Notes: Chara makes a statement


Notes: Chara makes a statement

By JoeHaggerty

BOSTON Zdeno Chara has been waiting almost three weeks to answer all of the critics, and Montreal persecutors, since he knocked Max Pacioretty into a treacherous Bell Centre stanchion.

That much was pretty evident right out of the chute in the first period as Chara assisted on two of Bostons goals against their bitter rivals and then dumped both Mathieu Darche and Andrei Kostitsyn in one menacing shift before the first 20 minutes were up.

That started a three-assist, plus-3 evening for Chara against Montreal, and allowed the 6-foot-9 defenseman to take No. 1 Star honors when everything was said and done in a 7-0 drubbing of the Canadiens.

There have been times in the past when Chara and some of his Bruins teammates would get so emotionally wound up prior to a big game that it would detract from their performance. But that didnt happen this time around.

Instead Mark Recchi stirred things up on Wednesday to take some of the media fury away from Chara leading up to the Habs game, and the big blueliner responded with one of his best games of the season.

Its always talk, but I was really focusing on the game on the ice. That was my first priority, said Chara. Obviously we all knew that this was a huge game, not just from what happened the past few weeks, but in the standings as well.

So guys played really hard and showed a lot of character in this room. A lot of guys stepped up in their games and played huge. And obviously Timmy Tim Thomas had a shutout. We had big contributions from the third and fourth line, our power play was really solid, moved the puck well. We killed all the penalties. We had everything going what we were tried to looking for in this game.

While Chara has had all manner of Montreal fandom sideshows going on around him, it never affected his game on the ice in any discernible way. Chara has 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in his last seven games since Pacioretty-gate and is a plus-8 over that span of time while waiting for a chance to redeem himself and for the rest of his teammates to redeem themselves against a Habs team hanging around in the standings.

Chara made a statement with his game on the ice against Montreal, and his teammates showed just how much support theyre willing to lend their captain when things get a little rocky.

He didnt stray away from his game, said Johnny Boychuk. He just blocked everything out and wanted to play his game, and that is what he did. He has contributed a lot.

Everybody wanted to win it for him, and they wanted to win it for the team.

With the final regular-season game against the Habs over and done after the seven-goal annihilation, Chara and his Bruins can now finally turn the page on Pacioretty and the Bell Centre stanchions for the time being. Who knows what will happen if the two teams meet in the playoffs and the Habs forward is ready to return to the lineup, but for now life goes on for Chara and the Bs after theyve completely circled the wagons just prior to the postseason.

Tim Thomas collected his 25th career shutout and career-best eighth shutout this season against the Canadiens on Thursday night, and amazingly had his first shutout ever against the Canadiens. Thomas stats against the Habs arent even close to his best over the course of his career, but he was close to his best in the second period while turning away legitimate Montreal bids by Travis Moen and Brian Gionta.

I didnt realize it was my first. I didnt know that. Having said that, its the 25th of my career, and its a memorable one, said Thomas. Ive been on the other end of the spectrum over the years, playing against Montreal. Its a nice victory Ill remember forever.

The playoffs are getting close for both Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell after each forward spent multiple seasons without the playoffs to start each of their respective careers with the Florida Panthers. It was fitting that each player scored a pair of goals in Thursday nights 7-0 victory, and that each player is enjoying some of their best results of the season with the much-anticipated playoffs looming.

Unfortunately, I had to watch a lot of playoff games on TV the past seven years, said Campbell. It was excited for me and Nathan to be involved in a game like this. It was the closest we have been to a playoff game.

The Bs fourth-line center also had the rare 3-on-5 short-handed goal in the third period against a Montreal bunch that had already packed it in for the night, his 12th goal of the season for Boston. That means Campbell is only a single goal away from matching his career-high of two years, and can put the rare short-handed score on his penalty-killing resume.

Sure its not easy, its not easy to score five on four. I guess I caught them, those two guys had been out for a little bit, said Campbell. It just worked out for me. I was able to flip it to myself. You dont see those goals very often. It was nice to get that.

The Bruins Thursday signed Boston University junior David Warsofsky. He will report to the Providence Bruins for the rest of the season.

The 20-year-old defenseman appeared in 34 games this season for BU with 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) and 46 PIM. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound native of Marshfield was originally selected by the St. Louis Blues in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 2008 draft. He was acquired by the Bruins last June 26 from the St. Louis Blues for Vladimir Sobotka.

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

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

So, what do the Bruins do now amidst a three-game tailspin that could easily devolve into a six- or seven-game losing stretch if they’re not too careful?

The goaltending has been predictably porous with Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin out of commission with injuries. The Black and Gold allowed 11 goals in the past two games despite Zane McIntyre battling in tough conditions at Madison Square Garden. The bottom line is McIntyre and Malcolm Subban don’t look ready for NHL prime time and there are legitimate questions as to whether Subban ever will become an NHL goalie.

Beyond that, the Bruins defense has been downright atrocious just as the goaltending situation has deteriorated. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug have struggled individually and as a pairing that the B’s coaching staff had hoped would complement Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo in Boston’s top-four. McQuaid is a minus-3 in his first two games back from an upper body injury and Krug is a minus-4 with a surprising zero points in his first seven games this season.

In fact, every Bruins defenseman not named Chara or Carlo is a combined minus-16 on the season and, of that group, only currently-in-the-AHL rookie Rob O’Gara has a positive plus/minus for the season. Both the defensive zone coverage and the compromised ability to break the puck out of their own end have been problematic and Boston’s opponents have enjoyed way too easy of a time getting into the slot area for juicy scoring chances.

In other words, the defense looks very much like last season for the Bruins with – surprise, surprise – nearly the same cast of characters returning from that subpar crew.

Then there’s the forward group, which has enjoyed great production from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand in the early going and from David Backes before his elbow injury that was at least partially caused by the hard miles the 32-year-old brawny center has logged over the years. 

Patrice Bergeron has just one point in four games since returning from a lower body injury and opposing defenses in recent games have been able to key on that top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak while mostly neutralizing them. 

That’s because the other Bruins forward lines are doing nothing offensively from a production or puck possession standpoint. Sure, Austin Czarnik had his first NHL goal Wednesday night against the Rangers and Dominic Moore has a couple of goals for a fourth line that’s been decent for Boston this season.

But David Krejci has no goals and three points in seven games with a minus-4 rating while looking slow and tentative coming back from hip surgery, Ryan Spooner is off to a slow start bouncing between wing and center and the third line winger combo of Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes have zero points and a ghastly combined minus-14 rating on the season.

So, basically the Black and Gold have nothing to hang their hat on with the goaltending, the defensemen and the forwards all working at far less than full capacity right now, and that’s making them hockey road kill for opponents. To make matters worse, the Bruins find themselves in the middle of a six-game stretch where they’re playing quality teams that made the playoffs last season, and can expose all of their weak spots.

A prolonged losing streak could knock the Bruins far out of the playoff picture over the next few weeks and leave them more than a handful of points out of the postseason cut by Thanksgiving. Once that happens, the odds would be against the Bruins turning things around and there would zero margin of error for a team that needs leeway based on the glaring roster weaknesses.

So, what are the Bruins to do right now?

There’s not much they can do aside from simply play better, hope that Backes and Rask can return rather quickly and avoid buckling and quitting in games like they did against the Wild and Rangers over the past few days. The Bruins will try to ramp Rask up potentially for this weekend against the Red Wings in Detroit and perhaps that will be enough time for his reported hamstring and groin issues to have healed up.

But if not, the Bruins will need to look on the goaltending market for possible answers rather than asking rookie goalies to thrive behind a struggling, substandard defensive group. Ondrej Pavelec out in Winnipeg would be too expensive in terms of cap hit and there may not be a chance to snag Mike Condon on waivers from Pittsburgh as the Penguins look like they want to hold onto the Massachusetts native with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury also in the fold.

That leaves the Bruins with a number of retread goalie options like Kari Ramo, Kevin Poulin, Ray Emery, Dan Ellis and Yann Danis, who might have to become a reality if Rask suffers a dreaded setback in the coming days. Bringing in a veteran goalie with NHL experience certainly makes some sense on paper if things are left to Subban and McIntyre, but the bottom line is that Boston will continue to resemble an imploding hockey club until some of their other deep-seated issues are fully addressed.

Gerry Cheevers isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, and if he did, he’d smartly walk back out rather than get hung out to dry by a Bruins team that’s playing embarrassingly poorly in front of a couple of young goalies that need their best.  

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both.