Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)
Saturday night’s contest against the Los Angeles Kings was a historic event for the Boston Bruins‘ captain, Zdeno Chara. Chara played his 1000th career NHL game, a career that started 13 seasons ago with the New York Islanders on November 19th, 1997 against the Detroit Red Wings.
"On the way here I thought about how it all started and it’s a lot of games," Chara told ESPN.com. "I caught myself thinking, ‘Where did all the time and games go?’ It’s unbelievable because when you’re playing it seems like it’s a long season and long year but when you reach this kind of number you’re like, ‘Oh my God, it went so fast,’ and that’s what it tells you that you have to enjoy it, you have to do your best and have fun. It’s going to go by fast and before you know it you have to hang your skates so I was thinking about that and how lucky I am."
Selected 56th overall by the New York Islanders in 1996, Chara played three seasons with the Islanders before being dealt in 2001. The deal that sent Chara to the Ottawa Senators would end up being (arguably) the franchise’s greatest trade in their history. The Senators acquired Chara, along with Bill Muckalt and the second-overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft which ended up becoming franchise center Jason Spezza. The Senators ended up shipping enigmatic forward Alexei Yashin to the Islanders in the deal.
Chara’s career really started to soar with the Senators. As a 24-year-old, Chara’s offensive potential started to flourish, scoring 10 goals in his first season as a Senator in 2001. The following year, Chara finished second in team defensive scoring to Wade Redden with nine goals and 30 assists, while also leading the team with a +29 rating.
The blossoming defenseman would go on to play two more seasons with the Senators before a management decision to sign Wade Redden left the then 29-year-old open to unrestricted free agency. He would go on to sign a five-year, $37.5 million dollar contract with divisional rival Boston on July 1st, 2006.
Since joining the Bruins, Chara’s been to the NHL All-Star Game four times, has won the James Norris Memorial Trophy for Defenseman of the Year and Mark Messier Leader of the Year Award, and was named the NHL Plus/Minus Leader last season. He’s also captained the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2010-11.
Chara has arguably been the most dominant NHL defender in recent memory. His menacing shot from the point (clocking in at 108.8 mph) strikes fear to everyone on the ice, and his physical attributes are second to none in the league.
"He’s gotten better every year and at the same time, he’s just kind of blossomed into a real great captain and every year you see him continuing to grow no matter what his age is,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told Bruins.com.” He wants to continue to get better, he wants to continue to learn, he wants to be better on the ice, better off the ice.”
Chara and the Bruins came away with a victory on the night of his 1000th game, beating the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 on Saturday night. The Slovakian defender has 136 goals and 315 assists in his career and is also a +142.
Northeast Division Notes
Boston Bruins: Boston wrapped up their Western road trip on Sunday night with a 3-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks. On Saturday, Tim Thomas turned aside 40 shots for the 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Bruins signed draftees Justin Florek, 21, and Zach Trotman, 21, to entry-level deals this weekend. The club also announced the signing of free agent NCAA defenseman Torey Krug to an entry-level contract on Sunday. Krug was formerly a member of Michigan State.
Buffalo Sabres: The surging Sabres came away with key back-to-back victories this weekend over the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild. Ryan Miller played in both contests and only allowed two goals. Cody Hodgson continued his recent offensive streak, contributing a goal and assist on Saturday. The club has collected 16 out of a possible 20 points in their past 10 games.
Montreal Canadiens: Erik Cole scored three goals in the first six minutes of Friday’s contest vs. the Senators. His third goal in the game was also his 30th of the season. Cole has scored 30 goals once in his career, and it’s also his career high for goals in a season. Defenseman Frederic St-Denis was recalled from Hamilton (AHL). The Canadiens ended up splitting the weekend with a 5-1win over the Senators and a 4-1 loss the following night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau was released from hospital on Saturday after suffering a stroke in February.
Ottawa Senators: Craig Anderson returned to the crease on Friday night after missing the last four weeks with an injury hand. Anderson was pulled after allowing two goals on four shots. He was returned to the net at the start of the second period. Erik Condra and Jason Spezza hit career markers in games played this weekend. Spezza played in his 600th game, while Condra reached the 100-game mark.
Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer turned aside 43 shots in the Maple Leafs 4-3 shootout win on Friday in New Jersey. Nazem Kadri and Ryan Hamilton were both returned to the Marlies on Sunday. Kadri recorded a goal and Hamilton added an assist in Friday night’s shootout victory. Hamilton’s assist was his first career NHL point. Both forwards were on emergency recall to replace injured forwards Clarke MacArthur and Matt Frattin.