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BOSTON (CBS) – Anyone who watched Shane Hnidy stumble his way through about three minutes of ice time during his three appearances in last year’s Bruins postseason run can breathe a little bit easier today.
Those who’ve cringed every time Joe Corvo’s inexplicable pinching in the offensive zone has led to an opponent’s 2-on-1 or pictured Steven Kampfer or Andrew Bodnarchuk thrown into the Bruins’ lineup due to an injury to Johnny Boychuk (who’s currently day-to-day with concussion symptoms) or another member of Boston’s top six can now stop worrying.
The Bruins should now be covered if the infamous injury bug bites their back end between now and whenever their playoff run ends – be it earlier than hope or with another hoisting of the Stanley Cup by captain Zdeno Chara.
Proving he knows he can’t expect to get as lucky health-wise on his back end (three man games missed by defensemen) this spring, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli traded the potential-filled but not-ready-for-primetime Steven Kampfer to Minnesota for 31-year-old veteran Greg Zanon. In a second deal, he picked up both journeyman defenseman Mike Mottau and over-the-hill forward Brian Rolston from the New York Islanders for borderline minor-leaguers Yannick Riendeau and Marc Cantin.
“I guess globally, we’ve seen, I’ve seen in my time in hockey, defensemen can drop like flies,” said Chiarelli during a TD Garden press conference Monday to discuss deadline day. “You can never have enough defensemen.”
That slogan should be printed on Chiarelli’s coffee cup so he can look at it every day. The Bruins faced Tampa Bay without Pavel Kubina in the Eastern Conference Final and then Vancouver without a couple of its top D men. There’s no way for a team to hold off that injury bug for two straight postseasons.
In Mottau, who’ll turn 34 next month, and Rolston, 39, Chiarelli acquired two players with postseason experience who can – most importantly – stay sharp and be ready to play should they be out of the lineup for an extended period of time. For now, Rolston should be in the lineup until Rich Peverley and/or Nathan Horton come back. The only down side to Mottau and Rolston is that both missed time this year (Mottau missed 26 games) due to concussions.
Zanon was the marquee player added. Although he missed 16 games in the fall with a groin injury, he was durable enough to miss just one game the previous three years. A left-handed shot, Zanon has averaged more than 18 minutes of ice time this season for the Wild. He’s been perennially in the top four in the NHL in blocked shots the last three years, which means with Zanon and Dennis Seidenberg on their back end – and possibly paired together – the Bruins should be able to lessen the workload on goaltenders Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins didn’t knock anyone’s socks off with these moves. Now that they have eight defensemen, head coach Claude Julien will have some difficult lineup decisions to make when everyone’s healthy. But Julien’s never one to shrink away from a challenge of that magnitude.
Sometimes, however, you have to judge a deadline day on what a team did and what other teams did and didn’t do. Pittsburgh stood pat. The Rangers only added fighter John Scott. Philadelphia made its moves earlier in the month with the additions of Nicklas Grossman and Kubina. Neither of those players has ever been mistaken for Chris Pronger.
The Devils’ big move was adding Marek Zidlicky and Ottawa didn’t improve much by adding goaltender Ben Bishop as a stopgap while Craig Anderson’s out and swapping defenseman Brian Lee for Matt Gilroy. The teams that could be most threatening to the Bruins’ defense of their Eastern Conference title did little to close the gap. Out West there wasn’t much Earth-shattering action either, although you had to like Vancouver’s move to add versatile forward Sami Pahlsson.
While some might have been looking for a sexy replacement to cover the Bruins in case Horton or Peverley don’t make it back this year, no player that would have satisfied that desire was moved at the deadline or in the weeks leading up to the glorious day.
Chiarelli called this year’s trading season “frustrating but fulfilling.” He’s has plenty of reasons to be satisfied, as he was one of the few winners of the dealing derby.