Bruins hope to find a way for Corvo to fit in

570824.jpg

Bruins hope to find a way for Corvo to fit in

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins had the sixth-best defense in the NHL this season and move into the Stanley Cup playoffs viewing it as one of their team strengths.

But the old hockey axiom goes that any defense is only as strong as their weakest link, and it looks like the Bruins will be exposing their weak link when the playoffs begin.

An injury to Adam McQuaid has created an opening among their six starting defensemen, and it appears that Joe Corvo will be getting the call as a bottom-pairing defenseman with Greg Zanon to start the postseason.

It appears Corvo will essentially be playing the Tomas Kaberle role from last years playoffs where the Bruins will limit the puck-mover to short shifts and power play ice time.

But theres only so much hiding one can do with a defenseman playing upwards of 12 minutes per game. Its also pretty clear in Claude Juliens comments about the defensemen corps, in general, that his faith in Corvo as a responsible defensive player isnt at all-time high. Julien ticked off the name of every other defenseman when listing their acumen inside their own zone, but left Corvo conspicuously absent.

Weve been through it before. We almost have to be careful that if Chara and Seidenberg are so good that we make sure the other ones are as well. We have a lot of confidence in our guys, said Julien. Johnny Boychuk is a guy thats got a lot of experiences playing against top lines, and Andrew Ference has had a great year for us.

Whether its Adam McQuaid, Greg Zanon or Mike Mottau everybody has proved that theyre capable of playing shutdown hockey, you know?

What about Corvo, who earned the nickname Uh-oh Corvo during his rocky D-zone days playing with the Ottawa Senators?

With Joe were smart enough to put him in areas where hes going to succeed, said Julien. He is a good player when we put him in those situations, so its us knowing our team and who to put out there against whom. Our guys have done a great job. We have trust in our whole D-corps and its up to us to find the right times to put them out there.

Its been a rough year for Corvo with the Bruins. His four goals scored havent been good enough to offset his defensive inadequacies.

His numbers arent awful with 25 points and a plus-10 for the season, but its less than his career norms. With his heavy shot and skating ability Corvo should have double-digit goals and upwards of 35 points in his sleep, but that never happened in Boston.

Corvo loses one-on-one fights for the puck in the battle areas inside the defensive zone, he gets caught up ice on bad decisions leaving his defensive partners hanging and he frequently leaves the front of the net.

That kind of play in the D-zone leads to a lack of trust from a defensive sticker for detail like Julien. Corvo has tried to improve, but he finished the season with three points and a minus-1 rating in his final 14 games. He also found himself as a healthy scratch as the Bruins found their stride in late March. And those two things didnt seem to be mutually exclusive.

Corvo's presence on the ice gives the Washington Capitals something to exploit. The Caps know just how shaky he can be after he was acquired by Washington in a trade during the 2009-10 season and finished with six points and a minus-4 in 18 games.

It's a few years later, but Corvo's issues struggles seem to have resurfaced. Its fair to say the more Corvo is forced to play in any of these games, the less chance Boston has to be successful.

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

NEW YORK - Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

The NBA announced the suspension Saturday, saying Noah tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 – something that can be found in over-the-counter supplements.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the suspension.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and was likely to miss the Knicks’ final 10 games this season because of a knee injury. The NBA said Noah’s suspension will begin with the ”first NBA regular season or playoff game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He and the Knicks (27-45) have been a disappointment this season. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the past two seasons.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.