Any hardware in store?
Chara and Bergeron await awards night
LAS VEGAS - Looking fit, rested, and comfortable in the plush surroundings of the opulent Wynn Resort, Bruins stars Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron met with the media Tuesday and demanded they be handed any and all hardware made available to them at Wednesday night’s NHL Awards ceremony.
OK, we exaggerate, but isn’t that what Vegas is all about? Go big or stay home. Party like Nickelback (Wednesday’s headliner) and run bare-chested down the Strip.
In truth, Chara and Bergeron were their usual modest selves, and no doubt will remain that way, whether or not Chara bags his second Norris Trophy as the game’s top defenseman, and whether or not Bergeron wins his first Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward.
“I want to be known for taking pride in all details of the game,’’ said Bergeron, fully healed from the strained oblique muscle that hindered his performance significantly in Boston’s abbreviated playoff run in April. “I really don’t care about prizes or what people think of me on offense or defense. It’s all about my game and what I can do.’’
Bergeron is in elite Selke competition, up against Detroit superstar Pavel Datsyuk, winner of the award in 2008, ’09, and ’10, and Blues center David Backes, the ex-Minnesota State standout who has never won the award.
Chara, who was handed the Norris here in 2009 and was runner-up to Scott Niedermayer in 2004, is up against another hard shooter in Nashville’s Shea Weber, and Ottawa’s slick Erik Karlsson, who is the least defensive of the three.
But Karlsson was the game’s top-scoring defenseman, and goals and assists have a way of redefining the “best defenseman’’ standard (witness: Paul Coffey’s trio of Norrises).
“It’s like you have three cars in front of you,’’ noted Chara. “One of them is a BMW. One is a Mercedes. The other is a Porsche. Every one of them is a winner.’’
All of the awards, save the Jack Adams for best coach, are voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Of the three Norris candidates, Chara clearly best fits the definition of the award, but it would not be surprising to see Karlsson win.
The league lacks eye candy among the player ranks, especially among defensemen, and Karlsson’s speed and mobility make him a favorite among voters. Only 22, he agreed to a new contract Tuesday with Ottawa and will earn $45.5 million over seven years.
Both Bergeron and Chara said they were surprised when Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas made public his plans to not play next season. “No one was expecting it,’’ said Bergeron. “But that’s his decision - to spend more time with his family - and you have to support it.’’ Chara said much the same before adding, “If he changes his mind, he changes his mind. We have to be ready with or without him, it’s as simple as that.’’. . . Bergeron said he needed some five weeks of rest for his oblique muscle to heal completely, and he recently skated a couple of times while home in Quebec City and felt no ill effects . . . Now 35, Chara said he has altered his workout routine slightly this summer, a regimen that will include a slight scaling back of his cycling workouts. “I will still be on the bike, but maybe not 6-7 hours a day,’’ he said.
Tip of the lid
As always, Chara spoke reverentially of Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, the seven-time Norris winner who recently announced his retirement. “He played the game with passion, calmness, and composure,’’ said Big Z. “I’ve never been a fan of watching hockey on TV, but I always watched Detroit games because of him - that never got old. I really admired him, always looked up to him. He was my idol. He and Bobby Orr were probably the two best defensemen ever to play the game.’’ . . . Chara, on vacation in Florida, was watching TV the night the Kings clinched the Stanley Cup. However, he never saw the crowning moment. “Believe it or not, my cable went out,’’ said Chara, explaining how a lightning storm temporarily interrupted the service. “So I saw it the next day on clips, but not that night.’’ . . . Donald Fehr, lead negotiator for the players in their attempt to craft a new CBA to replace the one that expires Sept. 15, has said all along that he would like players to attend the negotiating sessions. Neither Bergeron nor Chara said they have plans to attend, but both sounded willing to be included if specifically asked to be there.