Chara, Seidenberg anchor shutdown line

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Chara, Seidenberg anchor shutdown line

Claude Julien wasnt going use all of his bullets during the regular season, but hes unloading them now with the season on the line.

With a team that dropped out of the divisional lead for the first time since November and was riding a four-game losing streak, the Bruins head coach decided it was time to start making a few adjustments on his defensemen corps. One decision led to Joe Corvo being a healthy scratch for the first time this season after struggling nearly all season for the Bruins, and the other was slotting Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg together as a shutdown defensive pair.

Chara and Seidenberg were put together in the Montreal series during last years playoff series, and it was no coincidence the Bruins turned things around when Bostons two best defensemen were joined together. Julien put both blueliners together in the latter stages of the blowout loss to the Florida Panthers, and they played every shift together in Saturdays 3-2 shootout victory over the Flyers.

Not a single goal was scored by the Flyers when the new CharaSeidenberg pairing was out on the ice.

Everybody likes that pairing because of what they did last year in the playoffs. Its a long year, and we said maybe eventually youd see that combination. But we had other things we had to do first and foremost. For now, that is a pairing. Whether it disappears for a while and comes back, thatll depend on the teams were playing against, on whos in the lineup, and what players theyre playing etc, said Julien. Those are decisions you make almost on a game-to-game basis. But at the same time, youre not going to hide the fact that you like that pairing especially if both of them are at their best. Theyve probably become one of the best pairs in the league when theyre together.

Both Chara and Seidenberg topped 28 minutes of ice time in the needed win and there was a marked difference in clearing the net in front of Tim Thomas. Of course Philadelphia worked and managed to get a pair of tipped goals to push things into overtime, but Julien finally likes the way his defensemen crew is shaping up in front of the grit.

Last year Ference and Boychuk were a good pair during the playoffs. Youve got Johnny -- when hes on his game, hes a real physical player, and Andrews going to battle like he plays twice his size. Then youve got a guy like Adam McQuaid on the third pair whos also a real physical, tough individual, said Julien. Greg Zanon is a good shot blocker, whos a gritty player, who goes in and battles hard.

You know, youve got to have guys, when its time to play against other lines, thatll wear them down. I think weve got some of those guys that can do that.

What Julien didnt say is that its pretty clear the defensively weak Corvo isnt one of those guys, and that makes him a real potential liability when things get rough during the playoffs.

The defensive miscues and softness around the net were nowhere to be found against the Flyers after it had been rampant in allowing 36 goals over the first nine games during the month of March. Both Chara and Seidenberg are ready to work together just as they did to such great success last spring.

Honestly, we are used to playing everybody with everybody. Its just the way it is right now. We got together and we played together the whole playoffs last year, so were used to each other, said Chara. Thats the way this group has been working for as long as Ive been here. But, you know, we try to keep the pairings against certain guys and it worked well.

Julien did a lot of talking over the last couple of days about stabilizing things defensively and finding Bostons structure and layers a couple of vital steps in regaining their game and the desired won-loss results. Working in practice was certainly one step in accomplishing the goal and the other was putting the right personnel out on the ice to get the job done.

Pairing Chara with Seidenberg and dropping Corvo out of the top six achieved that goal and gave the Bruins the air-tight defense they were looking for all around the cage. Its an effective formula that Julien and the Bruins should be looking to carry out over the final 11 games of the season with results so very important.

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

NEW ORLEANS – All-star weekend is winding down and the Boston Celtics once again are seemingly at the epicenter of most trade discussions.

That’s in part because they have the pieces to help pull off a blockbuster deal for themselves, or become the third team to help facilitate a trade coming to fruition. 

But in talking with league executives and scouts this weekend in New Orleans, all agree that the Celtics are focused more on making a blockbuster-type move, rather than a deal that could make them slightly better than they are now. 

“Anything is possible as you know,” said one Eastern Conference executive. “But they’re not Toronto which is basically 'all in' this year to try and get past Cleveland. Boston’s in the thick of it all, but not pressed to do anything unless it makes them a lot better and to be frank, there aren’t a lot of those potential deals out there for them.”

That’s because the Celtics (37-20) have the second-best record in the East despite their preferred starting five (Isaiah Thomas; Avery Bradley; Jae Crowder; Al Horford and Amir Johnson) having played a very limited number of games (21) together thus far this season.

Even when everyone’s healthy, Boston understands that they still may not be enough to get past the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. So the addition of a likely role player at the cost of one or more of their major assets (this year’s right to swap picks with Brooklyn or next year’s Brooklyn pick outright), is reason enough for Boston to pause and assess whether the benefit outweighs the cost of what they will have to give up. 

Boston can make a push for Denver’s Danilo Gallinari or his teammate Kenneth Faried who are both available and would help Boston’s overall talent base. They could also revisit Jahlil Okafor discussions or Nerlens Noel with Philadelphia, too.

But for what they need to significantly improve upon where they are now, they have to add a game-changing difference-maker to the mix. 

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Indiana’s Paul George and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins are three players who on paper at least, would meet that criteria. 

Multiple league sources this weekend confirmed that each of their respective teams isn’t making a push to trade them. But like every team in the league, they will certainly listen to any and all offers. Only Indiana and Sacramento have come out publicly to say they are not planning to trade their players, with the Pacers indicating they’re willing to give up their first-round pick in order to add a stable, proven talent to the mix in order to help George going forward. 

Meanwhile, the Bulls have been somewhat indifferent to potentially moving Butler, who is playing his third all-star game tonight. 

That’s why several teams, the Celtics included, have inquired about Butler’s availability. While the Bulls haven’t set any specific parameters, league executives believe they are seeking some combination of high draft picks and young veterans (players with experience who are either near the end of their rookie deals or have team-friendly contracts) just to consider moving Butler.

Boston has exactly what the Bulls are looking for if they decide they are going to move on from Butler and rebuild, but how much are the Celtics willing to give up?

That more than anything else, is what will ultimately determine if a deal between the Bulls and the Celtics comes to pass. Boston loves Butler, and believes he could be part of their continued surge towards becoming an elite team that can bring home Banner 18. But the Celtics are not convinced that the addition of Butler would necessarily catapult Boston to the same level of Cleveland or ahead of them. 

Even if the Celtics decide to stand pat with its team as they are now and let the Feb. 23 trade deadline pass without making a move, the Celtics are still working from a vantage point that few teams in the NBA can work from – a team near the top of their conference with relatively young players all with good team-friendly contracts, and draft picks in the next two years that are each likely to be high lottery (top-14) picks.

"They’re well positioned for the future,” said Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the West all-star team. “Because of the young talent, because of the coach (Brad Stevens) and because of the draft picks that they have coming up. They could end up with the number one pick in the draft which is remarkable.”

Kerr added, “That doesn’t happen often when you’re talking about a team that’s one of the best in the league already. Boston’s in a great place.”

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes.