Bruins

A thought-provoking series

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A thought-provoking series

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

This series is interesting.

I got to watch the first game of the Eastern Conference finals at close range. Well, kind of. Of all the floors lining the guts of TD Garden, my seat on the 9th floor was as high up as you could get. Not a bad place to take the whole scene in. The crowd's roars reached the rafters with an intensity I have never before heard in that building.

Surprisingly, it makes for a good place to think.

My eyes were two of the thousands on Tyler Seguin Saturday night. 'A final at age 19,' I marveled. 'Thrilling. Terrifying. There's probably a little peesicle frozen to his leg right now.' But then I scanned over 25-year old Nathan Horton, in full stride of his first career playoff run; Tim Thomas, 37-year old NHL journeyman; and 43-year old Stanley Cup champion Mark Recchi. None of these guys have represented Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. Every single member of this club is trying to do something no Bruins have done since the year Seguin was born, so that amount of pressure from the city rests evenly across all shoulders.

For one moment, Seguin didn't seem to feel it.

His goal was gorgeous. I could have watched him spin Mike Lundin down to the ice on loop. And that one, pretty move to fool Dwayne Roloson glove side made me wonder about all that hype. No doubt, the teenager didn't sleep a wink Friday night. But he's a goal-scorer. For everything else that blew Seguin away -- the lights, the banners, the noise, the cameras -- I bet he was calm as he rushed through the neutral zone.

Calm? Yes. Clean? Nope.

If we could freeze-frame the action when Seguin's working along the half-wall or in his own zone, pluck him out, and insert somebody else I'd do it in a heartbeat. Those are the areas where he reminded us of his inexperience. And that's where 19 years really means different things to different players.

Tuukka Rask is another guy I was thinking about.

Remember him? That other goalie. Last year's must-have, shutdown netminder. He was the guy I zeroed in on when Tim Thomas let up goal No. 3 on Saturday night. I was too far away to tell, but wanted to know if he craned his neck toward coach Claude Julien after Teddy Purcell scored. On reflex. Did he get his hopes up? Was he antsy as a Little League pitcher stuck riding the pine while the starter walks three straight batters? "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon. Put me in!" (Or whatever the Finnish equivalent is.) Obviously, it didn't happen. And it probably won't; Tim Thomas is expected to tighten up.

He'll need to.

Tampa got its big win without a goal from its top talent. The marksmen: Brett Clark, Sean Bergenheim, Teddy Purcell, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Simon Gagne. No St. Louis (one assist), no Lecavalier, and no Stamkos. That's going to change. Lecavalier had five shots Saturday night, including a brilliant opportunity in the first period that Thomas barely stopped with a sprawling save. And how about zero SOG from Steven Stamkos? We won't be seeing that again. The Bruins may be banking on Thomas tamping down, but they can also expect a heavier assault from Tampa's first two lines.

That when I considered Boston's power play.

Nah, just kidding. Not even going to go there. The Bruins have one huge piece of the PP puzzle missing in Marc Savard and another big other piece, Tomas Kaberle, is equally but less understandably useless. For spectators, Boston's man advantage is best for two-minute power naps or trips to the fridge to get another beer -- it's a fact like E = mc2 or "Pierre McGuire thinks James van Riemsdyk is a fine young man." (WHAMMO!) There's nothing more to say until the Bruins provide evidence to the contrary.

I can drink as many beers as I want tonight; I'm watching Game 2 at home. It'll be a lot quieter, that's for sure. But there'll still be plenty to think about.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

No hesitation from Chara in scoring after scary incident in Montreal

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No hesitation from Chara in scoring after scary incident in Montreal

BOSTON – Less than 48 hours after one of his legendarily hard slap shots put a Montreal Canadiens forward in the hospital after striking him in the head, Zdeno Chara didn’t hesitate when given the chance to wind up and blast away on Monday afternoon.

It was the 40-year-old Chara that rocketed a slapper past Kari Lehtonen at the end of the second period, and in doing so energized the Bruins while getting them on the scoreboard. The Chara goal helped earn the Black and Gold a point in overtime before eventually falling to the Dallas Stars by a 3-2 score at TD Garden on Monday afternoon.

The Bruins captain had been texting with the felled Montreal winger on Monday, and was fully aware that Phillip Danault was out of the hospital and doing well aside from understandable concussion symptoms after a puck to the head. Perhaps that eased Chara’s mind just a little when it came time to lean into another wind-up slapper on Monday, but it was also certainly aided by the lack of brave bodies willing to front one of his heavy, hard point blasts.

“I obviously spoke to Phillip a number of times. I talked to him right after the game and wanted to make sure he was okay, and he texted me back that he’s doing fine. He’s been released [from the hospital] and that’s very positive, good news,” said Chara. “It’s obviously very unfortunate that it’s something that happens quite often, but it’s something you never want to see with somebody getting hit and hurt. I’m very happy he’s going to recover fully and hopefully he’s back on the ice and playing hockey [soon] like we all do.”

Was there any hesitation to Chara winding up and stepping into a 100-mph slap shot so quickly after the ugly incident in Montreal?

“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often where you have that clean [shooting] path to the net where you can settle the puck, take a look and take a full slapper,” said Chara. “Usually teams play so well structurally that there’s already somebody fronting it, and you’ve got to get it through him with bodies in front. It does happen, but it’s nice that you have that time to put everything on it.”

That’s exactly what the 6-foot-9 defenseman did in sparking the Bruins to come back from a 2-0 deficit and push for the overtime point while extending their point streak to a season-best 13 games and counting.

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Overtime heroics a reminder of what Bruins gave up in Seguin

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Overtime heroics a reminder of what Bruins gave up in Seguin

BOSTON – The Tyler Seguin trade from the Bruins is pretty much ancient history at this point.

It was almost five years ago, all of the good-but-not-great players Boston received in the deal from Dallas are long gone. The Bruins general manager that engineered the big trade is now dealing with totally different brush fires while running a star-crossed Edmonton Oilers group.

But the one Stars visit per season to Boston usually serves as a reminder of what the B’s dealt away in the Fourth of July trade, and for perhaps the first time ever Seguin looked like a legit, all-around No. 1 center in the Stars 3-2 overtime win over the B’s at TD Garden. Seguin made the highlight reel with an overtime game-winner after dangling through the entire Bruins group on the ice, and watching bemusement as Bruins kept diving at him trying to stop him.

The gassed trio of Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk were on the ice hemmed into the D-zone for a long time, and simply couldn’t get the puck away from the Stars once a delayed penalty was called on Grzelcyk.

“I felt like everyone was just sliding at me, and the whole time I wanted to pass, so I was just kind of looking for the right play and just kept holding it,” said Seguin, who is on pace for 39 goals and 75 points this season with the Stars. “I just kind of shot it and luckily it went in.”

It was more than luck as Anton Khudobin had already dropped into a crazed double-pad stacked save attempt while Seguin was still holding patiently onto the puck.

“That’s really tough, to be honest. He has the puck there, and all the way, all the way, going, going, going, going and I mean, guys were laying down and trying to block the shot,” said Khudobin. “He had a lot of patience and I think it went between my legs or something like that and it’s just tough. Good goal by him.'

“Nothing is impossible. You know, [Seguin] is a good player and he scored a pretty good goal. But at the same time I can stop that. But I didn’t this time and overtime is not really easy because it’s 3-on-3.”

But all the overtime heroics aside, Seguin was solid throughout the game. It was almost enough to make Bruins fans go through the entire gamut of emotions again at one of a number of trades where the organization cut bait on a talented player at a very young juncture of their career.

“I think he’s through testing. I think he has made himself to be a very good player, and he’s accountable in every situation. He’s really matured. I think he’s a guy that we don’t even worry about anymore,” said Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock. “Everyone talked about, ‘Can you make him a one?’ Well, quite frankly, he’s a [No. 1 center], and he’s playing like a one. He’s played six games in a row like this, and this is what you want in a number one center. He’s doing the job.

“He’s killing penalties, he’s out there taking key face-offs, he’s quarterbacking the power play, and he’s playing against the other team’s best player. To me, that’s what a [No. 1 center] does, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”

Mostly matched up against the Perfection Line that he used to be a part of, Seguin managed a 12-for-21 performance in the face-off circle while holding Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak off the board offensively. Even better for Seguin and Dallas, he was on the ice for the second Stars goal against the Bergeron trio for only the second even strength goal they’ve given up all season.

Seguin killed penalties, he finished with four shot attempts, had a couple of takeaways and played the kind of mature, 200-foot game that most wondered if he’d ever be capable of in his NHL career.

So credit where it’s due for Seguin showing all of that while clearly still in a headspace where coming to Boston is special for him.

“It’s special and it’s weird playing here still. You know, I enjoy the anthem, and looking up and seeing the banner for the team that I was a part of. It’s always going to be special, you know, playing here and having old teammates on the team,” said Seguin. “I’ve been thinking a lot more of defense, a lot more of face-offs, and a lot more of, you know, the little things. I’ve been judging my performances based on those things more than goals and assists. That’s been the biggest change for me, trying to put the work in, and [against the Bruins] it worked out for me.”

The Bruins have long since chalked up dealing a horse (Seguin) for ponies (Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow) as a big fat loss considering it never got them any closer to another Stanley Cup, and it didn’t give them any players still of use to the organization less than five years later.

But Monday afternoon’s overtime loss to Seguin and the Stars was a different kind of frustrating while watching a more mature, seemingly changed Seguin that would have fit in very nicely with the direction that the Bruins are headed these days.

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