Bruins

Zdeno Chara salutes Tom Brady: 'He's a true professional, and a great human being'

Zdeno Chara salutes Tom Brady: 'He's a true professional, and a great human being'

BOSTON – Zdeno Chara had Tom Brady narrate a “Made For This” pump-up video on his Instagram account leading into Monday night’s Game 1, and it got a massive social media reaction, much as everything the New England Patriots quarterback does gets a legend-sized reaction.

The 42-year-old Bruins captain expanded on his relationship with the Patriots signal-caller during Tuesday’s off-day between Game 1 and Game 2 of the Cup Final, and admitted that he admires Brady for the level he’s been able to maintain into his 40’s.

“I can only speak for myself, but we all admire what he’s been able to accomplish with the Patriots, and the whole organization and all the team and players, and the coaching staff obviously. They’ve been doing this for decades on top of their game. But as far as Tom, of course it’s not a secret that he’s one of those world athletes that everybody is going to look up to,” said Chara. “He’s been very successful at what he does and how he prepares himself. He’s a true professional and a great human being, and he’s very smart, well-spoken. I only have great experiences when I’ve talked to him. For sure, I really admire him.”

It certainly sounds like Chara likes everything about TB12, and who could really blame him?

A hard-working winner like Chara is naturally going to have an affinity for a guy like Brady with his six Super Bowl titles and an organization in the Patriots that just keeps on sustaining winning excellence with Brady, Bill Belichick and an ever-changing cast of characters. But it’s also interesting to note that Chara has upped his social media game and opened up his personality ever so slightly after watching Brady do it to great success over the years, and sort of map out a blueprint for established star players and team leaders like Chara to do the same thing.

Now the only question is whether the bond is strong enough between Chara and Brady, a couple of 40-something iconic Boston sports legend bosom buddies, to get No. 12 to one of these Stanley Cup Final games at TD Garden to be a Bruins banner captain. He’s one of the few big names left on the list that hasn’t made a visit to Causeway Street for one of the home B’s playoff games this spring, and his mere presence would blow the roof off the place. 

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Bruins' Matt Grzelcyk reflects on Stanley Cup run with heartfelt Instagram post

Bruins' Matt Grzelcyk reflects on Stanley Cup run with heartfelt Instagram post

The pain of coming up short in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final likely will stick with the 2019 Bruins forever.

The B's admitted as much immediately following their crushing defeat vs. the Blues. But as demoralizing of a loss it was, this is a team that looks to learn from it and come back even stronger next season.

Take it from defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who reflected on the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in an Instagram post on Tuesday. The 25-year-old Charlestown native assured fans that the team will continue to "face adversity head-on."

Read his message below:

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Every time I laced up my skates or rollerbladed over to go play street hockey in Charlestown, I envisioned these very moments. Game 7, Stanley Cup Finals, for the hometown team... We came up one game short, and it hurts probably as bad as you could imagine (and then some). However, I truly believe that accomplishing anything meaningful in life requires you to overcome the obstacles presented your way. This team always faces adversity head on, and we will continue to do so. Focused. Relentless. Together. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to EVERYONE (family, friends, fans) who have supported through the good times & the bad. Your words of encouragement push us more than you know. It certainly does not go unnoticed, especially from a kid who grew up a mile away. It’s been an unforgettable year, memories that will last a lifetime. Looking forward to many more!

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Every time I laced up my skates or rollerbladed over to go play street hockey in Charlestown, I envisioned these very moments. Game 7, Stanley Cup Finals, for the hometown team... We came up one game short, and it hurts probably as bad as you could imagine (and then some). However, I truly believe that accomplishing anything meaningful in life requires you to overcome the obstacles presented your way. This team always faces adversity head on, and we will continue to do so. Focused. Relentless. Together.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to EVERYONE (family, friends, fans) who have supported through the good times & the bad. Your words of encouragement push us more than you know. It certainly does not go unnoticed, especially from a kid who grew up a mile away. It’s been an unforgettable year, memories that will last a lifetime. Looking forward to many more!

Grzelcyk was forced to miss most of the Stanley Cup Final after suffering an injury in Game 2, so it had to hurt even worse being physically unable to help his team. Even so, it's clear he's maintaining a remarkably positive attitude through the difficult circumstances.

Highlights from the B's 2019-20 schedule >>

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Don't expect a fireworks show from this Bruins team around July 1

Don't expect a fireworks show from this Bruins team around July 1

The period around the NHL Draft and the July 1 opening of free agency is always a time for hockey fans to let their fantasies fly free.

It’s a time when a big-ticket free agent like Artemi Panarin seems like a possibility, or there’s a P.K. Subban-type available in a trade just right around the corner. It’s a time when hope always springs eternal for all 31 of the NHL fan bases, and sweeping, wholesale improvements still feel like a possibility.

Unfortunately, Bruins fans will need to face the reality that it doesn’t look like the Bruins have much of a realistic shot of making those big-time improvements to an NHL roster that came within one Game 7 of capturing the Stanley Cup earlier this month.

All one needs do is look at the TSN trade bait list, which annually is the “go to” for NHL players in the rumor mill leading up to the July 1 opening of NHL free agency. There isn’t a single Bruins player listed in the Top 40 of NHL players likely to be moved around the free agency period when trades come fast and furiously.

Torey Krug isn’t listed on there despite being in the last year of a reasonable contract with the Black and Gold, and David Krejci isn’t listed either despite reduced no-trade protection (he can soon be traded to half the teams in the NHL) in his contract come July 1. Certainly there’s no David Backes on the list as nobody is in the market for a 35-year-old power forward making $6 million who is coming off a seven-goal season, and being a healthy scratch in the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final against the Blues.

The Bruins would like to make improvements to a team with an aging core group that showed their age at times during the postseason, but there’s going to be a pretty extreme limit to what they can do based on the salary cap. There’s also a delicate balance where it’s clear the B’s don’t want to do too much to mess with the mojo of a team that was good enough to play in 106 regular season and playoff games this past season.

Then again, it’s also a team that benefitted from the Lightning, Capitals and Penguins all losing in the first round of the playoffs, and that’s not likely to happen again next season or any other time soon during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“We have everybody in the same room to talk about what’s the identity we’re trying to have as a hockey club, as an organization, and we’re going to stick to those. Now, there are some changes as the league continues to evolve. Does it work all the way from Game 1 of the regular season to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup? There’s a twisting along the road between those two points of time,” said Don Sweeney. “I think you have to have the balance. I think you have to have the depth in an organization and be able to match up in a bunch of different situations against a bunch of different teams to even give yourself a chance, so yes, we’ll have an identity.

“Bruce can speak to the tenets he wants his hockey players to play with, but you touched on a bunch of them. It’s hard to teach courage, it’s hard to teach speed, hockey sense piece is another area, so we’re trying to identify them, as every team is trying to identify those same things. We had a good team this year and it showed.”

The Bruins have roughly $12 million in salary cap space after signing Steven Kampfer to a two-year, $1.6 contract, and pretty much all of that is going to be used up to re-sign restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen.

Bruins President Cam Neely was forthright with his comments post-Cup run that the Bruins could use another top-six forward, and truthfully have needed one for the last couple of seasons while 34-year-old David Backes hasn’t worked out as that guy.

“What do we need moving forward or next year? Yeah, well, obviously I know it’s been talked about at length about another top-six forward, so we’ll see where that ends up,” said Neely. “I think our bottom six was pretty strong this year, so if we can strengthen in the immediate future our top six, you know, that’s something we’d like to try and do. We’ve talked about that for a couple years now.”

So how do they do that if they have no cap space, won’t trade Krejci or Krug and don’t have any way to remove Backes from their salary cap?

That would be pretty much impossible. As it is right now, they don’t have the money to pay the $5 million plus per season that Marcus Johansson is going to get in free agency and they don’t have the kind of cap space it’s going to take to trade for Jason Zucker, Phil Kessel, Chris Kreider, Nikolaj Ehlers or James Neal that might be available in trade talks over the next couple of weeks.

All of that could change if somebody approaches the Bruins with an offer they can’t refuse for Krug or really gives them good value for Krejci, but then the Bruins would suddenly have a hole for a 50-point scorer on defense or a No. 2 center when there isn’t a ready-made replacement in the organization. When you look at it from that perspective, making those big, sweeping deals does seem a bit rash with a Bruins team that’s built steadily upward over the last three seasons.

It also feels like the Bruins are stuck right now due to salary cap constraints, no-trade provisions and a farm system that doesn’t have any suitable replacements at the center position. So don’t expect major fireworks when NHL free agency hits on July 1 because it looks like the Bruins will be bringing back a hockey club that looks very similar to the one that left the Garden ice dejected after Game 7 just a couple of weeks ago. 

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