Chara has strong case for Norris Trophy


Chara has strong case for Norris Trophy

By JoeHaggerty

BOSTON -- The compassion and earnest sentiment in Zdeno Charas eyes was undoubtedly genuine when he talked about it.

Chara knew that he had hurt Ryan Callahan badly during a typical hockey play that transpires numerous times each and every week in the NHL, but this time things didnt turn out harmlessly.

The Bruins defenseman had cocked his devastating 105.9 mph slap shot and connected on a one-time blast amid a scrambling comeback attempt against the New York Rangers in a game that was important at the time.

The puck screamed off Callahans leg in the high ankle area, and Chara knew immediately the gritty Rangers forward was in trouble given the awkward way Callahan blocked the shot at the last minute.

Callahan gamely attempted to skate it off, but it was learned the next day that a key cog in New Yorks spirited playoff crew was going to be lost with a broken bone in his leg.

Chara said he was aware of the injury following the game after talking with fellow Slovak Marian Gaborik at Madison Square Garden, and he wondered aloud what he could have possibly done to avoid harming a player he held in such high regard.

"Callahan is a top-six guy, yet he still plays with so much heart and grit, said Chara. You don't see many guys that throw their bodies around to block shots like that. He plays the game so hard. You have to respect a guy like that. I just hope that he's okay long term.

The Bs defenseman, who led all NHL blueliners with a resounding plus-33 this season and paced the Bruins with eight power-play goals courtesy of that booming slapper, wondered whether he should even let up on his heavier-than-Joba Chamberlain slap shot to avoid such injuries in the future.

That should tell everyone something about the turmoil Chara was feeling inside after the Max Pacioretty situation unfolded in Montreal.

Chara is a hulking intimidator, a force of hockey nature, and hes a natural villain straight out of central casting based on his long 6-foot-9 frame, the long, lethal hockey stick used to break up offensive plays all over the ice, and the I Must Break You Ivan Drago accent still thick despite the numerous languages hes learned over the years.

But Chara's never had it in his heart to be the hockey hit man he appears to be.

Thats why so many of his teammates current and former players who have shared ice with the Bs captain don't think the collision with Pacioretty into the Bell Centre stanchion was purposeful. The big defenseman plays a punishing physical game, but he also plays with a sense of fairness when it comes to easing up on vulnerable opponents . . . and hes played so well hes put himself in position for a second Norris Trophy.

It would also be the second trophy in the last three years amid a monstrous season for the Black Gold, and its easy to see why.

Its like half the game that hes on the ice. When they do get it in our zone against him the puck doesnt stay in there for very long, said Johnny Boychuk. Hes so big and strong and hes got that reach, and guys cant keep the puck away from him at all. It makes it a lot easier when hes on the ice.

When hes playing well everybody just follows him. Thats why hes the team leader here. What is he like plus-33 or something ridiculous like that? Thats something special and it tells you how much hes been taking care of things out there 5-on-5.

Chara put up three goals, nine assists and a plus-12 in the 15 games to close out the regular season following the Pacioretty hit, and managed to ignore threats of criminal investigations, CNN news crew interrogations and the normal monsters ball greeting that accompanies him at almost every Eastern Conference rink.

I was really impressed with the way he handled the Pacioretty situation and the way that he played said general manager Peter Chiarelli. His play didnt falter. Zee gets booed pretty much everywhere in the Northeast anyway, so I dont think thats obviously much of a change for him.

"This guy should be a strong Norris candidate. I think hes been very good this year and this incident may overshadow the fact that hes deserving of a candidacy for the Norris.

I think hes had a real strong year and his game is not sexy, but his game is really, really effective. Hes shown this year that he can play at that level and continues to play at that level. But Im really impressed with the way he finished off after that incident.

Thats why it would be a shame if the 9-1-1 shenanigans and an Air Canada flap centered around the CharaPacioretty brouhaha could take anything away from his candidacy, and that the New YorkNew Jersey boycott of award voting a byproduct of the Chris Botta credential issue with the Islanders could affect a worthy Eastern Conference player.

The offensive numbers werent eye-popping with 14 goals and 30 assists in 81 games for Chara, but they were certainly upper echelon among defensemen while setting the standard for a two-way defender capable of doing everything on the ice.

Offensive blueliners like Lubomir Visnovsky and Keith Yandle posted big offensive numbers this season and will get some consideration, but there is also the sense those particular players are never on the ice against the other teams biggest offensive weapons.

That bears out in the penalty kill ice time for each potential Norris trophy candidate as both Chara (2:48 of PK ice time per game), Nik Lidstrom (2:40 of PK ice time per game) and Shea Weber (2:08 of PK ice time per game) were anywhere near the top of penalty-killing defensemen. Those three defensemen live up to the positions true name, and provide the kind of team value that makes blueliners the most valuable commodity on a teams roster.

People dont realize that he plays against top lines, or maybe they do realize. But when you look at his stats and you look at his plusminus, how can you not say that he should be recognized, said Claude Julien of Charas Norris candidacy. Hes not just an offensive defenseman that plays and gets points on the power play and goes up against third and fourth lines all night long. He plays against top players all night long, and his numbers show you that hes winning a lot of those battles.

Perhaps hell win another one of those battles with the Norris Trophy race, but he embarks on perhaps the biggest campaign of his career when his Bruins open up against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday night.

Great pressure makes for great players, and everyone will find out if thats true over the next two weeks.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings


Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

The Bruins announced some organizational signings and one surprise dip into late summer free agency with a one-year, $900,000 contract for 36-year-old depth center Dominic Moore.

The B’s also announced one year, two-way contracts for forward Brian Ferlin, along with defensemen Chris Casto and Alex Grant, and all three of those players will serve as young, organizational depth players in Providence.

Moore has spent each of the last three seasons with the New York Rangers amid a career 765 NHL games played as a solid face-off and penalty-kill player that has fourth line candidate written all over him.

The Bruins will be former Harvard center Moore’s 10th NHL team. He’s coming off a season where he posted six goals and 15 points in 80 games for the Blueshirts, and has previously played for Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Tampa Bay and San Jose along with the Rangers.

While Moore is a solid candidate for fourth-line duty that will provide leadership, good face-off work, solid and gritty penalty-kill work and all kinds of NHL experience, he is also a 36-year-old on a team that has a ton of center candidates headed into camp. 

Moore’s presence could be problematic if he’s standing in the way of developing young centers Austin Czarnik and Noel Acciari. The expectation is that B’s coach Claude Julien, as he always has in the past with safe veterans like Chris Kelly, will go with a player like Moore over the youngsters if times start getting tough for the Black and Gold.

Ferlin, 24, completed his second professional season with the AHL's Providence Bruins in 2015-16, producing six goals and eight assists for 14 points with 27 penalty minutes and a plus-nine rating in 23 games. He was sidelined for much of last season in Providence by a concussion.

Casto, 24, completed his third full AHL season with Providence in 2015-16, establishing career highs with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points with 47 penalty minutes in 68 games.

Grant, 27, spent the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes organization, splitting time between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate in Springfield. He recorded seven penalty minutes in five games in the NHL, while compiling 11 goals and 31 assists for 42 points with 57 penalty minutes in 69 games in the AHL.  



Haggerty: Bruins say hunger is back, but we must see it on the ice


Haggerty: Bruins say hunger is back, but we must see it on the ice

BRIGHTON – It only amounts to lip service coming in the first few days the Bruins players are simply getting together for informal captain’s practices, but it’s pretty clear the fire is burning brightly after missing the playoffs two years in a row.

For a group that still includes some players that made the playoffs seven seasons in a row, made it to the Cup Finals twice and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011, it feels like that sting of pride is very close to the surface.

Torey Krug wouldn’t even entertain discussion of last season when asked about it following Monday’s skating session at the new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility. David Krejci said he’s officially done talking about winning the Cup five long years ago. Now, it’s about righting the ship for the Bruins, and getting things back moving in a positive, forward progression after moving backwards and sideways over the last two years.

As always, the playmaking Krejci gives a straight, honest take about where the team is on the down side of their Cup years.

“I feel like we’re back to where we started 10 years ago, you know? The teams didn’t make the playoffs, and now we kind of have some new guys. It’s still a good mix with some experienced guys,” said Krejci. “But the hunger, it’s there again. Obviously we haven’t been in the playoffs for a couple of years. It’s exciting times.

“If you go back to 2011 and then to 2013, we were in the Final. But we knew that we had already won two years before. We did try, but you always knew in the back of your mind that you’d already won the Cup. Now, it’s like the Cup is out of the window and that was a long time ago. I’m going to talk about the Cup when I retire, so now we’re all hungry again. We missed the playoffs two years in a row, and it’s a new excitement again. I just can’t wait to get back into it.”

Krejci’s first full season in the NHL was actually the year that the B’s made it back into the postseason in 2007-08, but he was close enough to the organization to see what it was like at the 2006 training camp when a great deal was in flux for the Black and Gold.

It’s not unlike the big changes that the Bruins have seen in the past two years with the hopes that there will start being a payoff in the near future.

It’s exciting for Krejci, in particular, as he should be 100 percent healthy for the first time in three years after surgery on his left hip last spring. A healthy Krejci and Patrice Bergeron will give the Black and Gold their potent 1-2 punch down the middle and there’s also a healthy chip on the shoulder of the B’s defensemen crew after a difficult campaign last year.

Krug admitted as much while brushing off big picture questions about what happened last season, and why this season should be any different for a group of seven defensemen returning from last season’s crew ranked 19th in the league.

“I’m not going to talk about [last year]. We’re moving on. This group will use it as motivation moving forward. With this new practice facility, everybody is excited to get back together and start moving forward,” said Krug. “We have [D-men] pieces in here that maybe people aren’t getting too excited about, but we know what we have in this room. We’ve grown and developed together.

“We know that we’re highly capable of taking whatever is thrown our way. But I know the D-men especially are motivated to prove a lot of people wrong that we’re not ready to compete, and not ready to be a playoff team.”

That’s essentially what it comes down to for the Black and Gold. They can talk about regaining the hunger to compete and utilizing last season’s failures as motivation for this season, but it all amounts to nothing unless they show it on the ice on a consistent basis.

It will be months before everybody truly knows if it’s more than talk from the Bruins and before we learn whether the B’s even have the talent on the roster to truly compete in a difficult, improving Atlantic Division. 

For now, the optimism is running high for the returning Black and Gold players and that registers as something as they slowly ramp up to the start of training camp next month and the season opener on Oct. 13 in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. 


Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility


Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

BRIGHTON – It’s been a summer brimming with anticipation for Bruins players and management alike with the prospect of moving into a new, state-of-the-art practice facility.

The Bruins contingent hosted Jimmy Vesey at their new Warrior Ice Arena home a couple of weeks ago and the B’s players christened the ice by kicking off their informal captain’s practices on Monday morning.

Torey Krug, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid, John-Michael Liles, Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano all hit the ice to work with a local goaltender and went through skating drills for the hour-plus to get the blood pumping. Krejci left the ice after roughly 15 minutes as he recovers from left hip surgery, but was still left excited at the prospect of practicing in the new digs after spending his entire Bruins career with Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington as their practice home.

The arena doesn’t officially open until the Bruins and New Balance hold a grand opening on Sept. 8, but color several Bruins veterans impressed.

“It’s beautiful. It’s great. It’s a little bit different than Wilmington,” said Krejci. “You guys will get a chance to see it next week, but it’s pretty cool.”

The captain’s practices will continue in earnest with more Bruins players joining the group as the calendar gets closer to the start of training camp. The expectation is that all of the B’s skaters will be wholly impressed with the new facility. 

Clearly, it’s got all the bells and whistles of a new rink, and the closer proximity is a bonus for Bruins players that these days live in and around Boston rather than in the distant suburbs.

There's even the distinct possibility in the not-so distant future that the Bruins could start holding game day morning skates at the practice facility rather than at the Garden. It's something already done in Montreal, where the Habs have a similar setup with their practice rink in Brossard, just outside of the city. 

“It’s beautiful. For the guys that have been the scenes and doing all the work in Wilmington all of these years, it’s great for them to be a part of this and move into a new building,” said Krug. “I’m fortunate to be here and be a part of it. That’s exciting.”

Krug joked that being an early arriver at Warrior Arena doesn’t guarantee him one of the big lockers in the dressing room once training camp gets going: “I’m pretty sure Zee [captain Zdeno Chara] will kick me out of whatever stall I picked. It’s obviously exciting to be one of the first guys skating on this ice.”