Chara honored before game, dazzles during it

715734.jpg

Chara honored before game, dazzles during it

BOSTON -- Tuesday night was actually game No. 1,002 for Zdeno Chara.

But since he played the previous two games on the West Coast, the Bruins recognized the feat with a pre-game ceremony before Tuesday's game against the Tampa bay Lightning, that included a visit from his wife and daughter, and gifts from Bruins teammates and the NHL.

"Its obviously very nice to get that recognition and ceremony," said Chara after the game. "Like I said, I very much appreciate it. Its very nice from the NHL, the Boston Bruins organization, from my teammates and everybody that supported me.

"But when that ceremony is over, you have to focus on the game and you just got to be ready because you have to play 60 minutes. Theres no other way to really describe it, Just be ready and play hard the whole game."

And just like the Bruins' captain does every night, Chara --just moments after saying goodbye to his family and the ceremonial gifts -- quickly re-focused and played a more-than-solid 24-plus minutes of hockey, leading the Bruins to a 5-2 win over the Lightning.

Chara finished the game with three assists and was the only player in the game with a plus-3 rating.

"You can take away his three assists, and still look at his game and say he was solid," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "Everything he did was simple, efficient, and he was rock solid tonight. I really liked his game. And to cap it off with a three-point night was nice to see."

Chara didn't just have three assists. He had three of the most meaningful assists in the game.

The trio of helpers came on Boston's first three goals, which included the game-winner by Benoit Pouliot with 8:26 left in regulation.

Chara had the secondary assist on Pouliot's goal. But it was his shot from the point that resulted in Brian Rolston's pass out front, which resulted in a 3-2 Bruins lead.

Chara's second assist on the night came with 4:55 left in the second period, and put the Bruins up 2-1. Chara blasted a shot from the right point, and Dennis Seidenberg cleaned up the juicy rebound at the left post, beating Dwayne Roloson upstairs.

But it was Chara's first assist of the game that was most impressive. Midway through the first period, Chara held the puck at the middle point and decided to skate it deep into the offensive zone on his own. He dangled through several Lightning players, and when he got down to the bottom of the right circle, Chara made a bold decision to take the puck hard to the net, rather than let one rip from afar.

Chara's attempt to stuff it in with force was saved by Roloson. But Shawn Thornton was on the doorstep to flip the rebound upstairs and tie the game at 1-1.

The goal went to Thornton, but it was clear who made the play happen.

"You're always taught when you take it to the net, good things will happen, and they did," said Chara. "We scored on the rebound, and it ended up being a good play.

"Sometimes things just open up for you," added the captain. "I was looking for a chance to ride the blue line, and all of a sudden I had the chance to cut that seam and I took it. And then, I kind of thought, 'Im going to have to shoot the puck right away.' And then another thing opened up and I was kind of excited to pass on shooting and I took it to the net, and sometimes those things just open up for you and you have to take advantage and make the best out of them."

And Chara made the best out of an emotional pre-game ceremony that doesn't always leave you with the proper mindset to have the type of solid performance he had on Tuesday.

"Obviously this was a special night for him, and he wanted to make sure that everything he did was good and positive," said Julien. "And he was a real solid contributor for us tonight."

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

BOSTON – While the loss to the Avalanche on Thursday night was a monumental dud, it put another dazzling display on the hockey resume of David Pastrnak. 

The 20-year-old star right winger scored two more goals in the 4-2 loss at TD Garden and nearly brought the Bruins back into the game by himself before another defensive breakdown at the end of the second period doomed them. 

Instead, Pastrnak had to settle with being the proud owner of 18 goals scored in 23 games that places him in a tie with NHL superstar Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in goals. 

The goals also showed his wide range of lethal offensive skills. On the first score, he just broke away from the Avalanche defense and managed to bury a second-effort breakaway chance after a nice Tim Schaller stretch pass off the boards. The second goal was a straight one-timer bomb from the high slot off a slick setup pass from Brad Marchand in the corner, and it had the Bruins right back into the mix after a dreadful first period. 

It wasn’t enough when the B’s defense faltered again toward the end of the second period, but it was enough for everybody to be singing Pastrnak’s praises once again following the loss. 

“He’s a game changer. The momentum is going the other way, and he has the ability to break away on any given shift and score a big goal for us. He did that tonight,” said Torey Krug. “We can’t just keep relying on the same guys to score goals. We’ve got to come up with secondary offense, and I know every other guy wants to do that. 

“Now it’s about showing that on the ice and making sure we’re doing the work and getting better and proving to ourselves. But Pasta [David Pastrnak] has been great for us so far, and we’re obviously lucky to have him.”

The 18 goals barely two months into the season are not too shabby for a kid, in his third NHL season, who just now coming into his own. He’s nearly halfway to 40 before Christmas. For Pastrnak, however, it’s about the team result and he wasn’t overly satisfied with his two goals in a losing effort. 

“I’ve said before the season that our goal is to make the playoffs and to have that experience and have the chance to win the Stanley Cup. I’m still focusing on that,” said Pastrnak, who has yet to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs in his two-plus seasons with the Black and Gold. “We have zero points from tonight’s game and we have to move on. I think our game gets better in the second and third periods, you know, and we have to regroup and get ready for Saturday’s game.”

The Bruins will undoubtedly regroup and once again count on another Pastrnak offensive explosion to help lead the way in what’s become a truly spectacular season for the youngster. 

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Major league manager. Inventor of the wrap sandwich. Champion ballroom dancer.  And…

US ambassador to Japan?

Bobby Valentine is on the short list for that position in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a WEEI.com report.

The former Red Sox manager (fired after a 69-93 season and last-place finish in 2012), and ex-New York Mets and Texas Rangers, skipper, also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons. 

Valentine, 66, has known the President-elect and Trump's brother Bob since the 1980s, is close to others on Trump’s transition team and has had preliminary discussions about the ambassador position, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. 

Valentine, currently the athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like Valentine, attended the University of Southern California.