PHILADELPHIA — Of the variables Claude Julien considers when setting his defensive lineup, stick position is an important factor. Ideally, all defensemen — Dennis Seidenberg is the exception — play most of their minutes on their strong side.
They can turn to retrieve pucks in the corner more smoothly. They can fish pucks off the wall. They can make crisp outlet passes to the strong-side wing.
“The pivoting, for most players, is always better on the outside with the reach of the stick,” explained Julien, a former defenseman. “Passing is the same thing. When you get the puck on your off wing, you’ve got to twist your body to pass it to your strong-side winger. It takes some adjustment for some guys. Some guys like it. Some guys don’t. I played both sides. I didn’t mind it. But I know for a lot of players, they find it very uncomfortable. Every player has a different feel about that.”
Julien’s belief provides some insight on how the defensemen, assuming good health, will line up in the playoffs.
If the Bruins face a team with a dominant scoring line (John Tavares and the Islanders, for example), Zdeno Chara (left shot) will line up on the left side with Seidenberg on his right. Seidenberg is a left shot, but has been on the right side for the last 14 games. Andrew Ference (left) and Johnny Boychuk (right) would be the second pairing. They served as the top four defensemen during the 2011 Stanley Cup run.
The third duo is where jobs might be up for grabs. Wade Redden (left), Matt Bartkowski (left), Adam McQuaid (right), and Dougie Hamilton (right) will be fighting for two spots in Game 1 of the playoffs.
Given McQuaid’s experience and physical presence, the rugged 26-year-old will probably get the nod over Hamilton. The Bruins would be without Hamilton’s puck-moving ability and offensive touch, but McQuaid’s style is more playoff-oriented. McQuaid was the No. 5 defenseman in the 2011 postseason.
The final call on the No. 6 spot — Tomas Kaberle filled the position in 2011 — will be tough. Bartkowski is stronger and a better skater than Redden. Bartkowski can skate the puck out of danger to trigger the rush.
But the 24-year-old has never dressed for an NHL playoff game. In comparison, Redden has 101 games of playoff experience. Twenty of those playoff games took place during Ottawa’s 2006-07 march to the Stanely Cup Final, where Redden and the Senators lost to Shawn Thornton’s Anaheim Ducks. Chris Kelly also played for Ottawa that year.
Redden’s experience and poise may give him the edge over Bartkowski.
“In those big games, I think you’ve got to be calm,” Redden said. “You’ve got to make good, hard plays. I think one thing I can do is I can do those things. When the intensity and everything ramps up, you’ve got to rely on that. I’ve played in a lot of those games. I think I can bring that.”
Tuesday marked Redden’s third game since arriving from St. Louis April 3. Redden, paired with Seidenberg, scored his first goal as a Bruin at 4:54 of the first. Redden started the play with a sharp outlet pass to Carl Soderberg in the defensive zone, then joined the rush.
At the other end, Steve Mason turned back Jaromir Jagr’s shot. But Redden crashed the net and poked the rebound over Mason.
The 35-year-old isn’t as mobile as he was in Ottawa. But Julien’s system doesn’t require defensemen to move much in the defensive zone. Forwards backcheck hard and steer puck carriers toward the defensemen.
Jagr, a one-year Flyer, made his first visit to Philadelphia since 2011-12. Jagr played a significant role that season as a linemate and mentor to Claude Giroux, who has since become Philadelphia’s captain. “He’s been a great addition, even in the dressing room,” Julien said. “He smiles all the time. Good teammate. Encourages players. Not afraid to joke with them and loosen guys up.” . . . Nathan Horton (upper body) remains day to day . . . Milan Lucic skated alongside David Krejci and Rich Peverley for the second straight game. Lucic was a healthy scratch Saturday . . . Boychuk, Bartkowski, Aaron Johnson, Kaspars Daugavins, and Jay Pandolfo were the healthy scratches . . . The Flyers will auction their jerseys from Tuesday’s game to benefit the One Fund Boston. Proceeds from Tuesday’s 50-50 raffle will also go to the One Fund. Before the game, the Flyers honored the Boston Marathon victims with a scoreboard tribute. Lauren Hart sang the team’s signature “God Bless America,” which features clips of former singer Kate Smith. “Extremely appreciative and touching,” Julien said. “I thought it showed a lot of class. Like all the support we’ve had, we’ve appreciated it. What happened tonight was just another great gesture from a rival that went beyond the sport and the rivalry that exists between the two teams.’’