Haggerty: Chara plays his game despite criticism

191545.jpg

Haggerty: Chara plays his game despite criticism

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON There was an unmistakable round of applause 34 seconds into the game when Zdeno Chara hopped over the boards, and an even louder positive reaction from the crowd 10 seconds later when the Bs captain first touched the puck.

Both were reassuring gestures from the home crowd that they still appreciated their 6-foot-9 Slovakian Tower of Terror. The cheers were followed by a spontaneous Chara! Chara! Chara! chant that gained in volume and enthusiasm.

Chara responded to the crowd adulation with a pair of assists and his typically well-rounded 25:54 of ice time in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres, but there was a moment that held much more meaning to both Chara and his teammates.

I thought he handled himself well today, said Claude Julien. With everything thats going on it hasnt been easy on anybody. We keep mentioning that we understand what the other guy is going through, but our guy did not deliberately do anything.

"So when you dont do something deliberate and you understand some people are accusing you of it, its not easy to deal with. The way he handled himself tonight, he deserves a lot of credit.

There was a telling moment during the nights first shift, though, as Chara was being showered with love by the home crowd, that was so comfortingly typical of the punishingly physical player. Chara sped after Buffalo offensive playmaker Jason Pominville as he carried the puck toward the corner, and the Bs defenseman continued with the play after the Sabres forward quickly released the puck.

Hes not going to change the way he plays, said Johnny Boychuk. Hes a big man and hes our leader. We dont want to see him change his game. I would never want to see him change his game because I like seeing that physical play of his.

Chara finished his check with a flourish and belted Pominville exactly the same way he has in more than 900 games before last nights tilt. It's the way hell continue doling out intimidating body shots for many more years to come.

He wasnt disheartened or discouraged by the Montreal catcalls, the ridiculous threats of police prosecution for a hockey hit deemed clean on every single level, or the legions of hockey voices like Max Pacioretty, Steve Montador and Daniel Sedin recklessly intimating that Charas turnbuckle hit was by design.

Apparently Montador knows whats in Charas heart and mind (courtesy WEEI.com) despite serving as nothing more than a glorified punching bagSteve Butabi look-a-like during his two-month stint in Boston at the end of the 2008-09 season.

I dont see any reason to change my game or my style of play, said Chara. Im going to continue to play physical and play hard. Thats my game and I dont see any reason to change.

In Charas case, hes fortunate that both the league and the majority of his fellow NHLers dont want to change, either.

Chara put all the criticism aside and played a solid, wrinkle-free hockey game against a highly motivated Sabres group skating at a very high level. He was more than happy to simply talk about hockey again.

Thats obviously one of those things I love to do, said Chara. Playing hockey is obviously my most important thing in life. To be on the ice thats for sure the most important.

I very much appreciated the crowd ovation and Im very thankful for that. It feels for sure great to be home, and to get that support from the fans.

The play on the ice was highlighted by Charas involvement in the second and third goals of the night including a clever rush toward the cage on the right side that attracted Ryan Miller away from the crease and opened the net up for Mark Recchi on an easy put-back score.

But the day was about much more than a single game despite the playoff ramifications. It was more about Chara reconnecting with his game after very nearly having it taken away via suspension. Then it was about learning afterward that perhaps the Montreal firestorm was losing a little bit of its steam with Pacioretty unwilling to agree with any police charges, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman essentially telling Air Canada -- which threatened to pull all its sponsorships -- to go pound sand if they werent happy with the league.

Chara knew the potential police investigation was far-fetched, but theres little doubt the Bruins defenseman wont be feeling all that safe and protected the next time he has to play at the crazed, frenzied Bell Centre a scenario that could very easily play out in the first round of the playoffs if Boston and Montreal face off against each other.

The towering All-Star defenseman hopes to gets a chance to square things away with Pacioretty sooner rather than later once hes ready to talk things over, and Chara can explain exactly what did or didnt happen during their violent crash.

Its just a nice gesture, said Chara when asked about Pacioretty throwing cold water on criminal charges for a hockey play gone wrong. Its something that for sure shouldnt go that far. Its something that is very unfortunate. I keep repeating that. I feel bad about it.

You dont want to see anybody get hurt and especially in that case, upper body and neck and head. We all feel bad. It doesnt matter, rivalry or not a rivalry, its something that we all want to see the guy recover. Im going to try to reach out with him and have a talk with him: either over the phone or to see him in person. But I totally understand and respect that now he probably needs time and space and to be around his closest family. Im sure when the time is right, Ill probably reach out and talk and somehow connect.

So now its clear that both Chara and Pacioretty have moved on from the turnbuckle incident, and picked up the pieces left in its wake. The Bs Captain is simply trying to lead his team toward the playoffs without any more distractions coming off three straight losses, and Pacioretty is starting the long road to recovery from a fractured neck and severe concussion stemming from the hellish collision.

Now that the players have moved on, perhaps its time for the fans, media, fellow players, police and NHL watchdogs to do exactly the same thing until the next big league emergency pops for a public roasting.

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

Carlo "ready for everything" as he looks to build on strong camp

bruins-brandon-carlo.jpg

Carlo "ready for everything" as he looks to build on strong camp

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- Brandon Carlo enjoyed about as good a game as one could possibly hope for in his preseason debut earlier this week.

The 19-year-old was smooth and poised with the puck on his stick, and picked up an assist when Danton Heinen redirected his point blast to the back of the net. He was also a little dirty, mean and nasty in his own end throwing bodies around in front of the net, and at one point taking a penalty call when he was a little overzealous throwing an opponent down in the crease.

So the 6-foot-5 prospect gave a pretty good glimpse into what he can offer at his best, but the youngster also knows it will keep getting more and more difficult as the games get closer to the end of the preseason.

“In that first game I felt like I was doing a lot of really good things. I was moving the puck well, playing well and doing all of the things that I wanted to do. So I’m really excited to build on that opportunity. I feel like I started myself off well, but it’s about building throughout the camp to reach your main goal at the end,” said Carlo, who may be in line for top pair duties again on Friday night after skating in that role in his first game. “Throughout camp I got three games last year, and I noticed that with each game the action got harder and faster. So I’m ready for that. I feel like it’s going to be a lot of fun out there. I’m ready for the speed, and I’m ready for the physicality. I’m ready for everything.”

Carlo will again team with veteran puck-mover John-Michael Liles on Friday night in a road exhibition game against the Detroit Red Wings, and both he and the Bruins will be looking for him to build on that first outing’s promise. If the youngster can keep it up then the Bruins will have a really difficult choice on their hands with seven D-men already signed to NHL contracts ahead of the young prospect types, so Carlo would have to displace somebody.

But that’s another problem for another day, and will require young Carlo to keep impressing on people , and being extremely hard to play against, when the Bruins take the ice against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night.

Bruins ‘expect better effort’ tonight in Detroit with cuts looming

bruins_red_wings_092816.jpg

Bruins ‘expect better effort’ tonight in Detroit with cuts looming

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins had a pretty humbling experience hosting the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night when they were outhustled, outworked and vastly outscored in a lopsided, 5-1 loss at TD Garden.

So, they’re clearly looking for a much crisper, cleaner and competitive result at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night for the first road exhibition game in a rematch with the Wings. Adam McQuaid had a rough night in his first preseason game as the most experienced guy on the D-men group iced that night, so he’s looking for a better performance personally and team-wide against Detroit this time around.

“It goes without saying that our last game was pretty bad from top to bottom,” said McQuaid. “There are a lot of areas to improve on. Guys were working hard at times, but the battle, and getting in on guys and battling, you have to make sure you’re on top of them when you defend quick players like that. Yesterday was a good up-tempo [practice] and guys were battling with each other, and hopefully that carries over into [the game].”

Helping matters will be a much more experienced group as the solid pairing of John-Michael Liles and Brandon Carlo will be added to the mix and Joe Morrow will be making the trip as well. Up front, Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey will be playing in their second consecutive games after generating some decent offense against Detroit. They will have 19-year-old speedy Zach Senyshyn added to their mix.

“The last game we had a bit of a hard time with our breakouts, so we worked on that a little bit,” said Spooner. “I don’t think we were very happy with how we played. The compete level, especially when he got down 4-0, I don’t think it was high enough. So we talked about, and we expect a better effort for sure.”

Young prospects Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik will also be in the mix with Riley Nash and Dominic Moore bringing experience down the middle of the ice. Perhaps that combined with the growing intensity in each succeeding preseason game will pull a better result out of a group facing the first cuts of training camp following the two games this weekend.