Bruins: Zdeno Chara
On Friday, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien wanted to put to rest the notion that Chara appeared tired when the Bruins' season ended Wednesday as the Montreal Canadiens eliminated Boston from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"He's far from being dead," Julien said. "He's very much alive and in very good shape."
"[Chara] is a world-class defender, and he played a good series but not a great series," Chiarelli said. "Was he tired? I didn't think he was tired. He may have looked to you that he was tired, but he's a big, tall, long guy, and those strides, when they get going, it doesn't always look like he's fast. Montreal, they have the smaller forwards that buzz around, and I think all our defenseman had some difficulties."
At the start of the season, Julien and Chiarelli explained they had a plan in place to manage Chara's ice time so he would be fresh once the playoffs arrived. Part of the idea was moving him from the point position on the power play to the front of the net so he would not have to skate back and retrieve pucks all the time. Overall, Chara still averaged 25 minutes per game, and it didn't help when fellow defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid were lost for the season due to injury.
Julien was questioned numerous times throughout the season on the topic of Chara's ice time. On Friday, the coach said he felt the media was blowing the subject out of proportion. Chara is 37 and has played 1,273 career games in the NHL, including playoffs. With the exception of a finger injury on his left hand, Chara, Julien and Chiarelli all say the captain has plenty left in the tank.
"Anybody who thinks he was tired at the end, you're wrong," Julien said. "He wasn't tired and he was fresh and we shouldn't underestimate Zdeno because of his age, because he's a real fine-tuned athlete and he's capable of taking a lot. He takes good care of himself."
Chara did not want to discuss his injury, saying it would sound like he's making excuses.
"I felt fine, physically and mentally," Chara said. "Obviously, losing Dennis and Adam throughout the regular season maybe put more of a load on certain guys, and for sure maybe even on me. But it's not something that we were not handling, or we were getting caught off guard. It's just the way it happens sometimes. You lose guys throughout the season, and you have to pick up more minutes. It was a great chance for our guys to step up and play well, and they did play very well."
Chara isn't getting any younger, but he doesn't believe his age is an issue. The Bruins will likely attempt to manage his ice time again next season, but it's too soon for him to think about it.
Part of the reason the Bruins lost in the second round of the playoffs was due to Seidenberg's absence with a knee injury. For the majority of the regular season, Seidenberg is paired with another partner, but once the playoffs arrive, it's normal for him and Chara to become a pair. When that happens, they usually shut down the opposition's top lines. Both players are under contract for the next three seasons.
When asked what it would be like without Chara in the lineup, Seidenberg said: "I don't want to think about it because we have a number of years [left], so there's no reason to even think about it."
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has the best vantage point behind Chara. The veteran defenseman has been a valuable presence on the ice, and Rask doesn't see that changing anytime soon.
"Well, he's not going to get younger, but he works so hard to stay in shape that I don't think the conditioning is going to be an issue," Rask said. "But when your body gets older, he can't be logging 30 minutes a night five years from now, obviously. Maybe he has to realize that playing less minutes might be [to] his advantage at some point. That's going to be tough for him because, knowing the person he is, he wants to be out there the whole time, but I think it's good to have these young D and them learning from him and growing into a role that Z doesn't have to play half an hour, 35 minutes every night. He can trust five other guys out there."
Part of that young core of defensemen is Dougie Hamilton. In his first full, 82-game season after a lockout-shortened 2012-13, the 20-year-old defenseman showed vast improvements in all aspects of the game. It was evident that he could be the type of player to dominate at both ends of the ice, and being partnered with Chara will only help Hamilton's development.
"It's a lot of fun and real important for me to learn from him," Hamilton said. "It started last year when I first got here, even the year before in my first [training] camp, when I was paired with him. I think we're going to continue to develop together, and hopefully I can continue to get better and make it easier for him so he doesn't have to carry me all season like he did. It'll be fun to keep moving forward and learning from him."
There's an image on the wall outside the Bruins locker room at TD Garden. It's a picture of Zdeno Chara hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head in 2011. The Bruins came close to achieving that goal in 2013 but lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals. This season, Boston was the odds-on favorite to win, but the Bruins lost in the second round to the Canadiens.
With the window beginning to close on his wonderful career, it's fair to wonder if Chara will ever hoist the Stanley Cup again for the Bruins.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien will hold their season-ending news conference Friday afternoon at TD Garden, after meeting with all the players and conducting annual exit meetings.
With the majority of this group remains under contract, Chiarelli should have a relatively quiet summer. Veteran forwards Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton are unrestricted free agents. Two trade-deadline acquisitions, defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter, are also UFAs, as is backup goaltender Chad Johnson.
Restricted free agents include forwards Reilly Smith and Jordan Caron, along with defensemen Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski.
Here are 10 issues the Bruins must resolve during the offseason:
2. What happens with Thornton? The veteran pugilist has wants to remain in Boston and close out his career with the Bruins. Thornton turns 37 on July 23 and has been a mainstay on the team's energy line. His reputation took a hit this season when he was suspended for 15 games for an incident involving the Penguins' Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7. Then, during the second-round series against the Canadiens, Thornton was fined for spraying water on Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban. To remain with the Bruins, Thornton will probably have to settle for a one-year deal.
3. Trade for a top-four defenseman? When veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg tore both his ACL and MCL on Dec. 27, Chiarelli knew he would need to add to the team's blue line via trade. The GM attempted to pull off a couple of deals to acquire a veteran defenseman before the trade deadline, but nothing major came to fruition, other than claiming Potter off waivers from Edmonton and acquiring Meszaros in a minor trade with Philadelphia. It wasn't enough, and the Bruins' inexperience on defense was one of the reasons Boston lost to Montreal. The Bruins could package Bartkowski, prospect Ryan Spooner and a draft pick to acquire a veteran D-man. At the deadline, it was rumored Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler, 27, was atop the Bruins' wish list, but the deal imploded, according to reports. If the Bruins are that impressed with the blueliner's ability, it's possible Chiarelli could revisit that trade option this summer. Either way, the Bruins need another veteran presence on the blue line.
4. Can inexperienced blueliners improve? While Dougie Hamilton made strides in his first full season in the NHL, Bartkowski and Krug experienced more growing pains. Bartkowski began the season as the team's seventh D-man, but because of injuries, he finished as a top-four defenseman by default. He struggled in the playoffs, especially in the second round against the Canadiens. Chiarelli has attempted to trade Bartkowski in the past and it could happen this summer. Krug's presence on the power play was one reason why the Bruins finished with the No. 3-ranked unit in the league during the regular season. Defensively, his game ebbed and flowed.
6. Where does McQuaid fit? When healthy, Adam McQuaid is a force. But he has been dealing with different issues the last couple of years and recently had surgery on his right ankle. He suffered what was described as a quad injury on Jan. 19 and missed the remainder of the season. He was limited to 30 games this season. McQuaid has one year left on his current deal worth $1.8 million. The emergence of defenseman Kevan Miller, who plays a similar game to McQuaid's, makes the veteran's status unclear if he remains injury-prone.
7. Figuring out a way to preserve Chara: Captain Zdeno Chara looks tired. At 37, it's understandable to wonder how much he has left in the tank. At the start of the season, Julien and Chiarelli explained they would try to find a way to keep the 6-foot-9, 255-pound defenseman fresh. Moving him from the point to the front of the net on the power play was one attempt to save his legs. He still averaged 25 minutes per game, but how much longer can he keep up that pace and still be effective? Chara still has three years remaining on his contract.
Chris Kelly has been plagued by injuries. He was limited to 57 games this season because of a broken right fibula. He returned to the lineup in late January, but suffered another undisclosed injury and missed the final three games of the regular season. It was described as back spasms, but the third-line winger never returned to the ice and missed the postseason. In his absence, the Bruins recalled, on separate occasions, forwards Justin Florek and Matt Fraser. Both played well in the playoffs, which were an important development experience for them. Kelly has two years left on his current deal, $3.5 million for next season and $2.5 million in 2015-16. Chiarelli has a strong relationship with Kelly, dating to their respective tenures with the Ottawa Senators, so it's unlikely the GM moves the veteran forward this summer.
9. Who backs up Tuukka? For the second consecutive offseason, Chiarelli will need to figure out whether to re-sign Tuukka Rask's backup. Chad Johnson accomplished exactly what the organization was looking for from its backup goaltender. He finished with a 17-4-3 record, a 2.10 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in 27 games. Johnson is a UFA, and based on his success, he should receive a raise from his $600,000 deal with Boston. The Bruins also have prospects Malcolm Subban and Niklas Svedberg in Providence. Svedberg played one game for the Bruins this season and earned a victory. Johnson would be a solid choice to re-sign.
10. Time's up? Jordan Caron spent the majority of the season watching from press level as the team's 13th forward. When he did play, mostly on the third and fourth lines, he wasn't bad, but moving forward it doesn't appear there's room for him on the roster. Caron is a restricted free agent and Chiarelli could find a way to move him this summer. The 23-year-old former first-rounder has not lived up to expectations, but he's still young and could use a change of scenery.
Chara, who has been a Norris finalist six times, won the award in 2009, finished second in 2004 and third in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
The 6-foot-9 Bruins captain, who is considered the best shutdown defenseman in the NHL, had 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 77 games during the regular season. He posted a plus-25 rating, ranking seventh among NHL defensemen, and averaged 25 minutes on ice per game.
Chara joins teammates Patrice Bergeron (Selke) and Tuukka Rask (Vezina) as nominees for this season’s awards.
Like Bergeron and Rask, Chara is appreciative of the nomination, but he’s focused on a bigger prize -- the Stanley Cup.
“It’s obviously a huge honor,” Chara said. “It’s one of those things you’re very proud of. It’s something you need to have the whole team working toward the same direction and working together. It’s a reflection of the whole season, having a strong and steady season as a team, and that’s why we have a number of guys nominated, but I’m very humbled. It’s a huge honor to be nominated again.”
Chara said he understands he’s not the type of player to produce highlight-reel plays on the offensive side of the puck, and his focus is defense first since he’s normally on the ice against opponents’ top lines.
“I’m not gonna try to run around the ice and chase the points,” he said. “I’m not going to be taking risks playing against top lines. I want to do it the right way. I want to play the game the right way. I always take a lot of pride in my defensive game. I want to always be strong defensively and take care of my zone before I jump up and help the offense. Obviously, you have to be able to do both, but I’m not going to be taking chances just because I want to get more points. I like to work really hard. I enjoy competing against top lines, top players in this league. I want to do it the right way and that’s the way it’s always been for me.”
Of his 44 points this season, 15 came on the power play (10 goals, five assists). Chara was moved from the point to the front of the net on the power play this season. His willingness to stand in front of opposing goaltenders paid dividends for Boston. It was also part of the team’s master plan to minimize the wear and tear on Chara of having to retrieve pucks at the point position while on the man advantage.
“It’s never easy to be standing in front of a net,” Chara said. “It’s a spot that you really have to battle hard for and make sure you’re willing to take some shots and be willing to do whatever needs to be done.”
For weeks, Bruins coach Claude Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli have campaigned for the team’s captain to win this season’s Norris Trophy.
“This past series [against Detroit] he was terrific,” Chiarelli said. “He still gets up when we play a team with a real star and he really takes that as a challenge. His skating is good, and maybe you don’t see him shoot as much because you’re used to seeing him on the one-timer, but he still blasts it. I think he deserves the nomination. I think he deserves the award.”
His wife, Tatiana, and their daughter, Elliz, share the same birthday -- April 27. Before Chara left for work Saturday morning, he made his soon-to-be 5-year-old daughter a promise.
"I promised her I would do everything, anything to stay home," Chara said after Boston's 4-2 win to eliminate the Red Wings in the best-of-seven series 4-1.
"Unbelievable," Chara said with a huge smile.
Chara scored the Bruins' go-ahead, power-play goal in the closing seconds of the second period to give Boston a 2-1 lead. He logged 22:43 of ice time and finished with an even plus/minus rating. His goal at 19:56 of the second period came during a 4-on-3 man-advantage for Boston. The Bruins controlled the puck in the corner to the right of Detroit goaltender Jonas Gustavsson when the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron made a sharp, tape-to-tape, cross-ice pass to Chara, who blasted a one-timer from the top of the right faceoff circle and beat Gustavsson to the top right corner.
"I'm not really looking at it as a slap shot, I'm looking at it as a goal that put us ahead," Chara said. "It was at the end of the second so it gave us, obviously, a jump. It really doesn't matter at the end of the day if it was a bomb or kind of bouncing puck that goes in. They all count and that's what matters."
His goal gave the Bruins momentum and the 17,565 fans rose out of their seats in celebration. Chara stepped into that one-timer with such force it should have ripped through the twine.
"Oh, yeah, of course it felt good -- don't get me wrong," he said. "You work so hard to hit those kinds of shots in that specific area and it's hard. In practice, you're getting puck after puck and you can time it, but in a game there's one puck, once chance, one pass and you have to bury it. So, for sure, if that goes in, all those one-timers, all those shots you take in practice, and you're really trying to work hard to make sure you put it in, it pays off."
It paid big dividends for the Bruins.
"It was huge," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "You look at it, 14 seconds left and a 4-on-3 there, and you knew that if you can go into the second intermission there getting back up a goal it would definitely give you that momentum back and kind of that positive mindset back and that one-goal lead heading into the third period. It lifted everyone on our team. So huge goal by the power-play unit that was out there, finding that puck and Bergy making that great play to Zee and Zee obviously using his lethal shot and getting it in the back of the net."
That momentum carried into the third period when Lucic scored early in the third period to give Boston a 3-1 lead. The Red Wings cut the deficit to one goal late in the third, but the Bruins added an empty-net tally by Jarome Iginla in the closing seconds for a 4-2 win.
"That series was much tougher than maybe the results showed," Chara said. "Detroit is a really good team with a great system, great players. We were just able to play our game and stay on top of it. It wasn't a one-sided series; it was much closer than 4-1 showed. I think that we handled it well, we came into this series ready and we got the job done."
Up next: The Montreal Canadiens. Sitting at his locker stall after Saturday's win, Chara was asked about the Bruins' next opponent, but the captain was too tired and remained focused on the series that just ended.
"I'm just happy that we moved on," he said.
The birthday girls are, too.
If the Red Wings maintained their composure and did not fall into the Bruins' style of play, Detroit could have the advantage. That's the way it went in Game 1 as the Red Wings earned a 1-0 win. There were only three power plays total in that game.
Both of the Bruins' special-team units were successful in Game 2. They went 2-for-4 on the power play, with Reilly Smith and Zdeno Chara scoring. Boston was a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
"Our power play has been good. It's a lot better this year," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "And the big thing was, can they continue to produce for us in the playoffs? And that's an important part of the game, and I know we won in the past without having a power play.
"Penalty kill to me is extremely important. Our penalty kill right now is doing a pretty good job, but when you have both units being able to do the job right, it helps a lot, and obviously it was a big difference in [Game 2], the penalty kill being so good and getting those power-play goals."
As far as the power play, this is the first time in a long time that the Bruins have two solid and productive units.
"Yeah, it's been a while since we've been consistent and successful like that, scoring some big goals, so we've got to keep that going," Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said.
While the power play's personnel has remained steady, the penalty kill has been without the services of Daniel Paille (head) and Chris Kelly (back) because of injuries. Still, others have stepped in and produced, such as rookie Justin Florek and veteran David Krejci in the first two games of this series.
"Our guys just did a great job," Julien said. "I think they have good positions. We worked hard to get our penalty kill back to the level that we needed for the playoffs by really looking at their power play closely and seeing the tendencies.
"But David Krejci hasn't killed much this year. He's killed in the past and he's been a good penalty killer. We're, I guess, blessed with a lot of them this year where we're able to save David for the line following a penalty kill. But we need him now. He stepped up. Florek's another guy that's killed penalties in Providence and is pretty good at it as well. So guys have done a good job. Our regular guys continue to do a good job on it, but then new guys have come in and really stepped up and replaced those missing guys in a good way."
The PK always has been a source of strength for the Bruins. The power play has gone from a weakness to a weapon this season.
The ability of rookie defenseman Torey Krug to quarterback the PP has allowed Julien to move Chara to the front of the net. The 6-foot-9 defenseman is a virtual wall in front of the opposition's goaltender. During the regular season, he recorded 15 points (10 goals and five assists) on the PP.
In Game 2 Sunday, Chara scored on the team's fourth power play of the game. The Bruins controlled the puck at the point as Chara screened Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Boston's Jarome Iginla took a shot from the right faceoff circle and Howard made the initial save, but Chara pumped in the rebound through the 5-hole to give Boston a 4-1 lead.
Having Chara in front of the net this season has been productive.
"Z takes up so much room and so much space it's tough to move him out of the way and I think it's really hard for goalies to see the puck," Bergeron said.
At the conclusion of the first period during Boston’s 4-1 win over Detroit in Game 2, a scrum broke out behind the Bruins’ net. Away from the play, Brendan Smith got in the face of Chara and attempted to draw the Bruins defenseman into dropping the gloves.
Chara didn’t bite and Smith should be thankful.
“He wouldn’t be the first guy I’d choose in the NHL to go against,” Reilly Smith said. “He should probably think twice next time.”
When asked if he was worried for his brother’s safety, Reilly said, “No, not too much. That’s the least of my worries right now.”
Brendan Smith did not speak with the media after the game, and Chara downplayed the situation as part of the game.
“Nothing really, it’s just playoff hockey,” Chara said.
* Loui Eriksson and Sweden finished with 5-3 win over Latvia. The Bruins’ forward did not register a point, but had three shots on net.
* Slovenia defeated Zdeno Chara and Slovakia 3-1. Chara assisted on Slovakia’s lone goal, but finished with a minus-1 and one shot on net.
* Switzerland posted a 1-0 win over David Krejci and the Czech Republic. Krejci was minus-1 with one shot on net.
On Sunday, Chara and Slovakia will face Russia at 7:30 a.m. ET, and Finland (Tuukka Rask) will play Canada (Patrice Bergeron) at noon ET.
The regular-season adversaries helped Sweden to a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic in the first game of the men’s ice hockey competition Wednesday in Sochi. Karlsson scored twice for the Swedes. Eriksson was a minus-1 and recorded two shots on net.
Bruins forward David Krejci did not register a point or a shot on net in the loss for the Czechs.
Prior to leaving for Sochi, Krejci said it would be tough to play against a Bruins teammate at the Olympics.
“It’s definitely a little weird,” Krejci said on Saturday. “But once you’re on the ice you play for one team and Loui is going to be playing for the other team, so that’s just the way it is.”
Thursday’s Olympic hockey slate includes Team USA against the Zdeno Chara-led Slovakian squad (7:30 a.m.), Canada (Patrice Bergeron) against Norway (noon) and Finland versus Austria (3 a.m.). Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask will start between the pipes for Finland.
One picture in particular had his Bruins teammates ribbing him after the team's practice Friday at Ristuccia Arena as the players prepare for their last game Saturday before the Olympic break when they host the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden.
The picture of Chara's twin bed is hysterical, only because he somehow needs to figure out how to rest his 6-foot-9, 255-pound frame onto such a small mattress. Chara moved an ottoman to the foot of the bed in order to accommodate his massive body.
"You're that tall, what can you do, right?" said goaltender Tuukka Rask with a smile. "You've just got to deal with it."
Julien said he hasn't seen the pictures of Chara's twin bed.
"No, I haven't, but he did tell me he was going to put a couple of beds together and see if that would help," Julien said. "I'm not sure they built those accommodations for 6-foot-9 athletes, but he'll make do. He's been through that a few times."
Leading up to the Olympic Games Julien has done a solid job of keeping his focus on the Bruins, but he finally admitted Friday afternoon he's ready to represent Team Canada as an associate coach.
"Peter [Chiarelli] just asked me today if I'm looking forward to going and if I'm getting excited. I said 'Yeah.' This is probably one of the first days that I'm really starting to feel it," Julien said. "We've got one game left and my focus is on that game, but at the same time, we're just a couple of days away from leaving. It is getting exciting, and I'm looking forward to representing my country."
"What this guy has done for our organization and the honor that it represents to carry the flag for your country, how can you not support that opportunity," Bruins coach Claude Julien said this past Saturday when it was announced that Chara would miss two games.
Slovakia opens its Olympic hockey schedule on Feb. 13 against the U.S.
Click here for ESPN.com's complete coverage of the Winter Olympics.
Ran into Zdeno Chara today. Couldn't resist taking a picture :) pic.twitter.com/sYNOIbrWLn— Kirsten Moore-Towers (@Kirsten_MT) February 7, 2014
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will serve as captain for Slovakia, while forwards Patrice Bergeron (Canada), David Krejci (Czech Republic), Loui Eriksson (Sweden) and goaltender Tuukka Rask (Finland) will all represent their countries.
This is Chara’s third time playing in the Olympics and the second invite for Bergeron, Eriksson and Krejci. Rask will be making his Olympic debut. Bergeron won a gold medal in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Bruins forward Milan Lucic was not selected to Team Canada.
Bruins coach Claude Julien will serve as an assistant coach for Team Canada, while Boston GM Peter Chiarelli is serving as an adviser.
It's the second time in a week these teams played. Boston defeated Calgary 2-1 last Tuesday at the Saddledome.
The Bruins received a pair of power-play goals from captain Zdeno Chara, while goaltender Tuukka Rask made 21 saves to register his third shutout of the season and 19th of his career. With the win, the Bruins are 11-3-1 in their last 15 games and increased their home winning streak to 11-0-2.
After a scoreless first period, the Bruins gained a 1-0 lead on Chara's first power-play goal at 7:38 of the second period. His one-timer from the right faceoff dot beat Calgary goaltender Reto Berra to the five-hole. It was Chara's eighth goal of the season and fifth power-play tally. Rask didn't see much action in the second period as Boston outshot Calgary, 15-4.
The Bruins gained a 2-0 lead on Chara's second power-play goal of the game at 3:19 of the third period. This time he was camped out in front of the Calgary net and pumped in his ninth goal of the season.
Down two goals, the Flames pulled Berra with more than two minutes remaining in regulation, but couldn't capitalize with the extra attacker.
SCARY MOMENT: Early in the second period, Chara took a high stick to the face and immediately dropped to the ice with his hand over his right eye. He stayed on the ice for a moment and was tended to by team trainer Don DelNegro. Chara went to the bench and did not miss a shift. It was the stick of Flames' Matt Stajan that caught Chara, but there was no penalty on the play. A few minutes later, Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller also was hit in the face with a high stick, but this time Calgary's Lance Bouma received a four-minute double minor. The Bruins capitalized on the man-advantage as Chara scored.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW: Bruins rookie Craig Cunningham made his NHL debut Tuesday night. He was recalled Monday from Providence on an emergency basis and was in the lineup against the Flames, playing on the Bruins' fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Jordan Caron. Cunningham, 23, has nine goals and five assists for 14 points in 27 games for the P-Bruins this season. He's also the eighth player this season to play his first game with the Bruins. During his junior career, Cunningham was a teammate of Milan Lucic with the Vancouver Giants and won the Memorial Cup in 2006-07.
TAZ: As part of the team's season-long 90th anniversary celebration, former Bruins forward, captain and coach Terry O'Reilly dropped the ceremonial puck prior to the game. No. 24 received a nice ovation from the fans and players on both teams.
UP NEXT: The Bruins have a home-and-home series with the lowly Buffalo Sabres. Boston travels to Buffalo to face the Sabres Thursday night before returning to host their Atlantic Division opponent Saturday at TD Garden.
With the exception of the Shawn Thornton incident -- he jumped the Penguins' Brooks Orpik, throwing him to the ice and punching him in the head twice before the Pittsburgh defenseman was taken off on a stretcher and transported to a hospital -- it was a good, physical and intense game between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
"Yeah, it was very hard for me. Since the start of the game it was very physical," Chara said. "There was a lot of emotions involved and it was up-and-down hockey, a lot of scoring chances, very playoff kind of hockey. We were behind the whole game. We were just fighting for that tying goal and eventually we got it and then we carried that momentum into basically the end of the game and we were able to score a goal with very little time left in the game so it was a good game to win for us."
With the win, Boston extended its home point streak to 12 games (10-0-2) and also snapped Pittsburgh's five-game winning streak.
After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he would rather focus on the team's win than speak about the incidents in the first period involving Thornton and Orpik.
"Well, it was a good win for us. We haven't felt real good about our game because of the ups and downs and tonight it was kind of, like I said, a real weird game," Julien said. "It was a grinding type of game. Didn't seem like a ton of stuff was happening and for us to kind of grind it out and get those two late goals and get the win in regulation, I think we have to build on that.
"The rest we have to park and we have a big game tomorrow again in Toronto and we have to somehow push this aside and focus on tomorrow's game. And that's why we need to move on here and let the people that are in charge deal with this."
Bruins forward Reilly Smith also scored for the Bruins and played one of his best games of the season. He added an assist on Chara's game-winning goal.
"It was great to see it hit the back of the net," Smith said. "We were battling for probably the whole third period. It's hard to get chances and it seemed like until the last minute we finally got one in. To see [Krejci's goal] and then have Chara get that last one is huge."
Smith has three goals and three assists for six points in his last eight games.
In case you're wondering how physical this game was, there were 67 hits total between the teams. Boston had 31 and Pittsburgh had 36.
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins never need to have the proverbial "statement" game. All they need to do is stick to their style, to physically and mentally break down their opponent and finish with the win.
Coming off their worst game of the season, the Bruins rebounded with a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday afternoon at TD Garden. After losing 6-1 to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Bruins realize their brand of hockey is a challenge to maintain for an entire season, and they believe Friday's victory over New York was a character win.
After that pitiful loss to the Red Wings, Julien had practice on Thanksgiving and held a brief closed-door meeting afterward. The coach's message was simple, and there was no yelling, screaming or throwing any furniture around the room because that's not Julien's style. Plus, this team and these players have been through it all and know exactly how they needed to respond.
"You just want to make sure you recognize the situation you're in," said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who finished with 17 saves against the Rangers. "We realize we're in first place, so that's positive. We just played a bad game [Wednesday in Detroit] and you want to bounce back and really keep things simple. That's what we did today, got pucks to the net and it paid off."
The Bruins responded, playing with emotion and bringing that physical style of play Boston is known for. The Bruins displayed more purpose and passion than the last game, showcasing their personality and their composure. They were able to create sustained pressure in the offensive zone and did not allow New York many quality chances at the other end of the ice.
"We played a good solid game all around -- lots of physical play, lots of emotion and lots of scoring chances," Julien said. "Today, I can honestly say, it was a good game, but we were the better team and that's what I wanted our team to be."
It also helped that captain Zdeno Chara set the tone.
When he's playing his best, he's effective in every aspect of the game. That was the case against the Rangers. He was steady on defense, chipped in offensively with a goal and an assist, and dropped the gloves, too, for the Gordie Howe hat trick.
"He's our leader. He's the guy who brings the emotion if it's lacking and that's what he did tonight," said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "He made a great pass on the first goal, a great fight and he scored the last goal. He basically won the game for us and that's what you want out of a leader -- and that's what he's been doing for many years."
"He's an incredible leader," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who scored his fourth goal of the season. "Every day he comes in he shows the guys the direction that we need to go in. He always comes up big at the big times. You saw that assist on my goal, and again the game winner and how he sticks up for his teammates. We're very lucky to have him and he's definitely very tough for other teams to play against."
At the time of the fight late in the second period, the Bruins were trailing 2-1 when Chara came to the aid of teammate David Krejci, who was getting bounced around in the middle of a scrum. Chara doesn't drop the gloves often, but when he does it usually means he's really upset about something. In fact, it was his first fighting major of the season.
"It's part of the game," Chara said. "Sometimes scrums involve a lot of heated moments or emotions. You have to protect your best players in that situation. The situation just happened. Brian is really strong and a tough customer and it was something that we just kind of reacted on."
That sparked the Bruins as they produced a solid third period, scoring a pair of goals en route to victory.
Boston seemed determined to erase the disgraceful loss to the Red Wings, and it's no coincidence the Bruins' leadership core of Chara and assistant captain Patrice Bergeron made significant contributions in the win over the Rangers.
"It's important to step up, but also let everyone know that we all need to do that," said Bergeron, who scored the game-tying goal at 1:35 of the third period. "You just can't turn the page. You've got to learn from it and realize we got embarrassed. If we don't play and work the way we should work, we're not going to get the results. We're not the type of team that can play like that, so we've got to be going every night. Today was an important game to be back at it."
With this win over the Rangers, especially on the heels of Boston's worst game of the season, it's just another example of how tough the Bruins are to beat when they're playing a strong, physical game.
"At the end of the day, the Rangers really didn't have a chance," Rask said.
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