Notes: Chara looks better in return to the ice

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Notes: Chara looks better in return to the ice

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

MONTREAL While Zdeno Chara was on the ice for both Montreal goals and looked understandably lethargic while attempting to stop whirling dervish Andrei Kostitsyn in the second period, there was no doubt Chara was a huge difference-maker for the Bruins in their 4-2 victory at the Bell Centre in Game Three.

Charas long shot wide of the net set up Nathan Hortons second goal of the first period, and the 6-foot-9 defenseman soaked 26:20 of ice time against the high-flying Canadiens less than 72 hours after being hospitalized for what the Bruins are calling severe dehydration.

Chara looked fairly hydrated while racking up three hits and three blocked shots along with an assist and a pair of shots on net, and played his usually stalwart role on both the penalty kill and power play.

"We knew the importance of this game, and we approached it that way, said Chara following the game. "I was just happy with the result tonight, and we've got to get ready for the next one.

The big defenseman wouldnt reveal exactly what was bothering him other than to say he wasnt feeling well, and that he felt much better Monday after some rest and proper hydration.

"Obviously, I wasn't feeling well, said Chara. "I tried to play Saturday. We decided not to. Obviously I had another 24 hours to recover, and all day today. I felt much better today.

"I wanted to play in the game before that, but obviously I knew it wouldn't be a smart decision for the team. I was really anxious to be in the lineup tonight.

Perhaps a little bit of the fatigue set in on Chara at points, and that might have played into the difficulty shifting from one leg to the other as Kostitsyn raced around him for Montreals first goal. But that was a brief black mark on a very positive night for Chara returning to the playoffs. Claude Julien paired Chara with Dennis Seidenberg prior to the game, and that seemed to work for both individuals in over 50 minutes of ice time together.

Hes a big part of our hockey club. You can ask anybody and hes not a very fun guy to play against. Hes arguably the strongest guy in the league, and that makes him such a tough matchup said Julien. After the warmup he felt like he could go, so we had him play. We went in deciding we were going to gauge him period by period, and he was really doing well taking in all of the ice time that we were giving him.

We thought it would be a good change for us to pair Chara and Seidenberg. Those are guys that can log a lot of minutes. We thought they could be a really solid pair for us, and they were. Johnny Boychuk played his best game, Andrew Ference was solid and I really thought our D was much better tonight than the first two games.

Bruins hopped on a bus following the game and took the two-hour drive to Lake Placid, New York for practice days on Tuesday and Wednesday. The players seemed to enjoy the idea of getting away from Habs country for a couple of days after a raucous night at the Bell Centre, and Tim Thomas in particular was really excited about checking out the setting for the 1980 US hockey team Miracle on Ice.

I think it's a good idea to just kind of get away, relax, a little bit more quiet environment, and for myself personally I'll be happy to look around and see a lot of the things from the 1980 Olympics," said Thomas, who captured a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with Team USA.

Bruins defenseman Shane Hnidy and center Tyler Seguin were the healthy scratches for the Bruins after taking part in the pregame warm-up at the Bell Centre. Hnidy played in Zdeno Charas absence during Game 2 on Saturday night.

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

Tuesday, March 28: 1,000 games for Sabres' Gionta

Tuesday, March 28: 1,000 games for Sabres' Gionta

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while forgetting that Nancy Kerrigan is on Dancing with the Stars.  

*Here’s the rundown on Brian Gionta celebrating his 1000th NHL game played with the Sabres on Monday night.

*Congrats to good guy Chad Johnson, who was appropriately given the “Good Guy Award” by the Calgary Flames media this week.

*Brock Boeser showed his abilities in a fantastic NHL debut after leaving the college ranks for the Canucks.

*I hope the fancy stats crowd is listening to this: The NHL playoff forecast is raining on the Corsi and fancy stats parade.

*Hope that Eddie Lack is okay after he had to be taken off the ice in a stretcher following a collision at the end of Carolina’s game.

*ESPN’s hockey crew breaks down some expansion mock drafts and have either Adam McQuaid, Jimmy Hayes or Malcolm Subban headed to the Vegas Golden Knights.

*The Benn brothers are gearing up for their first match-up against each other with the Canadiens and Stars set to meet.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jen Neale nails a Philly columnist for a hot take on USA Hockey and says the column illustrates just how much a change is needed there.

*The Winnipeg Jets have officially been eliminated from the playoffs, so now the Colorado Avalanche don’t have to feel so bad about themselves.

*For something completely different: One thing I’ve never wondered is what Tony Robbins thinks about politics.


 

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Tuukka Rask went through morning skate Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and proclaimed himself “healthy” to start against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden after sitting out Saturday with a lower body injury.

So, Rask will play his 60th game of the season tonight and the Bruins will hope that a dominating performance will douse some of the brush fire that’s cropped up around the Black and Gold’s goaltending situation. 

After Boston’s No. 1 goaltender coughed up five goals in a rough loss to Tampa and then sat out the must-win against the Islanders on Saturday night, questions about Rask’s big-game reliability are absolutely there after he also sat out last season’s pivotal finale against the Ottawa Senators.

Still, Rask said he hasn’t paid attention to the media scrutiny and is instead looking forward to locking up against fellow Finn Pekka Rinne of the Preds.

“I haven’t listened to the [media scrutiny], but I’m sure they’ve been very nice to me,” said Rask. “I don’t listen. I don’t read it. Doesn’t affect me. You know where you stand, and how good you play and when you don’t play good. That’s all you need. You don’t need to listen to the outside voices because it’s just going to distract you. People have opinions and they can say whatever they want.

“This is what we play for, right? It’s fun. It’s going to come down to the wire again and it’s going to be another battle tonight. I don’t even know how many games I’ve played. I feel good. I think I’ve said all throughout the year there’s going to be ups and downs, and you just try to stay even-keeled. It’s something that you learn not getting too high or too low, and just win as many games as you can.”

The bottom line with Rask is that there are major question marks about his standing as a No. 1 goaltender that he needs to address in these final seven games, media scrutiny or no media scrutiny. A No. 1 goalie worth $7 million per season can hold up with a 60-plus game workload and not fade down the stretch while in need of mental and physical breaks. 

The slender Rask has shown signs of slippage in his performance when the workload is heavy, and coach Bruce Cassidy admitted as much on Tuesday while not guaranteeing that his No. 1 will be able to play in six of the final seven games down the stretch.

“We’re trying to write our own story this year. I know how the last few years have ended, and we’d like a different ending,” said Cassidy. “I think this group should be afforded that right to write their own stories, and we’ll see how it plays out. Obviously last week did not play out well for us and we heard about it, and that’s part of the business.

“Saturday, hopefully we turned a corner, but we won’t know that until we get going forward here. I’m asking [Tuukka] to play well tonight, and I’m asking the players in front of him to play well tonight. The workload for Tuukka has to be monitored, and whether the whole world agrees with it or not, that’s the situation. I think the data backs up that he’s better with ‘X’ amount of rest and that’s just the way it is. It’s an inexact science and we’re trying to do a better job with that. The second half we’ve really tried to monitor it and last week was a bit of an exception. At crunch time things change a little bit, and that’s what we’re trying to balance.”

In an ideal world, a hockey team scratching and clawing for the Stanley Cup playoffs wouldn’t have to so closely monitor whether a goaltender is about to break down because he’s pushing 60 games in a season, especially when he’d enjoyed a five-day bye just a month earlier.

There are also questions about Rask’s reliability after sitting out last weekend, whether it was by his choice, the team’s choice or a mutually agreed upon decision after his lower body discomfort cropped up. A No. 1 goalie is no longer worthy of that lofty mantle when a team can’t rely on big-game performances from him, or even if he'll be available, once the pressure is on in the final weeks of the season.

So, there are plenty of questions to answer for Rask down the stretch here and they may go a long way toward determining his long-range future with an organization that invested heavily in him a few years ago. Those answers begin on Tuesday night against the Predators and it certainly feels like it will be game-to-game with him for final seven contests of the regular season.