Chara honored before game, dazzles during it

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Chara honored before game, dazzles during it

BOSTON -- Tuesday night was actually game No. 1,002 for Zdeno Chara.

But since he played the previous two games on the West Coast, the Bruins recognized the feat with a pre-game ceremony before Tuesday's game against the Tampa bay Lightning, that included a visit from his wife and daughter, and gifts from Bruins teammates and the NHL.

"Its obviously very nice to get that recognition and ceremony," said Chara after the game. "Like I said, I very much appreciate it. Its very nice from the NHL, the Boston Bruins organization, from my teammates and everybody that supported me.

"But when that ceremony is over, you have to focus on the game and you just got to be ready because you have to play 60 minutes. Theres no other way to really describe it, Just be ready and play hard the whole game."

And just like the Bruins' captain does every night, Chara --just moments after saying goodbye to his family and the ceremonial gifts -- quickly re-focused and played a more-than-solid 24-plus minutes of hockey, leading the Bruins to a 5-2 win over the Lightning.

Chara finished the game with three assists and was the only player in the game with a plus-3 rating.

"You can take away his three assists, and still look at his game and say he was solid," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "Everything he did was simple, efficient, and he was rock solid tonight. I really liked his game. And to cap it off with a three-point night was nice to see."

Chara didn't just have three assists. He had three of the most meaningful assists in the game.

The trio of helpers came on Boston's first three goals, which included the game-winner by Benoit Pouliot with 8:26 left in regulation.

Chara had the secondary assist on Pouliot's goal. But it was his shot from the point that resulted in Brian Rolston's pass out front, which resulted in a 3-2 Bruins lead.

Chara's second assist on the night came with 4:55 left in the second period, and put the Bruins up 2-1. Chara blasted a shot from the right point, and Dennis Seidenberg cleaned up the juicy rebound at the left post, beating Dwayne Roloson upstairs.

But it was Chara's first assist of the game that was most impressive. Midway through the first period, Chara held the puck at the middle point and decided to skate it deep into the offensive zone on his own. He dangled through several Lightning players, and when he got down to the bottom of the right circle, Chara made a bold decision to take the puck hard to the net, rather than let one rip from afar.

Chara's attempt to stuff it in with force was saved by Roloson. But Shawn Thornton was on the doorstep to flip the rebound upstairs and tie the game at 1-1.

The goal went to Thornton, but it was clear who made the play happen.

"You're always taught when you take it to the net, good things will happen, and they did," said Chara. "We scored on the rebound, and it ended up being a good play.

"Sometimes things just open up for you," added the captain. "I was looking for a chance to ride the blue line, and all of a sudden I had the chance to cut that seam and I took it. And then, I kind of thought, 'Im going to have to shoot the puck right away.' And then another thing opened up and I was kind of excited to pass on shooting and I took it to the net, and sometimes those things just open up for you and you have to take advantage and make the best out of them."

And Chara made the best out of an emotional pre-game ceremony that doesn't always leave you with the proper mindset to have the type of solid performance he had on Tuesday.

"Obviously this was a special night for him, and he wanted to make sure that everything he did was good and positive," said Julien. "And he was a real solid contributor for us tonight."

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mitch Moreland knows he's likely the only new player in Boston's lineup since David Ortiz retired at the end of last season.

He's just not listening to those who say he needs to replace Big Papi's lofty production.

"I try not to hear it because there's no replacing that guy," said the 31-year-old first baseman, who signed a one-year, $5.5-million deal with the Red Sox during the offseason.

"I think it's going to be more of a team effort," he said. "Obviously we picked up two big arms as well, and it's a very balanced club."

After playing his first six-plus seasons in the majors with the Texas Rangers, Moreland is with a new organization for the first time in his career. So far, he said, the move has been smooth.

"They welcomed me from Day One," he said. "Handshakes and hugs right off the bat. It's going to be a lot of fun. You can see why they had so much success last year."

Coming off a subpar 2016 with a .233 batting average, 22 homers and 60 RBI, Moreland tested free agency. He wanted to go to a team that had a good chance at competing for a championship -- like he felt with the Rangers.

"Something that was at the top of my list as a player," he said. "If I was going to be on a team, I wanted a team that had a chance to win. It makes it that much more fun to come to the park every day when something's on the line and you're fighting for a chance to play in the playoffs, fighting to win the division and fighting to win a World Series."

A first-time Gold Glove winner last season, Moreland knows the defending A.L. East champion Red Sox wanted his defensive skills at first to allow Hanley Ramirez to shift to Ortiz's vacated DH spot.

"It gives you a little more confidence," Moreland said. "I take pride in that. That's going to be my main goal, to go out and show what they saw."

A left-handed batter like Ortiz, Moreland knows some people will expect him to fill the void offensively because of which side of the plate he bats from.

"I think it'll be a group effort picking up what will be missing," he said. "There's no replacing that guy."

Manager John Farrell also said the club needs to move on from Ortiz so Moreland and everyone else can relax and focus on their own game.

"David's effect on the lineup was felt by a number of people. We know opponents would game plan for David," Farrell said. "I think it's important for our guys - as we put David out of our mind, in a good way - that it's still a focus on what their strengths are in the strike zone."

The transition may be easy for Moreland so far, but one thing has certainly changed: spending spring training in Florida instead of Arizona.

"Fishing's a lot different than Arizona, so that's nice," he said.

NOTES: "We're getting a firsthand look to why he's been so successful and an elite pitcher," Farrell said after left-hander Chris Sale pitched batting practice. The Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox in an offseason trade for four prospects. They also acquired right-handed, hard-throwing setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee . . . Farrell said righty Steven Wright, who missed the final two months of the season with a shoulder injury, "was unrestricted in his throwing." . . . The Red Sox will have a shorter workout Tuesday with the players association set to talk to the team and the organization's annual charity golf tournament in the afternoon.

Report from the Fort: Trenni and Lou discuss pitching

Report from the Fort: Trenni and Lou discuss pitching

Trenni Kusnierek and Lou Merloni comment on Tyler Thornburg's, Steven Wright's and Drew Pomeranz's work at Red Sox training camp on Monday.