Zdeno Chara and the Bruins defense smothered the Blackhawks in Monday's Game 3. (AP)
NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to talk about the Bruins’ win in Game 3, the value of team defense and Tuukka Rask’s technically sound play in goal.
Pederson said that the Bruins team defense has played consistently well throughout the playoffs and has been key in winning not only the physical battle but the mental battle.
“We have seen it whether it was Toronto, the Rangers, Chicago in here or Pittsburgh,” Pederson said. “It is the fact that they’re breaking the will of the opponent. It is so frustrating to go out there and every time you get the puck, [Zdeno] Chara is taking away your space, he is running you through the boards, you think you’ve got an open lane and you go to throw it across and all of a sudden [Dennis] Seidenberg is in there with his stick, with his feet. They just don’t give you an inch.
“After a while it is almost like when you have a horse and you saddle-break him. Once his shoulders roll on you, you know you have the horse’s spirit broken and you have a chance of breaking him and getting him saddle-broken. Here’s the situation to me where you can see it on the ice where guys are going, ‘OK, we are ready, Chicago. Here comes our energy.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, this just ain’t happening.’ They’re just frustrating them.”
That strong team defense is a testament to Claude Julien sticking with his defensive system and having his players buy into it. It is also the result of general manager Peter Chiarelli bringing in players that fit Julien’s system well and are willing to play hard on the defensive end every night.
Pederson said that one thing that makes Chiarelli successful is that he is willing to pay players for their contributions on the defensive end — not just the offensive end.
“What happens a lot of times is somebody says, ‘OK, we want to play a certain style and we want to reward these guys for being successful, but yet they’re playing team defense,’ ” Pederson said. “A lot of times throughout the season when things aren’t going well it’s like, ‘We just don’t have enough offense. We don’t have those stars like [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby who can generate a lot of goals.’ But champions, as we know, are known for both sides of the puck. Not only the offense, but it’s that great, smothering team defense and the structure and the layers they have defensively.
“It has been very important also for Peter Chiarelli to reward these players for not only their offense that they show us by being maybe a point-a-game guy, but they are capable on other teams of probably being 80- or 90-point seasons, but they’re not. They are giving it up for the team and they are doing it the right way.”
Tuukka Rask was the beneficiary of the strong team defense in the Bruins’ win in Game 3, as he was protected well in his 28-save shutout Monday. However, Pederson said he thinks Rask may not be getting the credit he deserves because he is making it look easier than it is.
“I think one of the things that we are getting ourselves maybe into a bad habit of, is because Tuukka is so sound technically and is so much in control of his emotions right now, he is making it look easy,” Pederson said. “It’s not as easy as it looks. He is just attacking the shooters correctly. When he goes down he is taking up space, his belly is not touching the ice, he is standing up straight with his chest, he is controlling his rebounds.
“A couple of times last night you could see the shifts were getting long and the Bruins needed a whistle. They are coming down the right side and they shoot the puck. He is able to control the rebound and throw it outside of the rink to get yourself a stop or a whistle. He has done a great job. He will be the first to tell you that his team in front of him is playing very well defensively, but I also think his teammates will tell you, ‘Hey, listen, he is playing so well right now and he is so locked in, he is making it look easier than it actually is.’ ”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.
On an adjustment that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville should make: “With the loss of [Marian] Hossa — we are not sure if he is going to be able to play because I think he is their best forward in the playoffs. He is their power forward, he is much stronger on his skates than people think and he will take it to those dirty areas and play fearless. He may have to try and put his big three together here and go forth. Putting [Patrick] Sharp and [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Kane together to try and generate some offense and maybe get a power play going.”
On who the best player on the Bruins is: “I think he is obviously the Conn Smythe guy, but to me I have to go back to our smothering defense and I have to look at Chara and I have to look at Seidenberg. It is just what they do to recognize who — it is almost like [Bill] Belichick on his defense. He takes away the most important element of the opposing team’s offense. Well, you’re coming in here and you’re saying, ‘Well, we have an advantage because …’ — we will use the last series — ‘… we have Malkin and Crosby, or we have Sharp and Kane and Toews. They’re the best offensive players in the league so we have the advantage.’ They go, ‘No, you don’t. Defense wins championships in the playoffs. We can control the matchups, especially at home.’ When you throw those two top lines of [David] Krejci and [Patrice] Bergeron and how well they can play away from the puck, all of a sudden you’re putting yourself in positions where you’re taking away the physicality, you’re controlling the tempo of the game and all of a sudden it’s your third line that is winning you the last two hockey games. Not many teams can do that.”
On Bergeron going 24-for-28 on faceoffs in Game 3: “To me, with Bergeron, first of all it starts with technique. He is very good at it. He knows how to ‘cheat,’ as we say in a good sense. He has got excellent timing, but I think more importantly people underestimate the will factor. Faceoffs, a lot of times especially in the neutral zone, especially in the offensive zone, are every bit as important. You see guys really bearing down defensively to try and win those draws. Bergeron is about trying to get puck possession all over. And boy, we saw last night how effective he is and how he can take another line apart by taking possession of that puck and getting on offense immediately.”