BEDFORD, Mass. -- One of the perks of winning the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final comfortably has been the opportunity for the Boston Bruins to limit the ice time of their top defensemen.
After Zdeno Chara averaged more than 29 minutes per game in the first two rounds, the Bruins stalwart has averaged 25 minutes of ice time against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Dennis Seidenberg, Chara's usual partner, hasn't had to log more than 24:38 in this series, right around the amount of time he averaged through six games in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs before he was injured.
A rested corps of defensemen not only has the energy during a game to slow down the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla, but should also have more in the tank later in the series if things get tougher or if overtime is necessary.
Game 3 is Wednesday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"It definitely helps. If you have everybody going, you can do that. So not having to play too many minutes keeps you fresh and ready to go for the following games," Seidenberg said.
The scores of the games are one reason the Bruins have been able to balance their defensemen's ice time. It's also helped that all six players have filled their role to the best of their abilities.
Andrew Ference returned from a seven-game injury absence for Game 1 of the series. He's averaged around 18 minutes through two games, which is probably a perfect amount for a player who's still wearing a walking boot on his left foot off the ice. He wouldn't be concerned if Chara or anyone had his ice time increased, but he's enjoying the pack mentality of the group so far.
"That's the goal. Other than [Chara] and [Seidenberg] are the guys who would pick up huge minutes in some games. And if you can get into a game where you don't have to do that, then obviously it's a benefit for [Chara] in the long run," Ference said. "At the same time, you know, it doesn't look like the games where he has played the big minutes, it [hasn't] really affected him too much in the next game. So I'm sure it helps but I don't think it's ... he's not complaining when he has to shoulder a little bit heavier load."
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