The Bruins got their last extended rest of the season with a four-day hiatus for the All-Star break, but there won’t be much resting from here on out as they close out the season with 32 games in the next 10 weeks.
That stretch run begins in Carolina on Tuesday, as the Bruins will look to continue to solidify their hold on the Northeast Division lead and prepare for what they hope is an extended playoff run. But while most of the Bruins rested up, there has still been plenty to talk about with the club, and here’s a look at a half dozen items from the past week that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks in the latest installment of the Bruins Shootout.
1. Patrice Bergeron should have been one of the Bruins working over the weekend, but after being passed over for the All-Star game, it was good to see him finally get some well-deserved recognition when he was named the NHL’s First Star for the month of January on Monday. Bergeron had a monster month with 8-9-17 totals in 14 games, but the increased production didn’t come at the expense of his defensive play. Bergeron remains one the game’s premier shutout centers, but unfortunately that attention to detail at the defensive end is part of why he often gets overlooked for such recognition. “He’s a guy that often flies under the radar,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He’s one of those great two-way players that maybe doesn’t get the acknowledgment that a lot of highly-skilled, one-dimensional players will get, but he was able to do everything.”
2. In his first two full seasons in Boston, Mark Stuart didn’t miss a game. But injuries kept him out of 26 games last season and a broken hand kept him out for another 18 this season. He returned two weeks ago, but after three games, found himself a healthy scratch for the final three games before the All-Star break. It wasn’t that Stuart struggled upon his return. After managing just two assists in his 26 games before the injury, he had a goal and an assist in the three games after he came back, along with seven hits, six blocked shots and a plus-3 rating.
But the Bruins have seven players for six spots on the blue line with everybody healthy, and Adam McQuaid has proven capable of supplying the same kind of physical presence that Stuart does. McQuaid is actually more capable at this point, as Stuart can’t fight with his hand still protected by a brace. With McQuaid also younger, cheaper and signed through next year while Stuart is due to become an unrestricted free agent, it’s easy to understand why Stuart’s name continues to come up in trade rumors. The Bruins could trade from strength here and deal Stuart, but it may be wiser to hold on to him. Even if there seems like a surplus of defensemen now, the Bruins need just look at the last two playoffs runs when the likes of Andrew Ference, Matt Hunwick, Dennis Seidenberg and Stuart each missed part or all of the postseason to realize that there’s never such a thing as too much defensive depth.
3. Seidenberg has been a big part of Boston’s solid defense this year. In his first full season with the club, Seidenberg has played in every game, averaging 23:51 a night. Only Zdeno Chara has played more at 26:06. Seidenberg’s contributions can sometimes be overlooked, even though he’s also second only to Chara in scoring among the club’s defensemen with 4-18-22 totals. But Seidenberg’s biggest stats come in less heralded categories. He’s the lone Bruin so far this year to hit the century mark in both blocked shots (team-high 110) and hits (107, second on team to Milan Lucic‘s 112).
4. While Seidenberg has been racking up the hits, rookie Tyler Seguin has shown an uncanny ability to avoid body contact so far in his NHL tenure, or at least avoid initiating any contact. Seguin has averaged 12:35 over 48 games, taking a total of 754 shifts this season. In that time, he’s been credited with just nine hits, with none in his last 16 games. Seguin is a skilled player and the Bruins don’t expect him to running over people or driving them through the boards. But it would be nice to see him at least occasionally throw a check to disrupt a play or separate an opponent from the puck once in a while, especially when he’s not contributing much offensively like his current eight-game point-less streak. It could be worse though. Phil Kessel, who was traded to Toronto for the pick the Bruins used to select Seguin, has just seven hits this year and finished his final season in Boston with just six hits in 70 games in 2008-09.
5. Seguin couldn’t escape all physical contact last week. After giving Tim Thomas some ribbing during interviews after the morning skate before Wednesday’s game with Florida, the veteran netminder exacted some postgame revenge. While Seguin discussed his participation in the rookie skills competition with a scrum of reporters, Thomas snuck up behind him and delivered a resounding towel snap to the rookie’s rear.
6. Seguin took even more grief from the veterans when he returned from the All-Star break, as the first practice back on Monday coincided with his 19th birthday. That was one day ahead of Mark Recchi turning 43, but in a veteran move Recchi was diverting all attention to the rookie. “I’m sure they might [give me attention Tuesday], but it’s Tyler’s [birthday Monday] so they’re on him a little bit,” Recchi said. “He’s finally legal in Canada in all the provinces.” Yes, while still two years away the legal drinking age in the United States, the now 19-year-old Seguin can finally buy a beer anywhere in Canada, including his home province of Ontario. Not that he’d do any such thing, of course. “I guess so, but I’m a little angel,” Seguin said when asked about his legal status above the border. “I don’t drink or anything like that.”
Powered by WordPress.com VIP