Former Boston Bruins winger Mark Recchi is a big fan of new Bruins forward Pavel Zacha.
The hall of fame winger, who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011 in his last game as an NHL player, coached Zacha for the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils. While Zacha, 25, has struggled to live up to the expectations that came from the Devils drafting him sixth overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Recchi still thinks there’s plenty of time for Zacha to realize his potential and playing for the Boston Bruins may be just what a player Recchi calls a ‘great teammate’ needs.
“He’s a great kid; I mean just a great kid and a great teammate,” Zacha’s former assistant coach said of the newest Bruin. “As for him as a player? Well, I think there’s a ton of skill there once he can figure out how to use it on a consistent basis. I mean talent wise, Donny [Bruins GM Don Sweeney] got a steal here. Talent-wise he’s way better than Haula. He’s got the skill and just a big body and when he uses that body he’s hard to take the puck away from.”
According to Recchi, confidence in himself when things don’t go as planned and in his shot have held Zacha back.
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Last season Zacha got off to a great start with eight goals and four assists in his first 16 games of the season but then had a goal and two assists in his next 12 games. He fell into head coach Lindy Ruff’s doghouse and never could quite find his way out finishing the season with 15 goals and 21 assists in 70 games.
“Confidence and just putting it all together has been the issue,” Mark Recchi said. “Last year he got off to a great start; was really our best player, and then he hit a bump a bit and he just couldn’t seem to dig himself out of it. He wants to show he deserved to get drafted where he is and effort isn’t an issue at all; it’s just confidence and really knowing he can do it. He needs to stop being so hard on himself and he needs to shoot more. He’s got a great shot.”
When told of Recchi’s scouting report on him, Pavel Zacha agreed with the hall of fame winger who had 577 goals and 956 assists in 1,652 games as an NHL player.
“Getting more offensive. I think, you know, I was always able to focus on the defense more than I should have,” Zacha acknowledged. “And everyone, even Mark [Recchi] was telling me, you know, you have a great shot. You have to get to the net a little bit more. You know, shoot the pucks and be a little bit more selfish and in that way. So it’s something that I try to work on, and then getting the opportunity to play. I think the year before last year I got a big opportunity to play, and I showed a little bit more so and our last year was a little bit different for me. So, I’m just excited to be on this good team and just get better with that. But offense for me, I think I can bring that to the table next year.”
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is hoping that’s the case and that Zacha heed’s Recchi’s advice.
“He made a comment, Mark Recchi was telling him he needs to shoot and be a little more selfish,” Sweeney pointed out. “And he does have a really, really good shot. Where you play him on the power play from our stake with March being out as you go in the other elbow — I mean, those are conversations Jimmy and I had or started to have and he’ll tinker with and those guys will figure it out, you know, and Jon Gruden, who may be part of the power play side of things.
He has all the talent to be able to take advantage of situational opportunity. And it’ll be up to him to hopefully finish maybe at a little higher rate. And as I referenced, he’s played with good players and younger players and he’ll play with good players that are established here and hopefully just take advantage of it. But we do believe there’s a higher offensive ceiling there as a good two-way player, but with a higher offensive ceiling that hopefully he can tap into.”
One way Recchi believes Sweeney and Montgomery can help Zacha do that is by playing him with Boston Bruins center David Krejci, who returned to the Bruins on a one-year, $1 million contract this past Monday. In fact, Recchis suggested Montgomery form a ‘Czech line’ with Zacha, Krejci and David Pastrnak.
“With Krejci coming back, that’s huge because I know he loves ‘Krech’ and looks up to him,” Recchi said. “He can really help him on and off the ice. Heck, if I’m Jimmy [Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery], I’m doing a Czech line of Zacha-Krech-Pasta. Why the hell not? I think they would click and it would help Pavel a lot.”