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May 1, 2014

Bruins mantra vs. Habs: Defense wins

BOSTON — The stingy defense the Boston Bruins played all season was even better in the first round of the playoffs.

No wonder three of their defensive stars have been chosen as finalists for NHL awards.

And a clean sweep of the regular-season prizes is possible: Zdeno Chara for the Norris Trophy given to the best defenseman, Patrice Bergeron for the Selke Trophy that goes to the top defensive forward, and Tuukka Rask for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the best goalie.

The Bruins allowed the second-fewest goals in the regular season, then limited the Detroit Red Wings to just six goals in five games in the opening round.

The Montreal Canadiens should pose a stiffer challenge after sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in their best-of-seven series. But Boston, especially its defense, is peaking at the right time.

“I want to be always strong defensively and take care of my zone before I jump up and help the offense,” said Chara, who won the Norris Trophy in 2008-09 and was nominated Monday.

With his size and reach, the 6-foot-9 Chara is a big problem for opposing forwards. And if they get by him and the other skaters, they’ll have to deal with Rask, who led the NHL with seven shutouts, was second in save percentage and fourth in goals against average.

Being nominated, “is great recognition. But everybody knows we’re a team-first team and this is something that comes after the biggest trophy,” Rask said. “You don’t get these nominations or wins for the trophies without your teammates.”

Bergeron got his nomination last Thursday and Rask on Friday. On Saturday, the Bruins beat the Red Wings 4-2 to clinch the first-round series in Detroit. The second-round schedule hasn’t been announced, but the Bruins will be home for the first two games against the Canadiens.

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