The Big Four
Zdeno Chara says he will be better this season in his second tour of duty in Boston. Considering that he had 11 goals and 43 points, tying his career high, in his first go-round, that should be scary for the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Chara can certainly score a few more goals -- he has reached 16 twice in his career – and be better defensively. His minus-21 was his worst showing in five seasons. But Chara is still an elite defenseman who can change the complexion of any game.
Chara also has some dependable help on the blue line.
Aaron Ward, obtained from the New York Rangers late last season, is a solid two-way defender with Stanley Cup championship experience.
Andrew Ference also has more than 400 games of NHL experience and can provide a little offensive pop from the blue line. Andrew Alberts, meanwhile, adds some youthful experience. Just 26, he is already in his third year of NHL play and is developing a burgeoning reputation as a shutdown D.
Get the point
Chara and his booming shot from the point make the Boston power-play tick. The big Slovak can fire away accurately from the point -- he had more than 200 shots last season -- and scored nine of his 11 goals on the power play.
Dennis Wideman, who arrived in-season from the St. Louis Blues, also asserted himself as a viable option on the power play. Ference is also capable of manning a point during man-advantage situations.
But the team would love to find another pure power-play QB from its defense corps to make the man-advantage unit more dangerous going forward. Coach Julien is not a huge fan of using forwards at the point, but may turn to this tactic to get his best offensive talents on the ice in favorable scoring situations.
In the Wings
Matt Lashoff – A scary ending to the 2006-07 season – Lashoff injured his shoulder in a head-first collision with the boards – couldn’t completely dampen the luster of a solid campaign. Lashoff had 36 points in 64 games with Providence and also played a dozen games with the big club. He is healthy now and ready to push for more time with Boston.
Mark Stuart – A big, bruising defenseman, Stuart enjoyed a 15-game cup of coffee with Boston last year and proved to be a quick study able to handle the rigors of NHL play. He was an impressive plus-7 in that short tenure and showed signs of the leadership qualities and confidence that made him a first-round pick.
Jonathan Sigalet – The younger brother of Bruin goalie prospect, Jordan Sigalet, Jonathan is a developing offensive defenseman who could address Boston’s need for a power-play specialist. Sigalet has scored nine goals in each of the last two seasons for Providence.
Dennis Wideman – The Bruins got Wideman because of his ability to man the point on the power play. But he will need to show more than that one dimension in order to be a regular in Claude Julien’s rotation. If Wideman can show more all-round ability than he has in his first two NHL seasons, he will be a boon to Boston’s back-line depth.