Murphy’s Hockey Law: Chara Leading The Way For Young Defense
It’s no coincidence that Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is finding his game again and the Bruins have climbed up the standings with a 6-0-1 stretch after starting the season 0-3-0.
Just over three weeks ago the sky was falling over TD Garden and the Bruins. Boston had dropped their third straight game to open the season and their inexperienced blue line had come as advertised with the team allowing 16 goals already. Head Coach Claude Julien’s seat was getting even hotter and team management was reportedly exploring trade options for veteran Chara and forward Brad Marchand.
The team went on to win two straight on the road but they returned home to blow a late third period lead to the Flyers and even lead critics and fans to question whether 2014 Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask should be the player management should gauge interest on? The Bruins reaction?
“I do my best not to read that stuff and I think we’re all like that, but if we do, you try and use it to motivate you,” Rask told Murphy’s Hockey Law the day after the 5-4 overtime loss to the Flyers.
All those rumors were denied by team management but league sources still insist to Murphy’s Hockey Law that the Chara and Marchand reports were true. But that’s neither here nor there for Chara and the Bruins as they have apparently chosen the latter of the two choices Rask spoke of when dealing with trade rumors. Chara was asked by this scribe how he felt about the trade rumors before his team headed south to Florida to sweep a two-game roadie with the Panthers and Lightning. The 38-year-old defenseman was to put it lightly, aggravated
“I don’t pay attention to that. That’s the end of it,” he said.
What if the season did go in the tank and he had a chance to go to a contender with the team asking him to waive his no-movement clause?
“I want to be a Bruin.”
Chara then went on to notch a goal and an assist in the 3-1 win over the Panthers Friday and added another helper in the 3-1 win over the Lightning Saturday.
Since the loss to the Flyers, the Bruins have won four straight and sat third in the Eastern Conference playoff standings and in the Atlantic Division heading into NHL action Tuesday. They also had the NHL’s best power play scoring at a 35.3 percent clip and were tops in goals per game at 3.9 goals per game. But while the offense has been clicking, the main difference between now and that dreadful opening weekend has been the reemergence of the team’s former identity that focused on team defense and leading the way in that department has been the captain who seems to have taken the criticism of his team and himself personally and decided to take it out on opponents again..
“Playing tight defensively as a unit of five,” Chara said of the Bruins recent stretch. “We’re winning more battles; we’re working harder; getting big and timely saves from goalies; our penalty kill has been better and we just need to keep getting better.”
Chara also thinks that simplifying the game again has helped the team and himself find their game again.
“Any time you can play a real simple game to get out of your zone and making simple passes, it makes everything easier and more efficient,” said Chara who entred Tuesday’s game with seven points. “So that’s one of the areas for sure that is the key to being better. These days everybody is fore-checking and pressuring so hard that guys are on top of you really quickly and you don’t have any other option than pretty much get it out of the zone or play it off the glass. So then with them being so aggressive, now all of a sudden they have the puck behind them and then have to chase the puck. So that at least creates some more foot races and puts more pressure on them.”
Zdeno Chara has a goal and six assists in eight games this season. He ranks second among Bruins’ defensemen in points. (Photo credit: Joe Makarski/Bruins Daily)
Chara was asked if guiding his younger blue line group through the early rough waters made him feel as if his career has come full circle as an elder statesman on defense now?
“I’m not old; I’m still young” Chara said emphatically. “I don’t know if I’d call it full circle yet. It’s too bad we weren’t in playoffs last season. Missing it made us all feel not good and now that things have changed so much in the offseason and we have a lot of news faces and younger players. So that makes paying attention to detail on the ice and off the ice that much more important. You try to help them now and guide them through the process. But that doesn’t exclude the older guys from paying attention either. I think we all have to go through it no matter what. But yeah we have a younger team that needs more patience and this is a work in process.”
To Chara, age is no factor. It’s all about keeping even-keeled.
“No matter if you’re a rookie or you’re in your 20th season, you’re gonna always experience those up’s and downs,” Chara said. “I don’t think anybody plays great 82 games. You’re going to face adversity and you just have to make sure that you get through those downs as soon as possible and maintain those up’s as long as possible. You can’t look too much ahead. You just need to focus on the present, not the past and not the future. Live in the moment.”
Right now, that’s exactly what the captain is doing and his younger teammates are following his lead.
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