The postseason didn’t get off to the start that the Bruins had hoped for as they dropped a pair of games on Garden ice to open their first-round series with the Canadiens. But the Bruins did turn the tables with a win in Montreal in Game 3 and head into Thursday’s Game 4 with a chance to pull even before the series shifts back to Boston.
That slow start certainly didn’t sit well with many of the readers submitting questions this week. Many are looking for answers to the Bruins’ early postseason struggles, and I’ll do my best to provide them in the latest edition of the Bruins Mailbag.
As always, I’ve tried to answer as many of your questions as possible in this week’s mailbag. I’d like to thank all the readers who sent in questions and apologize in advance if I wasn’t able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I’ll get to as many of them as I can as we continue on in the postseason.
Why didn’t [Claude] Julien have a backup plan when [Zdeno] Chara was out?
— Joe Yeskie, Florence, Mass.
I’m not sure how Julien gets criticized for this one. Chara’s absence from Game 2 after suffering from dehydration wasn’t Julien’s call or even Chara’s. The club’s medical staff made that decision. That said, it wasn’t like the Bruins had to play a man short that night. Shane Hnidy took warm-ups and was ready to fill in on the blue line. Now, it’s certainly a huge drop off from Chara to Hnidy, but the reality is that no depth defenseman is ever going to come close to replacing what Chara brings to the lineup.
The only criticism that could be warranted would have to be directed at general manager Peter Chiarelli, who gave up some depth on defense by trading away Mark Stuart and signing Hnidy, who hadn’t played all season after suffering a shoulder injury in a camp tryout with Phoenix. With Steven Kampfer already sidelined with a knee injury, the Bruins had no choice but to turn to Hnidy when Chara couldn’t play.
Hey Doug, how concerned should we be about Chara for the rest of the playoffs, with his hospitalization Friday night due to dehydration and him eventually being scratched Saturday night?
Do you think Chara will up his offensive game in the postseason? Last year, he only had two goals, and not much more in terms of assists. This year, it seems like he was creating more chances for himself compared to, in my opinion, last year, and even 2008-09.
— Bruinsfan33, Melrose, Mass.
Chara appears to be over the dehydration issues, as he returned in Game 3 and jumped right back into his regular workload with a team-high 26:20 of ice time. He practiced again Wednesday in Lake Placid and should be fine physically the rest of the way.
As for his offense, he did chip in an assist in Game 3 for his first point of the series and has seven shots in two games. Statistically, his 14-30-44 totals in the regular season were well off his Norris pace of 2008-09 when he had 19-31-50 totals and even in points with last year, though with twice as many goals after managing just seven in 2009-10. But Chara closed this season strong with 3-9-12 totals in his final 15 games.
The illness hampered his ability to carry that momentum into the postseason, but, as he gets back to full strength, it’s definitely possible that his playoff production will exceed his past postseasons in Boston, where he managed just 4-9-13 totals in 31 games.
Why doesn’t Claude [Julien] play [Tyler] Seguin?
The Seguin saga is a soap opera Bruins fans remain fixated on. It’s understandable for fans to want to see the prized prospect on the ice, especially when the team is struggling offensively. Much was expected of the second overall pick, probably too much. And Seguin hasn’t been able to live up to those lofty expectations.
He still should develop into a very good NHL player, but his game is not there yet. While there have been occasional flashes of brilliance, he hasn’t shown enough consistent offensive ability to make up for the deficiencies in his defensive game. That’s not to say that Julien won’t eventually give him a shot this postseason.
Unlike past playoffs, Michael Ryder hasn’t exactly turned up his game after his late-season swoon, so the Bruins wouldn’t be giving up a lot to at least give Seguin a look. And that chance could come as early as Thursday depending on the status of Chris Kelly, who was sent back to Boston Wednesday for further evaluation of a facial injury suffered in Game 3. Kelly is expected back in Montreal for Game 4, but if he can’t go, Seguin would be the logical replacement, though Jordan Caron could be a consideration as well.
Caron plays a grittier game and can contribute on the penalty kill, which would make him better suited to be a direct replacement for Kelly if Julien doesn’t want to shake up the entire lineup, but Seguin has been up with the club all year and would probably get the first crack to fill in.
Why are the B’s having such a hard time scoring in the playoffs? It seems like most of their shots are coming from there D, maybe they should try deking the goalie and crash the net.
— hokey fairbanks
The Bruins’ offensive struggles early in the series have been a result of a combination of Montreal’s strong defensive effort and Boston’s getting away from the style of play that was successful for them for much of the regular season. They were settling for a lot of perimeter shots, which Montreal was only too happy to give them.
Bruins defensemen had just 26 of the club’s 66 shots on goal in the first two games, but the defense also accounted for another 31 shot attempts with 21 blocked and 10 missing the net. The Bruins preached getting more net-front presence to make things a little more uncomfortable for Carey Price, and in Game 3 Boston finally started to do that and scored four goals after managing just one in the first two games.
The Bruins still need to do more of that, especially on the power play. They’ve been far too willing to settle for point shots instead of driving to the net and creating opportunities down low. That’s the only way the Bruins are going to score enough goals to advance against Price and Montreal’s stifling defensive system.
Hi Doug, what position do you think the B’s are going to draft with the ninth pick from Toronto?
— Paul Barbosa, New Bedford, Mass.
I’ll be the first to admit that with the playoffs occupying most of my attention these days I haven’t spent too much time yet analyzing who the clubs ahead of the Bruins could be targeting in this year’s draft and who will likely be available when the Bruins get their turn at the podium, so it would be a bit premature to start tossing out names.
I will say that I don’t think it will be a particular position that the Bruins will go after. Instead, they will be looking to take the top player on their draft board regardless of position. It is rare for a player, even one taken in the top 10, to step in and make an immediate impact in the NHL, as the Bruins have seen with Seguin this season. Whoever they pick will likely need a couple years of seasoning before being ready for NHL action, so to pick a player based on roster needs now is not wise, as those needs could be radically different by the time this year’s pick is ready to contribute.
That said, don’t be shocked if the Bruins end up with a defenseman, as some of the top names that could be available at that spot include blu eliners Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murphy and Duncan Siemens. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of draft talk to come over the next couple months, but the playoffs will remain the primary focus as long as the Bruins are still alive.