Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game Seven

Zdeno Chara develops into the leader the Bruins hoped he could be

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One would imagine that it is easy to lead others when you stand 6-foot-9. Yet it’s just not that easy to be the captain of an NHL team, especially in a demanding market such as Boston. Much like he fought through other difficulties in his career, Zdeno Chara is rounding into the kind of leader the Boston Bruins organization has been hoping for, according to Joe Haggerty.

Perhaps the growth first became clearer in the Bruins’ first round series against the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins found themselves down 2-0 in the series while Chara fought off dehydration and the anger Montreal fans displayed regarding the hit on Max Pacioretty to help Boston win the series in seven. Chara and the Bruins then shook off another demon when they swept their 2010 tormentors the Philadelphia Flyers from this year’s playoffs.

Maybe the best example of his growing leadership savvy came after he helped the team shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, though. Instead of making the Prince of Wales Trophy ceremony about whether or not Chara would touch it (he didn’t), he instead gathered his teammates to take credit for the achievement.

Haggerty writes that such a moment indicates that Chara is embracing the emotional side of the captaincy role.

There was an emotional component to the job that Chara always seemed to be searching for, and it was clearly a process. It would seem that in his most challenging NHL season the B’s defenseman finally broke down those walls, and everyone within the organization has taken notice of his evolution as he’s battled true adversity all along the way.

“We’ve been together for both our tenures here. We went to one conference final with Ottawa and lost, so that was a bit of painful memory. We just kind of connected briefly after [Game 7] and I could see a little bit of a twinkle in his eye,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “It was kind of a special moment for me to share with him. I can’t say enough about him as a player and his defensive impact on the game.

“I think [in the Tampa] series you saw him try and do a little more offensively on his own and at clutch times. That was — for me — him stepping up. His leadership abilities have grown exponentially. I can’t say enough about Zee and the impact that he has in the locker room — and on the ice.”

Chara and the Bruins faced some tough challenges in this playoff run and their last other two postseasons, but the Vancouver Canucks (and all the pressure that comes with playing in the Stanley Cup finals) present their toughest obstacle yet. Chara must help his teammates roll with the punches on the game’s largest scale because this Canucks team could create some serious headaches for any defense.

If his resilient playoff run is any indication, he might just stand head and shoulders above his peers once again.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.