With 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla fresh out the door and the Bruins on an extended stint in the NHL Salary Cap Jail, it’s no surprise that much of the attention so far this offseason has been focused on how GM Peter Chiarelli will fill the gaps up front to ensure the black and gold remain contenders heading into the 2014-15 season. But while putting pucks in the net is a critical piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle, keeping them out of the net is just as important, and believe it or not Chiarelli and the B’s have another growing conundrum that requires some attention, and that’s who will man the team’s defensive blue line this year.
The Bruins currently have eight NHL-caliber defensemen – nine if you count the recently signed David Warsofsky – and probably seven spots to fill for the opening roster. Add to that the fact that one of those nine, budding star Torey Krug, still remains without a contract as a restricted free agent and you can see why Chiarelli has already said “I’ve got to do something” in regards to his current situation.
Before last night’s game between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, many of the Leafs players talked about how they were putting last season’s epic Quarterfinal choke job in the rear view mirror and moving forward. Unfortunately for them, Patrice Bergeron – who scored the tying and winning goals in game seven of that series – had other ideas. Bergeron tallied two third period goals and Zdeno Chara tallied his third goal of the season to lead Boston to a 3-1 victory at TD Garden last night, the Black and Gold’s second win in a row after dropping four of five. Tuukka Rask was once again stellar in the Boston net, turning aside 33 Toronto shots en route to the victory.
After an unimpressive effort that required a last minute goal to earn a win on Thursday against the Panthers, the Boston Bruins understood that they would have to be far better against a Tampa Bay Lightning squad who had won five of their last six games. On top of that, Tampa netminder Ben Bishop hadn’t lost yet this season and hadn’t given up more than two goals in any of his four appearances, not great news for a Bruins team that was having some difficulty finding the back of the net. But in a sign that perhaps this year’s team is finally starting to come together and click, Boston exploded for five goals last night at the St. Pete Times Forum to top the Lightning 5-0. Twelve of 18 Bruins had a point in the effort, and Tuukka Rask stopped all 23 shots he faced to earn his first shutout of the season.
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner’s post-game interview from yesterday:
I laughed watching this. So let me get this straight, Adam McQuaid (5 fights this year) and Shawn Thornton (5 fights) circling Matt Hendricks (6 fights – one already in the game with Nathan Horton) is the same as John Erskine (2 fights) and Hendricks (6) going after Tyler Seguin (0 career fights and one of our star players)? Ha, ok, sure. I understand that Alzner is just sticking up for his teammate, but I mean really, this was comical.
Apparently the Caps defenseman missed the part where Hendricks basically jumped Nathan Horton, gloves off and throwing before Horton knew what was going on. Hendricks’ hand seemed fine while he was throwing those haymakers.
But you wouldn’t do that because you’re not that type of team. Well damn right you’re not that type of team, the Caps aren’t much of a team at all at the moment. McQuaid and Thornton’s response was precisely why the Bruins are such a tight knit bunch, everyone has everyone else’s back. You’re going to jump one of our top players? Go for it, but you can expect someone to come knocking in the not too distant future. Apparently those qualities aren’t too high on the list in the Caps locker room. And that’s not to say that Horton even needed anyone to back him up, as he’s shown he can handle himself in these situations before, but he’s still one of our top players who hadn’t had a fight this year after coming off a serious concussion.
I’m sure the Bruins aren’t losing any sleep over Alzner or his comments. It’s just funny that this “was the biggest joke [Alzner has] ever seen.” As Milan Lucic said last year after Alzner’s cry-baby gesture (perhaps the most ironic part of this all) in the playoffs:
UPDATE (3/17 – 4pm):
The Washington Post had an article today with Hendricks’ response to the game yesterday, and it was much more in line with what you’d expect. “You do it [fight Horton] and you live with the repercussions. I figured they would be looking for me once the score got to 4-1.” If anything this makes Alzner look like a bigger whiner, but good on Hendricks for knowing his role and not taking the easy way out.
It’s been a little while since we did a Loose Pucks Edition, but there were a lot of good Bruins tidbits in the news today.
Loose Pucks for Thursday, March 14
McQuaid Out Against Panthers, 7pm on NESN: First things first, the last place Florida Panthers are in town tonight. The Bruins will unfortunately be without Adam McQuaid tonight due to a “minor” injury suffered against the Penguins. He did extra skating today with Conditioning Coach John Whitesides and Coach Claude Julien expects him to be ready for the weekend. Aaron Johnson will be in McQuaid’s place on the blue line, and Tuukka Rask will get the start for the B’s in net. Julien also called out his “first line” today, saying they need to get back to the basics that make them successful, so look for some more energy from the Lucic/Krejci/Horton combo. The Panthers announced today that former Bruins-property Kris Versteeg will undergo season ending knee surgery, so the outlook isn’t bright in Florida. The Panthers are just 2-6-2 in their last 10 games.
Prospect Carl Soderberg Suspended – as we touched upon yesterday, Bruins prospect Carl Soderberg, currently playing for Linköpings HC in the Swedish Elite league, was given a match penalty in his team’s first playoff game, which they lost 6-0. Today Soderberg was officially suspended four actual games plus three more games worth of salary. Soderberg is his team’s and the league’s leading scorer, so that very well could spell trouble for his squad’s hopes for advancing. Word on the street is that Soderberg is finally interested in joining the Bruins once the playoffs are over for him. In case you missed it, here’s the hit (0:48 second mark).
Anthony Camara Signs Entry Level Deal – In other prospect news, the Bruins officially signed prospect Anthony Camara to a contract today. Camara goes 6-foot, 190-pounds and had a breakout year for the Barrie Colts of the OHL this season. He finished the year with 36 goals and 60 points with a +17 rating and a team-high 80 penalty minutes. Once thought of as a grinder, his performance this year certainly drew some attention to his offensive skill, and while he’s not expected to be a star by any means, he fits the Bruins mold well and could be a solid middle of the lineup addition. He’ll report to Providence once his season ends, though there are no guarantees he sees action there, especially if he joins after the regular season ends. Either way, he’s definitely a piece of the future and someone to keep an eye on next season. Here’s a highlight to get you through:
Realignment Finally Approved - After the NHLPA gave their sign off last week, all that was left to officially move forward with it’s realignment plan was for the NHL Board of Governors to approve. That approval was given today, meaning that next year the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will be part of the Eastern Conference, and the Winnipeg Jets will head west. If you missed it, we wrote up the details of the proposal HERE.