Chara steps to the head of the line

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Chara steps to the head of the line

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Zdeno Chara may finally be rounding into the leader everyone always wanted him to be.

Thats no knock on the 6-foot-9 defenseman and Bruins captain in his fifth year with the team, and his 13th year in the NHL, of course.

Its more a nod to the demands that come along with wearing the C on the Black and Gold sweater of the Spoked B tribe, and the downright crazy expectations of a frothy fan base that hasnt tasted from the Stanley Cup in 39 anguish-filled years.

Chara couldnt just be a sterling leader by example or the hardest worker on the team as hes always been during his All-Star, Norris Trophy caliber career with the Islanders, Senators and Bruins.

Chara had to show fire and emotion in times of need for his team, and learn how to connect with every single member of his hockey club on a greater level than simply showing them how many pull-ups he could do in 60 seconds.

There was an emotional component to the job that Chara always seemed to be searching for, and it was clearly a process. It would seem that in his most challenging NHL season the Bs defenseman finally broke down those walls, and everyone within the organization has taken notice of his evolution as hes battled true adversity all along the way.

Weve been together for both our tenures here. We went to one conference final with Ottawa and lost, so that was a bit of painful memory. We just kind of connected briefly after Game 7 and I could see a little bit of a twinkle in his eye, said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. It was kind of a special moment for me to share with him. I cant say enough about him as a player and his defensive impact on the game.

I think in the Tampa series you saw him try and do a little more offensively on his own and at clutch times. That was -- for me -- him stepping up. His leadership abilities have grown exponentially. I cant say enough about Zee and the impact that he has in the locker room -- and on the ice.

The crowning moment came following the Game 7 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning when Chara finally experienced the victorious glory hes waited for his entire career.

Chara was invited to center ice to accept the Prince of Wales Trophy from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly that signified Bostons Eastern Conference Championship, and his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

This was after taking down the Montreal Canadiens in seven games after that team, that city and that whole region forced Chara through the ringer for his clean hit on Max Pacioretty. This was after a police investigation for a hockey hit deemed a hockey play by the league that polices these sorts of things.

This was after Chara missed Game 2 with a case of severe dehydration that forced his hospitalization and caused him to drop a sickening 10 pounds over a 24-hour period leading up to the game.

This was after Chara blew away the questions about his 0-5 career record in Game 7 leading into this years playoffs with big performances in Game 7 victories over the Habs and Lightning.

It would have been natural for Chara to be thinking about himself when he was called to accept the Prince of Whales Trophy, pondering deeply what the victory meant to his standing both in the league and in the long history of the Bruins organization.

But thats not what happened at all, and it spoke volumes about Charas priorities.

Chara conjured up images of the 2001 New England Patriots when he summoned all of his teammates to crowd around the conference trophy and get a group picture with a mildly surprised Daly.

Why surprise?

Because its not normally done that way in the tradition-beholden NHL.

Chara departed from the norm to include an entire team thats grown incredibly tight over the last four years amid concussions, cheap shots, playoff collapses and a European trip that bonded the squad tightly together.

It was a group gesture that made a lot of people happy up and down the organizational ladder, and revealed just how closely the Bruins have developed into a unit that rises and falls on a united front.

It says a lot about the team. Zees never been there so he goes up there and you always talk about whether you touch the trophy or not. Youre probably thinking about a bunch of different things like Wow, we made it and all this stuff, said Chiarelli. You can tell what was first on his mind Lets get the team up there.

You look at the photo afterwards and its a pretty cool photo. Zee is growing exponentially as a leader. Im certain that he would say also that his support group is very strong. It has been getting stronger as a group. Hes a very effective and very good leader for this team.

Chara was anointed leader because of his role as a captain, but hes been supported by a stalwart leadership group within the Bs dressing room.

Mark Recchi has been a big factor in the Chara evolution as a leader because its given the big defenseman a veteran thats seen everything during his 21 years in the NHL. Chara listened to the 43-year-old from the first day he arrived in Boston via a trade with the Lightning three years ago.

Patrice Bergeron is the emerging force thats becoming a voice just as strong as Chara and Recchi when it comes to leadership, intensity and the commitment to bringing a Cup back to Boston. It was Bergeron and Chara after all that believed so much in the Bruins Way of doing things that they both signed on for lengthy contract extensions before the season commenced in Prague.

That trio is supported fully by Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ference, Tim Thomas and now by Chris Kelly, Shane Hnidy and a burgeoning group of young leaders within the dressing room taking their paces from the vets. Its created the perfect environment of winning inside the Bs dressing room, and Chara has seen it built from the ground up when he arrived in Chiarellis first season.

Its pretty special here, said Chara. Winning Game 7s thats when you know that everybodys buying into it. Everybodys willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes for the win.

We are just showing our desire. We want it bad and for every player in this room and every fan outside of this arena. We are very thankful to the fans and all the people for our support.

Chara has shown it while playing against the Canadiens at much less than 100 percent when he did return from his dehydration episode, and managing to lead the NHL playoff field with a plus-11 while lining up against the best offensive players in the world. Its left little doubt how much of a game-changer Chara is on the ice, and what his standing is within an organization thats boasted some pretty outstanding defensemen in its black and golden history.

It does validate that were filling the holes with the right people and bringing the right organization together. It validates the quality of the management and the leadershipnot just at the top but throughout the organization, said Bs owner Jeremy Jacobs. From the player on the ice, you take Zdeno Chara. His leadership is indispensable. I think the organization from the top to bottom has evolved into a singular objective.

Its taken time and some stunning defeats over the years for that message to be honed into something ready for a Cup-worthy ascension, but Chara has finally reached it this season as a leader still operating at an elite level.

Chiarelli always envisioned what Chara would become before his career was finished in Boston, and big Zee is now that guy forged through the fire of experience and time.

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

Thursday, April 28: Who are the lottery picks?

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Thursday, April 28: Who are the lottery picks?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while giving a thumbs up to “The Good Dinosaur” as quality family viewing.

*TSN Hockey Buddha Bob McKenzie breaks down the players available in the NHL draft lottery and what kind of names teams like the Boston Bruins should expect to be available with the first 14 picks.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynski talks about the World of Cup ads with the ESPN creative people that made them happen. They used the word jarring in something of a positive fashion to describe them. I would use the word “not funny” for Reg Carling, the fictional character created for the ads. If they were trying to feature the personality of NHL players in those ads, I think they missed the mark. It’s not really a big deal in the final scheme of things, but it doesn’t make for a good first step in drawing hockey fans back to the four letter network.  

*Good luck to Cam Tucker, a hockey writer based out of Vancouver that appears to have been one of the latest to be downsized in our industry.

*Dennis Bernstein has some thoughts, facts, analysis and theories surrounding the Los Angeles Kings, who have a long time to think about their first-round exit from the playoffs.

*Bruce Garrioch has some info on Ottawa’s long range plan to move to a needed downtown arena and that being the blueprint for most other Canadian cities.

*Tracey Myers has a dilemma for the Blackhawks: Andrew Shaw wants to stay, but the question is whether the Blackhawks can afford him?

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Bruce Boudreau lamenting the tough Game 7 loss for the Anaheim Ducks to the Nashville Predators. The loss may cost Boudreau his job, and will see a lot of new blood in the West with Chicago, Los Angeles and Anaheim now all out of the postseason.

*For something completely different: how can you say “no” to a tour of the world’s most magnificent treehouses.

Bruins have slim chance at No. 1 in NHL Draft lottery Saturday

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Bruins have slim chance at No. 1 in NHL Draft lottery Saturday

The Bruins will know a great deal more in a couple of days about their prospects for NHL Draft weekend in Buffalo this June.

The NHL will hold its annual draft lottery in Toronto on Saturday night for those teams outside the playoffs that hold first-round picks or those shrewd enough to have secured a first-rounder and still have reached the playoffs. 

The Bruins will have two first-round picks regardless of what happens: they hold their own lottery-eligible selection along with the first-round pick from the San Jose Sharks sent to Boston last summer in the trade for goaltender Martin Jones. The Sharks are still alive in the postseason, so the B’s second selection will be a late first-rounder.

The Bruins were the last NHL team eliminated from playoff contention, so they hold the slimmest odds of securing the first overall pick with a 1 percent chance in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.

It’s too bad because the kind of game-breaking talent available at the top of the draft is exactly what the Black and Gold franchise needs after trading away top-10 first-round picks in Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton the past three years.

The Bruins will have roughly the same odds for the second (1.1 percent chance) and third overall picks (1.3 percent chance) should they miss out on No. 1, but the chances are still slim at they will pick anywhere but the same exact 14th overall pick where they selected Jake DeBrusk last season. Should they get a selection in the top three, the Bruins would be looking at big-time center Matthews, and a pair of Finnish wingers in Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, along with Matthew Tkachuk (son of Keith Tkachuk and cousin to Jimmy Hayes).

The highest rated D-man on the board is Sarnia Sting blueliner Jakob Chycrun, who is a player the Bruins would need to trade up for, a la their attempt at Noah Hanifin last year. The Bruins will have assets to potentially make that happen, but we all know how that worked out last season for Don Sweeney when a big part of “the plan” was moving up to nab one of last year’s blue chip D-men in the draft.   

Hopeful Bruins fans can try their luck with the NHL Draft Lottery Simulator online, but fair warning that you won’t see the Spoked ‘B’ come up very much while hashing out the order of the top three overall picks for late June at the First Niagara Center. 

 

Pastrnak suiting up for World Championships run with Czechs

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Pastrnak suiting up for World Championships run with Czechs

Young Bruins winger David Pastrnak wasn’t 100 percent sure he was going to play in the IIHF World Championships, but it now appears he will taking part in the tournament for the Czech Republic entry competing in Russia. According to Twitter account for NHL reporter Zdenek Matejovsky, Pastrnak will play on a line with Czech Republic team captain Tomas Plekanec and fellow young winger Roman Cervenka.

Pastrnak finished his NHL season with a flourish scoring three goals in his last five games after battling injuries and taking a detour trip to the World Junior tournament in the middle of the season. The 19-year-old produced 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Black and Gold when it was all said and done, and finished the year playing in a top line spot with David Krejci and Loui Eriksson.

Pastrnak is also expected to take part in the World Cup of Hockey tournament for the Czech Republic during NHL training camp amidst a growing international hockey resume for the highly skilled Bruins youngster. The hope is that the top competition at the World Championships and the World Cup could segue into a major NHL leap forward for Pastrnak in his pivotal third season in Boston at a position (right wing) where the Bruins really needed more production this season.

Krejci would have also been an automatic choice for the Czech World Championship team, but he’s instead scheduled to undergo surgery on his left hip for a nagging issue that’s bothered him on and off over the last two seasons.