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Pressing question: How will Boston’s defense hold up?

Apr 14, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

Chicago Blackhawks v Boston Bruins Getty Images

One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

The Bruins have to hope the kids are alright, because Zdeno Chara can only do so much.

That’s the situation at hand for Boston as it looks to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive year, starting Friday in an opening-round series against Detroit.

Chara is one of the league’s best defensemen, and it’s not a coincidence the Bruins’ fortunes started to turn shortly after he came over from Ottawa eight seasons ago.

That said, he’s now 37 and has endured a grueling stretch that dates back to the start of the condensed 2013 campaign.

As alluded to earlier, the B’s went to last year’s Cup Finals, meaning Chara had a shortened summer. Despite that, Boston has continued ply him an average of 24:39 minutes per game this year — and that was on top of his stint in the Olympics with Slovakia.

He’s performed superbly under the strain, but will it catch up to him? The possibility is higher now that we’re in the playoffs, where the intensity of the games increases and the Bruins are likely to ask Chara to play even more.

The Bruins have to hope fatigue won’t start to become a factor, because they’re missing the safety net that is defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. Though not at Chara’s level, Seidenberg is a solid blueliner, a veteran presence and someone that can be trusted to step up in the postseason. With him out with a torn ACL/MCL, the B’s defense after Chara does have some question marks.

Boston’s attempts to fill the Seidenberg void were largely unsuccessful. It did acquire Andrej Meszaros and claimed Corey Potter off of waivers at the deadline, but those are complimentary defensemen rather than guys you want to lead in critical games.

MORE: Latest Bruins news, analysis from CSN New England

As a result, the Bruins need to hope their young blueliners will help carry the load. That includes 25-year-old Matt Bartkowski, 20-year-old Dougie Hamilton, and 23-year-old Torey Krug.

All three received some playoff experience in 2013 and held their own, with Krug in particular sticking out, but this time will be different. They’ve established themselves as important parts of the blueline during the regular season and will consequently be asked to log significant minutes in key situations during the postseason. If Chara does start to show signs of wearing down, the young trio that will need to take on even more responsibilities.

If they can pull that off, the Bruins will have managed a seamless change of the guard on the blueline from the core of veterans that won them the Stanley Cup in 2011 that included Chara, Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Tomas Kaberle, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid, to a new generation that will potentially carry Boston for years to come.

That shift to a new generation is necessary, even if injuries have forced the process to accelerate, but these changes often involve growing pains. The cost of the transition might end up being a quick exit from the playoffs in 2013 — despite their regular season success.

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

  1. bigbadbruins77 - Apr 14, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    They will do great. Two great very experienced vets leading the pack and the youth with the athleticism and speed to round it out. Dougie is really coming into his own as well.

  2. tdrusher225 - Apr 14, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    This will likely be the reason if this team fails to make a deep run. You can go on about regular season numbers and performances all you want, but you don’t have an elite defensive corps you won’t go anywhere in the playoffs. I’m skeptical that the Bruins have it.

    • pepper2011 - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      who has a better D core? they have been the one of; if not the best defensive team for the last 5 or so years. It’s their player development and their system. They play the same system in Providence so it’s easy (easier) for guy to make the transition. Krug and Bartkowski last year a perfect examples.

      The depth they have is unbelievable. They have 7 NHL ready guys, and that is without Mcquaid and Seidenberg.

      All of the kids can skate; I don’t think they are getting enough credit for how good they are. Kevan Miller will be well known by the end of this run. BEAST.

      • tdrusher225 - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        If you feel comfortable with Hamilton and Bartkowski(maybe Mezaros) playing top 4 minutes then god bless you, but I don’t. If one of the biggest reasons they lost in the Finals last year was that Chara ran out of gas, how can you feel good that he can hold up this year with a likely bigger work load?

        They’re not a weak defensive team, but their collection of defensemen is a bit sub par compared to the rest of the top playoff teams. I’m also not saying they’re organizationally weak, but they may not be equipped to handle the loss of their #2 defenseman in order to go on a deep playoff run. That’s not to say I don’t like Hamilton, Miller, Krug, and Bartkowski; I think the future is bright for them. But I have my doubts that this team can win a Stanley Cup with this group of defensemen.

    • laxnhockey - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      Your skepticism is well founded if they are relying on Chara. He’s the guy Chicago targeted on their way to winning the Cup with Chara on the ice floundering in the crease.

  3. LampyB - Apr 14, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    Fortunately for the B’s, their first round opponent is in a similar situation on D. Lot of youngsters with skill but little playoff experience.

    • billiam55 - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:32 AM

      playoff experience doesnt matter. theyre going to be pumped to be playing in the playoffs led by a great coach Babcock.

      • slaugin - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:36 PM

        Experience does matter. Playoff Hockey is a different game than Reg season and to know what to expect helps. for sure.

  4. erbaker67 - Apr 14, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    The one thing that helps the Bruins D isbthatbthe Bruins play great team defense. Also makes it easier when their offense is rolling and keeping the puck in the offensive zone.

  5. joey4id - Apr 14, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    The B’s d might be a little slow for Det’s fast forwards. Go Wings!

  6. hockeyflow33 - Apr 14, 2014 at 11:37 PM

    Is this the same defense that made them the best team in hockey while Seidenberg has been injured? Yup

    The biggest question is can Rask backstop us to a few clutch wins? He’s great in the regular season and when nothing is on the line but he has yet to prove he’s the guy who can carry you like 30 did in 2011.

    • lordstanley65 - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:34 AM

      One of the big questions about Tuukka was whether he could carry the weight of a full season at the start of the year. He did that superbly. I’m not worried.

      • hockeyflow33 - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:53 PM

        It’s hard to ignore his last two playoff ending performances.

    • tdrusher225 - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:28 PM

      That’s the regular season dude, throw that out the window. The playoffs are a whole different ball game.

  7. blomfeld - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:41 AM

    PLANET OF THE APES ‘EAST COAST’ STYLE !

    _______________________________________

    blomfeld – Sep 3, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    Pure class, exceptional skill and unwavering aplomb …

    anyone who doesn’t agree with that assessment of Captain Jonathan Toews is an ‘idiot’ and he or she should be ‘interviewed’ by the appropriate authorities asap ! … much like comrades Quick and Doughty, Jonathan Toews is a wonderful man who exemplifies what this game is ‘meant’ to be all about … the imagery of Toews last June being tossed about like some ‘rag doll’ by that radio-active freak from Turkmenistan (Chara) still haunts me to this day … but thank God friends, ‘decency’ and comrade Toews carried the day in the end !

    _____________________________________________________________

    So notwithstanding the Bruin’s much ‘storied & heralded’ past, today they equate to essentially nothing more than a bunch of ‘radio-active’ neanderthals from former Soviet republics ! And that’s a shame, God bless you Bobby Orr all the same. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that this year’s SC champion will be coming from the great state of California, LA county to be exact. And so God help these ‘tax evading’ heathens if they even have the ‘audacity’ to face us in June up there on the ‘high’ ground !

    GO KINGS GO !!! … TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

    • dkelley1186 - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      You don’t have too many friends, huh?

    • slysipops - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      looks like you upset the BOSTON faithful ,BLOMS ! remember B fans…………….. 17 SECONDS !!

    • infectorman - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      Boston Bruins: 10 of the top 30 players in +/- RIGHT NOW
      30% of the entire category occupied by Boston Bruin Players

      LA Kings? one

      It’s a 2 way game

    • beyor35 - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      You have to be the dumbest person I’ve ever had the misfortune of wasting my time reading your comments… dkelly is dead on too…

  8. nunan - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:02 AM

    Don’t forget Kevan Miller. He has been great considering he basically joined the team a couple months ago from the AHL. Incredibly tough and hits hard.

    • slaugin - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      He fills that McQuad role perfectly, I almost want to say he’s a little bit better except he doesn’t have the expireince Quader does

      • dkelley1186 - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:07 PM

        But he can actually compete a tape to tape pass, to one of his own team mates

  9. ironyisadeadscene - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    I think they will do fine but I hope to see more Andrej Meszaros and less Matt Bartkowski until he proves he can be more responsible with the puck in his own zone

  10. nunan - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    Chara Hamilton and boychuk miller should be top 4. Not sure who to pair with Krug on the 3 rd pair.

    • lordstanley65 - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:50 AM

      Miller!

      • lordstanley65 - Apr 15, 2014 at 6:50 AM

        He’s Superman!

  11. cadlow - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    Simple answer.
    FINE.
    These “rookies” have already played on the biggest stage. Why are all the “experts” so concerned about Boston’s young D-corp and no one is looking at Detroits total lack of playoff experience?
    Boston in 5.
    take it to the bank.

  12. hockeydon10 - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    As a Detroit fan I’ve got to say that Detroit is in much the same place. Kronwall is a very good defenceman. Not Norris quality, yet still very capable. DeKeyser is going to be a stud defenceman some day but has limited playoff experience.

    Everyone else is either young, injured or Quincey. That’s not to say they’ll fall flat. I have confidence it will be a tight series based on the skills each team displayed during the regular season plus the fact that it’s two of the best coaches in the league facing each other (and they’ve worked together so not too many secrets most likely).

    • matt14gg - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      “…young, injured or Quincey…” is one of the funniest lines I’ve read in a long time. Well played.

      From a B’s fan, good luck…should be a good series. Best bet for the Bruins is to stretch it out. They always wear teams down with their physicality over a long series. What worries me is Detroit’s speed overwhelming them and them getting behind in the series early. This is the type of team the Bruins struggle with.

      • slysipops - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        did they wear down the HAWKS last year ?…………….remember 17 SECONDS

    • slaugin - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      How is Brendan Smith? Ive heard he has trouble with turning it over in his own end, is he a top 4 guy or is he on the 3rd pairing.

  13. billiam55 - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    if im boston, im worried about playing those wings. their killed speed seems to be an issue for boston. hence, last game they played each other

  14. flyboystransport - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Did I seriously see someone say they wanna see more messzaros?????????

    • hockeydon10 - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      I want to see more Messzaros.

      Then again, I’m a Detroit fan.

    • matt14gg - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      I’d like to see Meszaros more too…centering Caron and Potter on the ninth floor in a suit and tie.

  15. slysipops - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    not well i hope ! do your magic MR. BABCOCK !

    • lordstanley65 - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:01 PM

      You forgot to say 17 SECONDS. Again.

  16. slysipops - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    the hope and prayer of the free world……….. original 6 SC FINAL ……HAWKS VS. WINGS !

  17. slaugin - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    If Boston stumbles it will prob come back to these young blue liners but I have faith in them. They might not be typical Bruin Bruisers like the last couple years but what they lack on the back end they make up In something Boston hasn’t seen since Claude has taken over….An offensive presence from the Blue Line. These guys can score, and Krug/Hamilton are great at the point for the Power Play. This is definitely Boston’s best team entering the Post Season with this core, I am excited for Friday. Tough draw getting the Red Wings round 1 but if they play at their best they can beat anyone.

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