Bruins gamble, win with goalie swap

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Bruins gamble, win with goalie swap

COLUMBUS It was far from a textbook victory for the Bruins over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. All one needs to do is look at the rare goaltending switch that took place in the Bs 5-3 victory over the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

Claude Julien made the bold decision to pull Tim Thomas after two periods and go with Tuukka Rask for the final 20 minutes. The game was tied 3-3 at the time of the swap.

Weve played five games in eight nights, were a pretty tired group, said Julien. We just had to fight through it and we did just that.

It worked like a charm for the Bruins, who were now battling without their two best players (Thomas yanked from the game and Chara out with a leg injury) and putting together one of the grittiest wins theyll have all season.

It was originally thought that Rask might be the goaltender of choice when the schedule for the week was put together, but Julien opted for Thomas with the Bs in the middle of a two-game losing streak.

Thomas made 22 saves in the first 40 minutes and kept the Bruins in a 3-3 tie, but it was also readily apparent that the 37-year-old goaltender was fighting the puck more than usual.

Almost none of Thomas stops were clean glove saves, and the third goal surrendered to the Blue Jackets was a soft-serve special. R.J. Umberger was freed into the offensive zone with some speed after a long outlet pass from Sami Pahlsson, but defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was with Umberger every step of the way.

The Bs defenseman forced Umberger toward an outside lane and the Blue Jackets forward could only managed a backhander attempt toward the Bruins net. The shot somehow trickled through Thomas pads and allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the game late in the second period after an early Zdeno Chara bomb handed the Bruins a one-goal lead.

The Bs goaltender let out a stick-waving show of exasperation after the Umberger goal as if he knew he should have stopped that one.

Combine the Umberger score with a power play goal allowed when Thomas had taken himself out the play with his penalty kill unit scrambling in front of him and Julien had seen enough of the roaming Thomas between the pipes.

Timmy didnt look as comfortable tonight as weve seen him before and a couple of goals went through, said Julien. It was a gut feeling from the coachs perspective. Timmy is as consistent as Ive ever seen a goalie. In my five years Ive maybe pulled him two or three times in all of those years at the most. Thats how consistent hes been.

Thomas didnt stop to address the performance with the media following the feel-good victory.

Rask must have been shocked to get the call headed into the third period, but he didnt act it out on the ice. It was particularly surprising given that a Milan Lucic tripping call left the Bs and Rask in penalty kill mode right off the bat. But the Finnish goaltender came in out of the cold and made all 13 of his save chances while improving to 5-4-1 on the season and 2-0-0 against the Blue Jackets.

I was a little surprised, but youve got to be ready. That just proves it again. Youve just got to try and stay focused for 60 minutes, Rask. If you get shots and get your sweat going and start to feel good about yourself it helps. Today it turned out to be a good period for me for and we squeezed out the win. That was great.

Thomas got pulled from a tie game, and you just want to go out there and not lose the game.

Its pretty clear the Bruins arent engaging in any goaltender controversy as its the first time Thomas has been pulled since last season on March 3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was very rarely pulled before that memorable defeat prior to last years Cup run.

Everybody is entitled to one of those games, said Julien. I didnt think he was bad, but it just didnt look like he was comfortable in the net. So we went with Tuukka in the third.

Julien rolled the dice in a big way going with Rask, and it was one of several flawless calls that allowed the Bs to eke out a much-needed victory.

Zdeno Chara interested in summer contract extension: 'Of course I would be'

Zdeno Chara interested in summer contract extension: 'Of course I would be'

BRIGHTON, Mass – At 40 years old and entering the final year of his contract with the Bruins, one might expect that Zdeno Chara was hoping to finish things up strong next season and ride off into the Boston sunset as a future Hall of Fame shutdown defenseman. 

One would be totally wrong, however. 

Chara finished off a very strong season for the Bruins as their de facto No. 1 defenseman and averaged a whopping 28:46 of ice time during Boston’s six games of playoff hockey. It wasn’t by design, obviously, as Chara was pushed into some games where he went over 30 minutes of ice time due to the blue line injuries and overtimes, and it wasn’t always perfect as evidenced by Chara’s minus-3 rating in the series and his disastrous delay of game penalty at the end of a Game 2 loss in Ottawa. 

But by and large it was an excellent season for Chara as a shutdown D-man paired with Brandon Carlo where his leadership benefited the 20-year-old rookie, and Carlo’s mobility and puck-moving helped bring out the best in Chara’s game as well. The 10 goals and 29 points and plus-18 in 75 games while averaging 23:20 of ice time was a strong showing for the Bruins captain, and undoubtedly encouraged Chara that the end is not near for his career. 

With that in mind, Chara said during Tuesday’s breakup day that he welcomed a discussion about a contract extension with the Bruins following July 1 as he hopes to continue playing beyond next season. 

“Of course I would,” said Chara, when asked if he’d be interested in an extension this summer. “It’s something where I want to continue to play, and I take a lot of pride in my offseason training and being ready for every season. It’s probably something that management has to think about and make a decision about, but I’ve said many times that I would like to play beyond this contract. 

“I want to still be very effective and still get better and improving while maintaining my game, and adding to my game. It’s a game that’s going extremely fast as we go forward with a lot of skill assets. You have to be able to make those adjustments, and that’s a focus for me going into every season so I can be an effective player.”

Clearly it would need to be under optimal conditions for the Bruins to extend Chara at this point in his career, but a short term contract that pays the aging D-man something in the neighborhood of next season’s cap hit ($4 million) would be palatable for a player that’s easily still a top-4 defenseman in the twilight of his career. 

There just shouldn’t be any expectation he’s going to get additional term or be anywhere close to his salary total for this season that was in the $7 million range, and instead it will be a potential contract extension that reflects Chara’s value to the Bruins even if Mother Nature is starting to slow him down a little bit. 

Chara’s skating game certainly has slowed for a 6-foot-9 defenseman that never counted skating as a real strength, and you don’t ever see him wind up and blast away full strength with that 108-mph slap shot that was featured in so many All-Star Game Skills Competitions over the years. But he can also still be a shutdown guy, a dominant penalty killer and an intimidating presence in the defensive zone that causes every offensive player to take pause when he’s out there. 

Even if Chara eventually becomes a middle-pairing defenseman over the course of the next couple of seasons, the Bruins could still use his presence on and off-the-ice as a defensive stopper and a mentor to all the young D-men in the organization. So it may be that the Bruins are just as interested as their 40-year-old captain in extending things another year or two with so much roster turnover toward youth expected on the B’s back end over the next few seasons.  

Brandon Carlo 'frustrated' that concussion caused him to miss playoffs

Brandon Carlo 'frustrated' that concussion caused him to miss playoffs

BRIGHTON, Mass – It wasn’t Brandon Carlo’s first concussion that he suffered at the end of the regular season after getting clobbered on a hit from behind by Alex Ovechkin, but it was the worst one that the 20-year-old had ever experienced as a hockey player.

Carlo said he was getting closer to returning to the lineup when the Bruins dropped Game 6 to the Ottawa Senators in overtime last weekend, and that he was pretty much out of the woods with the symptoms. Instead, the 6-foot-5 rookie defenseman was relegated to missing the entire Stanley Cup playoff experience after playing in all 82 regular season games as a first year player, and will be asking “What If?” along with the rest of a Bruins roster that never got to compete in the postseason with their full complement of players.

“It was pretty frustrating. You go through all 82 games and you build toward the playoffs, and that was a big thing for us. There was a lot of attention around trying to get back into the playoffs, and I just wanted to be a part of it. Watching was a different perspective for me, and a little frustrating,” said Carlo. “But at the same time, you try to take something positive out of every situation, and seeing the guys come out for the first playoff game at home sent chills up and down my body. Those are the scenarios I hope to be in as a player, and hopefully going forward I can be in those positions.

“I think I would have been able to come back pretty soon [after Game 6] honestly. I was getting past all these symptoms, and once I would have gotten past some of the conditioning hopefully I would have been back in the lineup.”

Certainly the Bruins missed Carlo in the postseason after he finished with six goals and 16 points along with a plus-9 while averaging 20:49 of ice time per game. The absence of both Carlo and Adam McQuaid on the penalty kill turned Boston from the NHL’s No. 1 ranked PK unit to one that allowed six power play goals (five technically, but the Game 2 game-winner was mere seconds after a Sens PP had expired), and against Ottawa’s 1-3-1 trap they certainly could have used another player in Carlo that can fairly adeptly move the puck up the ice. 

Instead the 20-year-old will head back to Colorado for the summer to train and prepare for his second NHL season after a super-solid rookie campaign, and hope that he can remain healthy next time around in the postseason after going through the entire regular season without incident until getting clocked by Ovechkin in game No. 82.