Chris and Anthony take a look at five burning questions facing the Boston Bruins as they step back on the ice tonight in Buffalo. Take a look.
1. Will the Olympic break slow down the red-hot Bruins?
Chris’ take: The Olympic break could not have come at a worse possible time for the Boston Bruins. They were scorching-owners of a 7-1-2 record over their last 10 games before the break.
Jarome Iginla was on fire with 14 points in his last eight games while David Krejci had 11 points over that same span as well. It is real tough to see the Black and Gold take a break after they were clicking on all cylinders, but it was a time for their team to nurse back to health and rest their bodies.
We know Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Loui Eriksson and Tuukka Rask were over in Sochi playing extra minutes, but sometimes that isn’t a bad thing. Some players like the time off and some players like to stay at it. It differs from player to player.
The break did some good for Adam McQuaid as he had some extra days to get healthy. Although he is not yet back in game action, the rest helped. For bangers such as Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk, they had the opportunity to put their feet up and enjoy some family time. Sure, it is tough to lose reps with your linemates and teammates, but once the band was back together a few days ago, it was business as usual and it was like they never left.
We saw what happened last time Jarome Iginla had four days off, he followed it up with two goals and two assists versus the Philadelphia Flyers. There should be no worry about the B’s slowing down after a few weeks off. The team knows what’s at stake. They are hunting the Pittsburgh Penguins for the number one overall seed in the Eastern Conference while they have a stranglehold on the Atlantic Division.
Anthony says: It’s not so much the Olympic break that will slow down the Bruins, it’s the compressed schedule the Bruins face in March. The Bruins are about to embark on a span that will see them play 17 games in 31 days. Eight of those 17 games will come against teams currently holding down a playoff spot. In March the Bruins will have four sets of back-to-back games.
With that being said, I expect much of the same from the Bruins starting tonight (Wednesday) in Buffalo. With a tough stretch of games on the horizon for the Black and Gold, we will get a good look at who the Bruins really are. I am sure the long break and tough stretch in March will slow the B’s down a bit, but not enough to jeopardize their spot atop the Atlantic division.
2. How much rest will Tuukka Rask get?
Chris’ take: Well, it looks like Tuukka Rask will get more rest than we anticipated as he will stay in Boston for the Bruins first game back after the Olympic break against the Buffalo Sabres.
The B’s can afford to give Rask a little bit of a break. Although he posted a 3-1 record over in Sochi at the Winter Olympics and was playing well. His back-up Chad Johnson has showed Claude Julien he is more than capable of handling the starting job duties more frequently.
Johnson owns a cool 11-3-0 record with one shutout. He has a 2.13 goals against average (Rask 2.11) and a save percentage of .924 (Rask .928).
Sure, it is a smaller sample size, but Johnson can step right in and it isn’t a significant drop off. Julien and Johnson’s teammates feel very comfortable with him between the pipes. Over the final 25 games, we should see more of Johnson. Rask should be well rested heading into the Stanley Cup playoff run. I’m not saying start Johnson 18 times over the final 25 games, but I am saying start Rask 15 and Johnson 10.
Anthony says: Now in his seventh season with the Bruins, people tend to forget this is the first full 82-game season that Rask has been the starter from Day 1. So far Rask has handled the workload just fine. Some people expressed concern with Rask heading to Sochi for the Olympics instead of sitting back and getting some rest. Rask was stellar in the Olympics and I truly believe his play in Sochi was a huge confidence booster for the Finnish goaltender.
With such a tight schedule in March, you’re going to get to see a lot of Chad Johnson, especially where the Bruins have four back-to back sets in the month of March. It wouldn’t surprise me if you saw more Johnson than Rask to start the month. But as March winds down and the playoff race really heats up, Rask will once again regain the heavy workload he has been given this season.
3. Do the Bruins trade for a veteran defenseman?
Chris’ take: We all know Peter Chiarelli wants to add defensive depth for the stretch run due to the loss of Dennis Seidenberg for the season.The trade market right now is thin making it extremely difficult to pull of a deal leaving the B’s between a rock and a hard place.
It is rumored the B’s are interested in players such as Dan Giardi, Tom Gilbert, Andrew MacDonald, Nick Schultz and Chris Phillips.
If the B’s can add one of those defenseman at the right price staying under the cap, then why not? We know Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton are handling the regular season grind just fine, but the playoffs are just different animal.
The Black and Gold could use a veteran presence to take these young defensemen under their wing even if it is just giving advice on different in game situations. By no means should Chiarelli trade a piece of the core for an upgrade at defense. A veteran journeyman defenseman would be just fine.
Anthony says: Whether it be Wade Redden, Greg Zannon or Mike Mottau, Peter Chiarelli loves to acquire a veteran defenseman at the trade deadline for the stretch run and I don’t see that being any different this season. Sure, the Bruins defensemen have done a great job this season as the d-core has suffered through a rash of injuries,but having too many defensemen is a good problem to have. Although the market is thin and there are a handful of other teams seeking blue line help, I fully expect the Bruins to add a veteran to the mix, even if it is to motivate some of the younger guys.
4. How should the B’s manage Zdeno Chara’s minutes heading forward?
Chris’ take: I mean we can say that Claude Julien and the B’s should limit Chara’s minutes heading forward, but we all know Chara won’t accept the offer.
This guy is a workhorse. He takes pride in his craft. He goes up against the opposing team’s top scorer each and every night and looks forward to the challenge.
He logs some serious minutes sometimes up towards 25 minutes on a nightly basis.
If it is my decision, I would limit his minutes just from what we saw last season during the playoff run. Chara looked gassed. He was getting pushed around in the Stanley Cup Finals and he was being beat to loose pucks on occasion. Something we rarely see.
There could have been an injury, but I’ll bet the house it was him just fatigued.
If Julien continues to skate Chara for 25-27 minutes a night moving forward, he could be less of a factor in the playoffs. We do not want to see that.
We want to see Chara rested and refueled heading into late April, May and possibly June.
Anthony says: When you have arguably the best shutdown defenseman in the league on your roster, it’s hard to keep him on the bench, but it’s something that the Bruins need to do. Even cutting down Chara’s minutes by two a game will help Chara and the Bruins in the long run.
We saw Chara struggle in the Stanley Cup Final last season against the Chicago Blackhawks and part of that was due to the huge amount of minutes Chara plays night in and night out. Yes, last season was a different situation due to the lockout, but Chara is not getting any younger.
If the Bruins are able to acquire a veteran defensemen to help out, it will certainly benefit Chara and make limiting his minutes a lot easier.
5. What should do the Bruins do with Adam McQuaid when he comes back? Who will sit?
Chris’ take: We almost forgot about Adam McQuaid due to the fact that he has been injured time and time again for the Black and Gold this season.
Players such as Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski have filled the void very nicely. So, the question remains, what happens when Quaider comes back?
It would seem that Miller would take a seat and Mcquaid would slide into the third D pairing. Miller has been a bright spot for the B’s with McQuaid out, but the two of them are very similar bringing that tough and gritty mentality. Miller is just cheaper. We will see how that plays out next season. But, it will be very interesting to see how Julien and the B’s play this one out.
First McQuaid needs to prove to the team that he is healthy enough to log heavy minutes and stay on the ice for a number of games. Until that happens, there isn’t much of an issue.
He is doubtful to play Wednesday night in Buffalo.
Anthony says: It’s going to be interesting to see what is done with Adam McQuaid once he is healthy enough to return to action. There were rumors that the Bruins were shopping McQuaid, but his injury obviously cooled those rumors down.
McQuaid very well could be packaged with a prospect to bring in a legitimate rental defensemen. With the play of guys like Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, McQuaid has certainly been expendable. My gut says that McQuaid will be calling elsewhere home once the NHL trade deadline passes.