BOSTON (CBS) – If a loss in the qualifying round to the Czech Republic and an 11th-place finish at the 2014 Sochi Games didn’t do enough to convince the hockey powers that be in Slovakia that they need to do something quick in order to close the gap on other nations, maybe the words of their captain will convince them.
Zdeno Chara returned to practice with the Bruins on Monday at TD Garden. Although Chara was ready to turn his attention back to the NHL and the Bruins, who start their post-Olympic schedule Wednesday night on the road against the Buffalo Sabres, Chara took some time to reflect on his experiences of the past two weeks in Russia.
“That’s a big question mark. I don’t know,” Chara said about the future of Slovakian hockey. “It’s going to be very interesting to see what the future’s going to bring. Once our older generation of Hossas, Handzus, Gaboriks, myself and so on get out of the national team and there’s not much replacements to come in. So really it’s going to be a big question mark and a big responsibility for the youth hockey in Slovakia to develop a system and teaching kind of a system for the coaches to implement what we want to accomplish, what maybe the other countries did a few years ago.”
Slovakia was winless in four games and outscored by 11. The Slovaks managed to push a game against Russia to a shootout, but otherwise they were dominated for most of the tournament.
“It was one of those things that we couldn’t put, besides the game against Russia, the whole 60 minutes together. We had games where we played really, really good for two periods and then came the moment that we’d get scored [on] two, three goals and pretty much that was over,” Chara said. “So maybe a little bit [lack] of focus or concentration on our part. It wasn’t our best tournament. We don’t have, obviously, the depth of other countries that we can really afford to have that kind of depth on our team. But guys fought really hard and didn’t get any results.”
Unlike the athletes from most of the other sports, a disappointment performance at the Olympics doesn’t mean four more years of hard work before one can compete again. Chara now gets to play for a Bruins team that, unlike his Slovakian squad, seemingly solved the 60-minute dilemma in the weeks before the Olympic break. The Bruins are in first place and are one of a handful of legitimate contenders to win the Stanley Cup.
Chara says he’s sure the extra games and minutes played will affect him a little bit when the season resumes. Whether there will be an extra toll on his body come playoff time remains to be seen. It’s worth noting that he averaged just north of 23 minutes per game, less than he averaged for the Bruins before the break.
“It was a very short break for some of us, but that’s the way it is. And you have to get serious and finish the season strong,” he said.
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