Friday, March 11, 2011
On Chara, the PP, Thomas and more
By Joe McDonald
It's been an interesting few weeks for the Bruins and things should only get more exciting, as the questions in this week's mailbag indicate. Among the hot topics: Zdeno Chara and his incident in Montreal, the lack of offensive prowess on the power play, what role rookie Tyler Seguin will play the remainder of the regular season and in the playoffs, and whether goaltender Tim Thomas should win the Hart Trophy.
Thanks for participating and we'll do it again next week.
Q. Do you think there might be any long-term impact to Zdeno Chara's game following the hit on Max Pacioretty? Do you think it will hang over the Bruins at all? -- Gerry (Hartford, Conn.)
A. Gerry, I think Big Z answered that question Thursday night against the Sabres at the Garden. It didn't take him long to get involved physically and he played well. Even after the game he said there is no reason for him to change his style of play. That's a good sign for Chara and the Bruins. Because this incident has escalated, especially in Montreal, I think this will hang over the Bruins for the remainder of the season. Boston will host the Canadiens on March 24, and there's a good chance these clubs could face each other in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Talk about intense. The Mounties probably won't let the Bruins' charter land at the airport if that's the case.
Q. So do you think Tyler Seguin is basically going to be in the stands from here on out? He's just not a good fit on the fourth line. Even if he plays some over the rest of the regular season, I can't see him playing in the playoffs. I know he's young and some of the expectations for him were too high, but the Bruins had to expect a little more. -- HJ (Yarmouth, Mass.)
A. HJ, it's safe to say the Bruins will want to go with experience down the stretch. Now, that's not to say Seguin will be watching from the press box on a nightly basis, either. He's no doubt experienced his growing pains during his rookie season, but he has shown signs of improvement. There's no denying that he's talented. I would like to see him stronger with and without the puck. The one thing I have been impressed with is his confidence on and off the ice, meaning he's letting his true personality show, especially around his teammates. It's not an easy thing for any rookie to be comfortable in their own skin until they establish themselves in the league. The Bruins have been very patient with him and it's going to be interesting to see how they handle his situation once the playoffs begin.
Q. What's the deal with the Bruins' power play? It has actually looked a little better with Tomas Kaberle, but it's not getting any results. They're not winning in the playoffs with no power play. -- Matt (South Hadley, Mass.)
A. Matt, the Bruins' power play has been shaky all season, especially of late. They enter Friday's game against the Islanders 0-for-19 in the last nine games. Coach Claude Julien has tweaked both power-play units and tried different combinations to get something going, to no avail. Julien said recently he's happy with the puck movement up top (thanks to the addition of Kaberle), but the Bruins need to create better chances and get the puck to the net and not play around with it on the half wall and along the blue line. Sounds pretty elementary, but the Bruins' lack of execution on the PP could hurt them once the playoffs roll around.
Q. What's your take on the punishment for Chara? I get that it was dangerous, but if it happens anywhere else on the ice it's just a 2-minute penalty. -- Kerry (Boston)
A. To be completely honest, I was not at the game in Montreal but was watching it at home when the play occurred. My first thought was Chara had intent. After watching the play over and over again, I changed my mind and now feel it was just a hockey play. If Pacioretty hadn't hit his head on the glass between the benches, Chara would have been handed only a two-minute penalty for interference. However, I am surprised he was not suspended. The league did act appropriately in this matter, even though Canadiens fans want Chara's head hanging from the rafters at the Bell Centre.
Q. What do you think Tim Thomas' Hart chances are? -- Billy T. (Hingham, Mass.)
|What can the Bruins expect from Tyler Seguin down the stretch and in the playoffs? Some are saying not much.|
A. Since 1923-24, only a total of six goaltenders (Can you name them?) have been awarded the Hart. If the Bruins can hold on and win the Northeast Division and finish near the top of the Eastern Conference, Thomas should receive serious consideration. I would certainly vote for him. The Bruins would not be in the position they're in if it weren't for his solid play all season. I can't see any reason why he shouldn't take home the Vezina, and he should absolutely be considered for the Hart. The last goalie to win the prestigious award was Jose Theodore in 2001-2002 when he was with the Canadiens. The other five netminders to win the award are: Dominik Hasek (1996-97 and 1997-98 with Buffalo), Jacques Plant (1961-62 with Montreal), Al Rollins (1953-54 with Chicago), Chuck Rayner (1949-50 with Rangers) and, of course, everyone's favorite, Roy "Shrimp" Worters (1928-29 with the New York Americans). Thomas should make it seven.
Q. With the loss of Marc Savard, how much does it impact the Bruins in the playoffs? Do they have enough depth to withstand another key injury and how far do they go in the playoffs? -- Dave (San Bernardino, Calif.)
A. Dave, the loss of Marc Savard is certainly showing on the power play right now. I think the last thing the Bruins are thinking about is another injury to another key player. We saw what happened during the playoffs last season when both David Krejci and Marco Sturm were lost due to injury. My concern right now is the health of Boston's blue line. With injuries to Andrew Ference and rookie Steven Kampfer, the Bruins' depth at that position is hurting. Fortunately, Ference is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday in Columbus. Kampfer is still feeling the effects of a concussion and still could be at least a week away.
Q. Hey guys, of the teams the B's could face in the first round of the playoffs, which one scares you the most? -- Nate (Rhode Island)
A. Hey, Nate! Once the puck drops to begin the Stanley Cup playoffs, you can't count any team out. That being said, currently the Canadiens, Sabres and Rangers all scare me as possibly first-round matchups for the Bruins. Boston has had its difficulties with the Habs this season, and based on the recent incident involving Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty, a first-round matchup against the Canadiens could be dangerous. If Buffalo draws the straw to play the Bruins, no doubt they'll want some revenge from last season's early exit in the first round. New York, I believe, is a better team than its record shows and if the Rangers are able to earn a postseason berth, they could do some damage.
Q. Hey guys, I was wondering who David Krejci's play most reminds you of. For me he looks like a solid remake of a Craig Janney in his prime. Also, is Dennis Seidenberg the most underrated defenseman in the world? He is an absolute beast of a blueliner. Thoughts? -- Chris (Rochester, N.H.)
y, Chris! Great question about Krejci. Krejci's sample size is still too small to compare him to Janney at this point. Krejci, like Janney, is a tremendous playmaker and certainly makes the players around him better. I've been fortunate to cover Krejci since his first pro season in Providence (AHL) and I've seen him do some spectacular things on the ice. He's been good for the Bruins, but I believe Krejci still has another level he can reach with his game. I also think it's tough to compare an American-born player to a Euro because the style of play is different.
As far as Seidenberg, I'm with you on this one, Chris. I really like his game. He's solid. He's strong and he's not a liability defensively. If he gets caught up ice, he always puts himself in a position to get back. He's smart with the puck, too. There's a reason the Bruins locked him up for the long term.
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions this week. If we weren't able to get to yours, please continue to participate, especially with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the horizon.
|A strong regular-season finish by Boston would help Tim Thomas' chances of winning the Hart Trophy. |
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.