Boston’s Brad Marchand has made a career out of pestering opponents.
But expect him to be on his best behavior Saturday when the Bruins travel to Washington to face longtime teammate Zdeno Chara for the first time.
“You don’t want to poke the bear,” Marchand said. “He’s the guy that when you’re on the ice with him, you’re an opponent. … It’ll be weird to see him in a different uniform.”
Chara, 43, spent 14 seasons patrolling the Boston blue line and wearing the “C” on his jersey as the team captain, guiding the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Finals and a championship in 2011 as well as the Presidents’ Trophy last season as the team with the most regular-season points.
But with his role in Boston diminishing and his contract up, he decided to sign a one-year deal with the Capitals in the offseason.
“I think he’ll come out and we’ll see his best,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after a 4-1 victory against visiting Pittsburgh on Thursday, the team’s fourth win in a row. “He bled black and gold here for the Bruins for years, and I think he’s gonna wanna show his teammates, and everyone in the organization, that he can still bring it. I would expect nothing less.”
Chara scored his first goal for the Capitals and added an assist Thursday as they rallied from a three-goal deficit to defeat the New York Islanders 6-3.
Following his tally on a slap shot from just above the left faceoff circle, which capped a five-goal second period, Chara was mobbed by his new teammates at the door to the Capitals’ bench.
“I returned to the bench to the guys right away because I just wanted to share the joy and excitement with them,” Chara said. “Since Day 1, they’ve really done an amazing job welcoming me and making the transition as easy and simple as possible for me.”
Capitals coach Peter Laviolette was even taken in by the celebration.
“It was pretty awesome,” Laviolette said. “It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time with regard to a team.”
Chara was asked after the game about the upcoming matchup against the Bruins but refrained from any sentimentality.
“It’s all about the team …” he said. “Obviously, we know we’re going to be facing a really good team (in the Bruins) and we’re going to have to prepare ourselves and play our best to have a chance.”
The Capitals have set a franchise record by starting the season with an eight-game point streak (5-0-3). They did so despite captain Alex Ovechkin, forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov missing the past four games because of COVID-19 protocols. None of the four skated Friday in optional practice and they remain day-to-day.
It was originally thought they would be eligible to return Saturday, but there has been no official announcement regarding their status.
The Bruins might get top-line winger David Pastrnak back following offseason hip surgery.
But it’ll mostly be about Chara.
“It’s gonna be really weird seeing him on the other side of the ice,” said the Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy, who spent his first two NHL seasons with Chara as his defensive partner. “I don’t know if that’s gonna be something I’ll really be kind of able to get over — seeing him in a Capitals jersey.
“I think his presence is pretty irreplaceable, completely irreplaceable. The magnitude of who he is as a player and a person, people like him don’t come around every day. That is obviously different, not having him here.”
(Field Level Media)