Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara said he was “overwhelmed” by the response he received at TD Garden when his name was announced in the starting lineup for Game 5.
“I didn’t expect it, obviously,” Chara said Tuesday morning after practice. “It’s very humbling, and I’m so honored to get that kind of a pregame crowd being involved and cheering us on. It just shows how passionate the Boston fans are. Very much appreciate it. We are so thankful they are so behind us and cheering us on.”
The public address announcer paused for a few additional moments after introducing Chara before puck drop, allowing for the sellout crowd to greet him with a standing ovation and shower him with cheers.
Chara’s ability to take the ice, 71 hours after getting hit in the mouth by a puck, was met with awe from his teammates, too.
“After that, what he went through, he doesn’t need to say anything, really,” center Charlie Coyle said. “It’s already been said. It’s already known. That’s the example part. Just him doing that, not having to say a word, and us just wanting to run through a wall for him.”
Grzelcyk: No contact
Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk continued to practice in a red noncontact sweater and forward Chris Wagner fully participated in practice for the first time since blocking a shot with his arm in Game 3 of the conference semifinals. Before Game 6 of the Cup Final, coach Bruce Cassidy called Wagner “a possibility” for Game 7. Forward David Backes, who has been a healthy scratch the past two games, also practiced, though rookie Karson Kuhlman remained in his spot in the lineup during rushes.
Forward Patrice Bergeron said he doesn’t know if there will be part two of the moving speech that inspired his teammates before Game 6.
“You don’t force things like that,” forward Brad Marchand said. “We’re not going to look for any kind of speech [Wednesday]. We all understand what’s at stake and what we need to do. We’re going to prepare the same way we have all year, and that’s what we’re going to rely on.”
Chara expressed a similar sentiment.
“You just got to realize that you have to leave everything on the line to play our best game,” he said. “It’s not that I’m going to be sitting at the desk and trying to figure out some speech. I think it’s just you go by the feel. I think we all realize it’s more about actions than words.”
Regardless of whatever is said in the locker room before Game 7, there’s one motivator that only impacts Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, center David Krejci, defenseman Torey Krug, and goaltender Tuukka Rask. The group of six are the remaining members of the team that lost the Cup Final in 2013.
“It’s extremely tough just to get to this point,” Marchand said. “To win is even harder than that. Once you lose, you realize how close it is. You get a taste, but you don’t get that victory, you don’t get to feel all the sensations of winning. It’s extremely difficult.
“Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes. Someone has to win, someone has to lose. It’s the best thing in the world for the team that wins, and it [stinks] for the team that loses. Being on both sides of it, you realize how hard it is, and just how [expletive] it is to lose. It sticks with you forever. Winning and losing, it sticks with you forever. You don’t forget everything that happens when you win, and you definitely don’t forget what happens when you lose.”
Bullying the bull gang
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong earned some attention before the Blues took the ice at TD Garden Tuesday afternoon. Armstrong, seemingly frustrated that the ice had not yet been adequately prepared for his team to practice, lashed out at the Garden bull gang, telling them to “do their [expletive] jobs.” According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Armstrong later circled back to apologize.
The Blues were able to take the ice shortly after their scheduled skate time. Missing from the ice were right winger Vladimir Tarasenko, center Tyler Bozak, and center Robert Thomas. Coach Craig Berube attributed their absences to maintenance. Whether Thomas, who returned to play for Game 6 after missing three straight games, is active for Game 7 will be announced Wednesday, Berube said.