Haggerty: Chara plays his game despite criticism

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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

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.