Notes: Seguin absorbs hit, plays well

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Notes: Seguin absorbs hit, plays well

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

NASHVILLE Tyler Seguin got his Welcome to the NHL blemish on Thursday when Patric Hornqvist went at the Bs center with a flying elbow.

The Predators winger nailed Seguin on the left side of his head with the elbow and ripped open Seguins left ear lobe an injury that took seven stitches to sew up and clearly registered as a significant NHL incident.

The Bruins trainers joked with Seguin that it looked like his ear lobe was about to fall off before it was sewn up.

I just saw him coming at me, I braced myself for the hit and then I felt it in my ear, said Seguin, who also added he wasnt feeling any headaches or other concussion symptoms. I came in the room and the trainer said, Nice ear lobe, it looks like its about to fall off. No headaches or anything like that. Im okay.

Hornqvist came in on Seguin as he unloaded the puck near the blueline, and threw an elbow right behind the 19-year-olds ear that is certain to get the leagues attention. Seguin was momentarily stunned after the hit, but remained in the game to log more than 12 minutes of ice time while also scoring a goal.

It was Seguins 11th goal of the season and snapped a seven-game point drought for the rookie.

The goal was a thing of beauty. Seguin and Rich Peverley combined for a speedy one-two punch on their forward line, and caused a Nashville neutral zone turnover that led to Bostons first goal.

Coach Claude Julien liked what he saw of Seguin's line, and underscored the importance of it playing extremely sound two-way hockey.

I thought he played well, skated and competed better, said Julien. We had a lot of guys competing well tonight and hopefully we can get more of that going forward.

Julien was so pleased with Seguin's play that the rookie got a helping of power play time to start the third period.

We wanted to push pucks up, especially the defensemen putting it up right away and the forwards being available, said Seguin. I felt very comfortable playing with Chris Kelly and Peverley. They help me out, theyre very fast and it makes it easy to play with them.

With Brad Marchand still out at least one game because of his suspension for the elbow he threw Tuesday night in Columbus, Seguin is enjoying the perfect time to audition for more playing time when Julien has a full compliment of players on his roster.

Andrew Ference didnt play on Thursday night, but indications are that the veteran defenseman will be ready to jump into the action soon. Ference celebrated his 32nd birthday in Nashville on Thursday.

Michael Ryder rebounded from a healthy scratch against the Columbus Blue Jackets to put a game-high seven shots on net for the Bruins in their overtime loss to the Nashville Predators. It was an up-and-down day for Ryder as he was also a minus-2, took a penalty and missed burying a chance at a short-handed breakaway but Ryder was also consistently threatening at the offensive end.

He played a lot harder tonight, said Julien. You saw him early in the game winning battles along the boards and in our own end . . . competing harder. Consequently he was a much better player for us tonight.

Patrice Bergeron scored his 22nd goal of the season, his first since a Feb. 26 win over the Vancouver Canucks -- a span of seven games in between goals for the B's hard-working two-waycenter.The Bruins have scrapped their normally-scheduled Friday practice in Toronto, and instead the B's coaching staff has opted to give his hockey club a day off prior to Saturday night's game against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.The decision on which goaltender to choose for each remaining game of the season is getting pretty challenging for Claude Julien and the rest of his staff. The B's opted for Tuukka Rask for the second straight night on Thursday against the Predators, and Rask was solid aside from a knuckling Colin Wilson shot that eluded him in the second period.But the constant battle at this point in the season between getting Rask hot and giving Tim Thomas the proper amount of rest prior to the playoffs is proving to be a quite delicate balance."It's the million dollar question, I guess," said Julien. "As a coach you weigh the pros and cons. We have a good goaltender who has been good for us all year, but has needed some rest. At the same time you don't want him to get rusty, but you balance things out. At the same time you have a guy that's playing better and better, and you want to keep him going."The one thing we've made sure is that everybody understands. We want to make sure we're on the same page. It's good to get input from the two goalies. That's how we've handled. The way I look at it as long as you have two good goaltenders, you really can't go wrong."

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

GAHS Podcast: Felger 'fearful' of where Bruins are headed

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GAHS Podcast: Felger 'fearful' of where Bruins are headed

In an all-CSN edition in the 15th episode of the Great American Hockey Show Podcast as co-hosts Joe Haggerty and Jimmy Murphy welcomed SportsNet Central anchor Mike Giardi to discuss the current B’s situation and conducted a wide-ranging interview with Sports Tonight host and Felger and Mazz co-host Michael Felger about his time covering the Bruins as a beat reporter, where he developed his love for hockey and his pathway toward becoming the most influential figure in the Boston sports media scene.

Perhaps most interesting from Giardi’s segment was his take that “nobody should be untouchable” on the Bruins roster, that includes franchise player and future captain Patrice Bergeron, if the return is good enough. Felger discussed who he’d move between Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask to change up the Bruins roster this summer and how gravely concerned he is about the health and well-being of the franchise coming off two seasons out of the playoffs.

“I’m fearful, of course. I think the passion of the Bruins fan base is still there. We could do four hours on the radio tomorrow talking about the Bruins, and totally bang it out with callers,” said Felger. “So the Bruins are so lucky that the fans are that passionate. But if it’s too long of a drought, we all lived through 2005 and 2006 coming out of the lockout. It was dark, and we have the capacity to go back there.”

For the full Great American Hockey Show podcast check it out below: 

No defense for blue-line shortcomings

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No defense for blue-line shortcomings

This is the fourth 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. 

The Bruins had a master plan to upgrade the defense last summer. It quickly morphed into a dumpster fire.

After ultimately deciding they were unwilling to pay Dougie Hamilton an outlandish sum of money -- and coming to the conclusion that the young D-man simply didn’t want to play for Boston anymore -- they dealt him to the Calgary Flames for three draft picks. It was pennies-on-the-dollar value for a young, top-pairing defenseman, and a fear-based move given the threat of offer sheets that possibly loomed if Hamilton made it past July 1 without a new contract extension.

(They also torpedoed a better draft-pick package offer from their ex-general manager, Peter Chiarelli, by demanding Edmonton's young stud D-man Darnell Nurse, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The Bruins made the decision to move Hamilton after he and his camp ignored Boston’s multiple contract overtures. It was also apparent to those running the team that players like Hamilton and Reilly Smith weren’t meshing well with the rest of the Bruins core. 

(There's no second-guessing from this humble hockey writer about the jettisoning of Smith, despite his solid 25-goal season with the Florida Panthers: he was a soft player in that last year with Boston. The part of that move that should be regretted was immediately signing Jimmy Hayes to a three-year contract extension after closing the Smith-for-Hayes deal. But, again, that's neither here nor there.)

The problem for the Bruins after trading Hamilton was in the follow-through.

First they followed Chiarelli's troubling pattern of overpaying mid-level talent by handing Adam McQuaid a four-year, $11 million extension. Then they were unsuccessful in their attempts to move up in the first round of last summer’s draft and take either of the two collegians, Noah Hanifin or Zach Werenski, who projected as eventual No. 1 defensemen. They offered Hamilton and first-round draft choices; they also tried to use Martin Jones as a chip.

But whether new GM Don Sweeney thought he had a deal in place or not, things fell apart at the 11th hour. The Bruins did have three first-round picks, but they were in the middle of the round. In that position, they were unable to get an immediate difference-maker on defense.

The inability to land that young D-man (and potential heir apparent to Zdeno Chara) at last summer’s draft, or at the NHL trade deadline in February, ended up being a fatal blow. There was too much stress on a patchwork defense corps, and it was a major factor in the Bruins missing the playoffs. And even if they'd made it, the B's would have been nothing more than first-round cannon fodder.

The Band-Aid trade for 35-year-old John-Michael Liles was a nominal improvement at the deadline, but it spoke to just how badly they needed puck-moving reinforcements to assist a clearly overworked Torey Krug.

“I can tell you [Sweeney] worked extremely hard to try to move up (in the first round)," said Bruins president Cam Neely at his end-of-the-season press conference. "The scouting staff did a good job of identifying [players], and obviously, if you look back at the draft . . . you kind of had to be (in one of the top spots) to get one of those [defensemen] that were highly coveted. [Sweeney] just couldn’t do it last offseason. [He also] tried throughout the year to make something happen and he’s maybe laid some groundwork (for a future trade) . . . Hopefully [he'll] be able to get something done in the offseason.

"But like I said earlier, we know it’s an area that we need to improve upon . . . [We] know what our back end is all about. We need to . . . really improve that area of our team . . . [It's] something that I know [Sweeney's] going to be very focused on.”

Fast-forward to the present day. The Bruins finished the season with the aging, declining Chara, now 39, as their No. 1 defenseman, and the 5-foot-8 Krug as their No. 2 while posting a career-high 21:37 of ice time per game. The diminutive Krug perhaps paid the price for that wear and tear with right shoulder surgery last month that could sideline him until late October, which raises red flags about whether he should again play those kinds of heavy-duty minutes given his offensive value.

Beyond those two, the Bruins’ defensive prospects aren’t bright. The body of 35-year-old Dennis Seidenberg is breaking down, and the B's would love to be out from under the final two years (at $4 million per) of his contract. Both McQuaid and Kevan Miller are limited, stay-at-home defensemen better cast as bottom-pair guys. Youngsters Colin Miller, Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow weren’t able to lock down roles last season for a multitude of reasons. Miller is the only one who appears to have potential to develop into a top-four NHL defenseman; Trotman and Morrow seem poised to be passed by other young D-men (Brandon Carlo, Robbie O’Gara, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon) in the organizational ranks sooner rather than later.

Botton line: It simply doesn’t feel like the Bruins have the answer to their defense woes, at least in the short term, within their system.

They need a No. 1 defenseman in the prime of his career, or being groomed into that prime, who can ideally allow the Bruins coaching staff to start easing up on Chara's ice time. Chara is a No. 1 in name only these days, and would be much better served as a middle-pairing D-man playing closer to 20 minutes a night and removed from the power play, where he no longer features his booming slap shot very much.

It’s an fact that nearly every team that’s won the Stanley Cup since the 2004-05 lockout has had a prime No. 1 defenseman in the 25-33 age range, with the exceptions of the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins. Names like Chara, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Nik Lidstrom, Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty figured prominently in those championships, playing 30 minutes a night during the brutal two-month run to the Cup.

The Bruins don’t have that type of guy right now, and they aren’t anywhere close to competing for a Cup until they get one.

So how do you get one?

Sweeney and his management team are already deeply involved in that process, and that’s where names like Jacob Trouba, Sami Vatanen and Matthew Dumba will figure prominently in trade discussions this summer. But those types of players are costly, both in terms what will be needed to be surrendered to acquire them -- trade partners will undoubtedly ask for such talent as David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano and Ryan Spooner -- and in what they'll be seeking in new contracts, since those demands are what's pushing them into the trade market to begin with.

Ultimately, there’s no guarantee that Sweeney and Co. will close the deal for any of these defensemen, given how hard it is to acquire young talent in trades in the NHL. There's also no guarantee the Bruins will target the right guy in a blockbuster trade, seeing how their scouting staff has whiffed on players like Hayes, Zac Rinaldo and Brett Connolly in recent years.  

The Bruins can hope their amateur scouting and development group can unearth a gem. After all, the Blackhawks probably didn’t know they had a future Conn Smythe winner in Keith when they selected him 54th overall in the 2002 draft. The Penguins got a diamond in Kris Letang with the 62nd overall pick in 2005 NHL. The Bruins, too, struck gold when they acquired Johnny Boychuk from the Colorado Avalanche in a deal for energy forward Matt Hendricks. Within a few years, Boychuk developed into a top-pairing stud on a Stanley Cup championship team. 

So perhaps one of the young prospects currently in the Bruins system is the ultimate answer as an eventual replacement for Chara.

But that’s something tough to count on, especially since -- even if it happens -- it's unlikely to happen in time to provide help next season. Sweeney and Neely need to pull off something in the epic-acquisition category this summer, whether it’s a deal for Kevin Shattenkirk and/or something worked out with a team like Winnipeg for a stud like Trouba.

Both their jobs, and the immediate health and well-being of a Bruins organization currently in distress, may very well depend on it.