Bruins

Chara on his 1,400th NHL game: "I don't want to be finishing [up] playing yet"

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Chara on his 1,400th NHL game: "I don't want to be finishing [up] playing yet"

BOSTON – Zdeno Chara played in his 1,400th NHL game in Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the 40-year-old is nowhere close to adding to that big, round career number if he has anything to say about it.

The Bruins captain played 24 minutes and was a team-best plus-2 in the victory, and even better he also teamed with Patrice Bergeron’s line to completely shut down heralded young Leafs star Auston Matthews. Chara was a penalty killing beast in the third period while logging a whopping five plus minutes of ice time shorthanded during the game, and he was a welcoming partner with 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy returning to his right side after missing four games with a heart procedure. 

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There were many roles for Chara during the game, and he executed perfectly at all of them as he’s done so much throughout his Hall of Fame NHL career. 

So it was a vintage Chara performance in a season where he’s tied with Vegas forward William Karlsson for the NHL lead in plus/minus with a plus-27 mark, and hit the pause button after a big divisional win to reflect on his 1,400 career NHL games over 20 NHL seasons, including 870 games with the Black and Gold. 

“It’s a special, special moment…special night. There are so many people I should be thanking and it obviously starts with my family – my parents, my wife, my kids – for all their support over the course of the years,” said Chara. “I said it in the room too, that in our business, you are obviously measured by wins and losses, but those moments when you have those highs and lows, that’s when you really rely on your teammates to support you and give you the special, special push and energy. 

“Over the course of 20-plus years, I’ve been very lucky that I had really good teammates that I could always rely on, and this group is very special. We have many players with so many great personalities that I feel very fortunate to have the teammates that I have. So, it’s a special team.”

The question now for Chara naturally becomes how many more games will the 6-foot-9 D-man add to the massive 1,400 number that ranks fourth among active NHL players behind only Jaromir Jagr (1733), Patrick Marleau (1547), Joe Thornton (1493) and Matt Cullen (1416), and is now up to 39th all-time in NHL history. 

As he’s said on numerous occasions, there’s no end in sight for his playing career and he continues to learn and try different things like the Instagram account Chara has created to give others his TB12-style tips on how he’s been able to play in the NHL for so long. The 40-year-old reiterated he wants to keep playing for the foreseeable future and the Bruins keep evaluating just much that’s going to cost them in terms of salary and contract terms for a shutdown D-man and leader still so vital to Black and Gold success.

 “I enjoy playing the game. I said it many times – anytime you guys ask me – I can’t put a number on [how many games played], but I want to continue to play. I feel great, I enjoy working hard, I want to get better continuously, and so I want to play until I can and be effective,” said Chara. “Like I said, it’s fun. It’s fun being around guys and to see how they’re growing as players, as people. So, yeah, those are the days I’m really looking forward to. I don’t want to be finishing [up] playing yet.” 

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Clearly there will be challenges ahead in the next few months, and a heavy second-half schedule could be very difficult for a player carrying a heavy load that’s going to turn 41 years old toward the end of the regular season. 

The hope is certainly that the Bruins can re-sign him to a 1 or 2-year deal for something in the neighborhood of $4 million per season, which would be the prudent thing to do with an aging player that’s still so effective. But if Chara keeps playing so effectively at 40 years old then it’s difficult to avoid the price going up for a player that’s still so intrinsically connected to the rise of the Bruins back into an NHL super power this season.

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Bruins closing in on Nash with many details to iron out

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Bruins closing in on Nash with many details to iron out

TORONTO – It sounds like the Boston Bruins are on the verge of a fairly substantial trade if they can iron out some of the details both big and small.

According to multiple reports and sources, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is closing in on a trade for New York Rangers winger Rick Nash ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline. The 33-year-old Nash has 18 goals and 28 points in 60 games this season for the Blueshirts, and really has been in decline over the last couple of years in New York since scoring 42 goals and 69 points back in the 2014-15 season.

Still, Nash has quite the resume as the first overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft and a guy that’s scored over 400 goals and nearly 800 points in his 14-year NHL career while starring for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers during that time. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder would bring the size, heaviness and experience factor that the Bruins have been looking to add to their wing ahead of the stretch run and playoffs, and certainly could be energized down the stretch while potentially playing a second line role with a center like David Krejci.

Don Sweeney indicated prior to the reports surfacing that the Bruins could be more invested into the rental market this season, given their strong campaign, than they originally thought they’d be when the season started.

“We’d like to think that the group can continue on along the path that they’re on, but if you can add to it and help it…the rental market depends on what you’re going to give up, and what that impact of that player is necessarily going to be and how they’re going to fit into the group,” said Sweeney. “The chemistry piece is an important piece in and around the trade deadline, so that’s something we have to be cognizant of.”

There are, however, a couple of issues for the Bruins and Rangers to work out before it’s a done deal. One is the massive cap hit for Nash that would still be well over $3 million even if the Rangers agree to eat half of his remaining contract, and that would leave the Bruins to need to clear some space with a corresponding deal elsewhere. There’s also the matter of ponying up assets in exchange for Nash, who it’s believed would cost the Bruins a first round pick and a solid prospect that is not yet on the NHL roster.

That means the Bruins would able to avoid potentially dealing Brandon Carlo, Jake DeBrusk or Danton Heinen from their NHL roster, which it wasn’t expected they would need to move in a rental deal for Nash. But it does mean the Bruins likely would be parting with a blue chip prospect still in the development stage, whether it’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn or even a college hockey prospect like Trent Frederic.

That’s a big price to pay from Boston’s future to be sure, but it would be done based on Nash being an impact player this season for a Bruins team that looks like they might have a pretty good postseason run in them.

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Rough stretch of hockey for Brandon Carlo

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Rough stretch of hockey for Brandon Carlo

GOLD STAR: Nazem Kadri really stepped up for the Maple Leafs without Auston Matthews, and showed his goal-scoring prowess with a couple of power play strikes. The first was a great tipped pass from JVR to Kadri waiting all alone in the face-off circle, and the second was a give-and-go with Mitch Marner where the Leafs agitator finally slammed it home from the high slot for his 23rd goal of the season. Kadri was a minus-2 in the game as his line had their struggles against the Patrice Bergeron line, but he was great at the offensive end with the two goals, a game-high eight shots on net and a couple of takeaways in a pretty active 17:49 of ice time. Kadri certainly showed that he needs to be accounted for during the PP where he twice stung the B’s.

BLACK EYE: Brandon Carlo had a pretty tough night finishing with just 13:32 of ice time while he was on the ice for three goals against. A couple of them were on the penalty kill, so Carlo only finish a minus-1 for the game, but the 21-year-old is a minus-5 on the current road trip and has been struggling this week as the Bruins roll into the NHL trade deadline. After being on ice for the two goals against with the shots coming from his side in the first period, it appeared that Carlo lost his confidence and wasn’t trying to make plays for the rest of the night. So at points Carlo hit the pine as Bruce Cassidy was rotating through the other 5 D-men, and the Bruins coaches are left with something to think about as they write out their lineup for Sunday afternoon in Buffalo.

TURNING POINT: It came down to the final two minutes in the game when Ron Hainsey scored the game-winner for the Maple Leafs on a long bomb from the point with Zach Hyman grinding in front of the Boston net. In fact Hyman was grinding so much that he pushed Charlie McAvoy directly into Tuukka Rask as he was tracking the puck, and knocked him off balance where he couldn’t make a play from the deep perimeter. The goal was ruled a good one on the ice, and a coach’s challenge for goalie interference somewhat surprisingly didn’t go Boston’s way. It looked clear-cut that McAvoy was shoved into his goaltender, but apparently the NHL is determined to make everybody unsure of the new goalie interference interpretation. The challenge from the Bruins was overruled, and the Leafs won the game on a controversial call.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron was outstanding in the game, which made it all the more perplexing when he walked out of the Air Canada Centre following the game wearing a protective right boot. Bergeron finished with a game-high 19:15 of ice time among the forwards, notched a couple of assists and a plus-2 rating, had six shot attempts, two hits, two takeaways and won 15-of-22 face-offs while also playing the final 1:23 of the game. It appeared that Bergeron’s right foot was hit by a shot earlier in the game where he was able to finish out the game, but clearly it was bothering him a bit after it was all over. It’s a credit to No. 37’s toughness that he was able to play so well during the game while in clear discomfort.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1-2-1 – the Bruins’ record against the Maple Leafs team they may likely end up seeing in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins lost all three games where Toronto was without Auston Matthews, believe it or not.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I was pushed into [Tuukka]. I don’t know what goaltender interference really is, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve seen it work in our favor, and I’ve seen it work against us now. There doesn’t seem to be a fine line.” –Charlie McAvoy, who is both convinced Toronto’s game-winner was goalie interference and unsure of exactly how it’s going to be called in the future.

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