Bruins face a big test without their captain
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. His teammates will have to fill his void, however.
By no means is this something that Chara and the Bruins should be ashamed of. The 6-foot-9 defenseman is leaving a few days early to represent Slovakia as a flag bearer at the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics – a once in a lifetime opportunity for any athlete. Given all that Chara has done as a leader in Boston (both on and off the ice), it was an easy and mutual decision for both parties to let him have another proud moment.
“Obviously I would not have made this decision without talking to the team – management, coaches, and obviously players. It would be pretty selfish if I were to make this decision on my own,” said Chara, whose 13 goals on the season rank him third among NHL defensemen in 2013-14. “This was made as a group and that was the only way I would accept it. So I really appreciate it, and it means a lot to me.”
That dream for Chara is coming closer to reality as we are nearly 48 hours away from the kickoff of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Reality is also about to sink in the next two days for the Bruins, as they prepare for the Blues Thursday night in St. Louis without their captain. The B’s will be without Chara again on Saturday when they host the Ottawa Senators in their final tilt before the two-week layoff.
Before reality sank in, however, the Bruins sent Chara off in style with a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night.
“I don’t think we were thinking about that too much, but I guess it’s good to send him off on the right foot with a game like that,” said goalie Tuukka Rask, who made 27 saves in Tuesday’s victory. “He feels good about his game and our game, so it’s better off that way.”
One guy who played well in particular Tuesday night is Johnny Boychuk, who delivered a couple of big hits on Canucks forward David Booth and sent Daniel Paille on a breakaway before the Merlot Line forward tallied his eighth of the season late in the second period. Boychuk also added two shots, three hits and a blocked shot in 24:04 of ice time.
Certainly, Boychuk had a very solid night. As a matter of fact, he was one of the better performers on Tuesday night. But as the elder defenseman on the Black and Gold without Chara and Dennis Seidenberg (out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL/MCL), the 30-year old Boychuk will be relied upon heavily these next two games without the Bruins captain, as will the other 19 players donning the Spoked B.
“I think everyone will be [playing more],” Boychuk said about playing more minutes without Chara. “They are going to expect a lot of me. As a defensive core we have to step up and try not to replace what he brings to the table, but just try to step up individually and just try to keep it simple out there.”
There’s no denying that the Bruins are better served with Chara. With the big guy in the lineup, the team is 320-197-62 during his eight-year tenure that began in the 2006-07 season. In 16 games without him, the B’s are just 7-6-3, including this year’s 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators back on December 28.
The Bruins currently hold a six-point lead ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by seven points in the Eastern Conference standings. The task will be tough, but a couple of wins without their captain could create more distance in the Atlantic and perhaps they be knocking on the door as the top team in the East before the layoff.
See what the Bruins had to say about Chara going overseas and more after their 3-1 win over the Canucks Tuesday night