Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 with Zdeno Chara

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Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 with Zdeno Chara

More of Mary Paoletti's interview with Zdeno Chara:

You seem like someone who takes comfort in control. Are there times out there when you feel like you're out of control on the ice? That a situation is out of control?
I don't feel that way. There are times when we are losing games or when the opposite team is playing really well . . . there are parts of the season when you're going to lose games and you aren't playing your best hockey . . . but never I feel like we are -- or I am -- out of control of the situation. You're going to win some and you're going to lose some and you're going to try to win as many as possible and to win more than you lose, but . . . I would maybe correct that. Maybe not as being a control person. I'm a very organized person. I like being organized and to know what we are doing and how to get better. I'm a disciplined person.

I've noticed is that you're often handling the blade of your stick...you're doing it almost every time a play dies. What is that? Is that just a habit?
Smiles It may be a little bit of a habit. I don't like to have frozen snow on my blade. Or ripped tape. I just don't know why, I immediately have to cut it out or get rid of that frozen snow or ice. It really changes the direction of the way you pass and move the puck.

In April of 2009 you were asked what your greatest career moment was and you said you hadn't had it yet. Can there be a greater moment in your career than winning a Stanley Cup? What would satisfy someone like you who's so driven?
For sure, winning the Stanley Cup would be top of the list before leaving hockey, right? Winning Norris trophy was really, really a nice feeling. It was great. It is something that, even if it is personal or individual, I feel like the team helped me. It's such a great satisfaction that all that hard work paid off. Maybe some people are not believing me being the right captain or they are questioning my leadership. I want to prove them wrong. I think I am the right captain.

You're going to be, what, 330 or so kilometers from where you grew up when you're in Prague? What does it mean to be so close to home?
It means a lot. I'll be nervous for sure, playing in front all my friends and family live. But at the same time, I already did that. But it's going to be a little bit crazy I think, there's might be meetings with a lot of my friends and family. I have to make sure it doesn't affect my rink time or the time I spend with the team. It's going to be exciting, something different.
Your schedule is crazy. You have to focus on the Coyotes but at the same time you have all these other things going on . . . family, friends, etc.
I'm going to try to make as much time as I can for them, but in a way that doesn't affect anything. If I have some time, yeah, I'll see them for half-an-hour, an hour. But I just got back, I saw them, what, a month ago? Two months ago? I just got back, so, I think they should be happy with the time I can give.

So tell me something about you. People ask you stuff all the time but you never get a chance to say anything unprompted.
Laughs I don't know. You'd have to ask me. I don't know what to tell ya' . . . Pauses Yeah. You'd have to ask me because I don't know where to begin.

All right. What's good for you right now? What makes you happy? I know you're a very disciplined guy and training makes you happy . . . blah blah blah, we've heard that before . . .
A few things. Being healthy is number one: I'm happy when I'm healthy. Nothing really bothers me or my family when we're healthy. I'm happy when we are winning. I'm happy when . . . long pause . . . I don't see any big changes, bad changes with what's going on in the world . . . like when there's a leak in oil. There's so much bad stuff happening. When none of that's happening it makes me happy.

What sacrifices have you made?
Well, I made a lot of my sacrifices when I was quite young. When all my friends from school, or even the teams I played on went out, had a good time, went to movies, went to playgrounds or whatever, I stayed home and I worked out, I went for a run, I went on my bike . . . So, that fun part that they had, I didn't. But I spent a lot of that time trying to get better. And, believe me, now I love it. I love that I can do what I love. And now when I meet with friends they wish they had sacrificed as much as I did, or anybody else. Now they have to get up at six in the morning and work 'til four in the afternoon at jobs they don't love. They missed their train. Now it's gone. It's one of those things with growing up. You get to choose what you want to do. I was very lucky, I guess, in the way that my dad was an athlete and he helped me work out when I was very young. Otherwise it would be too late. But now I don't really take it as much as sacrifice. I take it as, that's my job and that's what I do. You can be complaining about it or you can be excited about it.

From what I've read about you, it sounds like you had impressive maturity at a young age. When you were young, coaches told you you shouldn't play hockey and you had said something like, "a growing guy needs time to adjust to his body." How did you know that at age 14?
I didn't. I found that out later on. I think that sometimes coaches, they only see guys who are scoring goals -- which is fine, naturally, it's what you always like is players that are very skilled who will perform for you -- but especially when I was younger, they didn't realize I was still growing, I was still getting taller and taller, and my body had to fill in with muscle and I had to learn coordination and all that. And it took some time and they didn't give it to me. So I had to leave and I had to go where they gave me enough time. And they didn't give it to me back home so I had to leave to another country. And I was 18 and I was living on my own, which wasn't easy. But being in a different country at 18 and living totally on your own . . . there was no adults, there was no somebody I was living with, I was totally on my own. I had one bedroom apartment and they gave me some money and said, 'Take care of yourself.' So, that's when it hits you. That's when it hits you that you have to really mature, it's your job. You can't be a kid anymore. It was such a big change . . . buying groceries, you have to cook for yourself, laundry smiling, laughing, eyes wide . . . clearly a big deal you were like, "Oh my God!" At 18 you were like, 'This is so hard.' But you get used to it and that's when really you have to mature because, again, I was going from a Junior to a men's team. And even the conversations in the locker room, it was so different, there was no like, 'Hey, uh, something I don't know . . . '

'What are you doing this weekend?'
Yeah! It was like 'Hey, my family, my kids' and you're like 'Wha-wha-what?' All of the sudden these conversations, there was this different perspective and it was so different.

Do you think back to that time a lot?
Smiling Yeah! Yeah.

What do you think you took away from that besides responsibility?
Exhales deeply Well, take care of myself, most of all. Up to that time your parents are taking care of you . . . cooking for you most of the time, doing your laundry, and all that stuff. And all of a sudden, you know, most of all it's taking care of yourself and learn to talk like an adult. If you want to talk to the coach you do it yourself. It's like straightforward 1-on-1 with the coach or with the GM. So yeah, you had to know how to have conversations on different levels and be an adult.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.