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Ray Bourque on D&C: Defensively, Zdeno Chara is ‘one of the best that’s ever been’

05.25.11 at 7:56 am ET

Legendary Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque stopped by for a chat with Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning during a charity benefit for the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Boston. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Asked if the Lightning have a psychological edge over the Bruins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night because they are the more desperate team, Bourque said: “I think it brings the best out of you, so I’d say yes. But the flip side of that, the Bruins are kind of a good counter-puncher kind of a team.

“Sometimes when you come out with that kind of energy or intensity, you might try to do too much and make mistakes and counter and maybe take advantage of those mistakes and go down early in the game, like you saw in Game 4 in Tampa. That’s what happened. It’s not that the Bruins played an incredible first period and came out of that period up 3-0. It’s Tampa that made some mistakes, and the Bruins capitalized on it. So, a game like tonight, you could see that happening again.”

Should the Bruins finish off the Lightning, the challenge in the Stanley Cup finals would be enormous. “Vancouver’s going to be very tough,” Bourque said. “That’s going to be by far their toughest series.”

Bourque said no matter how the season ends this year, the future looks bright for this Bruins team. “I think it’s a very good team with a great goalie, and a team that’s only going to get better, I think, in years to come,” he said. “And experiencing what they’re experiencing this year in the playoffs, the growth of some of these players is going to be tremendous.”

Asked where Zdeno Chara rates among the best Bruins defensemen ever ‘€” a list that includes Bourque and Bobby Orr ‘€” Bourque was highly complimentary of the Czech standout.

“I think defensively he’s better than both of us,” Bourque said. “He’s a shutdown D that is like no other in the league. I’ll tell you that any player playing against him ‘€” you’re not hearing much about [Martin] St. Louis or [Vincent] Lecavalier because of Zdeno. That’s why.

“Defensively, he’s the best, and one of the best that’s ever been because of his size and his strength and his reach. I mean, this guy’s 7 foot on skates and his reach is incredible. You just watch him, like Inspector Gadget all of a sudden ‘€” bang, that stick comes out, and it’s amazing.”

Asked about Chara being sent to the net more often during the Eastern Conference finals, Bourque warned that that the team needs to be cautious.

“You don’t want him forcing things offensively,” he said. “That’s where the expectations are unfair on him, is where you’re expecting too much out of him offensively sometimes because he’s got the big shot, he’s got good vision, he’s able to move the puck and able to move pretty good for a big guy.

“But having him go end to end like he did the other night, things just opened up for him. He made a great play, he made a great shot, [Mike] Smith made a great save on that play.”

Added Bourque: “You can’t do that. You try to do that every time you’ve got the puck, that puck’s coming the other way, and you get trapped. You want him defending.”

Bourque also heaped praise on goalie Tim Thomas. Asked if Thomas is the best Bruins goalie he’s ever seen, Bourque replied: “I’d say yes. I’m real happy for him this year. Over the last few years he’s kind of lost in that second round. It’s just nice to see him be able to go through and really make the difference like he has this year. It really is amazing at his age and where he came from to say that.

“So much credit to him. He is so competitive. I just remember the one year that I was consulting with the Bruins on ice for home practices and home games. The kid is just a madman. He wants to stop every single shot ‘€” practice, games. He’s so competitive and athletic. He’s pretty special to watch.”

Read More: Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara
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