Chara praises 'very classy' Habs fans' for ovation in his 1,500th NHL game

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Chara praises 'very classy' Habs fans' for ovation in his 1,500th NHL game

MONTREAL – It wasn’t surprising that the first-class Montreal Canadiens organization opted to acknowledge Bruins captain Zdeno Chara playing in his 1500th NHL game on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

Any player getting to 1,500 games played is worthy of recognition and Chara is just the sixth NHL defensemen in league history to get to that mark, with only Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque, Larry Murphy, Scott Stevens and Chris Chelios still ahead of him on the all-time list. When Chara popped up on the jumbotron with the 1,500 games played graphic, there was a smattering of boos with the cheers for a player that has routinely been booed at the Bell Centre during the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry.

But it quickly became a loud, long ovation from Canadiens fans with Chara standing up at the Bruins bench, waving, clapping to the fans and mouthing the words “thank you” during the TV timeout.

It was a remarkable, meaningful moment given how much bad blood has gone on between Chara and Canadiens fans in his career, and it was duly noted by the Bruins captain following Boston’s 5-4 loss.

“Obviously, that felt really nice. I really appreciated it and it was very classy,” said Chara. “It’s something that I will definitely remember. [The boos in the past] just shows that they are very passionate fans and they support their team. It’s pretty normal for Canadien fans to show so much support for their team. We’ve had some good battles and it’s a good rivalry. There’s a lot of history with both teams, so it’s always fun to play in these games.”

It was a short eight years ago when Chara knocked Max Pacioretty into the stanchion at the Bell Centre and caused a massive uproar with Habs fans that flooded Quebec 911 lines calling for his arrest for assaulting the Montreal forward. That was probably the height of his role as a villain in the rivalry and led to him getting booed lustily each time he touched the puck for years after that. 

Clearly, that’s now water under the bridge with Chara’s career on track for the Hall of Fame once he decides to stop playing, and milestones like the 1,500 games played coming with more regularity as he keeps on going at 42 years old. Chara’s teammates and the Bruins coaching staff have obviously been in awe of his longevity for a while and were happy that the knowledgeable Habs fans showed their respect for his 20-plus year career as well.

“I thought it was great…classy,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Listen, this is one of the Original Six right here and they’ve got a lot of classy fans in Montreal. Just because it’s a Bruins/Habs rivalry and if they like the Canadiens it doesn’t mean I dislike their fans. They’re good people and they know hockey, so I was glad to see it.”

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Bruins vs. Flyers overreactions: B's in danger of earning low seed from round robin?

Bruins vs. Flyers overreactions: B's in danger of earning low seed from round robin?

The Boston Bruins entered round robin play as the co-betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup, but they sure didn't look like a championship contender against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon. 

The Bruins were out-played in just about every facet of the game in a 4-1 loss to the Flyers in the Toronto bubble. Jaroslav Halak was called on to start in net for Boston after No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask (illness) was ruled out, and he allowed four goals on 29 shots.  

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Let's take a look at three instant overreactions from Bruins-Flyers and assess their merit (All advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).

1. Bruins won't earn the No. 1 seed
Verdict: Overreaction

The Bruins have their work cut out for them after dropping their first round robin game, but they still have a chance to earn the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. For starters, they have to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday to give themselves a real chance. An overtime or shootout loss to Tampa Bay would put the B's in very real danger of earning the No. 3 or No. 4 seed after ending the regular season with the league's best record. Luckily for Boston, any ties in the round robin standings after three games will be decided by regular season points, and the Bruins would win those tiebreakers as the Presidents' Trophy winners.

So, while there's still a chance for the Bruins, their next two games will be pretty tough. The Lightning have already beaten the Bruins three times this season, and the Capitals have won 16 of the last 18 meetings with Boston dating back to 2014. Having a full, healthy lineup is most important for the Bruins, but seeding is vital as well, especially in this unique playoff setting where the league will re-seed after every round instead of using a traditional postseason bracket.

2. Anders Bjork belongs in the lineup
: Not an overreaction

Bjork, who played primarily on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Karson Kuhlman, was among the few bright spots in Sunday's defeat. The B's enjoyed a 15-4 edge in shot attempts and a 9-4 scoring chance advantage when the 23-year-old forward was on the ice during 5-on-5 action. He also drew two penalties on offensive zone entries, although Boston was unable to score on either power play. Bjork played with the type of aggressiveness and confidence you don't often see from a young player with no previous playoff experience. It was a very encouraging performance from a player who the Bruins envision being a dependable second or third line player for the foreseeable future.

3. Lack of production from top players is concerning
: Overreaction

The "Perfection Line" didn't live up to its name Sunday, but it's still way too early to worry about what's arguably the best trio in the league. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all failed to score a goal or tally an assist, and together they combined for just two scoring chances and zero high-danger shot attempts during 5-on-5 play. Four shots on goal in 8:19 of 5-on-5 ice time for the Bruins' best line isn't going to get the job done, either. The Flyers' top line, anchored by defensive stalwart and Selke Trophy finalist Sean Couturier, decisively won its matchup against the Bergeron line.

Boston's top trio totaled 47 percent of the team's goals during the regular season, and the Bruins' playoff run in the bubble won't last long if Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak aren't producing offensively. 

David Krejci also didn't play well. The veteran center was held scoreless, took one penalty and tallied three shots. He won only one of his nine faceoffs. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara failed to deliver as well. The B's captain was on the ice for only six of Boston's shot attempts and 20 of Philly's shot attempts at 5-on-5. His turnover in the neutral zone late in the second period paved the way for the Flyers' third goal, which came only eight seconds after the Bruins scored to trim the deficit to 2-1.

Boston's veteran core knows what it takes to win in the playoffs, and this group's wealth of experience will ensure it doesn't panic ahead of Wednesday night.

Bruins vs. Flyers Talking Points: Boston's top players absent in 4-1 loss

Bruins vs. Flyers Talking Points: Boston's top players absent in 4-1 loss

GOLD STAR: Philippe Myers was something special for the Flyers in his first postseason experience. Myers clinched the game for Philly when he scored a goal eight seconds after the Bruins had halved the Flyers lead to 2-1 in the second period. Myers rifled one past Jaroslav Halak from long range and that truly deflated the B’s when it looked like they were just working to get back into the contest. Myers was dominant beyond the screaming slap shot, however, and finished with a game-high five shots on net and nine shot attempts overall in his 17:51 of ice time to go along with a couple of hits, a blocked shot and a plus-3 rating. Several of Philly’s role players and young guys played well for them in this game, and Myers was definitely one of them.

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BLACK EYE: Where were Boston’s best players? The B’s Perfection Line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak combined for just one shot on goal apiece until late into the game and were on the ice for a couple of goals against in a truly atrocious showing. Bergeron was active for the Bruins and was more of a factor at both ends of the ice throughout, but Pastrnak and Marchand both played passive, uninvolved games where it looked like they didn’t want to shoot the puck. As we’ve learned in the playoffs for the B’s over the last couple of seasons, Boston doesn’t have much chance at success when their top guys play that way against a good team. Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak finished a combined minus-8. Yikes.   

TURNING POINT: The Bruins got a blue collar fourth line goal from Chris Wagner after he banged home a shot off a skate in front of the Philly net and it looked like they were beginning to dig themselves out after falling behind by a 2-0 score. But then the B’s had a breakdown off the next face-off when Zdeno Chara turned a puck over and then fell down to the ice, and that opened up the ice for the Flyers counter-attack. Phillippe Myers skated to the open space and blew a slapshot top corner right on past Jaroslav Halak for a backbreaking goal that put the B’s back behind by a pair of scores. From that point on, the B’s did very little offensively and couldn’t get on the scoreboard.

HONORABLE MENTION: Probably the best player on the ice for the Bruins was Charlie Coyle, and he centered their best line with Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman. Coyle was fast, strong and physical with his play and had five shot attempts along with three hits in 21:34 of ice time. It’s along the same lines as Coyle’s efforts last postseason for Boston where he was consistently one of their best players with his speed/strength game really playing into the postseason. Bjork and Coyle had some of the best scoring chances for the Bruins and Bjork drew a couple of penalties while the third line was really humming, so it wasn’t Coyle all by himself. That being said, the Bruins are going to be in tough shape if their third line is their best line in most of these playoff games.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 76 – the number of consecutive playoff starts with the Bruins for Tuukka Rask that was snapped when he didn’t feel well and couldn’t play Sunday afternoon against the Flyers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’m thinking we need to make a better friggen’ play with the puck and that’s what I’m thinking. We need to make better plays with the puck.” –Bruce Cassidy, on what he was thinking of some of the plays that transpired in the loss to Philadelphia.