Celtics

Depth the order of the day for Bruins at deadline

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Depth the order of the day for Bruins at deadline

Depth was the name of the game for the Boston Bruins at this years NHL trade deadline.

While last season the Bs executed deals that led to three key players in last years Cup run, its unclear whether any of the three players snagged this February will play the same kind of role this spring.

But they bring the Bs depth prior to another long playoff run that will surely test their staying power and ability to withstand injuries.

We were happy; we were fortunate to be able to get one forward. Theres a bunch of teams that were maybe trying and they didnt get what they wanted. We were fortunate to add to our depth, said Chiarelli. Anytime you have uncertain injuries you automatically think, 'Jeez I got to get deeper, I got to get deeper,' so thats what we tried to do.

The Bs started their series of transactions by locking down a versatile forward in 39-year-old former Bruins skater Brian Rolston, who in some ways is like an older version of Rich Peverley. Rolston can kill penalties, play point on the power play with his booming shot as he did during his Bruins days, and can play up and down the lineup just as Peverley does.

The big difference is clearly age. Rolston will be a little more injury-prone approaching 40 years old and he might not have the same wheels as he did pre-lockout when he was last a member of the Black and Gold. But Rolston also brings leadership qualities most will remember form his former days with the Bruins, and is a friend to Bs goalie Tim Thomas after the two grew up playing hockey together in Flint, Michigan as youngsters.

Rolston hasnt had a great year, but I feel hes a motivated player. Hes got a terrific shot, said Peter Chiarelli, who added Rolston will wear the No. 12 he donned the last time he played in Boston. He can really skate, and hell add to our depth and versatility. He can move up and down the lineup. Youve heard me say the same thing before with some of our additions and he has that big shot.

Mike Mottau has been limited to less than 30 games this season due to a nasty concussion suffered with the Islanders, but two years ago hed turned into a steady, 20-minute per night defenseman for the New Jersey Devils. Mottau and the Bruins had actually spoken about the defenseman coming to Boston as a free agent, but it didnt appear to be a good fit at the time.

Now it is for a Bruins team looking for left-handed shooting defenseman and excited to add Mottaus cerebral hockey style and ability to move the puck up the ice with precision. Best of all hes a Massachusetts native that wanted badly to get involved with the Bruins, and the recent additions of Josh Hennessy and Mottau have been a reminder that its so much better to have a couple of locals skating for the Bs.

Mottau returned to action last weekend and cant wait to get started. He may very well be in the lineup on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators wearing No. 27.

I always said that Id take a puck in the teeth to play for the Boston Bruins, said Mottau. Now Ill get that chance.

The Bruins surrendered ECHL talent in Marc Cantin and Yannick Riendeau to acquire the two Isles players, but had to give up Steve Kampfer in order to land 32-year-old Greg Zanon. The rugged, blue collar Zanon was described by Chiarelli as a warrior and finished second behind only Dan Girardi in blocked shots (212) last season among all NHL players. The fact he had 38 more blocked shots than Dennis Seidenberg stands as a testament to just how hard-nosed Zanon plays the game.

Hes a left-handed shot as well from the blue line and will be a viable option for Claude Julien should injuries or ineffectiveness hit the rest of the Bs defensemen crew during the postseason. Whereas Claude Julien had only Shane Hnidy and Steve Kampfer to turn to if he wanted to go away from a struggling Tomas Kaberle during last years playoffs, hell now have Zanon if Joe Corvo becomes too much of a defensive liability during the postseason.

Zanon is a terrific shot blocker; hes a real gritty competitor, said Chiarelli. Hes a warrior-type defenseman, so now we have eight defensemen in the mix now. Weve added the forward, so weve improved our forward depth. Well wait and see what happens with our two forwards (Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley) that are currently injured right now.

With the injuries and postseason mounting for the Bruins, depth was the name of the day at the trade deadline and thats exactly what the teams front office accomplished.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hawks in Atlanta. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”