Notes: Chara responds in big way

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Notes: Chara responds in big way

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON After getting knocked around the ice by Ryan Malone and the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 Saturday at St. Pete Times Forum, Zdeno Chara and defense partner Dennis Seidenberg rebounded strongly with physical, productive play Monday night in the Bruins 3-1 win at TD Garden.

Chara led the Bruins with four shots on net and set the game-winning goal in motion with a confident rush into the offensive zone in the second period that sent the Tampa Bay defense scrambling around him.

The offensive pinch led to Patrice Bergeron cycling in the corner and feeding a perfect pass to Brad Marchand as he cleanly beat Martin St. Louis to the net on a backdoor play. Marchand slammed a shot past Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith with slightly more than four minutes to go in the period.

Chara has clearly been focused on the defensive end of things for much of the first two rounds of the playoffs, but there was an even-handed approach to his game in Game 5 that also resulted in the 6-foot-9 Slovakian defenseman parked in front of the net during several power-play possessions.

It was a big game, said Chara, but he added: "The next game is the most important game.

Theres been plenty of clamoring for Chara a tall drink of water, as Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith called him following Game 5 to shift around and mix it up a little bit in front of the net. Thats what coach Claude Julien finally did while thinking a bit outside the box on the power play.

Weve always had that plan in the back of our minds," said Julien. "And . . . because our power play was not very good in Tampa, we said . . . we were going to have to make some changes. And we had Zdeno . . . go to the front of the net. And I know it kind of takes something out from the back end, but we had players we kind of felt could maybe jump in at that point, and maybe at least get some shots on net.

"I thought Chara did a great job in front, and hes a big presence and hes a hard guy to move. And we had some chances and the power play at least, even if it didnt score . . . gave us at least a little bit of momentum."

Unfortunately the new look didnt yield any actual results. The Bs power play squad went 0-for-4 despite the new looks and wrinkles.

Johnny Boychuk missed the final half of the third period after getting slammed by Steve Downie behind the net, a play that drew a boarding penalty. Julien -- who said Boychuk, who had to be helped off the ice by Andrew Ference and Patrice Bergeron, was "fine" -- wasn't pleased with the hit.

"I havent had an opportunity to look at it, said Julien. I havent watched the video yet. I know some people have, but from what I hear its not a great hit. Ill maybe save my comments more for after I see it."

Julien was mixing and matching lines in the third period, and used Rich Peverley as a little bit of a swingman after shortening his bench in the third period. The Bs coach alternated Peverley and Tyler Seguin on the line with Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder during the final 20 minutes.

This is a guy who deserves the ice time he got tonight, said Julien. Late in the game on that third line, they were starting to throw Martin St. Louis . . . and starting to throw Vincent Lecavalier. They were trying to take advantage of maybe the lack of experience in Tyler.

So I had to put Peverley out there at that point and make sure we had some experience against some of those guys. This is where Pevs becomes a real useful player. He did a great job on the penalty kill and he jumped in there on the third power play that we had. He was used for faceoffs and was very good . . .

"You cant just put a guy like him, basically, on the fourth line and just give him a few minutes. He served us really well tonight. He played a real solid game.

Peverley finished with 14 minutes of ice time, scored the empty-net goal that made the final 3-1, and won five out of six faceoffs as part of a strong effort by the Bs centers, who dominated the faceoff circle Monday night.

Chris Kelly was wearing the Bruins Chalk Line 1980s jacket following Monday nights Game 5 victory after playing a pivotal role on the penalty kill unit that held the Lightning to an 0-for-4 night. Kelly joked after the game that the biggest reason he was wearing the jacket was because of the team rule that one player couldnt wear the jacket in back-to-back wins a stipulation that eliminated the spectacular Tim Thomas from consideration.

Historically, Game 5 has proved crucial for the Bruins when a best-of-seven series. The Bs are 17-4 when they lead a series 3-2 and 2-16 when they trail a series 3-2. The Lightning, meanwhile, are 2-0 when they lead a series 3-2, and 2-2 when they trail a series 3-2.

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

Krug out 6 months, Krejci 5 months after surgery

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Krug out 6 months, Krejci 5 months after surgery

It sounds like the Bruins will be without puck-moving defenseman Torey Krug at the very outset of next season.

Krug (right shoulder), Matt Beleskey (left hand) and David Krejci (left hip) all underwent successful surgeries in mid-to-late April for injuries sustained over the wear and tear of NHL duty last season and both Krug and Krejci are now facing recovery times on the long end of things. 

Krejci’s rehab and recovery is initially set for five months after undergoing surgery with renowned hip surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly on April 25, but the hope is that the 30-year-old playmaking center will be ready for the start of the regular season.

It’s the same rough timetable Krejci faced following hip surgery on his right side after the 2008-09 season and, seven years ago, the center was able to start the season on time.

Krug is up for what’s expected to be a long-term new contract after July 1, and will be out six months after undergoing shoulder surgery with Bruins team doctor Peter Asnis on April 21. That means there’s a good chance the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Krug will miss the preseason and be out the first few weeks of the preseason at the very least. 

Shoulder injuries are also always a bit of a concern for NHL defensemen considering all of the pounding those players absorb on a nightly basis, and that goes doubly so for a smaller blueliner (5-9, 186) such as Krug.

Any absence at all is tough news for the B’s considering Krug was second on the Bruins in ice time (21:37) among defensemen this season, and led all Bruins blueliners with 44 points last season in a challenging year for a clearly undermanned D-corps.

Beleskey is expected to undergo a six-week rehab after his April 14 surgery with Dr. Matthew Leibman at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.  

Tuesday, May 3: Stamkos, Subban as 10-year-old teammates

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Tuesday, May 3: Stamkos, Subban as 10-year-old teammates

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while starting to actually feel badly for the Republican Party.

*Lukas Head revisits an old photo taken with Steven Stamkos and PK Subban when all three were youth hockey players together.

*A disappointed Brooks Orpik gets emotional when discussing his playoff suspension. Maybe he should stop lining up guys for predatory hits if he doesn’t want to be suspended. His track record, and unwillingness to answer the bell for his actions, is well-chronicled.

*Barry Trotz hints that the Pittsburgh Penguins received preferential treatment in the aforementioned Brooks Orpik suspension.

*A heartwarming story of the San Jose Sharks saving the black cat that somehow jumped on the ice at the Shark Tank prior to Game 1 of their playoff series.

*Congratulations to the inspirational Travis Roy, who was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame last weekend.

*Bob Hartley is fired by the Calgary Flames. Could it be that it was done to make room for Bruce Boudreau, asks Puck Daddy?

*Former Bruins enforcer PJ Stock did some kind of FaceTime television hit with Rogers Sportsnet to make some playoff predictions.

*For something completely different: Jerry Thornton has a number of local Boston businesses banning Roger Goodell from their premises.

 

 

Youth needs to be served

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Youth needs to be served

This is the second in a five-part series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction. 

In the days after the Bruins' regular-season demise, it was striking to hear Don Sweeney speak about the development path of David Pastrnak.

The Bruins general manager paid the second-year forward perfunctory compliments about the prodigious skill set that made him a first-round draft choice. Pastrnak -- in spite of getting almost no power-play time, even though he's one of the most gifted offensive players on the roster -- scored five more goals and roughly the same number of points in about the same number of games as he did in his rookie year, despite suffering a fractured foot in the first month and then competing in the World Junior tourney around the holidays. He also gained steam at the end of the season, scoring goals in three of the final four games while the rest of his teammates struggled.

But Pastrnak, one of the youngest players in the NHL at age 19, struggled with puck management and turnovers, and had some rough nights as a teenager making his way in a rough-and-tumble man’s league. He's still on the learning curve, something Sweeney readily acknowledges.

“The impatience about putting players [at the NHL level] before they’re ready, it shows up at times,” said Sweeney, who invoked Pastrnak’s name while answering a question about the potential NHL readiness of promising young B's prospect Danton Heinen. “It absolutely does. We’re talking about David Pastrnak, who leads the league in giveaways per 60 minutes. He’s a tremendous talent and a tremendous young man with tremendous character, and he wants to get better and needs to get stronger.

“At times it’s unfair to [coach Claude Julien] that people will be like ‘Ah, there’s Pastrnak not out there on the ice in this situation.’ But [Julien's] the same guy that put [Pastrnak] out there (in a crucial late-season game against the Red Wings with the Bruins leading 5-1) and he makes a bad mistake and they score . . .

"That’s a bit of give-and-take that everybody has to understand with our younger players. You have to hope that they’re ready for it. [We've] done it properly (in the past) . . . [Brad Marchand] started on the fourth line and worked his way up.

"David has been up and down a little bit. That’s the piece where we need to have some depth, and we’re in a transition to get there.”

Sweeney's mention of Marchand illustrates the Bruins' problem. When Marchand broke in, the Bruins were a talented Stanley Cup contender. His first full season was 2010-11, the year Boston won the Cup. The B's could afford to slowly develop him. letting him get his feet wet in low-pressure situations before asking more of him.

That's not the case today. The Bruins no longer have that kind of quality roster depth, and won't anytime soon unless a lot of these prospects come through. That means young players like Pastrnak are forced into bigger roles they might not be ready for.

And that strikes right at the heart of Boston’s development missteps from last season.  

Some of it was organizational. It seemed pretty clear by the end of the season that Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow and Brett Connolly aren’t going to develop into core players in Boston. That's just the way it is in a results-oriented business like the NHL. It doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the coaching staff’s work, as great coaching can’t magically turn a borderline NHL player into something he’s not.

But while the coaches handled Pastrnak well, they failed at times with Frank Vatrano and Colin Miller. Both showed flashes of NHL ability throughout the season, but spoke of losing their confidence based on their erratic usage patterns. The two of them needed stints in the American Hockey League to get their respective grooves back.

In particular, the electric Vatrano should have been back up with the B's weeks sooner than he was. The Bruins were struggling to score goals and he was rifling them home at a goal-per-game pace in Providence. As soon as he returned to Boston, he posted four points in his five games.

With Julien returning and the Bruins intent on introducing more young talent to the lineup, the transition into the NHL needs to be streamlined.

Given how much of a priority it is for Sweeney, there's no reason to think the process won't be improved.

The hope is that the next crop of B’s prospects will yield results. First-round picks from other organizations, like Morrow and Connolly, mostly fizzled last season, but Boston’s own crop of young players -- Heinen, Brandon Carlo, Austin Czarnik, Noel Acciari -- should augment the contributions of newcomers like Vatrano and Miller. And while most of last year's first-round selections (Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn) are probably still more than a year away, the feeling is there'll be a promising return from that batch of draftees. In addition, the Bruins have another two first-round picks this year.

Upper management makes the point that the present situation began developing in the final years of Peter Chiarelli's watch. With singular exceptions like Marchand the team was unable to develop its own talent, which led to overpaying veterans to stay competitive, which led to severe salary-cap issues, which led to the decay of the franchise we've witnessed over the last two seasons. 

"I think for a period of time we stopped being in an invest mode (and instead ran) with the guys we had," said owner Jeremy Jacobs. "You pay a price in this game if you’re not constantly investing in the next generation.”

Now, however, it's time to stop the finger-pointing and begin the rebuild in earnest. To their credit, the Bruins say they're doing just that.

“I think we did take a step back this year for that very purpose,” said Jacobs. 

Investing in youth is simply the way of the salary-cap world, for the Bruins and everybody else in the NHL. It will have to mean patience and longer leashes for young players under Julien.

“The younger players that we’ve drafted and recently signed and are going to develop are a big part of [the future], as long as they’re good enough players," said Sweeney. "We expect them to be. But when . . . you put them in your lineup is important . . . 

"This ownership is very, very supportive of what we need to do. It’s just, ‘Get it done.’ So that’s why the chair is warm [for everybody].”

While Julien clearly did play a role in the emergence of Marchand, David Krejci and Milan Lucic as NHL stars, developing young players has never been one of his coaching strengths. He certainly bears some responsibility for elite young talents like Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton not lasting in Boston. The warmth of his chair will depend largely on the development of the new crop of youngsters. That will be doubly so if Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy ends up getting a job as an assistant in Boston next season, and gets a chance to work with the young players he’s helped develop at the AHL level.

The bottom line is this for the Bruins: They need the best draft-and-development season they’ve had in quite a while if things are going to significantly change for the better on Causeway Street.