Chara on ending the Bruins' slump: ‘Yeah it starts with me’

Matt Kalman
January 31, 2019 - 11:52 pm

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t shy about publicly requesting that captain Zdeno Chara do more to get the team back on track defensively now that they’re 1-2-3 in their past six games after they lost 3-2 in overtime to Philadelphia at TD Garden on Thursday.

“Listen he’s the captain of the hockey club, so that message has to come. He won a Stanley Cup here by being a defensive stalwart, one of the best penalty killers in the league. So yes, he’s part of that group and the biggest part of it. So I would hope that – he’s a terrific leader – that the next game he understands what makes us successful,” Cassidy said in his postgame press conference.

Cassidy, though, didn’t have to send any message through the media to the 41-year-old defenseman. Chara has been here before, with all different types of Bruins teams, in the 13 years since he took over as captain.

He knows exactly what has to be done and where the buck stops when the Bruins don’t take care of business at their own end.

“Yeah it starts with me. So that’s for sure is something that as a leader I’ve got to make sure the message gets across to them,” Chara told WEEI.com as the Bruins’ dressing room emptied out for the night.

“[Cassidy’s] right. We have to play a certain way and it’s my job to lead that in that department and make sure that we have everybody buying into it. We have the skills or the abilities and we all have to play a certain way. It’s been the identity of this team for a long time and I think that defense is always something you take a lot of pride in and once we do that, we always kind of thrive to the offensive side of it.”

The Bruins’ biggest problem right now is a lack of secondary scoring, and Cassidy didn’t avoid that fact. But he’s looking for the Bruins to play the tight defense that has them ranked fourth in the NHL and second in the Eastern Conference in goals against per game (2.63) until (or if) the offense comes around. All five Bruins losses in their six-game slump have been by own goal and they’ve been outscored 17-12 in those contests.

The Bruins have held the lead seven times in those five games and one or two defensive breakdowns have been their undoing.

"We got to fix it. Guys got to decide if they’re going to play the right way and buy in and understand what we are right now," Cassidy said. “If we were scoring five goals a night, it’d be a little different animal, you can overlook some of those things. We’re not in that position right now. Hopefully we are at some point but we’re not there now.”

Whether the Bruins can get secondary scoring from their roster as currently constructed or from players acquired in trades by general manager Don Sweeney between now and the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline remains to be seen. But their defensive statistics prove they have the talent on their back end to grind out 2-1 and 3-2 victories.

Part of their problem might be that they’re finally healthy. There were no injured scratches against the Flyers and it might take time for the lineup that was projected to be together when the season started to get in sync. Players who were injured, including Chara, might need a little more time to really hit their stride because they haven't played a sufficient number of games yet.

There could also be a bit of cheating going on for players that need to be more conscientious defensively but are trying to boost the offense. Chara, Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Miller were all guilty of this against the Flyers.

“We just all try to help. … It’s one of those [things] you can’t really blame for trying. We just have to pick the right times,” Chara said.

The Bruins’ defensemen will probably improve their selectivity in the games ahead. Because Chara’s going to make sure they do. That’s his job as the captain, and as always he’s going to fulfill his role.

Related: Kalman: Bruins should say P U to current price for Panarin

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