Time to get Chara some rest ahead of playoffs

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Time to get Chara some rest ahead of playoffs

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon at the United Center:

1) It is quickly becoming time for Zdeno Chara to get a rest ahead of the playoffs.

The postseason is officially less than a month away and Chara has enjoyed a very strong season buoyed by the brilliant Charlie McAvoy as his defensive partner most of the season. Still, lately Chara has shown his soon-to-be 41 years old age and it’s clear that the grueling end of the season schedule for the Bruins is negatively impacting him at its tougher moments. Chara didn’t have a single hit or blocked shot in a bad game against the Red Wings last week and he made a key mental error late in the third period of the loss to the Hawks that pretty much doomed the Bruins. 

Chara’s high-sticking penalty in the final minutes with the score tied at 1 was certainly something that could happen to anybody. Chicago scored the go-ahead goal on an ensuing power play strike from Patrick Kane and it’s no surprise it happened with Chara, their best penalty-killer, in the box. But the real dagger for the Bruins arrived once the penalty expired with Chicago still holding the puck deep in the Boston zone. Chara opted to turn his back to the play and skate across the ice to the Bruins bench for the quick change and the puck arrived right where Chara would have been for a Brent Seabrook strike from the right point. Surely, it was a tough, split-second call late in the second of back-to-back games against the Blackhawks and it wasn’t where the game was won or lost. But it’s those kinds of plays that will dictate, at least in part, how far the Bruins get in the playoffs. 

They need a rested, full-power Chara making all the right mental and physical plays late in those tight playoff games. What they can’t have is the Chara who flung a puck over the boards for a crucial delay of game penalty late in a playoff game as happened last season against Ottawa, a clear sign of fatigue impacting the Bruins captain at a crucial point. The best way to combat that is to get Chara some rest. Make him a healthy scratch him for a game or two with 16 remaining in the regular season and try to get him at least a few games under 20 minutes of ice time with wins and losses not quite a life-or-death thing for the Bruins right now.

2) The Bruins finally learned what their breaking point was on Sunday.

When you remove Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes and Brad Marchand from your lineup, then it’s too much for the Bruins to find that magical winning formula. It was a true “You can’t win them all” kind of loss after six consecutive wins on home ice for the Black and Gold. 

Marchand missed Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury, but you’ve got to also wonder if there was some level of protecting No. 63 late in the season with the Blackhawks almost certainly set to target him in the game. It’s also not the worst time for the Bruins to start resting their key players, as outlined above with Zdeno Chara, so resting a red-hot Marchand isn’t a bad thing. Backes will be back for the Tuesday night game against the Carolina Hurricanes, so the Bruins are beginning to get their forward group back together with both Bergeron and McAvoy not expected to play in the foreseeable future. The good news is they should probably be the only guys missing from the lineup when the Bruins play a couple of key games against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning at the end of the week.

3) The Bruins need to start cleaning things up from a discipline perspective.

The Bruins have allowed four power plays or more to opponents in six of their past eight games and not-so-coincidentally, have put a lot of pressure on their penalty kill over that time. It happened again on Sunday with the Blackhawks getting five power plays to Boston’s one. The Bruins allowed a pair of power-play goals along with a third Chicago score that happened right after the PP time expired. The Bruins have allowed four power-play goals in their past four games, and can’t continue to play with fire when it comes to taking penalties, letting their discipline go and allowing special teams to become a bigger factor in games than it needs to be. It evened out in the case of the back-to-backs against the Blackhawks over the weekend as a high-sticking call buried Chicago on Saturday and did the same to the Bruins on Sunday. In the end, the B’s will come out on the losing end if they keep taking an overabundance of penalties this late in the season.


*This season, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews haven’t had too many glorious moments that serve as throwbacks to the Stanley Cup years, but Sunday was one of those games as Kane nailed the game-winner in the third period. Toews had three assists and was a dominant 16-for-21 in the face-off circle without Patrice Bergeron to keep him in check.

*Anton Khudobin was excellent for the Bruins and kept them in the game with a number of stops through the first 50-plus minutes. He had the Bruins poised to at least get a point in overtime as the third period wound down. Then, the Chara high-sticking play happened and the Blackhawks essentially got two more power-play goals after getting on the board early with a PP strike as well. Khudobin finished with 36 saves and had to face some very high-quality chances in another uneven game from the B’s.

*Jake DeBrusk finished with another strong game. He assisted on Chara’s third-period goal, finished with six shot attempts and threw a couple of hits as well in a season-high 19:48 of ice time as the Bruins rookie elevates his game late in the season.


*Chara did score Boston’s only goal on a big wrist shot from the high slot, but he also committed a late-game, high-sticking penalty that doomed the Bruins to a regulation loss. Chara also compounded that error by not getting into the fray as he exited the penalty box when the Blackhawks had the puck deep in Boston’s zone. Chicago scored right from the area of the ice that was opened up as Chara skated to the bench with his back turned.

*No shots on net and a hooking call on Danton Heinen, who managed to play just 11:20 of ice time and continues to be much less of a factor in all zones than he was earlier in the season. Heinen has one point in his past 14 games and hasn’t scored a goal since Feb. 6.

*The Bruins penalty kill has been up and down the past month and it was a bad day for them on Sunday. They allowed a pair of power-play goals, and another one right after a PP expired that essentially killed any chances of a late third-period comeback. Given their recent spate of penalties taken, the Bruins PK needs to be better. That’s a challenge with no Bergeron around.    



Rangers hire David Quinn away from BU as new head coach

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Rangers hire David Quinn away from BU as new head coach

In what is becoming a growing trend, a National Hockey League team has dipped into the collegiate ranks to find its next head coach. After a successful five-year stint as Jack Parker’s successor at Boston University, David Quinn has been named the 35th coach of the New York Rangers.

Quinn reportedly received a five-year contract to oversee a plan to reload the Blueshirts roster.

In that respect Quinn is perhaps the perfect choice for the Rangers -- a young, enthusiastic coach that excels in the teaching aspect of the game with young player. He posted a 105-67-21 record in his five seasons with the Terriers while developing young NHL talent like Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Clayton Keller. Quinn didn’t win a national title at Boston University but did finish as college hockey’s runner-up in his second season, losing to Providence College in the 2015 NCAA title game.

Leaving BU for New York had to be a difficult choice for the 51-year-old Cranston, R.I., native, given that the BU job probably could have been a lifetime gig (as it was for the legendary Parker before him). But there were certainly things about the Rangers job that Quinn couldn’t pass up, among them the prestige of coaching an Original Six team and also where familiar faces like Jeff Gorton and Chris Drury are part of the management team. Being able to compete head-to-head against his good friend Mike Sullivan, the coach of the Penguins, certainly didn’t hurt either.

Quinn expressed all of those mixed emotions in a statement released by BU when New York made his hiring official on Tuesday.

“I’m incredibly excited for this new challenge, but leaving a job like this is very hard to do,” he said. “BU is a special place that has given me so much, not only as a player and a student, but also as a coach. The lifelong friendships I’ve developed here over the years absolutely mean the world to me.

“I was so fortunate to work with the very best in athletic director Drew Marrochello and senior vice president Todd Klipp. BU hockey has always been bigger than the coach and they will bring in an outstanding one to continue the winning tradition here.”

Quinn is the latest in a new movement by NHL teams to pluck their coaches from the college ranks, which is producing so many quality players these days. The Flyers kicked it off in hiring Dave Hakstol away from the University of North Dakota a couple of years ago, and earlier this month the Dallas Stars hired Jim Montgomery away from the University of Denver after the Rangers initially showed interest.

It will be interesting to see where Boston University goes next. The Terriers have a wide swath of hockey-playing alumni to choose from, and people like Bruins assistant coaches Joe Sacco and Jay Pandolfo could also be candidates list if they wanted a college job.

Morning Skate: Look for Lightning strike in Game 7

Morning Skate: Look for Lightning strike in Game 7

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while we’re almost ready for Stanley Cup Final time.

*Who is going to step up in Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning for the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final? Put my money on Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Bolts, but don’t sleep on Brayden Point either. That dude has been awesome in this postseason for Tampa Bay. Make sure to check out all the action tonight (8 p.m.) on NBCSN where Game 7’s are treated with the proper gravitas and import.

*Interesting piece from Pittsburgh columnist Ron Cook, who says part of Pittsburgh’s downfall this spring had to do with a “sour relationship” between Phil Kessel and Mike Sullivan. Is Phil Kessel becoming a problem in an NHL dressing room? This is me with my “not shocked” face.

*Pierre Lebrun talks with TSN 1040 out in Vancouver about the Evander Kane contract extension with the San Jose Sharks, which is supposed to be in the seven-year, $49 million range. That is a massive gamble on a player that’s scored 30 goals once in a career where he’s underachieved most of the time. To put it in perspective, Kane will be getting paid $1 million more per season than a much better player in Boston in Brad Marchand. That’s the makings of a really, really bad contract in my humble opinion.

*PHT writer James O’Brien says that the Carolina Hurricanes trading Jeff Skinner would haunt the team, but it sure looks like the Canes are moving for a house-cleaning in Carolina.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Pothier out in Vegas says that all of the skepticism is gone when it comes to the Golden Knights acquiring Ryan Reaves after his big playoff moment.

*For something completely different: I’ve always wanted to see Mysterio on the big screen battling Spider-Man, and it looks like we will see that sooner rather than later as played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Sounds groovy to me.