Watching Zdeno Chara playing for the Washington Capitals has been weird.
Know what will be more weird? Watching him playing against the Boston Bruins.
“I respect those guys very much. I love them as my brothers. We were able to win a Stanley Cup together” Chara said of the Bruins on Friday, over Zoom. “We understand this is a business and we have to play for our teams and compete out there. But at the same time, we have something that is very deep and goes far back, and obviously we’ll cherish those memories.”
Chara, of course, captained the Bruins from 2006 until leaving for the Caps in free agency this past offseason. Thus far, both sides have fared well. The 43-year-old has been a nice fit in Washington’s system, while Bruins youngsters Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon have done a good job replacing Chara and Torey Krug.
And after so many years of watching Chara with the Bruins, it’ll be odd seeing him go against Brad Marchand, who has no intention of chirping his former teammate.
“I don’t think it’s going to be any different,” Chara said of facing Marchand. “He’s a guy who always goes out there and competes and tries to win for his teams. I think we had many practices against each other and we both compete pretty hard, so I don’t expect anything else from him or anybody else.”
Even the potential for awkwardness won’t take away from the profound impact he had on a lot of guys — which was a point of emphasis for Bruce Cassidy on Thursday and others Friday.
“There’s been so many (things he’s taught me),” said David Pastrnak, who expects to make his season debut Saturday. “Especially when I was 18 and came into the room. Obviously, a little bit of (a benefit) because we talk the same language, so he helped me a lot, he gave me a lot of his time and had me over for a bunch of dinners.
“I can’t thank him enough, he taught me how to be a pro, to be honest. It sounds like one of the simplest things, but for a young player to become a pro and act like a pro, it’s not always easy.”
When Brandon Carlo broke into the NHL in 2016, he underwent baptism by fire, getting tossed on the top pairing with Chara. The captain did a fine job putting his defensive partner into a position to succeed both in the short and long term.
In the ensuing years, Chara ended up with Charlie McAvoy, while Carlo went with Krug (and now Matt Grzelcyk). Carlo has grown into one of the East’s better shutdown defenseman, while also blossoming as a leader.
That’s in part to him taking notes on how Chara operated.
“When I had the pleasure of playing with him my whole first year, I recognized that communication on the ice was the biggest component to having a successful pairing,” Carlo said. “Off the ice he definitely led by example. You would see him in the gym more than anybody else, so he was always in there taking care of his body, doing the work to be able to sustain and play as long as he has.”
The Bruins and Capitals will face one another eight times this year, so in due course we’ll be used to Chara facing his former team.
Until then, it’ll just feel a little different.