Julien: Bruins 'focusing on the moment'

Julien: Bruins 'focusing on the moment'

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The tests just keep on coming for the Bruins in the final weeks of the regular season as they face a Chicago Blackhawks team desperate to cement a playoff spot just a year after winning the Stanley Cup.Tonights game against Chicago ends a stretch of seven games where the Bs had played five playoff-ready opponents as well as games against teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils that were hungry to force their way into the postseason conversation.Bruins coach Claude Julien is attempting to get his team into the playoff mindset over the final three weeks of the regular season, and a pretty meaningful 2-1 win over the Flyers last weekend was a good start.That continues against the Blackhawks with the very-same lineup that Boston featured against Philly in an impressive effort.I think for us right now its focusing on the moment, said Julien. From here on in we have to maintain our play, our level of play that weve had lately and continue to try and even improve that.Theres no room for complacency right now, and we have lots of players. If were going to move some players in and out from here on in its because were taking it easy. Its because we want everybody ready to go. Thats kind of the message we gave to the players.For the Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews has 12 goals and 12 assists in his last 18 games for Chicago and goaltender Corey Crawford has played in 20 straight games for the Blackhawks and may play tonight after the Hawks beat the Red Wings in overtime last night in Detroit. Tuukka Rask, Gregory Campbell, Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder, Steve Kampfer, Adam McQuaid, Shane Hnidy and Tuukka Rask were among the Bruins players that skated during an optional on-ice workout at TD Garden.Julien indicated hes going to get some of the extra players into games soon, but that probably wouldnt be happening against the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. Expect to see Hnidy in at least a couple of games prior to the playoffs in case injuries or slumps make his presence mandatory in the lineup. That also means Steve Kampfer and Michael Ryder are once again Boston's likely healthy scratches for tonight.Not tonight, but I think as we move on here theres certainly going to be guys moving in and out of the lineup here, said Julien, when asked about lineup changes. Were certainly preparing for that. With Rask on the ice for the optional skate, its likely that Tim Thomas will again get the start for the Bs against Chicago. Thomas is 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals against average in his last three starts against the Devils, Canadiens and Flyers, and has been every bit as good as he was in the first three months of the season.
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.