We’re just over a week away from the start of the 2010-11 NHL season, yet Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien is already pleased with the group of blue-liners that he has seen thus far during training camp and preseason.
“I know for a fact that we have pretty good depth this year.” Julien said of his core of defensemen during a conference call to the media this afternoon.
Last year, the Bruins’ blue-line was struck with injuries at some of the worst times.
Mark Stuart, who was once the team’s leading Iron Man, was limited to just 56 regular season games in ’09-10 and four post season appearance. Andrew Ference, although in for all 13 of the Bruins’ playoff games, dressed for just 51 regular season games for the B’s — having missed the nine regular season contests leading up to Round 1 of the playoffs against the Buffalo Sabres. And Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins No. 2 defenseman, was out for the entire playoffs with a lacerated forearm.
But with many stand-out defensemen waiting for the shot in the NHL, and a healthy group back for a new season, Julien is feeling good about his defensive core all around.
“That’s just a big plus to this team the depth of the back-end is pretty solid.” said Julien. “With a healthy Andrew Ference and a healthy Seidenberg — which people have a tendency to forget about that we went into the playoffs last year without the help of those two guys — it’s going to make our back-end better.”
So with huge expectations once again surrounding the Bruins this season, Julien is very comfortable with potential back-end call-ups from Providence…worst case scenario, of course.
“If something was to happen [injuries], I am really comfortable in saying that we have at least nine defensemen that I could be very comfortable in having on our team as far as a core.” added Julien. “So that means we’ll probably carry seven — two of those guys may end up in Providence. If somebody went down we’d have some quality people coming up.”
Captain and former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara echoes the coach’s feelings about the depth of the teams back-end, and feels very comfortable being paired with any Black and Gold blue-liner.
“I think we have a very strong group of guys in the back-end.” Chara also said during this afternoon’s conference call. “”I don’t mind to play with any of our guys. I have full confidence in every guy we have on this team. So basically it’s up to the coaching staff to decide who they’re going to put me with.”
Last year, the 6-foot-9 Chara had a number of defensive partners during the season, but Seidenberg was generally used as his counterpart after being acquired in March. During the playoffs, in Seidenberg’s absence, Chara was primarily paired with Johnny Boychuk — especially on the power play. This year could be more of the same for the Bruins’ No. 1 defenseman, as the game plans are bound to change with different teams, opponents, and players alike.
“It really depends on the teams that we play against,” Julien said of Chara’s possible partner. “We put Seidenberg up there with Zee which we had some good success in shutting down some top lines in the past. But it may need also a bittle bit of balance if we’re playing teams that have two lines that are offensively dangerous than we may want to balance those things out a little bit. So maybe you’ll see a Johnny Boychuk going back with Zee in that situation because he did a decent job, too, when he was called upon, and that Dennis Seidenberg can have another partner.
“We’re going to use our guys that have the most experience to shut down other teams’ offensive players,” said Julien. “I think what we have is a few scenarios where we think we can utilize to our advantage and that will definitely depend on who we’re playing.”