Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 7-3 win over the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center that clinched a playoff spot for the Black and Gold.
1) Zdeno Chara is finally beginning to show some signs of age at 42 years old, but with that age and experience come some pretty great career accomplishments as well. Chara had a special day on Saturday as he signed a one-year contract extension for $2 million plus $1.75 million in incentives that will give him another season in Black and Gold. Then he went out and played 25 plus minutes in a throwback performance while scoring his 200th career goal that puts him in rarified air with only 22 other D-men in the history of the NHL. It’s that kind of offensive production, longevity to go along with being the best shutdown D of his generation that has already punched his ticket to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Last night’s win in Florida that was pushed along by his offense and defensive work was just another reminder of how consistently excellent he’s been in a Bruins uniform since arriving, and how important Chara’s leadership, work ethic and talent have been to Boston consistently being a playoff team during his tenure with the team. It was nice to see Chara show some child-like enthusiasm after he scored as well along with some neat sentiments following the game that the goal was dedicated to his father. "I would like to dedicate this goal to my dad,” said Zdeno Chara to reporters in Florida. “He brought me to hockey and he was always very supportive...last few weeks he was joking about when I was gonna score." Early in his career with the Bruins, Chara was hesitant to share about his off-the-ice life and didn’t really talk all that much about his family. So it’s pretty great to see him sharing those kinds of things with fans, media and his teammates alike as he moves toward the end of a brilliant career with the Black and Gold.
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2) Noel Acciari is stepping up his game at the right time of year. Acciari has slid back into his fourth line center spot with David Pastrnak’s return to the lineup, and on Saturday night he was centering David Backes and Joakim Nordstrom. Acciari scored his second goal of the road trip when he blasted home a centering pass from behind the net from David Backes in the first period, and then he dropped the gloves for an epic tilt with McKenzie Weegar in the second period. Acciari was channeling PJ Stock during the fight as he just kept throwing windmill left-handed punches in a big flurry until he finally dropped Weegar to the ice in a brawl that really energized the Black and Gold. Acciari finished an assist short of the Gordie Howe hat trick in what would have been a pretty cool thing for the fourth line grinder out of Rhode Island, but Acciari finished with the goal, a plus-1 rating and four shot attempts in 12 plus minutes of energy and physicality.
3) Connor Clifton has been very strong since coming up again to the Bruins from the AHL. On Saturday night he picked up his first point while assisting on the Noel Acciari goal that kicked off the scoring for the Bruins. He also topped 16 minutes of ice time, a plus-1 rating, four shots on net and a couple of blocked shots, and hasn’t looked out of place at all in the late season intensity of the regular season. Clearly Clifton probably doesn’t have a place in the B’s playoff lineup if everybody is healthy, but he’s playing well enough to earn consideration nonetheless given how strong he’s been at both ends of the ice along with a pretty strong workload. The 23-year-old was just as impressive in his first go-round with the Bruins as well, so it wouldn’t shock this humble hockey writer to see him in the B’s lineup should injuries hit at some point during the postseason.
*Noel Acciari scored the B’s first goal, manned the middle for the fourth line and dropped the gloves for a memorably ferocious hockey fight with McKenzie Weeger. It’s been a good road trip for the Rhode Island kid.
*Zdeno Chara topped 25 minutes of ice time, scored the 200th goal of his NHL career and did all of that after signing a one-year extension with the Bruins on Saturday morning. That’s pretty good stuff for the 42-year-old.
*Steve Kampfer was actually really good for the Bruins with a goal and five shots on net while maximizing his performance in a little over 12 minutes of ice time. The reserve D-man has been ready to go since he got his recent shot and he deserves credit for that.
*The Bruins were 25-for-65 in the face-off circle, which is under 40 percent success and pretty horrendous for the usually very-good B’s men in the middle.
*Henrik Borgstrom was a minus-3, had zero shots on net and was 1-for-6 in the face-off circle while stinking up the joint in under 10 minutes of ice time.
*Two shots on net, three giveaways and a minus-3 rating for Jonathan Huberdeau, who certainly won’t be showing the film of this game to the NHL Awards voters when it comes time for Selke Trophy consideration.
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