BRIGHTON, Mass – Normally opponents never said they were excited, happy or enthused to be lining up against former Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara when he patrolled the blue line over the last 14 years in Boston. Apparently that’s changed now that he’s left the Bruins fold and signed on with the Washington Capitals for this season.
But Bruins center David Krejci actually used the word “excited” to describe the eight games against the Washington Capitals, and Chara, set up for this season with the NHL’s realignment for the 2021 regular season. The playmaking center also hinted at the Bruins perhaps knowing how to exploit the 43-year-old shutdown defensemen while also making a passing reference to his advanced hockey-playing age.
True to form, Krejci always gives you an honest answer about things.
“Obviously, [Chara] was such a presence in the room and on the ice. He established himself as one of the best defensemen in the league and he had some pretty good success with us. For me with him being on the other side, I’m actually excited to get to play against him. I’m kind of glad he didn’t retire, and we’ll get to see him with the other team. We’ll be able to see him eight times [during the regular season], so it will be different, fun and exciting,” said Krejci. “I’m looking forward to it.
“In practices you just kind of battle against him, but he can’t really go in the corner against you [in practice]. He’s a good player. At his age, he can still bring something to the table. He’s on the PK and he knows us really well. He knows our power play well. But we also know him really well and what he can do well. On the other hand, he’s a little bit older so we know where his game is at. It will be fun. I’m actually really excited.”
Boy, that “he’s a little bit older” comment from Krejci really gives you a window into how the Bruins really view the departure of Chara in favor of younger, sleeker and faster defensemen, doesn’t it? 23-year-old Jeremy Lauzon has essentially been skating in Chara’s place alongside Charlie McAvoy at Bruins training camp, and youngsters Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen have looked solid in Boston Bruins training camp to this point as well.
Will Krejci and the rest of the Bruins be as “excited” about facing Chara after playing him a couple of times when he clearly has a point to prove to his old team as a member of the Washington Capitals? That’s going to be an interesting one and will largely depend on just how much the 6-foot-9, 250-pounder still has in his tank this season after the long layoff following last summer’s bubble playoffs in Toronto.
One thing is for sure: Krejci is one of the few NHL players this humble hockey writer has ever actually heard voicing excitement about playing against one of the league’s most intimidating players in Zdeno Chara.