There’s no single player more important to the success of the Boston Bruins than their captain, Zdeno Chara.
The towering defenseman is the team’s anchor, and even at age 36, he’s averaging over 25 minutes per night on the ice for the Bruins.
So when word spread on Thursday that Chara would be missing one or perhaps two games in order to carry the Slovakian flag during the opening ceremonies for this year’s Olympics, it was big news.
Bruins president Cam Neely was asked about the team’s decision to let Chara miss a game or two in order to make the early trip to Sochi, Russia.
“He had asked the organization if he could do this. It’s quite an honor,” Neely said on Felger and Mazz on Thursday afternoon. “Obviously, I shared my feeling about the Olympics with you last week … there’s a number of reasons why I don’t like our league shutting down. Zdeno’s done a lot for this organization since he’s been here. If it didn’t mean as much to him as it does, he wouldn’t have asked. So we feel it was the right thing to do.
“Obviously, I’d prefer to have him in the lineup, but we feel this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him. He really didn’t want to pass up this opportunity.”
Felger told Neely that giving Chara a rest might not be the worst thing in the world for the Bruins, considering how worn down the D-man could be by season’s end.
“We’ve got a plan in place — I don’t know how well we’ll be able to execute it — for our players that are participating in the Olympics, depending on how many games they play and how much they play,” Neely said of giving players rest late in the season. “It’s also going to depend on where we are in the standings, how we feel we’re playing as a team and looking to secure home-ice advantage.”
Neely was asked if goaltender Tuukka Rask was facing too heavy of a workload in this, his first 82-game season as a full-time starter. Neely said that’s not as much of a factor in the goalie’s recent slum, but that the team’s play as a unit in front of him has contributed the most.
“I think that in front of Tuukka, we haven’t been as sharp. There’s games where Tuukka has stolen games for us,” Neely said. “We’re struggling offensively, we’re struggling on the PK. Our power plays’s dipped as well. Those are areas where we have to improve.”
Neely also fielded questions about Tyler Seguin, who plays against his former team on Thursday night, and he ended his talk with a cheer for another hometown team: “Go Pats!”