Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 with Zdeno Chara

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Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 with Zdeno Chara

More of Mary Paoletti's interview with Zdeno Chara:

You seem like someone who takes comfort in control. Are there times out there when you feel like you're out of control on the ice? That a situation is out of control?
I don't feel that way. There are times when we are losing games or when the opposite team is playing really well . . . there are parts of the season when you're going to lose games and you aren't playing your best hockey . . . but never I feel like we are -- or I am -- out of control of the situation. You're going to win some and you're going to lose some and you're going to try to win as many as possible and to win more than you lose, but . . . I would maybe correct that. Maybe not as being a control person. I'm a very organized person. I like being organized and to know what we are doing and how to get better. I'm a disciplined person.

I've noticed is that you're often handling the blade of your stick...you're doing it almost every time a play dies. What is that? Is that just a habit?
Smiles It may be a little bit of a habit. I don't like to have frozen snow on my blade. Or ripped tape. I just don't know why, I immediately have to cut it out or get rid of that frozen snow or ice. It really changes the direction of the way you pass and move the puck.

In April of 2009 you were asked what your greatest career moment was and you said you hadn't had it yet. Can there be a greater moment in your career than winning a Stanley Cup? What would satisfy someone like you who's so driven?
For sure, winning the Stanley Cup would be top of the list before leaving hockey, right? Winning Norris trophy was really, really a nice feeling. It was great. It is something that, even if it is personal or individual, I feel like the team helped me. It's such a great satisfaction that all that hard work paid off. Maybe some people are not believing me being the right captain or they are questioning my leadership. I want to prove them wrong. I think I am the right captain.

You're going to be, what, 330 or so kilometers from where you grew up when you're in Prague? What does it mean to be so close to home?
It means a lot. I'll be nervous for sure, playing in front all my friends and family live. But at the same time, I already did that. But it's going to be a little bit crazy I think, there's might be meetings with a lot of my friends and family. I have to make sure it doesn't affect my rink time or the time I spend with the team. It's going to be exciting, something different.
Your schedule is crazy. You have to focus on the Coyotes but at the same time you have all these other things going on . . . family, friends, etc.
I'm going to try to make as much time as I can for them, but in a way that doesn't affect anything. If I have some time, yeah, I'll see them for half-an-hour, an hour. But I just got back, I saw them, what, a month ago? Two months ago? I just got back, so, I think they should be happy with the time I can give.

So tell me something about you. People ask you stuff all the time but you never get a chance to say anything unprompted.
Laughs I don't know. You'd have to ask me. I don't know what to tell ya' . . . Pauses Yeah. You'd have to ask me because I don't know where to begin.

All right. What's good for you right now? What makes you happy? I know you're a very disciplined guy and training makes you happy . . . blah blah blah, we've heard that before . . .
A few things. Being healthy is number one: I'm happy when I'm healthy. Nothing really bothers me or my family when we're healthy. I'm happy when we are winning. I'm happy when . . . long pause . . . I don't see any big changes, bad changes with what's going on in the world . . . like when there's a leak in oil. There's so much bad stuff happening. When none of that's happening it makes me happy.

What sacrifices have you made?
Well, I made a lot of my sacrifices when I was quite young. When all my friends from school, or even the teams I played on went out, had a good time, went to movies, went to playgrounds or whatever, I stayed home and I worked out, I went for a run, I went on my bike . . . So, that fun part that they had, I didn't. But I spent a lot of that time trying to get better. And, believe me, now I love it. I love that I can do what I love. And now when I meet with friends they wish they had sacrificed as much as I did, or anybody else. Now they have to get up at six in the morning and work 'til four in the afternoon at jobs they don't love. They missed their train. Now it's gone. It's one of those things with growing up. You get to choose what you want to do. I was very lucky, I guess, in the way that my dad was an athlete and he helped me work out when I was very young. Otherwise it would be too late. But now I don't really take it as much as sacrifice. I take it as, that's my job and that's what I do. You can be complaining about it or you can be excited about it.

From what I've read about you, it sounds like you had impressive maturity at a young age. When you were young, coaches told you you shouldn't play hockey and you had said something like, "a growing guy needs time to adjust to his body." How did you know that at age 14?
I didn't. I found that out later on. I think that sometimes coaches, they only see guys who are scoring goals -- which is fine, naturally, it's what you always like is players that are very skilled who will perform for you -- but especially when I was younger, they didn't realize I was still growing, I was still getting taller and taller, and my body had to fill in with muscle and I had to learn coordination and all that. And it took some time and they didn't give it to me. So I had to leave and I had to go where they gave me enough time. And they didn't give it to me back home so I had to leave to another country. And I was 18 and I was living on my own, which wasn't easy. But being in a different country at 18 and living totally on your own . . . there was no adults, there was no somebody I was living with, I was totally on my own. I had one bedroom apartment and they gave me some money and said, 'Take care of yourself.' So, that's when it hits you. That's when it hits you that you have to really mature, it's your job. You can't be a kid anymore. It was such a big change . . . buying groceries, you have to cook for yourself, laundry smiling, laughing, eyes wide . . . clearly a big deal you were like, "Oh my God!" At 18 you were like, 'This is so hard.' But you get used to it and that's when really you have to mature because, again, I was going from a Junior to a men's team. And even the conversations in the locker room, it was so different, there was no like, 'Hey, uh, something I don't know . . . '

'What are you doing this weekend?'
Yeah! It was like 'Hey, my family, my kids' and you're like 'Wha-wha-what?' All of the sudden these conversations, there was this different perspective and it was so different.

Do you think back to that time a lot?
Smiling Yeah! Yeah.

What do you think you took away from that besides responsibility?
Exhales deeply Well, take care of myself, most of all. Up to that time your parents are taking care of you . . . cooking for you most of the time, doing your laundry, and all that stuff. And all of a sudden, you know, most of all it's taking care of yourself and learn to talk like an adult. If you want to talk to the coach you do it yourself. It's like straightforward 1-on-1 with the coach or with the GM. So yeah, you had to know how to have conversations on different levels and be an adult.

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

The Bruins are going to snap their two-year drought and get into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. 

Sure, it’s going to be a tight race. And it'll come down to the last few games, befitting a team that's lived on the Atlantic Division bubble over the last three years. But in the seven games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have shown they have the goods to get into the postseason. There's every reason to believe they’ll sustain their winning ways over the final two months of the regular season. 

There's a long way to go, of course, but a third-place (or higher) finish would ensure the B's a berth in the Atlantic Division playoff bracket, and they could conceivably advance a round or two based solely on the poor quality of clubs in their division. With 20 games to play, the Bruins are now third in the division and have a one-point cushion (70-69) over fourth-place Toronto, though the Leafs have a game in hand. If Toronto passes them, they currently have a two-point lead over the Islanders (70-68) for the eighth and final spot in the conference playoffs, though the Isles also have a game in hand. 

And that's not to say Boston couldn't climb higher. The B's are only four points behind the first-place but spinning-their-wheels Canadiens (20-20-7 since their 13-1-1 start), and they're even with the Habs in games played. They trail second-place Ottawa by two points, but the Senators have two games in hand.

All that, however, is another story for another day (even if it is a reason for Boston adding, rather than subtracting, at Wednesday's NHL trade deadline),

So how can we so stridently state that the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, and assure that this seven-game run isn’t just a flash in the pan?

Clearly they're playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They've now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week. 

To put that in perspective, the B's had gone 1-8 in California over the previous three seasons, when those late-in-the-year road trips spelled the beginning of the end for Boston.

But even more convincing is a simple look at the numbers, the production and the reasons behind the surge forward. 

The Bruins have long needed their two franchise centers operating at a high level at both ends of the ice, and consistently playing the 200-foot game that can cause major problems against teams not blessed with frontline talent in the middle. That wasn’t the case under Julien this year, but things have changed. 

David Krejci has three goals and eight points along with an even plus/minus rating in seven games under Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron posted three goals and nine points along with a plus-7 over that same span of games. With those two big-money, big-ceiling players operating at their highest levels, the rest of the team has shown its true potential . . . and the talent level is considerably higher than many thought.

It wasn’t long ago that many Bruins fans, and some major Julien apologists in the media, would have had you believe that Claude was keeping together a substandard NHL roster with a MacGyver-like combination of duct tape, chewing gum and an offensive system that only a dump-and-chase, trappist wonk could love. Now we’re seeing there's offensive talent on a group that’s been given the green light to create and produce. 

To wit, the Bruins' third line is now winning games for them after serving as a liability for the first half of the season. Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano have combined for 6 goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in the seven games under Cassidy after never getting a chance to work together under Julien because they weren’t in his defensive circle of trust.

There's also the elevated level of production -- across the board -- from Boston’s defensemen. Not to mention Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak continuing to produce offense at elite levels. Marchand just set a career-high with his 64th point on Sunday afternoon, and still has another 20 games left in attempting to become the B's first point-per-game player since Marc Savard (88 points in 82 games in  2008-09).

All of it amounts to a Bruins offense that’s now choosing quality shots over quantity: Boston is scoring 1.5 more goals per game under Cassidy while averaging a significant 4.5 fewer shots per game. The Bruins have finally ditched the weak perimeter attack that so entralled the Corsi crowd -- it was putting up 40-plus shots per game, yet only about 2.5 goals -- and are instead honing in their offensive chances between the dots and in closer to the net .

Should people still be wondering if this current B’s run of entertaining, winning hockey is sustainable? They certainly can if they want to wait until the season is over to decide, but the jury is in for this humble hockey writer.

Bruins fans should take the cue and start lining up for their postseason tickets. 

Because there is going to be playoff hockey in Boston this spring. Remember, you heard it here first.

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while feeling like Warren Beatty took the sneaky way out by handing that wrong Academy Award card to Faye Dunaway last night. Clearly he knew something was amiss and he let her step into it. Kind of a weasel move if you asked me.

-- An interesting letter from FOH (Friend of Haggs) James Mirtle about the pay wall involving The Athletic sports website in Toronto.

-- Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings dealing for Ben Bishop is about more than just an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick.

-- FOH Mike Halford has the Minnesota Wild going for it with their trade for Martin Hanzal, but also keeping him from the other teams in the West.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Penguins are in great shape after winning the Cup last spring, and it’s clear they’re in good hands after Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle opted not to sell the franchise.

-- Kyle Quincey is being held out of the lineup in New Jersey because of pending trades, and the wonder is who else in New Jersey might be getting dealt.

-- Gabriel Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche teammates know the trade deadline is coming. It would certainly be weird if they didn’t.

-- The San Jose Sharks feel fortunate for the timing of their bye week as it was clear that they needed a break.

-- For something completely different: Gronk was busy doing Gronk things at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.