When Bruins Patrice Bergeron skated off the ice, and did not return, after getting decked by Flyers’ Claude Giroux in the opening stages of the third period in Friday night’s Game 4, everyone in The Hub was legitimately concerned for the player, and the person.
General manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the media yesterday at Ristuccia Arena to confirm that the seven-year pro sustained a “mild concussion” — his third concussion in the last four NHL seasons — and will most likely miss the first two games of the Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
During the press conference, the GM also mentioned, more than once, that rookie forward Tyler Seguin the safe bet to jump down from the press box level, and onto the ice for the B’s for the first time this post season.
The 19-year-old posted 11-11-22 totals in 74 regular season games this year. His name came up on many of occasions this post season — on local sports talk radio and the almighty Twitter — as a player that had to be in the Bruins lineup. Especially during the first two games of the Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens for some of the slumping Bruins forwards and right around the time when Boston went 0-for-18′ish on the power play, the talks of the second-overall pick coming into the lineup and saving the day were unprecedented.
And given the raw offensive talent and speed that No. 19 possesses, as well as the tremendous upside that he has, I can somewhat relate to the fans’ anxiety with those situations — especially going down quickly 2-0 to the Habs — and anxiousness to give the kid a chance.
Now it looks like their wishes have come true. Still a bit wet-behind-the-ears, we’ll see how the highly touted prospect fares on the biggest stage of all.
But I digress.
The No. 1 player on my radar to fill in the gaps for the first few games against the Bolts is the bulkier, 20-year-old Jordan Caron.
Let’s get this out of the way right now. Bergeron has been the Bruins’ best two-way forward, best face-off pivot, and best overall player (by far) this post season. Even moving Chris Kelly up the pecking order up the middle, sliding Rich Peverley over the center, and adding a Seguin or Caron will by no means replace what No. 37 has done for this club.
So why Caron?
1. Tampa Bay is riding a goalie just as hot as the Bruins’ Tim Thomas. Dwayne Roloson is the league-leader in both goals-against average (2.01) and save-percentage (.941) and is just one of two netminders this post season with eight wins. Caron, 6-foot-2 and heavier than Seguin, plays a much bigger, stronger game; he registered 11 blocked shots and 19 hits in 23 regular season games this year..
His willingness to stand on top of the crease, wreak a little havoc, cause some screens, and jump on rebounds in those ‘dirty areas’ would be a nuisance for Roloson — things that Seguin does not.
Once the Bruins started getting in the grill of Habs goaltender Carey Price in Game 3, and beyond, the more successful they were.
Caron is that guy.
During his 23 regular season games, Caron posted 3-4-7 scoring totals and a plus- 3 rating in 12 minutes 40 second of average ice time.
2. The Lightning have some pretty intense firepower up front and a mighty good power play. They lead all teams these playoffs with 12 power play goals, and their 26.7 percent rate with the man advantage tops the charts among teams remaining.
The Bruins have enough depth on their penalty-kill — Gregory Campbell, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, Kelly and Peverley — to manage without No. 37. But having an extra responsible two-way player with the ability to kill penalties surely wouldn’t hurt against this team. Caron was on of the go-to-guys on the PK this regular season. He averaged 2:14 per game with the man-down and spent more than 80% of his time during killing situations with Bergeron (arguably the team’s best).
There’s no doubting that both of these players need some more actual NHL playing time and post season experience. While Seguin may be the obvious choice to most, I’m opting for the 2009 first-rounder Caron instead.