Zdeno Chara

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Josh Anderson steps forward, emerges as offensive threat for Blue Jackets

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As Josh Anderson picked himself up off the ice and turned to drop his gloves and scrap with the opposing player who put him into the boards, that’s when it hit him who he was about to fight.

At 6-foot-3, 221 lbs., the Columbus Blue Jackets forward is a pretty big boy, but now he was preparing to fight a behemoth on skates in 6-foot-9, 250 lbs. Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins.

“When I dropped my gloves, I finally realized who I’m dropping them with,” Anderson told PHT this week. “You could just see the height difference. I just said to myself be patient and try to get as punches as you can in there.”

“It was a short fight, it wasn’t a long fight, which was probably a good thing in my favor,” Anderson added.

When Anderson isn’t using the physical part of his game, he’s providing plenty of production for a Blue Jackets team that’s off to another strong start at 9-6-1. After a 17-goal campaign last season, he’s followed that up with six goals in his first 14 games of the season.

A slow start would have been expected given that Anderson missed all of training camp as he and the Blue Jackets sorted out a new three-year, $5.55 million contract. So while he was in contact with his agent every day during the standoff, the 23-year-old Burlington, Ontario native did two-a-days to keep in shape as best he could. In between the workouts, he was receiving plenty of support from teammates, including Brandon Dubinsky, who went through his own tough negotiation with the New York Rangers in 2009.

“He just said hang in there, all your teammates are with you, so that made it easier,” Anderson said. “But it’s definitely tough going through it when you see your teammates at camp and all together and you see them bonding and you’re just at home. It’s not fun. But at the same time you have a life. You don’t play in the NHL for many years.”

After a deal was agreed to, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella expressed his frustrations regarding Anderson missing camp, and just how much that hurts a young player’s development. “I just think young guys need to understand the (arc) of their career, what they need to do,” he said via The Athletic. “Not pull these shenanigans because you have a good 60-70 games. I think you have to do it again, and then you start saying, ‘you know what? I want this, I want that.’ I think you need to wait your turn, I guess is what I’m saying.”

“Obviously he was really disappointed in me missing camp,” said Anderson, “but I knew that when I got back into Columbus I had to be in the best shape because I’d be one step behind everybody knowing that they’ve been at camp for a couple of weeks, on the ice every single day.”

Anderson was given a regular opportunity to stick in the NHL last season. After two years of playing mostly in the AHL with the Blue Jackets’ affiliates in Springfield and Lake Erie, he changed his mentality to that of believing he could find a role.

“I was just trying to play every game thinking that I don’t want to be sent down,” he said. “John Tortorella wants you to play every game and be really consistent. [I] just wanted to play my game, every game, whether that’s hitting or scoring or making a difference to the lineup.”

So far, Anderson is backing up his talk and making a difference. He leads the Blue Jackets in goals with six and is tied for this on the team with nine points. It’s a balanced attack that’s also playing well defensively.

After all of the positives that came out of the 2016-17 regular season, the ending — a five-game exit at the hands of eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins — was one to forget. But according to Anderson, the Blue Jackets haven’t erased their memories of how early their off-seasons began last spring.

“I think there’s an unfinished business mentality going through our room right now,” he said. “We played only 10 days in the playoffs last year. Obviously you want to play longer than that, but I think this year we got younger and we got faster and more skilled.

“Going through some stuff like that last year helps our team this year, and I think we’ve got to do the same thing we did last year and treat every day with a business-like style. If we keep doing that and getting better each day I think we’ll be fine.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Learning from Chara has set up Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy to excel

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NEW YORK — Adapt and survive. That’s what Charlie McAvoy had to do after making his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins last season.

Forty-eight hours after his first practice, the defenseman was thrown into the fire during their opening round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. He impressed well enough that with the score tied 1-1 late in the third period of Game 1, the 19-year-old was paired with Zdeno Chara during a shift that hemmed the Senators in their zone, leading to Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal.

Now 20 games into his NHL career, the 19-year-old McAvoy is still turning heads and playing himself into the Calder Trophy discussion.

The trust from the Bruins coaching staff and his ability to handle heavy minutes has brought McAvoy to where he is now. His 22:55 of ice time a night leads all rookie skaters. In fact, no other NHL freshman is averaging over 20 minutes. Playing against opponents’ top lines hasn’t caused too many problems either, as his 56 percent Corsi, per Corsica, places him eighth among defensemen who have logged at least 200 minutes.

“He’s able to adapt very quickly and make contributions right away. We saw that last year in the playoffs when he stepped in and was giving us big minutes in big situations,” Chara told PHT on Wednesday. “I would say he’s able to make those quick adjustments and contributions.”

Chara is used to being anchored with a young partner. The last few seasons have seen him working alongside players like Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Carlo, all of whom share similar qualities to McAvoy. They’re tall, right-hand shots who see the ice well and are able to move the puck.

“You’ve got in Z an established shutdown guy who can play against anybody, relishes that role. He’ll bring that to Charlie’s mentality,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Charlie can play against anybody. Charlie likes to make plays up the ice, joins the attack; so you get kind of a two-pronged pair. Charlie’s good at getting back on pucks, helps them break them out.”

For Chara, focus and consistency were important for him he was developing during his first few NHL seasons with the New York Islanders. Once he landed in Ottawa, that’s when his game really took off and he became the monster shutdown defenseman we’ve been able to watch for well over a decade. That advice has been relayed to his new partner.

As with all defense partners, Chara and McAvoy talk regularly in order to stay on the same page. And while it’s only been a short while, the young blue liner has learned even more just by watching what the 40-year-old future Hockey Hall of Famer handles himself on the ice.

“The way he controls the game is just awesome. There’s not many people I think can do it like that,” McAvoy said. “When he gets the puck, it’s kind of like a calm factor to him. He’s so strong defensively, I know when he’s going to win his battles.”

The life of a developing young NHL defenseman comes with its share of ups and downs. That’s why it’s been a boon for McAvoy to be partnered with someone who has nearly 1,400 games in the league. It’s a continuous education.

“I learned how to manage a game better, decisions with the puck,” said McAvoy. “He’s very good about not forcing plays. He’s makes the right plays at the right time.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Video: Buchnevich beats Chara for sick Rangers goal

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Zdeno Chara is no longer at the (arguably) generational level he enjoyed at the peak of his career, but he’s still a bedrock defenseman for the Boston Bruins.

With that in mind, making him look hapless remains quite a feat, and New York Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich did just that tonight. The youngster put some serious moves on Tuukka Rask as well to score a legitimate highlight reel goal.

The Rangers are shooting for a fifth consecutive win tonight, and their young scorers are leading the way so far. Jimmy Vesey scored two “greasy” goals himself in the opening frame, with Buchnevich collecting an assist on one of those tallies.

Considering Alain Vigneault’s ups and downs with young players, it would be awfully amusing if players like Buchnevich find a way to save his job, wouldn’t it?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Bruins vs. Rangers; Lightning vs. Sharks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Wednesday night. In the early game, the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins at 8:00 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

The Bruins are coming off a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night. The victory was their second in three games. It appears as though they’re starting to get the ball rolling in the right direction despite being without some key pieces.

They’ve been forced to deal with a significant amount of injuries to key veterans, including David Krejci, David Backes and Brad Marchand. Starting goaltender Tuukka Rask and top center Patrice Bergeron have also missed games at different times in 2017-18.

“Guys are stepping up. They see their chance, they’re getting more ice time, getting more looks,” defenseman Zdeno Chara said after the win over the Wild, per the Boston Herald. “It’s great to see that guys are taking advantage of those chances, and they want to play and earn their ice time.”

Boston currently sits in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve only skated in 13 games this season (no team has played in less games).

After getting off to a sluggish start, the Rangers have put together some positive momentum, as they’ve won four in a row and five of their last six contests.

Alain Vigneault’s hot seat seems to have cooled down (at least a little bit) now that the team has strung together a few wins.

One of the big reasons New York has been successful over the last week or so, is because their power play has starting cashing in on their opportunities. On Monday night, they scored three power play goals against Columbus. In their last five contests, they’ve gone 7-for-19 on the power play.

“We all have to be shooters first, and I think that’s the first thing that we tell each other,” Kevin Shattenkirk said, per the New York Post.

“I’m getting very clear lanes because everyone is shielding over to Mika (Zibanejad) because he is such a threat. So it’s important that I’m chipping in and getting my shots through, because at that time they’re going to have to pick someone.”

Despite being between the pipes for all four of the victories, Henrik Lundqvist‘s individual numbers are still lacking. He’s given up three goals or more in three of the four wins. He has a 3.07 goals-against-average and a .900 save percentage.

In the late game, the San Jose Sharks host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 10:30 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning will kick off their three-game California road trip with a visit to the Shark Tank. It’s never easy for an Eastern Conference team to head out to the West Coast, but the Lightning are well equipped to do on-ice damage in any city.

The Bolts are off to an incredible 11-2-2 start. A lot of the credit will be given to forwards like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who have 25 and 23 points respectively in 15 games. But you can’t ignore the contributions they’ve received from Brayden Point, Vladislav Namestnikov, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Andrei Vasilevskiy and many others.

This team may have missed the playoffs last year, but they’re healthy and clearly on a mission. They’ve dropped just one decision in regulation since Oct. 9, and they’ve showed absolutely no signs of slowing down.

Tonight’s contest should provide us with an interesting special teams battle, as Tampa has the second ranked power play in the league, while the Sharks own the second best penalty killing unit.

San Jose has been a whole lot better on the kill this year than they were last year. To learn more about their remarkable improvement, check out this story by NBC Sports Bay Area‘s Marcus White.

The Sharks’ biggest problem is that they can’t find the back of the net with any kind of regularity. Their 36 goals rank 29th in NHL behind only Carolina and Edmonton.

On a positive note, they’ll come into this game having won four in a row. They scored just one goal in regulation during their 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim on Saturday night, but they scored four times against the Predators last Wednesday night.

Is the offense starting to come around? We’ll find out tonight.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Controversial decision goes Bruins’ way in win over Sharks

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The Boston Bruins came away with a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, but it wasn’t without controversy.

With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, the Sharks were pressing for the tying goal when Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin and defenseman Zdeno Chara dislodged the net.

By rule, a penalty is supposed to be imposed on the Bruins, but because there was under two minutes remaining in regulation (no time to serve the whole penalty), San Jose should have been awarded a penalty shot with a chance to tie the game.

Here’s the exact wording of the rule via the NHL:

63.5 Penalty Shot – If the goal post is deliberately displaced by a
goalkeeper or player during the course of a “breakaway,” a penalty
shot will be awarded to the non-offending team, which shot shall be
taken by the player last in possession of the puck.
If by reason of insufficient time in the regular playing time or by
reason of penalties already imposed, the minor penalty assessed to a
player for deliberately displacing his own goal post cannot be served
in its entirety within the regular playing time of the game or at any time
in overtime, a penalty shot shall be awarded against the offending
team.

The call was not made and the Bruins ended up winning the game. As you’d imagine, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer wasn’t pleased with the non-call.

“It looked pretty clear,” DeBoer said after the game, per WEEI.com. “I didn’t get an explanation why. So, I didn’t get an explanation for a lot of things tonight. So it didn’t surprise me.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.