Leadership is shown in many different ways during an NHL game.
Some players, such as former New York Rangers legend Mark Messier, prefer to be vocal and energetic when inspiring their teammates. There are also guys, including the recently-retired Nicklas Lidstrom, who let their fundamentally strong play, extreme dedication and strong work ethic do the talking.
One player who blends both of these methods is Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who earns a massive amount of respect from his teammates and opponents for his leadership and exceptional on-ice performance.
Following an embarrassing 6-1 loss on Wednesday night in Detroit, the Bruins traveled back to TD Garden for a much-anticipated and hyped up matchup against the rival New York Rangers in NBC’s Thanksgiving Showdown. After taking a 1-0 lead on a first-period goal from Brad Marchand, the Bruins let their guard down and trailed 2-1 just three minutes later, and appeared headed for another disappointing defeat.
As the leader of the team, Chara was not going to let his team’s poor play continue, and he carried his teammates to victory. The 36-year-old defenseman completed a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a primary assist on Marchand’s goal, engaging in a spirited bout with Rangers forward Brian Boyle and scoring the game-winning tally with less than nine minutes remaining in the third period.
It was an inspired performance from the captain, but Patrice Bergeron wasn’t surprised at what he saw.
“Like we’ve often said, he’s obviously our leader and we feed off of him and when you see that fire like he had you want to step your game up and do the same,” Bergeron said. “There’s obviously no better leader, no better defenseman in my mind so it was great to see him going like that. Every game he goes to war, and like I said, he’s our leader and you feed off a guy like him.”
Chara’s goal was the difference in a 3-2 Boston win, but in addition to his scoring, the captain provided leadership by setting the tone for the Bruins with his energy and physical play, which allowed them to hold off a talented Rangers team in the final eight minutes of regulation.
The B’s captain blocked shots, defended the Rangers’ top forwards, shut down their five power-plays and logged 19:50 of ice time. He also dropped the gloves, and although this rarely occurs (because who really wants to fight him?), it always lights a fire under his teammates. After he fought Boyle in the second period, the Bruins were a much different team. There was a spring in their step, the team was back to playing its “Big and Bad” style of hockey and you could feel the momentum had swung. As a result, Boston took over the game and scored two unanswered goals.
“He’s our leader like you always say. He’s a guy that brings emotion if it’s lacking into the game,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “That’s what he did tonight. He had a great pass on the first goal, a great fight and the last goal so he kind of, basically won the game for us. And that’s what you want out of a leader and that’s what he’s been doing for I don’t know how many years.”
Leadership comes in many forms. It can be scoring a big goal, delivering a momentum-changing hit, sparking a team with a fight or setting an example by giving 100 percent effort on each shift.
Chara combined all of these to help the Bruins emerge victorious on Friday, and as one of the NHL’s best captains, he will do it several more times before the season concludes.
“He’s an incredible leader and every day he comes in — he shows the guys the direction that we need to go in,” Marchand said. “He always comes up big at the big times, you saw with that assist on my goal, and again the game winner and how he sticks up for his teammates. We’re very lucky to have him and he’s definitely very tough for other teams to play against.”
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