Bruins' Kelly should provide value in postseason

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Bruins' Kelly should provide value in postseason

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON Chris Kelly couldnt believe it when he was told that hes played 21 games for the Bruins since being traded away from the Ottawa Senators.

His offensive numbers certainly don't suggest he's been in Boston that long.

The defense-minded center isnt ever going to blow anybody away with his statistics, given the nuanced skills in his game, but even defensive players like to light the lamp every once in a while.

So Kelly was understandably excited when he potted his first goal as a member of the Bruins to push their lead to 3-0 against the Rangers on Monday night. He was equally crestfallen when his teammates crumbled into a pile of quivering Jell-O on the Madison Square Garden ice and lost 5-3.

Not scoring is obviously something you dont want to do, said Kelly, who has 13 goals and 13 assists combined between the Bruins and Senators this season. You want to be contributing offensively, and especially with the opportunities that we were getting as a line.

It felt like it was only a matter of time for us to score some goals. Youve got that extra pressure on you due to that, but you can take it the other way where youre not doing much as a line and youre getting broken apart because youre not generating anything.

Its all part of the process for the 30-year-old Kelly since moving from the Senators to the Bruins just before the trade deadline, and he likes whats seen while slowly adjusting to life skating between Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin or with Michael Ryder, as he was during Tuesdays practice at Ristuccia Arena.

That 5-on-5 work, along with Kellys budding chemistry with fellow new guy Peverley on the same penalty killing unit, have given Kelly a role on the team as a defensively responsible middle man capable of keeping up speed-wise with his fellow linemates.

Kelly said the chemistry hes built with the skilled Peverley in such a short time is similar to the working relationship he had with Antoine Vermette while playing in Ottawa and its made the big move to Boston that much easier.

The only problem: Kelly and Peverley have combined for seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) and a minus-7 in 41 games for the Bs since being traded. Claude Juliens crew needs much better production out of the duo, and no more of the close but no cigar sentiments following the game.

Obviously Rich skates really well, hes a good offensive player and hes a good two-way player as well, but obviously not having known him at all getting here it takes a little time getting to know him, said Kelly. Coming to a new team with new surroundings and new everything made it interesting, but us both being in that situation gave Peverley and me something in common, and maybe allowed us to blend so well together.

Kelly is 13th on the Bruins with his 15:03 of ice time each game for Boston, and is living up to his reputation as a good faceoff man while capturing 52.6 percent of his draws with the Bs second among Bruins' centers behind Patrice Bergeron at a 56.6 percent success rate.

The skating speed, the gritty tenacity and the faceoff proficiency were all things that have arrived as advertised, but one still gets the feeling that the best is yet to come for a player who's got nearly 50 games of playoff experience in his career. Kelly has been to the Stanley Cup Finals and knows what it takes to get there, but is looking for that elusive Cup like so many other players on the Bs roster.

Coming in was obviously difficult. Leaving Ottawa after getting drafted there and playing my whole career there and coming into a new locker room without knowing anybody but Zdeno Chara and Shane Hnidy was difficult. But I kept telling myself originally when I got traded that in a month, it wont be weird anymore. It will just be regular. Thats been the case.

Looking back on it Im glad I took that approach. The guys have been really welcoming and the coaches have been very good about helping me get adjusted to a new system. The transition has been a real treat in joining this team.

As things get a little less weird for Kelly with the postseason approaching, all of those little things that the center brings to the table will become a lot more evident to those that do little more than study the scoresheet.

Its been a quiet 21 games for Kelly since arriving in Boston, but the next 21 should be much more eventful for the proven playoff performer.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins make it official, name Cassidy coach

Bruins make it official, name Cassidy coach

It took a few days of discussions and Don Sweeney doing his due diligence as a general manager, but Bruce Cassidy was officially named the 28th head coach of the Bruins on Wednesday morning after guiding them back into the playoffs once he had replaced Claude Julien midseason. 

Cassidy was hired in early February and spurred the Bruins into an 18-8-1 finish to the regular season before falling in six games in the first round of the playoffs to the Ottawa Senators, and showed an ability to spur Boston’s offense while also working well in developing the Bruins young players at the NHL level.

Since Cassidy assumed head coaching responsibilities on Feb. 9, the Bruins ranked first in the NHL in goals per game (3.37), first in the NHL in fewest shots allowed (741), tied for second in the NHL in wins (18), tied for second in the NHL in power-play percentage (27.8%), tied for third in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.30), tied for fifth in the NHL in faceoff percentage (53.6%) and tied for sixth in the NHL in takeaways (229).

It was an impressive showing by Cassidy in his return to the world of NHL head coaching after a two-year stint with the Washington Capitals some 13 years ago, and it was clear to just everybody that he had earned the right to coach the Black and Gold.

“It’s no secret that I appreciate the way that [Bruce Cassidy] thinks the game, and I think we played well in front of him. Guys wanted to compete for him and I think his record speaks for itself when he popped in,” said Torey Krug, who was among B’s players like Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Backes that endorsed Cassidy publicly during B’s break-up day on Tuesday afternoon. “I think he is a guy that the players want to play for, and I think a lot of [other Bruins players] would echo that same message.”

Cassidy and GM Don Sweeney will both meet with the media on Thursday morning to discuss the hiring, pore over the just-concluded season and talk about the bright future for the Bruins after gaining a foothold under the new coach’s guidance. 

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.