By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins celebrated their 2-0-2 road trip against Central Division teams by returning home and signing captain Zdeno Chara to a one-year extension Wednesday, making sure the 41-year-old will remain the cornerstone of their defensive corps for at least one more year.
What a way to celebrate.
Here are some observations and thoughts I had after the Bruins earned their sixth point of the road trip with a shootout loss in Winnipeg.
*Coach Bruce Cassidy shuffled his D pairs to start the Winnipeg game, reuniting Torey Krug with Brandon Carlo on a pair that played most of the season together before injuries began to jumble the lineup. That put Nick Holden with Adam McQuaid. There’s no doubt in my mind Cassidy was giving the Krug-Carlo connection a chance to prove it could be the No. 2 pair for the playoffs.
It wasn’t great news that by the second period, Cassidy had put Krug back with McQuaid and Holden with Carlo. Of course, any significant injury to Matt Grzelcyk after the hit from behind by Josh Morrissey will further mix up the pairs even before the return of Chara and Charlie McAvoy to the lineup.
And the injury to Grzelcyk was unfortunate because …
*Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller emerged as the Bruins’ No. 1 defense pair on this road trip, especially in the shootout loss at St. Louis and the win at Dallas. With their synergy and ability to move the puck and avoid having to defend for long stretches deep in the Bruins’ end, one could see them being the No. 2 pair come playoff time.
And speaking of playoffs, assuming Grzelcyk, Chara and McAvoy are healthy and Miller and Krug are now locks for the lineup, one would have to believe that Carlo and McQuaid are auditioning for that sixth spot next to Krug.
That’s great news for Carlo …
*Because Carlo found his game on this road trip, especially using his size. The best sign in a long time came from him was when he took a boarding penalty in Dallas. It was a well-earned trip to the penalty box and one that proved he may not be as fearful of throwing the body as he’s looked for much of his sophomore season. In the Minnesota game, he decked strong forward Nino Niederreiter in the neutral zone.
Carlo also began to look more confident with the puck. He has to be willing to skate with it more and we saw some of that over the course of the trip. He always talks about getting the puck up to the forwards and letting them do the work. Well, that’s a wise idea considering the depth Boston has up front. And that leads me to one thought about the forwards.
*Cassidy put David Pastrnak on the right side of David Krejci and Ryan Donato on Tuesday. It didn’t have the instant payoff that most of Cassidy’s line shuffles have had this season, but it definitely gave the Bruins a look worth trying out a little longer. Although it’s difficult to break up the best line in hockey, the Bruins have plenty of players that can fill in on the first line without bogging down Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Tommy Wingels did it in Winnipeg; Danton Heinen and Brian Gionta could also fit there until Rick Nash comes back.
But if Pastrnak and Krejci could finally click as linemates, Donato might be their perfect complement to his willingness to go to the dirty areas, shoot at will and be responsible. And the speed of that line would truly give opponents two lines to worry about.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.