Commentary

Bruins can win without making deal

Even if GM Peter Chiarelli doesn't land a defenseman, his team is dangerous

Updated: March 5, 2014, 9:05 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- And, on the day of the NHL's trade deadline, the question remains whether Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli will look at his team and be satisfied with what he sees.

After the Bruins defeated the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Tuesday night at TD Garden, all seemed quiet on the trade front in Boston. Earlier in the day, there was a frenzy of deals around the league, and while Chiarelli probably was busy answering calls from other GMs and placing some himself, it will be interesting to see if he pulls off any transactions before Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline.

Ever since the Bruins' Dennis Seidenberg suffered a season-ending knee injury in December, Chiarelli has been exploring the possibility of adding someone to replace the veteran defenseman.

[+] EnlargeKevan Miller
Steve Babineau/Getty ImagesWith Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid out, Kevan Miller has helped shore up the Bruins' defense.

Truth is, no one can replace Seidenberg, and Chiarelli realizes that. But Chiarelli is trying to bring in a similar type of player to add depth to the team's blue line, though there's not a lot out there that fits Boston's needs.

While trying to make a deal, Chiarelli is on the record as saying he would like to add to the roster and not subtract from it. The GM, along with coach Claude Julien, also has said the team is comfortable moving forward as currently constituted, including with the young defensive core.

When looking at Boston's blue line, sophomore Dougie Hamilton has played well this season and is showing signs of being a top defenseman at both ends of the ice. Torey Krug is one of the reasons the Bruins' power play has improved this season, and while his offensive element has been crucial, he needs to improve his defensive game.

Matt Bartkowski began the season as a healthy scratch but has become a top-four defenseman. With Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid (groin/hip) out of the lineup, Kevan Miller has made contributions too.

If Chiarelli doesn't make a trade, that group, along with Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk, will be Boston's defensive core moving forward into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Based on the current roster, and the experience this team has by winning the Cup in 2011 and returning to the finals in 2013 before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks, there's no doubt the Bruins have the talent to enjoy another deep run well into the spring.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask has played well this season, but hasn't shown his best stuff yet. You can feel it coming though. The Bruins are at their best when their defensive game is solid, which equals offense. When Julien can roll out four lines on a consistent basis, which he has been able to do time and again this season, it's a sign things are going well.

Boston's top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla is turning into a potent threat. On Tuesday, Krejci notched a hat trick and now has 19 points in his past 15 games. Iginla has 19 points in his past 12 games and Lucic has 14 points in his past 12 games.

"We feel good about this team," Krejci said. "Obviously, we have to wait until [Wednesday's deadline] and what's going to happen, but we've had a strong team the whole year and we're sitting pretty good in the standings, so there's no reason not to feel comfortable. At the same time, we know we have to work on some parts of our game to be able to make a really good push."

Once the deadline passes, all the distractions will be gone and the Bruins can focus on positioning themselves for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Similar to last season, Boston and the Pittsburgh Penguins are vying for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Both teams won Tuesday night, so the Penguins remain three points ahead of the Bruins.

"It's not a priority, but it's still a matter of us winning our games, and you know, we'd love to be able to pass them," Julien said. "But that can't be a priority. The priority, for me, is our game and how we play because the rest will take care of itself. That's the main concern right now, us finding our game, and if we can play well and win our games, hopefully it will be good enough to at least catch up, if not surpass them."

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A year ago at the trade deadline, Iginla waived his no-movement clause and chose to accept a trade to the Penguins instead of the Bruins. Boston used that as motivation, and when the teams played in the Eastern Conference finals, the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup finals by sweeping the Penguins.

The future Hall of Famer signed with Boston as a free agent during the summer, and now that he's behind closed doors and on the ice with the Bruins, he believes this team has what it takes for another long run in the postseason.

"I definitely feel blessed and fortunate to be here right now, and to get that second opportunity," Iginla said. "It's been a lot of fun this year. I've been playing with Krejci and Lucic the whole year and it feels like we've been getting better and building chemistry, and as a team we're winning. It's a great group of guys and I could tell coming in it's a tight group."

At the other end of the ice Tuesday, former Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, a two-time Vezina winner, Conn Smythe winner and Stanley Cup champion, witnessed for the third time this season how potent the Bruins continue to be.

"They're playing real well," Thomas said. "They're solid. They make you turn over the puck. They don't turn over the puck very often. They have composure with the puck. They're a very well-trained team."

These types of teams, with a solid mix of experience and youth, usually do well in the Stanley Cup playoffs. If the Bruins can remain healthy down the stretch and into the playoffs, there's a real possibility Boston can return to the finals.

It doesn't matter whether Chiarelli makes a deal Wednesday because the Bruins are a dangerous team as is.

"We have some strong guys and we have to play to our strengths, and the last couple of games we've done that," Krejci said. "That's the way we want to play. Offensively, our game has been there pretty consistently the whole year, but we still have to work on the defensive part of our game. We've got 21 games to go, so we've got some time left to work on some stuff and try to feel good about ourselves going into the playoffs and try to make another push."

If Chiarelli believes there's a way to make this team better, then he will. But Boston is not in dire need of reinforcements.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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