Haggerty: Bruins get statement win in first game back

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Haggerty: Bruins get statement win in first game back

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH, N.C. If the Bruins could have up drawn up an ideal statement to make in their first game back from the All-Star break, the 3-2 disposal of a hungry, improving Hurricanes bunch in their North Carolina backyard was pretty close to it.

It was never going to be perfect, not after most of the Bs had five days off before jumping into things at the RBC Center on Tuesday night, but there were plenty of good things to build on with only 31 games left in the regular season.

The bottom line, of course, is that the Bruins emerged victorious and managed to beat the Hurricanes for the third time in the last two weeks.

We found a way to win and we played pretty good offensively most of the night, said Tim Thomas. We didnt create a ton offensively, but we found a way to get it done when we did do things right. Everybody is going to be sloppy after the break, and thats just the way it is. But under those circumstances we still found a way to win, so I think its a good stepping stone.

At the top of the Bostons wish list coming down the stretch is another hot streak for Nathan Horton in the goal-scoring department, and the right wing looks like he might be heating up after his performance Tuesday night. Before the break Horton joked he was going to find some new sticks, but instead the skilled forward went back to an old model and motto that worked for him.

He simply got confident, got engaged and got involved. Three shots on net and three registered hits are the right measure of strength and skill that the 25-year-old is constantly in search of balancing and he found the right mixture against the Hurricanes.

That culminated with Bostons go-ahead goal in the third period on a play that Horton created out of nothing behind the Carolina net. He was battling with Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason behind the Carolina cage, and fought to win possession away from a pair of Carolina skaters.

The puck shot over to David Krejci, and Krejci flipped a pass right to Horton in a crease right by the left post. Horton snapped up high with a wrist shot and suddenly he had his first goal in the last 11 games and his second goal in the last 21 games after starting out like a house of fire over the first month of the season.

It appears more and more that Horton is streaky, and that means there will be times when his feel and confidence erode. But that also means there will be binge scoring sessions when Horton can carry the team on his own, and it appears he's primed and ready to start another hot streak at just the right time.

Thats something that everyone has really been waiting to happen, and hopefully its a confidence boost and something that can really get him going, said coach Claude Julien. That was a goal scorers goal . . . He was in tight and he lifted it after a really great setup.

The other encouraging sign from one simple victory in February: The Bs best players continue to be their best players, with no signs of slowing.

Zdeno Chara had a monster January while skating an average of 24:59 per game for 14 games while putting up 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) along with a plus-7 and continued that trend with a pair of assists and a dominating eight shots on net in the victory. Less obvious but even more valuable, Chara handled Eric Staal and allowed only a single shot on net to Carolinas most dominant scoring force in 20-plus minutes of ice time.

Chara had a turning-point game in the third-period collapse in Montreal last month, and it appears Big Zee is starting to build up another Norris Trophy resume with the way his game is rounding into shape beyond his mammoth 159-mph slapshot.

Patrice Bergeron scored his 17th goal of the season and his 9th in the last 13 games through a Brad Marchand screen, and Thomas came up large with a succession of save combinations in the final 20 minutes. Thomas simply reacted to Erik Coles long shot from the slot, and then kicked out his right hip on a leg save to stop Brandon Sutter on his rebound attempt right by the left post.

The successive save combination was a thing of beauty just as the win was for a Bruins team ready to sprint over the final 31 games with playoff position in the balance among a series of hard-fought games.

This is the final push. Its where the competitive juices get going and everybody is fighting for their lives, said Lucic. There are no easy games, but this is also where the fun begins. This is where we see exactly how good we can be.

Bostons first push after the All-Star break was a good one. Now all they need is 31 more just like it to get ready for what lays beyond.

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

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.