Haggerty: Give Julien an assist in big Bruins win

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Haggerty: Give Julien an assist in big Bruins win

MONTREAL David Krejci might have scored the game-winning goal and Tuukka Rask might have stopped 20 shots while chaos reigned around his net at the always wild Bell Centre.

But credit Bruins head coach Claude Julien as much as anybody in a Black and Gold uniform for pulling out an improbable win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Wednesday night.

The Bruins offense looked as stale as a loaf of Les Miserables bread through the first two periods. Both Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin were being kept under wraps and had one total shot on net between them, and it was clear being forced to replace Brad Marchand with Gregory Campbell on the wing due to injury wasnt exactly working out to be an offensive upgrade.

The Bruins headed into the final 20 minutes trailing 1-0 and it looked like another exercise in Boston frustration at the Bell Centre was looming. But Julien did what some thought he might not do: he busted up a David KrejciMilan LucicNathan Horton line thats been dynamite through the first three weeks of the season while looking for a spark to ignite his team.

He replaced Horton with Seguin on the right wing to start the third period, and thats when things blew up in the best way possible. With Brad Marchand out it made all the sense in the world to create one super offensive line with Lucic, Krejci and Seguin, so they could get a little traction with injuries cutting into their team speed and overall skill level.

The re-jiggered LucicKrejciSeguin line popped in two goals in its first two shifts of the third period to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead two minutes in, and that would be enough to hold on for victory at the Bell Centre.

In the third period we needed to create more scoring chances. I dont think we had many at all in the first two. So we tweaked the lines and the guys responded well, said Julien. It was just combinations. There are going to be some nights when things arent going well, and we all know that the Krejci line has been awesome for us.

Tonight they didnt seem to be able to generate much. So I said why dont I move a few guys around and see if we can generate a spark. Guys responded well. Seguin drove the net on our first goal and Horton almost scored on his first shift with a great chance. So things worked out and it gave us an opportunity to score some goals.

The Bruins had been in perimeter mode for much of the first 40 minutes, and that was a big part of the problem. Carey Price never broke a sweat in the first period while waiting over 12 minutes for Boston to register their first shot on net, and the Bruins really never waged any dangerous scoring bid in the first two periods. The best chance was for Seguin on a wide open lane to the net, but the 21-year-old pulled up for a short-side shot attempt that harmlessly hit the side of the net rather than driving the cage.

The new look Bruins finally did some damage in the third period when they attacked the net with aggressiveness and purpose. Seguin won a puck battle behind the Montreal net on the forecheck, passed to Krejci and then circled back to the net where the slick center found him for a backhander that tied things up at 1-1.

Less than two minutes later good plays by Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk to escape the defensive zone kick-started the Bs transition, and Seguin broke into the attack zone with speed. He floated a saucer over to Lucic on the left wing, and then both Seguin and Krejci headed straight to the net. The number of attackers overwhelmed the Montreal defense and a charging Krejci redirected the Lucic pass to the front for the game-winning goal.

The players couldnt really explain why Juliens move worked, but credited their coach for seeing exactly what needed to be done.

Coach just said he wanted to get a spark and well see what happens. Obviously with us popping in two goals there it worked out, said Seguin. Call it spark or call it different mindsets. I think anybody that has played this game knows that its at least 75 percent mindset out there. We went out there with a little spark in us like Julien said and it worked out.

That makes three goals and a team-leading nine points in nine games this season for Krejci, who appears to be on a mission to start this season. But one has to expect he wants to keep things together with Lucic and Horton as his bookend power forward wings after things have gone well for the majority of the last nine games.

Obviously we switched the lines a little. We didnt have much offense in the first two periods and in the third period we came out hard, said Krejci. It was one of those things where the puck finds the stick, and the stick finds the net twice. I was happy for those two goals and it was a really big game to win.

All we were thinking about going into the third period was playing strong and we got a big two points tonight.

Dont expect these to be the lines the Bruins open up with Saturday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Julien said he had fingers crossed that Marchand will play this weekend, and that would mean a return to line combination normalcy for the top six forwards as weve known it through the first nine games of the season.

That may change if the Nose Face Killah is still sitting on the sidelines with an upper body injury, however.

The Lucic-Krejci-Seguin combo does give the Bs coach a trump card, though.

He can play it to wake up the Boston offense when the inevitable stagnant times hit over the next few months of a regular season thats about to get very challenging.

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.