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A closer look at what rocky Norris voting has meant for Zdeno Chara 10.08.14 at 1:56 am ET
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The following is a complementary piece to today’€™s feature on Zdeno Chara. To read the full piece, click here.

Zdeno Chara's lone Norris win came in 2009. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Zdeno Chara‘s lone Norris win came in 2009. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Last season, Chara finished a distant second to Duncan Keith for the Norris Trophy, which is voted on each season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’€™ Association (full disclosure: I am a voting member who gave Chara my top vote last season).

Intended to go to the league’€™s top defenseman each season, the Norris is perhaps the most up-for-interpretation award on which the writers vote.

Voting, in the eyes of the players and at least this member of the media, is out of control. Either more specific criteria should be set for voters or writers shouldn’€™t determine who wins. The Vezina Trophy, for example, is voted on by NHL general managers. They mess it up sometimes, too, but general managers are (for the most part) smarter than writers.

“A lot of times, it’€™s like a political campaign,” Ray Bourque, a five-time Norris-winner in his day, told WEEI.com.

Defensive metrics are becoming more widely available, but as they become fine-tuned and the hockey world slowly begins to accept them, the statistic that voters continue to look to first remains points. Lunacy.

In 2012, Erik Karlsson won the award, while Chara finished third. The year after that, P.K. Subban won. Both Karlsson and Subban’€™s Norris wins were based exclusively on points; Karlsson did not kill penalties for the Senators and Subban was 12th on the Habs in shorthanded time on ice the year he won.

Yet Subban, after tying for the lead among NHL defensemen in points in his Norris-winning season, finished fifth in points last season but dropped all the way to 14th in voting, receiving a single third-place vote and a single fifth-place vote. So is the award about playing defense or putting up points? If it’€™s the latter, why were Subban’€™s points ignored last season? And why, then, were Mike Green‘€™s 31 goals in Chara’€™s Norris-winning season not enough to wrest the trophy from Chara?

It’€™s that inconsistency in voting that each year brings Chara closer to finishing a Hall of Fame career with just one Norris to show for it.

“You kind of feel like, ‘€˜OK, is this going to ever happen again or is this going to change or are they going to look at it differently?’€™” Chara said. “Because every year they tell you, ‘€˜He didn’€™t get it because he had a lot of points, a lot of goals, but he’€™s not an all-around defenseman.’€™ Then the next year they’€™ll be like, ‘€˜Hey, he’€™s an all-around defenseman but this [other] guy got 25 goals as a defenseman,’€™ so it’€™s like every year it’€™s almost like it swings, the way they look at it. How do you know really [what they want]?”

Over the last 10 seasons, Chara has been a top-three finisher in Norris voting six times and finished in the top five eight times. His only win came in 2008-09, and while both Niklas Lidstrom and Keith have won the award multiple times in that span, no defenseman has finished near the top with Chara’€™s consistency in the last 10 years.

Translation: Chara comes up short a lot.

He loses because of points. In fact, he even understands that though he was the best all-around defenseman in the league last year, his 17 goals (10 of which were on the power play, where he mostly played forward) were probably as big a reason that he got as many votes as he did as his defensive dominance.

Winning the Norris is important to Chara, but he shouldn’€™t expect to win it again. Last season he was as deserving of the award as he usually is –€“ Chara’€™s performance was backed up well by both advanced and old-fashioned stats (his plus-25 rating was tops among the top 10 vote-getters; Shea Weber, who played tougher minutes, was a minus-2) — but he was blown out of the water by Keith, a well-rounded defenseman who was used on Chicago’€™s second pairing to maximize his offensive output. That meant a sensational 61 points (second among defensemen) but it came against easier competition than Chara faced.

A usage chart for the top-five Norris vote-getters last season, courtesy of HockeyAbstract.com.

A usage chart for the top-five Norris vote-getters last season, courtesy of HockeyAbstract.com. X-axis: Offensive zone start %. Y-axis: CorsiRel Quality of Competition. Bubble size: Time on ice. Bubble color: Corsi On

The Blackhawks’€™ usage of Keith was brilliant, but it should have done more for Joel Quenneville’€™s Jack Adams (top coach; voted on by broadcasters) candidacy than it did for Keith’€™s Norris odds. Regardless, the voting wasn’€™t close. Keith finished first in votes with 1033 points and 68 first-place votes. Chara was given 667 points, receiving less than a third of Keith’€™s first-place votes with 21.

“I’€™m not mad about Duncan or anybody who is winning the trophy,”€ Chara clarified. “€œI just feel a little bit disappointed at times that I’€™ve really felt I had a strong season, I really had an all-around season and I would deserve it, but it’€™s voting. It’€™s in the hands of writers, and [that] is obviously something that only [writers] who have votes can change and make a difference, if that’€™s something you guys feel should be different.”

Bourque’€™s five Norris seasons give him the fourth-most in NHL history behind Bobby Orr (eight), Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom (seven apiece). Keith, who won the award as a shutdown defenseman in 2009-10, is now in the exclusive club of players with multiple Norris wins (12 players).

It’€™s very easy to argue that Chara should be in that club, but both he and anyone who has seen how the votes have fallen over the years should be wise enough to not hold their breath.

“If you want to get me started talking about the Norris Trophy and who should win it and how that all comes about in terms of who wins it in certain years,’€ Bourque said, ‘€œ’€… I think that Karlsson in Ottawa is an incredible offense player, but I think that when you look at the Norris Trophy and the position of DEFENSE-man, and I put an emphasis on DEFENSE-man, it’€™s incredible to me sometimes, the voting and how it all happens.

“Believe me, I’€™ve been there,”€ Bourque added. “I’€™ve been in his shoes many, many times. I won it five times, but it was very frustrating at times, not saying that I’€™ve won it more times.”

Read More: Duncan Keith, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara,
Bruins react to Johnny Boychuk trade and its ‘reality check’ impact going forward 10.05.14 at 10:41 am ET
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With the season opening at home Wednesday against the Flyers, the Bruins don’t have long to be upset about the loss of one of their best teammates.

Still, even coach Claude Julien said after Saturday’s preseason finale that the team will take a little time to get over “the sting” of losing Johnny Boychuk ($3.37 million) to the harsh realities of today’s salary cap NHL.

Torey Krug, just 23, now understands just how important managing the salary cap is for each team after spending most of the summer without a contract because GM Peter Chiarelli couldn’t fit him under the cap. Krug and Reilly Smith had to wait all summer and through most of camp to sign their $1.4 million deals because the team couldn’t sign them.

“[It’s] another lesson in the business for me,” said Krug. “I learned a few things this summer for sure, and it’s always going to be part of it forever as long as this game exists and the cap situation exists in this sport, so it’s tough to see him go for sure.”

Several defensemen will have to pick up the slack for Boychuk and will have the opportunity to step right in and play a bigger role in place of the 30-year-old who was considered one of the heart-and-soul parts of the B’s Stanley Cup run in 2011 and their finals appearance in 2013.

Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and Krug all are younger than Boychuk and all likely will get chances to play alongside Dennis Seidenberg on Boston’s No. 2 D-pairing.

“I mean, it’s been like this the last few years, so it doesn’t really change anything,” Seidenberg said. “For me, it’s just trying to play wherever they put me and trying to do it well.”

“I didn’t know that — there was some talk about different things and stuff, but I was pretty much shocked,” McQuaid said in reacting Saturday. “I don’t know, I guess maybe we all just kind of had that hope in the back of our minds that somehow we could all stay. He’s a guy that’s a huge part of this team and for me a guy that always put a smile on my face every day. Always came to the rink in a good mood and was cracking jokes. I think I’ve played seven pro seasons and six have been with Johnny, so we’ve been through a lot together. He’s a guy that — I don’t think it’s really sunk in quite yet — but a guy that will be sorely missed.”

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Read More: Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk
Zdeno Chara scores as Bruins beat Capitals in preseason meeting 09.24.14 at 9:30 pm ET
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The Bruins beat the Capitals, 2-0, in their second game of the preseason Wednesday night at TD Garden.

Zdeno Chara scored on the doorstep during a third-period power play to finally break a scoreless tie. The power play came as a result of a boarding penalty on John Erskine for shoving Jared Knight into the boards head first. Knight stayed in the game.

The B’s also got an empty-netter from Simon Gagne in the final seconds of the game.

Tuukka Rask played the first two periods, stopping all 14 shots he saw. Jeremy Smith, who was signed in the offseason to back up Malcolm Subban in Providence, turned in a scoreless third period, including the play of the game in which he came across his net to rob Andre Burakovsky with a glove save.

The lines for the game were:

Marchand – Bergeron – Griffith
Gagne – Khokhlachev – Leino
Florek – Kearns – Knight
Lindblad – Spooner – Fallstrom

Chara – Hamilton
Bartkowski – McQuaid
Breen – Trotman

Rask
Smith

Read More: Zdeno Chara,
Zdeno Chara admits 2 of his fingers were broken vs. Canadiens 09.08.14 at 12:49 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Zdeno Chara was careful to not go into detail regarding a hand injury believed to be a broken finger when the Bruins were eliminated by the Canadiens in the second round, even asking his agent to not comment on his injury back in May. On Monday, the Bruins captain finally confirmed that, as suspected, his shooting hand was in rough shape as the series wore on.

Chara said he did not have surgery, but admitted that both the ring finger and the pinky of his left hand were broken. Chara said Monday that the bone in his pinky was sticking out of his skin at the time of the injury and that he no longer has feeling in either finger, though he now can grip his stick normally again.

Though breaking two fingers isn’t the most gruesome hockey injury, it’s a much bigger deal than it sounds, especially considering the pinky was one of them. Without the use of the pinky a player can’t grip his stick, or much of anything for that matter.

That explains why Chara was so visibly weak on his stick, particularly late in the series. It also explains why he wasn’t shooting; Chara had just one shot on goal in Game 6 and none in Game 7.

That makes two consecutive postseasons in which Chara was hindered in a significant way in the Bruins’ final games. Chara had a hip injury that worsened over the course of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, with the Blackhawks taking advantage of the weakened blueliner for the game-tying goal in their Cup-clinching Game 6 victory.

Chara has been in town practicing with his teammates since last week.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Zdeno Chara,
Giant defenseman Oleg Yevenko hopes to make most of development camp invitation with Bruins 07.09.14 at 10:57 pm ET
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There is a great big European defenseman on the ice at Bruins development camp.

His name is Oleg Yevenko, he stands 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds and he’s from Belarus. He’s 23 years old and isn’t a member of an NHL organization; he’s in town on an invitation from the B’s (he was in the Devils prospect camp last year and the Islanders prospect camp two years ago). He plays his college hockey at UMass, where he’ll be a senior in the fall. He also played for Belarus in the IIHF World Championship back in May.

And, like many giant players before him, the question is obvious: Can he skate?

It’s a question that was applied to the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara for years, and the answer wasn’t always yes. With hard work came the skating, and Chara, a third-round pick of the Islanders, became Chara.

“He’s definitely the example,” Yevenko said Wednesday of Chara. “He’s one of the best defensemen in the league at the moment. He uses his size very, very well and there’s a lot to learn from that guy.”

Yevenko strives for a future in the NHL, something that led him to North America at the age of 18.

A hockey player since he was 8 years old, Yevenko got a tryout with the Fargo Force of the USHL and made the team. If that team sounds familiar, it’s because that’s where Bruins goaltending prospect Zane Gothberg played before heading to the University of North Dakota.

Gothberg’s been watching Yevenko for years, from the not-so-pretty to the better-than-not-so-pretty.

“He’s a huge body, man. I remember him coming to camp in Fargo,” Gothberg said. “He could barely move his boots and stuff; had a tough time skating. Now, he’s come a heck of a long way. He’s got good feet for a big man. It’s obviously something he [still] could work on, but that’s with anything in everybody; you’ve always got something to work on.”

Yevenko takes a lot of penalties and was suspended multiple times in his three years in the USHL. He views his size as a big part of that, which is reminiscent of the difficulty Dougie Hamilton – albeit a much younger Dougie Hamilton — had in junior hockey being physical without being called for infractions.

“Every decent or big collision, normally you get called,” Yevenko said. “That’s one of the things that happened during the last year, too. You get called a lot, sometimes get suspended. It kind of influences your game to a certain degree. Maybe on a conscious level, you’re just more careful when you come in a corner because you don’t want to put your team in a bad position.”

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Read More: Oleg Yevenko, Zdeno Chara,
Bruins report card: Defensemen/goaltenders 06.10.14 at 4:12 pm ET
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As the Stanley Cup finals take place, the fact that the Bruins didn’€™t even reach the Eastern Conference finals after winning the Presidents’€™ Trophy further accentuates the failure that was their 2013-14 season. Here are the individual grades.

DEFENSEMEN

Zdeno Chara: A-
Regular season: 77 GP, 17 G, 23 A, 40 PTS, plus-25
Postseason: 12 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS, plus-4

The good: He was the best defenseman in the league in the regular season and was the most deserving Norris candidate, though the guess here is he’€™ll lose to Duncan Keith. The bad: He wasn’t himself in the last couple of games against the Canadiens, which cemented the fact that when Chara isn’t right, neither are the Bruins.

Torey Krug: A-/B+
Regular season: 79 GP, 14 G, 26 A, 40 PTS, plus-18
Postseason: 12 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS, minus-2
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

Krug gets this high a mark because he’€™s a bottom-pairing defenseman who gives the Bruins major production in offensive situation and on the power play. He’s also getting better in his own end. It will be interesting to see what kind of money Krug commands as a restricted free agent, as this was just his first full season in the NHL.

Dougie Hamilton: B+
Regular season: 64 GP, 7 G, 18 A, 25 PTS, plus-22
Postseason: 12 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, plus-1

When he was healthy, Hamilton made big strides in his second season. Paired with Chara on the Bruins’€™ shutdown pairing in the postseason, he had a ball against the Red Wings in the first round, but his Game 3 mental gaffe with P.K. Subban coming out of the penalty box was the low point of what was otherwise a very promising campaign from the 20-year-old.

Johnny Boychuk: B+
Regular season: 75 GP, 5 G, 18 A, 23 PTS, plus-31
Postseason: 12 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, plus-3

Know who loves playing for the Bruins? Johnny Boychuk. Know who’€™s in the prime of his career (30) and a really good right-shot defenseman who could command a ton of money if he hits free agency after next season? Johnny Boychuk. This could get interesting. The Bruins could either concede that they won’€™t be able to afford him by trading Boychuk this offseason or they can try to get a deal done with him before the season starts, the latter of which is Peter Chiarelli‘€™s usual plan of attack.

Kevan Miller: B+
Regular season: 47 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS, plus-20
Postseason: 11 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS, plus-2

He’€™s a young defenseman who isn’t immune to making mistakes, but he’s steady enough to play the Adam McQuaid role of third-pairing defenseman with a healthy dose of nasty. While Miller proved himself to be an NHL regular, his first taste of the playoffs wasn’t so swell, as his postseason will be remembered for his giveaway in Game 6 against the Canadiens that resulted in what would end up standing as the game-winning goal. The fact that he signed a two-year extension with an $800,000 cap hit might make him a better commodity than McQuaid going forward.

Dennis Seidenberg: B
Regular season: 34 GP, 1 G, 9 A, 10 P, plus-11
Postseason: DNP

Seidenberg was fine before he went down with a torn ACL/MCL, and you have to commend his effort to return to the lineup, which he would have done had the Bruins reached the Eastern Conference finals. He signed a four-year extension before the first game of the season.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara
Bruins injury roundup: Matt Fraser played on broken foot 05.16.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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As is customary on breakup day, word emerged on injuries the Bruins dealt with during the postseason. The bravest of the bunch proved to be Matt Fraser, who played the entire postseason with a broken foot.

Fraser, who was sporting a cast and crutches Friday, broke his right foot in Game 1 of the first round of the AHL postseason while playing for the Providence Bruins. He was dealing with the injury when he was called up in the second round by the Bruins and he scored the overtime winner in Game 4 of the second round for Boston.

Chris Kelly, who suffered a back injury late in the season, had a herniated disc and said it was the most pain he had ever dealt with. Kelly said he hoped he could have returned in some point in the playoffs but wasn’t sure. Kelly will undergo surgery at some point.

Milan Lucic was sporting a soft cast on his left wrist after suffering an injury in Game 7 of the second round against Montreal. He was set to receive an MRI on Friday.

Regarding Zdeno Chara‘s fractured finger, the Bruins captain said that he might not need surgery.

As for Dennis Seidenberg, the defenseman said his plan all along was to return this season after tearing his ACL and MCL on Dec. 27 and having surgery in early January. Seidenberg said he would have been able to play in the Eastern Conference finals had the team gotten there.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Chris Kelly, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Fraser, Milan Lucic
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