leader, and if he goes down it takes everybody to step up and fill the void.

The other part of any equation featuring a defensemen corps filling Charas absence by committee: Providing offense along with the air-tight defense. That was Corvos job and he built on a first-period goal with a power play score after Vermette was whistled off for hooking. Corvo finished with a game-high five shots on net and finally showed the big, heavy point shot that Boston would be forced to feature much more often if Chara isnt able to answer the bell for any period of time.

Its pretty key for the guys to pull together with McQuaid and Boychuk getting more and more minutes with Zee not out there. They really stepped up, said Corvo. They played really well in the third after he scored to shut them down.

Once Chara has met with the Bruins doctors in Boston, the team will know exactly whats what.

But it goes without saying Chara is arguably the most irreplaceable player in the entire NHL given his strength, intensity, leadership, blistering slap shot, power play acumen and overall offensive capabilities. Nobody can fill the size-12 skates of the 6-foot-9, 260-pound defenseman.

Chara is on pace to score a career-high 60 points and finish a career-best plus-55, and is soaking up 25 minutes of ice time a game. Those kinds of numbers represent the best-of-the-best elite around the NHL.

Life without Chara is a sobering thought after watching the Bruins battle and scrape to beat the NHLs worst team without his services for nearly half the game, and thats a bridge the Black and Gold don't want to cross if they dont have to.

Bruins' Patrice Bergeron named Selke finalist for fifth time

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Bruins' Patrice Bergeron named Selke finalist for fifth time

It was assumed that Patrice Bergeron will be finalist for the Selke Trophy again this season, and it became official on Thursday when it was announced that Bergeron, Ryan Kesler and Anze Kopitar were the three finalists for the award given to the best defensive forward.

It would be the third straight Selke Trophy and fourth overall for Bergeron if he can take the hardware home again during the NHL Awards in June, and the ever-humble No. 37 said he was just honored to once again be nominated.

“Being named a finalist for the Selke Trophy is a tremendous honor and one I am very grateful for,” said Bergeron in a press release. “While it is an individual award, my teammates and coaches deserve a lot of credit as well. Ryan and Anze are two elite players who both had great seasons and it is a privilege to be a finalist alongside them. Thanks to all of those who voted and I look forward to the NHL Awards Show on June 22.”

The Bruins center has won the Selke Trophy three times (2012, 2014 and 2015) and has now been a Selke finalist in each of the last five seasons. His three wins are tied for the second-most in NHL history, one behind Hall of Fame Canadiens forward Bob Gainey, who is the all-time leader with four Selke Trophies. Bergeron was the Bruins’ lone representative at the All-Star Game this winter for the second straight season, and was a no-brainer as a finalist given all of his defensive qualifications.

Bergeron finished the 2015-16 regular season leading the NHL in faceoffs taken (1,978) and for the second straight season led the league in faceoffs won (1,130) while finishing a solid seventh overall with a 57.1% faceoff win rate among players taking a minimum of 500 draws.

Thursday, April 28: Who are the lottery picks?

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Thursday, April 28: Who are the lottery picks?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while giving a thumbs up to “The Good Dinosaur” as quality family viewing.

*TSN Hockey Buddha Bob McKenzie breaks down the players available in the NHL draft lottery and what kind of names teams like the Boston Bruins should expect to be available with the first 14 picks.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynski talks about the World of Cup ads with the ESPN creative people that made them happen. They used the word jarring in something of a positive fashion to describe them. I would use the word “not funny” for Reg Carling, the fictional character created for the ads. If they were trying to feature the personality of NHL players in those ads, I think they missed the mark. It’s not really a big deal in the final scheme of things, but it doesn’t make for a good first step in drawing hockey fans back to the four letter network.  

*Good luck to Cam Tucker, a hockey writer based out of Vancouver that appears to have been one of the latest to be downsized in our industry.

*Dennis Bernstein has some thoughts, facts, analysis and theories surrounding the Los Angeles Kings, who have a long time to think about their first-round exit from the playoffs.

*Bruce Garrioch has some info on Ottawa’s long range plan to move to a needed downtown arena and that being the blueprint for most other Canadian cities.

*Tracey Myers has a dilemma for the Blackhawks: Andrew Shaw wants to stay, but the question is whether the Blackhawks can afford him?

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Bruce Boudreau lamenting the tough Game 7 loss for the Anaheim Ducks to the Nashville Predators. The loss may cost Boudreau his job, and will see a lot of new blood in the West with Chicago, Los Angeles and Anaheim now all out of the postseason.

*For something completely different: how can you say “no” to a tour of the world’s most magnificent treehouses.

Bruins have slim chance at No. 1 in NHL Draft lottery Saturday

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Bruins have slim chance at No. 1 in NHL Draft lottery Saturday

The Bruins will know a great deal more in a couple of days about their prospects for NHL Draft weekend in Buffalo this June.

The NHL will hold its annual draft lottery in Toronto on Saturday night for those teams outside the playoffs that hold first-round picks or those shrewd enough to have secured a first-rounder and still have reached the playoffs. 

The Bruins will have two first-round picks regardless of what happens: they hold their own lottery-eligible selection along with the first-round pick from the San Jose Sharks sent to Boston last summer in the trade for goaltender Martin Jones. The Sharks are still alive in the postseason, so the B’s second selection will be a late first-rounder.

The Bruins were the last NHL team eliminated from playoff contention, so they hold the slimmest odds of securing the first overall pick with a 1 percent chance in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.

It’s too bad because the kind of game-breaking talent available at the top of the draft is exactly what the Black and Gold franchise needs after trading away top-10 first-round picks in Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton the past three years.

The Bruins will have roughly the same odds for the second (1.1 percent chance) and third overall picks (1.3 percent chance) should they miss out on No. 1, but the chances are still slim at they will pick anywhere but the same exact 14th overall pick where they selected Jake DeBrusk last season. Should they get a selection in the top three, the Bruins would be looking at big-time center Matthews, and a pair of Finnish wingers in Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, along with Matthew Tkachuk (son of Keith Tkachuk and cousin to Jimmy Hayes).

The highest rated D-man on the board is Sarnia Sting blueliner Jakob Chycrun, who is a player the Bruins would need to trade up for, a la their attempt at Noah Hanifin last year. The Bruins will have assets to potentially make that happen, but we all know how that worked out last season for Don Sweeney when a big part of “the plan” was moving up to nab one of last year’s blue chip D-men in the draft.   

Hopeful Bruins fans can try their luck with the NHL Draft Lottery Simulator online, but fair warning that you won’t see the Spoked ‘B’ come up very much while hashing out the order of the top three overall picks for late June at the First Niagara Center.