Can Zdeno Chara Fit Bruce Cassidy’s New Aggressive Bruins Defense?

By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy has already implemented some changes to the team’s playing style, especially on defense. When the blue liners had the puck on Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks, the change in style leaped off the screen at times.

Torey Krug, especially, zipped all over the ice when on the attack, most notably early in the game when he forechecked in the lower opposite corner from where he’d usually be. He shoveled the puck from down in the corner to David Backes in the slot, putting the Bruins up 1-0 just 52 seconds into the game. Colin Miller also showed off his impressive skating and puck-moving ability in the offensive zone and on the power play.

One of the big questions for the rest of the season, however, rests on the shoulders of Zdeno Chara. Can a player like the Bruins captain fit into a defensive scheme that emphasizes speed and aggression?

Chara missed Thursday night’s win as he recovered from an illness, so the early answers for how Chara fits into the Bruins’ system under Cassidy won’t come until Saturday and Sunday against Vancouver and Montreal. But, ever the professional, Chara is ready to work with whatever Cassidy wants to do with him that may not be the same as Claude Julien.

“I mean, they’re different people,” Chara said after Friday’s practice on the two coaches. “Every coach has different things that he likes to do. … It’s our job to be ready for whatever the change or tweaks could be, and adjust to it and be ready.”

Chara has always been a strong skater, but he’s not the kind of player you’d ever describe as “fast” or “agile.” He certainly can’t do a lot of things that Krug or Miller can do on offense. But where he definitely can help the Bruins defense is his steady play on the back end.

Ultimately, the Bruins will need to keep someone back and they can’t have their defensemen flying all over the place while disregarding their responsibilities at the other end. There will be nights where the defensive mistakes are glaring due to being too aggressive.

Even Cassidy knows this.

“You know, the day will come when we pay the price for that aggression and we’ll see from there when we find that happy medium,” Cassidy told reporters after the game on Thursday. “So, tonight it worked out for us. I liked that our D were up and assertive in the neutral zone, killing plays, and trying to make quick ups. But, like I said, some nights it’s going to bite you so you have to find that balance, but we do want to play this way.

“We’ve said that for the last two days; we want to play on our toes and be a little more assertive in our overall game and see where it goes.”

Chara has always asserted himself more with his size and physicality than with his skating or puck-moving, so there will need to be some big adjustments made for the 39-year-old to succeed in Cassidy’s more aggressive system. But as far as finding Cassidy’s “balance” or “happy medium” between showing that aggression and staying responsible in your own end, the captain potentially represents that bridge.

When most of the Bruins defense will be more fluid and creative in the coming weeks, Chara might be even more of a rock at the back end than before.

Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.

Comments

One Comment

  1. Not every defenseman needs to play the same way… Wingers can learn to be aware of the defensemens more frequent charges into the zone, and rotate back to cover.
    BRuins did this very well against the Canadians last game.

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