Zdeno Chara is set to reach a milestone when he takes the ice Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
The B's captain will be skating in his 1,500th NHL game, something that's only been accomplished by five other defensemen in NHL history. And while some of his younger teammates such as Charlie McAvoy, 21, only have a few seasons under their belt, they understand what an accomplishment it is to reach the 1,500-game mark.
"What an unbelievable accomplishment," McAvoy said, according to BostonBruins.com's Eric Russo. "I couldn't be happier for him. I will make sure to give him a big hug tonight. What an accomplishment. You really can't overstate it. He puts himself into some special, special company."
B's assistant captain Patrice Bergeron, a teammate of Chara's since the 6-foot-9 defenseman signed with Boston in 2006, knows what the 42-year-old brings to the table.
"The backbone of our defense for the last I don't know how many years," Bergeron said. "He's redefined the position by the way that he defends but also put up offense, his shot…he's well respected around the league, but even more so in this organization by the players and also the city, the fans, and everyone. True competitor and an amazing accomplishment."
While Bergeron stressed that Chara's leadership is something that sets him apart, former B's captain (1983-85) Terry O'Reilly echoed that when discussing the big man's career.
"He's been probably one of the best captains in the history of the Boston Bruins," O'Reilly said, according to NHL.com's Dave Stubbs. "He's played any kind of hockey you want to play. He's been used since he arrived here to shut down the best offensive players in the NHL. He's taken it upon himself to see that none of his teammates are abused, but he does it with almost a Don Quixote attitude. He doesn't go after anybody. But if they come at him and hit him hard, he plays that kind of game."
Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, who captained the Bruins from 1988-2000, put Chara on a pedestal when discussing his astounding career.
"I've always said your best players should be your best people," Bourque said. "Chara is a gift. In Boston we have him and [New England Patriots quarterback Tom] Brady, doing remarkable things in their 40s. The longevity and the success they've both had is incredible."
As Chara continues to age, he's been able to adjust his game. Another Bruins legend, Rick Middleton, is very surprised with Chara's adaptation to the fast-paced style that young forwards have brought to the NHL.
"Today, when someone chips the puck in around Zee, he's got to turn and figure out the angle because he may not be as quick as that forward," Middleton said. "He's got to adjust his game to the speed. His instincts take over. It's been amazing to me that he's not been exposed that way. [Hall of Fame defenseman] Brad Park was the same. When he had bad knees and lost a lot of his speed, he adjusted by learning the angles better, maybe when to turn a little earlier or not go as deep in the zone. Zee has done that."
But while Chara has had to conform his game, Wayne Cashman thinks the big man can play past the 2019-20 season.
"You hear stories about him being in the gym every day … he's conditioned to play the game and he's adjusted to the game," Cashman said. "He's playing slightly fewer minutes now, but I don't see any reason why he couldn't play two or three more years. You can see that he's very dedicated and he's adjusted [to new rules] extremely well. You can see how he positions himself on the ice."
Chara's gym routine is something that's kept him well-conditioned for years, and Johnny Bucyk emphasized that when discussing Chara's longevity.
"Zdeno works out every day even when he's injured," Bucyk said "He'll battle for his teammates. If somebody goes after a player for no reason at all, he'll step right in. His biggest problem, if you want to call it that, is that he's so strong, he doesn't want to hurt anybody. He's very dedicated. I appreciate watching him. He's had a great career and it's not over yet."
While Chara's career isn't over yet, he'll have a huge decision to make following the end of the season -- retire, or continue playing into his age 43 season.
The Black & Gold's captain isn't the only one reaching a milestone on Tuesday night. Former Bruins, and current Canadiens head coach Claude Julien will be coaching his 1,200th NHL game. In 10 seasons in Boston, he led the B's to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and became the franchise's all-time leader in coaching victories with 419.
There will be no shortage of history made Tuesday. The B's and Habs will faceoff at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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