That Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara may not be used against Sidney Crosby in the Eastern Conference finals is testament to the tremendous depth the Pittsburgh Penguins boast among their forwards
Chara is considered by many to be the best shutdown blue-liner in the game; Crosby is considered by most to be the best player in the game. Yet the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa believes the big Slovak, along with Dennis Seidenberg, will be deployed against Pittsburgh’s “power line” of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Jarome Iginla.
Boston’s other top pairing of Johnny Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski — plus the Patrice Bergeron line up front — would then be assigned to contain Crosby, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis.
Of course, there’s also the possibility B’s head coach Claude Julien could split up Chara and Seidenberg.
“Maybe it’s pairing, maybe it’s separating,” Julien said. “We’ll have something in mind by the time the first game comes around.”
Chara and Seidenberg were a pair Tuesday at practice.
Eliminating the New York Rangers in efficient fashion – five games – in the Eastern Conference semifinal has afforded the Boston Bruins’ coaching staff an opportunity to rest its players.
After a day off Sunday, the Bruins did not skate Monday, the Memorial Day holiday.
Two days ago, the Bruins knocked off the Rangers to advance to the third round of these Stanley Cup playoffs.
But the break is coming to an end, with practice expected to resume Tuesday in anticipation of the Eastern Conference final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“[Monday] is the last day [off]. They need to get back on the ice here,” Bruins’ head coach Claude Julien told reporters, as per NHL.com.
“I thought two days was a good thing because we’ll have at least a couple of days — Tuesday, Wednesday — to practice. This time of year there’s not a ton of things you can do with your team more than get them some rest and still have a couple of days to accomplish a lot.”
The Bruins are returning to the conference championship series for the second time in the last three years.
In 2011, not only did they make it to the conference final, but they went on win the Stanley Cup.
The banged-up Boston defense is getting back to full health.
Well, close to full health.
On Monday, Andrew Ference — who hasn’t played since Game 5 of the Toronto series — was skating with Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides, a positive development in his recovery from a lower-body injury.
“He’s obviously on the mend,” Boston head coach Claude Julien told NHL.com. “But not ready to say he’s ready to go yet.”
The Bruins were able to dispatch of the Rangers without the services of Ference and Wade Redden in Round 2 against the Rangers, as a trio of young blueliners — Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug — filled in capably.
(Dennis Seidenberg missed the majority of the series as well, but did return for Game 5.)
It was an impressive performance by the youngsters, but one that will be tough to replicate against the Penguins if they’re again pressed into action.
Pittsburgh boasts four of the NHL’s top six playoff scorers at the moment — a far cry from a Rangers team that only averaged 2.17 goals per game in the playoffs.
Julien wouldn’t say either way if he’d put Ference straight back into the lineup once he becomes healthy.
“At one point you make a decision and it doesn’t mean that it’s an easy one, because it’s not,” he explained. “We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”
When the Boston Bruins take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, they might be at full strength — or at least close to it.
“We’re pretty good, actually. We’ve got Andrew [Ference] out, he’s making progress. Wade [Redden] is close, if not ready. Just the bumps and bruises are minor,” Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told CSN New England. “We got Dennis [Seidenberg] back. We’re in pretty good shape right now, knock on wood.”
In addition to defensemen Ference and Redden, Boston didn’t have blueliner Dennis Seidenberg available for the start of the second round, but he was able to return for Game 5 on Saturday.
Given how deep this year’s Penguins are, the Boston Bruins will need all hands on deck. However, the fact that they are healthy comes as something of a surprise to Chiarelli. After all, the regular season was condensed and the Bruins had to end it with a stretch of six games in just nine days to accommodate for postponed contests.
“I’m glad we’re at this juncture now with the bodies that we have, because I really thought, especially with those postponed games, I thought we were going to get hit at some point,” Chiarelli said.
The Bruins and Penguins will get a bit more time to rest and prepare while they wait for the outcome of the two Western Conference matches. The second-round could extend until Wednesday at the latest.
The Boston Bruins made a gutsy decision with pending restricted free agent Tuukka Rask going into 2013: let him prove he’s worth a new contract.
While he’s been successful when given opportunities (aside from that one series against the Philadelphia Flyers, maybe?), the 26-year-old’s resume was still pretty light. GM Peter Chiarelli told CSNNE.com that the Finnish netminder has proven himself with this deep playoff run.
“I’m happy for him that he’s playing well and he’s helping the team,” said Chiarelli. “It’s always easier to sign these guys after success. He’s showing some resiliency, which I like, and some durability, which I like.”
While Chiarelli indicates that it will be easier to make the decision to keep him, it certainly won’t be cheaper. The Bruins have the leverage advantage that comes with Rask being a restricted free agent, yet his price tag likely goes up with each playoff victory.
Rask is likely the headliner of an offseason with some significant questions, particularly when it comes to fellow free agents such as Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, Andrew Ference and Anton Khudobin.
Regardless, Chiarelli likes that Rask is coming through in plenty of make-or-break situations.
“I liked [Rask’s] big saves,” Chiarelli said. “We had some real good games where, I’d have to go back and look, but I think we had a chance in every game. The last game, he had those two saves in the third. Not part of sustained pressure. You see a bunch of saves, it’s like point-blank [Ryan] Callahan to [Rick] Nash. Those are big saves. His ability to bounce back from the game before … I like that. It really is about the surges. I like that we’re seeing more of the same.”
Seeing more of it in 2013-14 and beyond could prove costly.