Bruins notes: Seidenberg hitting his stride


Bruins notes: Seidenberg hitting his stride

By Joe Haggerty

PHILADELPHIA Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said before Game One that he found it annoying to watch -- and difficult to handle -- when he sat out the entire series against the Philadelphia Flyers during last years playoffs due to injury.

The Bs defenseman missed the entire postseason after suffering a severe cut to his forearm from the sharp edge a skate blade near the end of the regular season, and qualifies as one of a number of different Bruins skaters that could have been difference-makers during the Philly collapse.

Since Seidenberg was paired with Zdeno Chara prior to Game Three against the Montreal Canadiens, the German blueliner has been a big time difference-maker for the Black and Gold. Seidenberg has a goal and 4 assists along with a plus-6 in six playoff games since the move to Bostons top pairing, and its really allowed the blueliner to take some offensive chances with pinching and working pucks deep into the offensive zone.

There were times this season where it appeared that Seidenbergs offensive value was being lost amid his defensive responsibilities, but hes really found his game at the exact right time the same kind of pattern that Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli noticed when the Bruins played Seidenbergs Carolina Hurricanes two years ago.

Seidenberg was really again solid for us tonight. I liked his game. He was solid, he was physical, he was strong, and give him credit, said Julien. He set some of the goals that we scored early in the game.

He was pinching, and he did a great job of pinching, carrying the puck behind the net, and made a great play from there on in. But hes been a pretty good player for us all year. Theres no doubt we missed him through the playoffs all last year. But hes showing his worth right now, and were happy to have him.

With Zdeno Chara finally looking like himself again after the dehydration episode in the first round, that means things can only get better for Seidenberg as he keeps playing like the big, strong, offensive-minded shot-blocking defenseman thats shown up when his team needs him most.

Brad Marchand had some extended chats with Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger at points during the game, and that seems like a pretty natural place for some conversation to take place given their reputations. The Bs rookie said the refs were cracking down on the trash-talking given the characters out on the ice, but Marchand let out an imp-ish style at the thought hed always be on his best behavior for seven games.

Tonight I wasnt doing a ton of talking, but well see what happens as the series goes on, said Marchand. The refs were watching certain guys quite a bit, so there wasnt much stirring of the pot out there.

A pair of two-handed chop slashes from the Philadelphia Flyers as tempers flared in a game that got away from Philly, and showed just how high the level of frustration was for a Flyers team getting beaten to the punch. Chris Prongers slash on Daniel Paille was particularly egregious given that the Bs fourth line forward was lying on the ice after he collided with the Philly defenseman following a delayed icing call but there also a Kris Versteeg two-hander on the back of Michael Ryders legs that looked it was coming with a message.

In all the Flyers were called for five different slashing calls against the Bruins as they clearly opted for stick-work and cheap plays over actually attempting to move their feet and outwork Boston.

It wasnt very good tonight, the defensive play. Especially, you know, right in front of our goaltender, said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. Too many easy goals, too many easy plays, we werent strong enough right in front of our goaltender.

That was not the way we need to play in order to be successful, so theres lots of things that can change; actually everythings got to change, everythings got to improve. So well work on that.

The seven goal output was a little different for Tim Thomas after playing in so many white-knuckled one goal games and overtime contests against the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs but the Bs goaltender said he never felt too relaxed despite the 31-save effort that included some pretty big saves in the first and second period.

That was a good game. You usually dont have too many leads like that in the playoffs, said Thomas. It wasnt that big a lead, but Philly is known for their comebacks even within games so you always have to be on your toes.

In the five previous series the Flyers have played against the Bruins, and with tonight being the sixth occasion, the Flyers are 0-6 in Game 1. They have won three of the previous five series vs. Boston despite that, including the 1974 Stanley Cup Final and last years Eastern Conference Semifinal.

Huge shot-blocking effort for Gregory Campbell during a penalty kill at the end of the second period, and a pretty good representation of exactly how much grit and toughness the fourth line center plays with every night.

The beat goes on for the power play now that theyve gone 0-for-5 in the win and sit at 0-for-26 during the playoffs as the only NHL playoff team that hasnt notched a score on the man advantage.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Carlo has been big answer to B's defensive questions


Haggerty: Carlo has been big answer to B's defensive questions

Things couldn’t have worked out any better for the Bruins to this point in the season when it comes to 19-year-old rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

While most of the other fellow rookies that debuted with Carlo a few weeks ago have been relegated to healthy scratch status or sent down to the AHL, the big, right shot defenseman continues to survive, and sometimes thrive, in a featured shutdown, top pair role with B’s captain Zdeno Chara.

Carlo’s ability to play both ends of the ice with strength, poise and intelligence for 21:59 of ice time per game is exactly what the Bruins needed headed into this season, and exactly what they didn’t get last season whether it was Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, Adam McQuaid or somebody else attempting to shut down top lines with Chara. The Bruins knew they had the need for a defenseman like Carlo, but really had no idea where that player was going to come from if they didn’t have a young player “pop” in training camp like Carlo did.

The teenaged D-man has clearly had a few rookie moments here or there through five games, so it hasn’t been 100 percent perfect by any means. But the 6-foot-5, 203-pound Carlo leads all rookies with a plus-7 rating in his five games while ranking top-10 in the NHL in the plus/minus category, he’s got a goal and two points in five games for perfectly acceptable production from a non-power play guy and he’s teamed with Chara to give the Bruins a D-men pairing they can rely on in all situations.

Those players are worth their weight in Black and Gold, and the rookie Carlo has been just that through the season’s first two weeks.  

“He’s a good man, and obviously is making a lot of good impressions,” said Chara. “My job is to do whatever I’m used to doing, and to make sure I can help him as much as I can. [The goal] is for us to compensate for each other and to work well together.”

Mission accomplished after five games with both Carlo and Chara among the most effective players on the Bruins roster thus far. With fewer than 20 games of pro hockey experience under his belt between last season and this year, Carlo has already earned the trust from Claude Julien to be on the ice protecting one goal leads in the final minute of regulation.

“He’s given me no reason to not want to put him out there. He’s got a great stick, great composure and he blocks shots. He does the right things. To me right now he’s not playing like a first year player, he’s playing like a player that’s been in the league for quite a while,” said Carlo. “He’s very comfortable and confident, and he makes the plays out there that he needs to make.

“Like I said, he’s impressed the heck out of us with the way he’s so calm. A young player like that you would expect to be more nervous, but he’s shown us he’s the total opposite.”

That’s a rarity for any rookie player with the Bruins, and almost unheard of for a player as young and inexperienced as Carlo. But it’s always based on merit with Julien and his B’s coaching staff, and Carlo has earned all the trust and responsibility in the early going by rarely making a negative play on the ice that ends up hurting the team.

The win over the New Jersey Devils is a great example of Carlo’s resilience and confidence. He was on the ice for a goal against earlier in the game when a Kyle Palmieri point blast got through him, bounced off his skate and beat Tuukka Rask on a deflected puck that initially looked like it was going wide of the net. In the final minutes of the game with the Bruins guarding a slim one-goal lead, Carlo was on the ice protecting that slim lead with the Devils making a push. It was the same exact play facing Carlo, and this time he found a way to block Palmieri’s point blast and make certain the Bruins banked the two points with a regulation win.

Carlo certainly appreciated the second chance to make the good shutdown defensive play, and strives to show consistency as a rookie where peaks and valleys to his play will be expected.

“I feel like I kind of revived myself there with that big block,” said Carlo, who got immediate attaboys from Tuukka Rask one the puck was frozen after making the play. “It felt really good to contribute in that way at the end of the game. I feel like me being out there has a lot to do with being Zdeno’s partner and the coaching staff wanting him out there, but I love the adrenaline rush and the competition with the game on the line. It’s a great feeling.”

Quite simply the Bruins really can’t afford those peaks and valleys, fair or unfair, and the 19-year-old former second round pick seems to understand that. Instead they need Carlo to perfectly compliment 39-year-old Zdeno Chara as he’s done through five games and vice-versa with the B’s captain off to his best start in the last few years while not having to worry so much about what’s happening on his right side.

“I think I can definitely stand up and hold my own out there, but I’ve also got Zee [Chara] standing next to me and that makes me feel very protected,” said Carlo. “It’s been fantastic. Each game I think we build a little more chemistry and move the puck better, and we talk every single shift and on the ice so much.

“We’re getting really comfortable with each other’s playing styles, and I think we’re getting really comfortable out there. I’ve enjoyed the experience, and learning a great deal from his experience as well. I’m just starting to figure out that I can do this well, and now I’m just trying to stay consistent playing the way that I have been. Part of being a pro is being able to do it night in and night out. Going through the WHL I feel like I have a bit of a hand up on that because we played a 72-game schedule, so I’m used to playing three times a week. It’s a nice thing to have under my belt, but it’s just about trying to stay consistent here. I’m just going to work my hardest every night, and I’ve got plenty of time each day to get my body prepared to play.”

Carlo makes the second, game-securing play because there’s a mental and physical toughness to his game, and there is a very high learning curve for the youngster after tossed into a difficult position as a shutdown NHL D-man out of necessity. The Bruins probably should have been in big, big trouble along their back end again this season after failing to close a deal for Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer, and going into this season without upgrading whether it’s Jacob Trouba, Cam Fowler or some other young, puck-moving top-4 defenseman-type potentially available on the market.

They probably still need one of those established veteran players to truly upgrade their blue line into an area of strength rather than an area of question, but Carlo has minimized some of that dire need with his impressive first couple of weeks. The Bruins hope Carlo continues to become their version of similarly-sized St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, a third round pick that rapidly emerged on the Blues scene a couple of years ago with an impressive rookie season at 22 years old.

Carlo is three years younger than Parayko, so a virtuoso rookie season from the Bruins D-man would perhaps be even more impressive if he can maintain his current level of play all season.

The only way Carlo can do that is by going out and continuing to perform with his simple, strong and effective defenseman play as the opponents get better, and more offensively dangerous. The challenges will be steeper for Carlo as the Bruins step into a more challenging portion of the schedule. The B’s clearly believe Carlo is up to the task given his early play, and Boston’s potential to be an improved hockey club this season may ride heavily on whether the 19-year-old can keep it going. 

Spooner responds positively to healthy scratch


Spooner responds positively to healthy scratch

BOSTON -- It wasn’t perfect by any means, but Saturday night represented a step in a positive direction for Ryan Spooner.

The 24-year-old speedy forward was scratched for the home opener against New Jersey in classic message-sending fashion by Bruins coach Claude Julien, and deserved it based on a passive lack of production combined with some costly mistakes as well. So he stayed quiet, put in the work and then returned to the lineup Saturday vs. the Montreal Canadiens where he scored a power play goal in the 4-2 loss to the Habs at TD Garden.

“He was better,” agreed Claude Julien. “He was better tonight.”

Spooner could have had even more as he got a couple of great scoring chances in the first period vs. Montreal, but Carey Price was able to turn away a couple of free looks at the Montreal net. So the Bruins forward felt he possibly left points on the ice after it was all said and done, but also clearly played his best game of the young season after going from the press box back to the lineup.

“Yeah, I had like maybe four or five [chances] that I could have scored on,” said Spooner. “I’ve just got to bear down on those [scoring opportunities], and a lot [of them] in the first period. It’s good that I’m getting those looks, but I have to score on them.

“I’m just going to go out there and just try to play. I can’t really think about [fighting to hold a spot]. I’ve just got to go out there and try to play, I guess, the game I can and try to use the speed that I have.”

The Spooner power play strike was a nifty one with the shifty forward and David Backes connecting on a pass across the front of the net, and the young B’s forward showing the necessary assertiveness cutting to the net from his half-wall position.

Spooner had five shot attempts overall in the game, and was one of the few Bruins players really getting the chances they wanted against a pretty effective Montreal defensive group. Now it’s a matter of Spooner, along with linemates Backes and David Krejci, scoring during 5-on-5 play and giving the Bruins a little more offensive balance after riding Boston’s top line very hard during the regular season’s first couple of weeks.