Chara showing off his offensive abilities

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Chara showing off his offensive abilities

BOSTON Dont look now, but Zdeno Chara is playing the role of best defensemen in the NHL again.

It can sometimes be overlooked because the 6-foot-9 blueliner has been a larger-than-life character since arriving in Boston five years ago. But the Norris Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion has turned up his play during the month of November as the Bruins have emerged with Johnny Drama-style victories in 11 of their last 12 games and vaulted back into first place in the Northeast Division.

Chara was again one of the best players on the ice while blasting a power play goal and firing a team-high six shots on net in 26:17 of ice time in Bostons 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night at TD Garden.

Not only has he been the consistent Tower of Power on defense his absence was never more obvious than when the Buffalo Sabres potted a pair of power play goals earlier this week while Chara was serving out his five minute penalty for fighting but hes been spurring the Black and Gold offense to boot.

In 12 games during the month of November Chara has 12 points (3 goals and 9 assists) along with a plus-12.

There's a reason he's one of the best, if not the best, defenseman in the league. He does a lot, said Chris Kelly. He plays penalty kill, he plays power play, he's on last minute if we're down a goal and hes on last minute if were up by a goal. Obviously every team would take him in a heartbeat and I think we're extremely lucky to have him.

Chara is averaging more than 25 minutes a game during the 12 games in November, and the big defenseman is putting up 3.67 shots per game while filling the net with slap shots fired from between the two face-off dots, which has also created offensive chances for his forwards hunting out rebounds in front of the net.

Charas big contribution on Saturday was the power play bomb from the right point position that halved the Jets lead in the first period. The goal arrived with less than four minutes to go in the first period and allowed the Bruins to gather a little steam headed into the first intermission.

With the momentum seized away from Winnipeg, Chris Kellys two-goal heroics in the second period put Boston in position to win.

Charas goal was huge, coming in two-one, said Johnny Boychuk. Its way better than two-nothing and gave us a little boost for the second and it did, and we came out, and that did the job.

Chara even played the role of victim in the second period with the game tied and less than seven minutes to go in the middle 20 minutes: Alex Burmistrov slammed Chara into the corner from behind with no regard for his safety or well-being. The hit on the B's captain drew a boarding penalty and sent the slippery Russian winger to the penalty box.

The B's surge only continued from there.

Perhaps it was a little more difficult to get up for Saturdays game given how slowly the Bruins approached things out of the starting gate, but the win showed how much things have changed for Boston post-Cup. Where once the Bruins might have struggled to find motivation against a middling team like Winnipeg, now Chara and Co. have whats needed to snap out of an underachieving funk.

In the first we were not maybe as sharp as we should have been, said Chara. Maybe that was the case when we were playing our third game in the fourth night.

If you dont have your legs you have to move the puck and thats what we were focusing on . . . moving the puck. Its about making simple plays and putting a lot of pressure on them especially in the offensive zone. We were much better in the second and I thought the third was our best. It was really nice that we bounced back the second twenty and got the lead.

The leadership and defensive intangibles of Big 'Z' are always going to be easy topics of discussion, but Charas offensive output over the last three weeks shows the kind of consistency and high-end production that make him one of the greatest defensemen in the league among the NHLs elite.

Hes been playing like it since November started and his team needed him most.

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

The Bruins should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. They really shouldn’t. 

Yet they might. Pierre McGuire said on TSN Radio Tuesday that his guess is that Shattenkirk, arguably the best free agent defenseman on the market, will end up in Boston.

It is remarkable how universally against a Shattenkirk megadeal B’s fans have seemingly been. A Twitter poll with over 3,600 votes this month had Bruins fans preferring Boston sign 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to a two-year, $8 million extension than the 28-year-old  Shattenkirk to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. 

That is obviously the correct conclusion, but considering how hard the false “Chara is old and bad” garbage is pushed in this town, it’s telling that 64 percent would rather he stick around than the team build the defense around Shattenkirk. 

Of course, Shattenkirk is not a bad player just because he’s been overrated in recent seasons. He’s a decent second-pairing defender and strong power play asset who can be penciled in for 40 points a year. The Bruins already have that in Torey Krug, and he makes less than Shattenkirk figures to command. Shattenkirk is also a righty who plays on the right, which is not a need for the Bruins, whereas Krug is a left shot who plays both sides. 

Add in the Bruins’ cap situation due to some bad contracts and they why of Shattenkirk would be a bad signing doesn’t need to be re-hashed. By this point, the explanation’s been given a few times in a few different places. 

So what would the Bruins’ actual case for signing Shattenkirk be? 

TO KEEP IT MOVING 

Last season was encouraging for Bruins fans because it saw them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years while also seeing young talent emerge. Yet they still only made the playoffs by two points, something of which Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are undoubtedly aware. 

So for all the good signs, this could be a fringe playoff team again if more improvements aren’t made, and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years would mark a step back in the eyes of ownership, perhaps putting jobs in danger. It would be a shame if money were spent irresponsibly for the sake of saving jobs, but Shattenkirk would definitely make the Bruins better next season, even if it crippled them financially down the road. 

TO PULL A CHIARELLIAN FREE AGENT SWITCHEROO

With McAvoy set to be a top-pairing player and Brandon Carlo a good second-pairing option, the Bruins do not have a need for a highly paid right-shot defender. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli made the controversial move of trading Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings on the planet. He did it to get Adam Larsson to help build Edmonton’s blue line up, then he went out and signed Milan Lucic in free agency to replace Hall. 

If the Bruins truly have designs on adding Shattenkirk, perhaps they could have something similar in mind: Trade someone like Carlo for either a left-shot defenseman or a left wing, then replace Carlo with Shattenkirk. 

This would still not be financially palatable, however. When the Oilers traded Hall for Larsson, they swapped a player with a $6 million cap hit for a player with a $4.16 million cap hit and replaced the original player (Hall) with a player in Lucic who carried a $6 million cap hit. So essentially they netted one player for an additional $4.16 million. 

Carlo is on his entry level contract, so unless the Bruins traded him for a player on an entry-level deal, they’d be spending a lot of money in any maneuver that involved replacing him with Shattenkirk. 

TO GO ALL-IN ON POST-CLAUDE LIFE

Claude Julien’s detractors lamented his affinity for responsibility. They loved it when Bruce Cassidy was more open to trading chances. 

Well, you like trading chances? Shattenkirk’s your guy. He’s a good skater, a good offensive player and a sub-par defender. You put Krug, Shattenkirk and McAvoy as three of your four top-four defenseman and you’ll be a long way from the days of Chara, Seidenberg and Boychuk, for better or worse. 

BUT, KEEP IN MIND . . . 

They for sure should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. 

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while wishing that Gordon Hayward and Paul George were already in Boston, like, yesterday.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman gives his 30 thoughts for the week, including the trade value of a first-round pick right now.

*It could that non-unrestricted free agents steal all of the thunder on July 1 with massive contract extensions a la Connor McDavid.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings taking potential fliers on a number of veteran D-men that are out on the free market.

*With free agency right around the corner, the legendary Stan Fischler details the sad end to Bobby Orr’s career in Boston, where he was lied to about the offer extended to him and ended up playing things out with the Chicago Blackhawks in a way that it shouldn’t have gone. The sight of Orr in a Blackhawks sweater is one of the real all-time NHL oddities out there.

*The NCAA is eying college hockey expansion in NHL markets, including the University of Illinois and Pitt, and, from what I’ve been told, perhaps UNLV and maybe even Vanderbilt. This is a great thing for amateur hockey players and anybody that can’t get enough of the game.  

*Ex-Senators defenseman Marc Methot holds no ill will toward the Sens after being dealt from Vegas to the Dallas Stars following his selection in the expansion draft.

*Josh Ho-Sang shares his wisdom to Islanders prospects as a 21-year-old somebody that’s gone through the ups and downs of being in their shoes.

*As we referenced above, Connor McDavid is closing in on a massive contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will probably make him the highest paid player in the NHL.

*For something completely different: My heart goes out to this Roslindale family fighting through a situation with a child who has a life-threatening disorder. They have a Go-Fund-Me page, so please give if you can.