Bruins

Zdeno Chara excited for 1,500th NHL game: 'This game has given me so much'

Zdeno Chara excited for 1,500th NHL game: 'This game has given me so much'

It's only fitting that Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will be skating in his 1,500th NHL game Tuesday night against the B's rival up north in Montreal.

Chara made his NHL debut on Nov. 19, 1997, for the New York Islanders. Nearly 22 years later, the big man has solidified himself as one of the best defenseman in Bruins' history -- and perhaps the NHL. 

The 42-year-old will become the 21st player, and sixth defenseman in NHL history to reach the prestigious 1,500 game mark. The more recent, and only active players to accomplish the feat are San Jose Sharks forwards Patrick Marleau (now at 1,668) and Joe Thornton (1,581). 

With a big night ahead, the captain had some time to reflect on the historic mark -- thanking some very special people.

"It's a lot of games," Chara said, according to BostonBruins.com's Eric Russo. "It's very humbling. It's something that I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life. Obviously, very proud of it too…I have so many people that I should be thanking - obviously starting with my parents. They did such a great job of raising me and so much sacrifice for me to be able to play hockey."

"My family, my wife, my children - there are so many people. I've been very lucky. Very grateful that I've been able to be in the right place at the right time and get to know some very special people along the way."

Chara also had some nice things to say about his teammates and coaches over the years. 

"All of my teammates, coaches…," Chara said, "they've been tremendously helpful, and I wouldn't be playing the game without them. It's a special, special night."

Chara nearly sounds like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady when talking about the sport he loves, and it doesn't sound like he plans on walking away from the game any time soon. 

"I'm enjoying playing. I love this game," Chara said. "This game has given me so much. On the ice, obviously, and off the ice. I just enjoy every day, being along with my teammates and going out there and performing. I just love competing and have an extreme passion for the sport."

No. 33, the tallest player in NHL history at 6-foot-9, played 231 games for the Islanders and 299 with the Ottawa Senators before moving on the B's in 2006. He's played a total of 969 regular-season games with Boston. Chara has notched two goals and three assists through 14 games this season and ranks third in plus/minus at plus 13. 

The Bruins and Canadiens take the ice at 7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday at Bell Centre in Montreal. 

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Torey Krug admits Bruins are having trouble lighting fire in round-robin format

Torey Krug admits Bruins are having trouble lighting fire in round-robin format

If you feel like the Bruins have been futilely searching for motivation during this entire Toronto bubble hockey situation to date, it's not your overactive imagination. 

Bruins defenseman Torey Krug confirmed that to NBC Sports Boston during an exclusive zoom call on Thursday when he talked about the struggle to ratchet up the urgency in round robin games with no real playoff consequences, and the difficulty of generating emotion and momentum in an empty arena during a time when playoff hockey crowds are usually at their fever pitch. 

The Bruins have lost all three games they have played over the last two weeks in Toronto -- one exhibition against the Blue Jackets and two round robin games against the Flyers and Lightning -- but mercifully will wrap up the round robin with a Sunday showdown against the Washington Capitals. The good news is that the No. 3 seed in the East will be on the line in that game, so there will be something to play for between Eastern Conference powers in Boston and Washington. 

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The Bruins have gradually elevated their intensity level over the last two weeks, but Krug confirmed that it’s been a bit of a struggle for the Black and Gold. 

“It’s all part of the situation. Whether it’s right or wrong, the mentality is tough [to elevate] when it’s not do-or-die and you know you’re not getting sent home,” Krug admitted. “We do sit and talk as a group and whether it’s the first or the fourth seed, it does not matter who you are going to be playing … It’s going to be tough. We went through all the teams yesterday and it just doesn’t matter. 

“That being said we’re working our way into that playoff mode of hockey and trying to get our head wrapped around it. 

“Empty buildings are a lot different than when guys say, ‘When you’re on the ice it doesn’t matter and you block everything out.’ It’s really tough to generate momentum or energize a group, especially when you’re down by one or two goals. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just matter of fact. We’re in a situation where it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We’ve got to show up the next time we’re on the ice. It’s been tough, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

The Bruins finally showed flickers of their playoff mode a couple of days ago as tempers flared and intensity elevated against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Those were encouraging signs as the Bruins have been forced to become self-motivators in every way during this unique Stanley Cup playoff journey.

The good news: That shouldn’t be required next week when the real playoffs begin and everything is on the line for every remaining team. 

How important is getting the No. 3 seed for Bruins?

How important is getting the No. 3 seed for Bruins?

After losing the first two games of the round robin, the Bruins have only two places they can finish in the Eastern Conference's seeding: third or fourth.

So while Sunday's round-robin finale against the Capitals will mean more than one last chance to get into a rhythm before the playoffs. It will determine who they end up facing in the first round.

Trying to figure out whether the Bruins should aim for the No. 3 or No. 4 seed is a bit of a headache. After going through the scenarios and for sure getting that headache, it would very much be worth it to grab that No. 3 seed, assuming the current play-in series hold as is.

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If there are no comebacks in the five-gamers, the No. 1 seed would get the No. 12 Canadiens and the No. 2 seed would get the Blue Jackets. The No. 3 seed would get the Islanders and the No. 4 seed would get the Hurricanes.

A potential decisive Game 5 for the Penguins and Canadiens would be Saturday night, meaning that by the time the Bruins and Capitals play each other for third place Sunday, they'll know who awaits the loser (either Pittsburgh or Carolina). Furthermore, the Flyers and Lightning play for first place Saturday, so the 3 and 4 seed would be able to do some light projections as to whom they might get in the second round.

Neither Pittsburgh nor Carolina are desirable opponents, but let's say Pittsburgh comes back and wins. That would mean if the Bruins win and get the No. 3 seed, they get Carolina, and if they lose, they get Pittsburgh.

That's a yucky scenario either way. Pittsburgh, despite not being the toughest matchup for Boston, is a recent back-to-back Cup winner and will have just found life after coming from behind to win their series. Carolina is loaded on the back end, which would be difficult for a Boston team that is rail thin offensively. The Hurricanes can also score, as they were 11th in the NHL in goals per game this season and added up front at the trade deadline. With the way the Bruins are currently playing, that would be a very difficult series.

The Bruins should hope two things happen: First, the Canadiens hold on to sink the Penguins. Then, Boston does the unthinkable and wins a hockey game when they play the Caps. Though there was plenty to like about the Islanders' roster at the stoppage (J.G. Pageau was a good pickup), having seen the Bruins' issues, the Islanders would be a far preferable matchup to getting Carolina.

Really, if the Bruins could get the No. 3 seed, the Islanders could be just the opponent for them in the first round as they get their act together. Like the Bruins, the Islanders are strong down the middle, but they're even worse on the wing than Boston. The Bruins' defense and Tuukka Rask would theoretically handle business against the NHL's 22nd ranked offense while the Bruins try to figure out which wings to assign to centers David Krejci and Charlie Coyle.

A lot can change in the meantime, but there's more to be gained from a win Sunday than learning that winning is indeed possible. The Bruins shouldn't want Carolina (or Pittsburgh). They should want the Islanders and that No. 3 seed.