Author: James O'Brien

Zdeno Chara

Chara says he needs to improve ‘every part’ of his game


The Boston Bruins haven’t been able to win in the two games since Zdeno Chara returned from injury, and the big captain told that he isn’t happy with his own play.

“The first guy, I’m looking at myself. I’ve got to be better and I have to work to be at the top of my game. When you’re not scoring, that means defensively you just have to be better to defend games like this,” Chara said. “Every part of my game [needs improvement]. There are no excuses. Like I said after my first game, I missed whatever time, but I have to work very hard to get where I want to be and I will get there.”

While the 37-year-old’s possession stats look fine from those two losses, he’s shown rust in certain areas, as discusses:

Chara has had a few good moments where he looks like the prime defensive stopper that he is, but the four penalties over two games against Chicago and Ottawa clearly also reveal a player that’s behind the speed of the play right now. He’s cheating rather than moving his feet and anticipating the play, and that’s pretty indicative of a player that’s waiting for things to slow down around.

This week presents an interesting test for Chara and the Bruins, who’ve lost two in a row and seven of their last nine games. They face three road games: Tuesday at Nashville, Wednesday at Minnesota and Friday at Winnipeg.

If that run goes poorly, it might be time to get a little concerned.

PHT Morning Skate: Ugly Christmas sweaters and Ovechkin’s heart of gold


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Plenty of NHL players do great work for charities and other organizations, but Alex Ovechkin has really made waves in particular with some heartwarming stuff lately. His latest act of kindness falls in line with some great actions from the Washington Capitals star. (

So, uh, this is odd.

Speaking of odd, will Christmas sweaters/holiday celebrations essentially furnish us with Halloween-level goofy photos of hockey players? This photo of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Demers makes a strong argument in that regard:

So much to take in.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $1,400. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The evolution of Zdeno Chara’s scariness. (The Hockey News)

The Colorado Avalanche understand why Paul Stastny left. (The Denver Post)

Mouth injury left Backes feeling like his ‘face was going to fall off’

St Louis Blues v Colorado Avalanche

It’s been a rough start to the 2014-15 season for St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, with Monday’s moment being the roughest, as he took an errant slap shot to the face:

Screening a goalie is a great way to suffer facial injuries that will leave others squeamish; this old post on Keith Tkachuk’s hideous issues is a great throwback to that.

Backes described his considerable agony to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“I felt like my face was going to fall off, so we got out of there and got some painkillers on board to try to alleviate that,” Backes said. “It was a tough night to deal with the pain and have ice on there for most of the night, just trying to get some remnants of a night’s sleep. … It was some of the worst misery I’ve been in.”

Here’s the part that might leaving you holding your mouth (or making a “Six Million Dollar Man” reference?):

“There’s a few (teeth) that were halfway gone,” Backes said. “They didn’t save them, but they rebuilt them and they look like normal teeth … They did a great job. It’s a temporary fix but it lets me eat well.”

Goalie nods: Hiller tries to regain Flames gig from Ramo

Calgary Flames v Toronto Maple Leafs

All the latest from the blue paint …

Battling for the Flames job

The Calgary Flames have been much better than expected, which makes the battle for the starting job far more lucrative than anticipated.

Jonas Hiller has had the upper hand for stretches, but it seemed like Karri Ramo wrestled it back as December rolled around. Now Hiller has another chance to assert himself as the No. 1 guy, as this marks his second straight start, and it’s an interesting one against the Chicago Blackhawks.

On one hand, Chicago remains one of the best teams in the league, so it could be a busy night for the Swiss-born goalie. On the other, the Blackhawks are coming off a loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday, so the Flames may face a fatigued team.

Hiller’s currently on a four-game losing streak. He’s 9-8-1 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.50 GAA.

Those aren’t lousy numbers, yet they aren’t outstanding either. His best chance to make an impression is to shut down the Blackhawks, then.

It’s unclear who he’ll face at the moment, though one might lean a bit toward Antti Raanta since Scott Darling played last night.

Elsewhere …

Kings at Maple Leafs: It should be Jonathan Quick vs. James Reimer.

Rangers at Oilers: Expect Cam Talbot vs. Ben Scrivens.

Yay or nay: the Las Vegas Black Knights?

Las Vegas

In an interview with HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman, William Foley – the potential owner of an NHL team in Las Vegas – stated his preference for naming the team the “Black Knights.”

While it evokes card games and casinos, Foley explained that the title would be a military tribute of sorts, as Friedman shares. For those who don’t like the idea, the good news is that there would also be a contest for the name:

Perhaps just as interesting: Wayne Gretzky may or may not be involved in the process. Foley described “The Great One” as an unofficial adviser of sorts, while Sportsnet’s John Shannon confirms that Gretzky introduced Foley to business partners.

It’s all interesting stuff, so check it out here.