Recchi: I wanted to take the heat off Chara

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Recchi: I wanted to take the heat off Chara

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Bruins proved a lot of different things by embarrassing their fiercest competitors from the hockey-crazed hamlet of Montreal.

The Bs showed they could ably handle the speedy, skilled, resilient Habs while playing a straight hockey game. They simply beat the Canadiens with hard work, skill, strength and skating speed rather than on-ice thuggery.

Essentially, they beat the Habs at their own game, going on six power plays, dominating the shots by an almost 2-1 margin and never easing off the gas against a team that had won 9 of their previous 11 meetings.

Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell each potted a pair of goals to announce their readiness for their first Stanley Cup playoff experience. Zdeno Chara notched three assists, which continues an amazing run (2 goals, 8 assists along with a plus-8 in seven games) since the Pacioretty incident at the Bell Centre. And Tim Thomas racked up his career-best eighth shutout of the season.

All of those things on the ice were thoroughly undeniable as the Bs slammed down the Habs by a shocking 7-0 score at TD Garden. Boston essentially locked down the division with a five point lead over Montreal with only nine games left and two important games in hand for the Black and Gold.

But the most important thing that took place over the last 36 hours was almost entirely about what went on in Boston's dressing room. It's been accused of being fractured or fragile at points over the last three seasons, but this week the Bruins have shown their togetherness both on and off the ice.

Mark Recchi and to a slightly lesser extent Milan Lucic both admitted after Thursdays statement victory over the Habs that their comments about Max Paciorettys injury embellishment on 98.5 the Sports Hub were orchestrated to help take some of the attention and heat away from their 6-foot-9 captain, Chara.

Chara has been the subject of derision, preposterous threats of criminal investigations and plain old smear campaigns manufactured in Montreal, and hes had to put up with unending questions about the Pacioretty hit in every city hes visited in the 16 days since the incident.

And that doesnt even count the CNN crew on Long Island that demanded to know what the 6-foot-9 Slovakian thought about Air Canada threatening to pull their NHL advertising dollars because of his on-ice violence.

Or the boos fueled by the Montreal-concocted perception that Chara is hell-bent on hurting opposing players with dirty hits a laughable accusation given Charas nearly immaculate 13-year disciplinary history in the NHL.

For a player that prides himself on playing a clean game and adhering to everything within the rules, all of that junk was piling up as a burden on Charas shoulders throughout the last three weeks. Recognizing all of that and the Montreal media tempest hitting Boston, Recchi stepped forward and took a hit for his captain.

I have to be honest with you guys. I wanted to take the heat off Zee Zdeno Chara for a day, said Recchi after the big shutout victory over Montreal. Im a big boy. And I think anyone who knows me, knows that I have great respect for the Montreal organization, I played five years there.

I have great respect for Doctor David Mulder, the medical staff there. I had a great five years there. I took the pressure off of Zee. In twenty-two years, Ive respected all my teammates, all the players I play against. My record has shown that for twenty-two years. I took the pressure off of Zee for one day, Im a big boy, I can handle it.

Recchi was pressed to answer whether he actually believed what hed said 24 hours earlier about the Habs organization embellishing Paciorettys injuries to try and get Chara suspended, and he continued to hold up his simple motive behind the explosive comments.

I did what I had to do. Zee has taken a lot of heat and I felt it was very important to take, get some focus elsewhere. Im a big boy and like I said, Im sorry if it hurt some people, but at the same time, I think everyone knows my reputation for twenty-two years, said Recchi. Im very respectful of teammates, players, organizations and that is not going to change. I felt a need to protect our captain and its important. That will be the end of it and you wont hear anything said by me anymore.

Coach Claude Julien indicated he knew exactly what Recchi was doing by stirring the pot a day before his hockey club played its biggest game of the season, and it was pretty clear from the efforts of Chara on down that his teammates respect what their 43-year-old leader did. Chara never asked for anyone to step in on his behalf or shoulder some of the Pacioretty-sized burden on his shoulders, but he appreciated Recchis assistance.

Recchi is such a great teammate and such a respected guy and leader. Its a thrill to have him. We all learn so much from him, said Chara. Hes obviously the next Hall-of-Famer and such a classy guy. Like I said, I cant thank him enough to be my teammate and be part of this team, and helping all of us to be better.

But it wasnt just Recchis gesture that showed a hockey team as one. It was about all the Bruins playing the way they did to back up both Recchi and Chara against the Canadiens, and it was about Campbell dropping the gloves with the bigger, bulkier Paul Mara to defend Recchi once again.

Mara had gone after Recchi with several blows in front of the Boston net earlier in the second period that sent both players to the box, and Campbell responded without hesitation to go at the Montreal defenseman when both players were on the ice. It wasnt much in the way of a fight and it was the only fight on such a hotly anticipated evening of hockey compared to the bouts during the bloody affair between these two teams at the Garden the last time they met.

But Campbell showed the kind of leadership, togetherness and support thats been there pretty much all season for the Bruins.

It showed up in abundance when it was needed most against the hated Habs.

I think the focus and togetherness showed tonight, said Julien. We went out there and were focused on doing it right, and I think for us its a win that we needed for all the right reasons: standings and everything else. I think our guys felt good about their performance tonight and rightfully so.

The Bruins are back on track, theyre playing for each other and they served another 60-minute piece of evidence that things are a little different this season.

Dont believe me?

Why dont you go ask the Canadiens and see what they say?

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nhl/red-wings/2017/02/17/red-wings-zetterberg-reflects-tough-season/98064530/

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.