BOSTON - If you've been following the social media accounts of Zdeno Chara and Tom Brady over the last few weeks, you've no doubt noticed what appears to be a developing bond between the two Boston legends.
It was never more evident than on Monday morning, when the two teamed up for a Stanley Cup Final hype video prior to Game 1. The minute-long video, narrated by Brady and posted to Chara's Instagram and Facebook pages, featured highlights of the Bruins throughout their postseason run and combined the catchphrases of both athletes - Chara's "We Are Made for This" and Brady's "Still Here."
With both players now in their 40s - Brady is 41 and Chara 42 - and still chasing championships, they have developed a mutual respect for each other over the years.
"Obviously we all admire Tom and what he's been able to accomplish, the Patriots, the whole organization, the team and players and the coaching staff," Chara said following Tuesday's practice at TD Garden. "They've been doing it for a decade, they've been on top of their game. It's not a secret that he's one of those world athletes that everybody looks up to.
"He's been very successful in what he does and how he prepares himself. He's a true professional and obviously a great human being and very smart and well spoken. I only have great experiences talking to him. I really admire him."
Now in his 21st NHL season - and 13th with the Bruins - Chara has had to adapt to an ever-changing league, that now puts a premium on skill and speed, rather than size and physicality.
"You have to make those adjustments," said Chara, who confirmed that he needed a couple of stitches following Game 1 to close a cut after blocking a shot in the final minutes. "You've got to be a little bit ahead of the game, as far as seeing what's happening with players coming in, how skilled they are, how fast they are, systems the way the teams are being coached. If you're not, then you're gonna be way behind.
"Kind of sensed where the game was going the last few years and tried to work really hard in the offseason, during the season. The ability to read plays better, not being caught in the wrong position on the wrong side of the puck, but try to obviously use my size still to my advantage.
"If you continue to work on your game and work hard to be better, you can play for a long time."
While still the team's No. 1 defenseman, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has worked with Chara to put him in the best situations to succeed, which has included cutting down a bit on his minutes. Nevertheless, Chara's will remains unmatched.
"Obviously his fitness level, his commitment to staying young even though he's older," said Cassidy. "That's his eating habits, his preparation. And then you take that away and he's a very intelligent guy…he's adapted some of his skating style, how he has to manage the puck. Guys are quicker, they can get under him. He has to move it differently. That's probably it. And then you have the competition factor, you can't measure a guy's will."
Video: Chara and Bergeron talk following Tuesday practice
While Sean Kuraly and the Bruins' fourth line garnered most of the headlines for their stellar performances in Boston's Game 1 win over St. Louis, the play of Marcus Johansson was not being overlooked in Boston's dressing room. The speedy winger had plenty of legs and just missed on a golden opportunity in the early going when he danced through traffic and rang a shot off the post.
The trade deadline acquisition, who has nine points in 16 games this postseason, officially landed just one shot on goal, but was fourth among all Bruins forwards with 16:47 of ice time, behind only Brad Marchand (20:47), Patrice Bergeron (19:00) and David Krejci (17:31).
"We knew he was a talented player," said Cassidy. "I think the pace of his game [was a surprise]. I didn't know he had that step. He's a good passer, he's actually got a great shot. We encourage him to use it more, he always looks pass first…in traffic, he's grabbed some pucks and gotten in and out of traffic to be able to get on the attack maybe better than I would have thought.
"He's excellent over the blue line. He backs people off because of his speed. He's made good plays to the second wave…and he's attacked the net more since he's been here. He's driving wide, taking it inside, willing to go to the net when the opportunity dictates. A little greasier game."
Video: Cassidy talks upcoming Game 2
Members of the 2011 Stanley Cup champions were on hand for Game 1, joining Special Olympics Massachusetts athlete Liam O'Brien as the night's Fan Banner Captain. Those in attendance included Gregory Campbell, Andrew Ference, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder, Dennis Seidenberg, and Shawn Thornton.
"It's always special to see them," said Patrice Bergeron. "They came into the locker room afterwards to say hi. Great guys, always good to see them. A few of them it's been a while since I've had a chance to see them. It's always special every time."
The Bruins' win in Game 1 was their eighth consecutive victory this postseason, their third-longest such stretch in one playoff year, just behind 1970 (10-0) and 1972 (9-0), per NHL Public Relations. During the streak, Boston has outscored its opponents, 32-11.
"Resilience is one of them, but the biggest thing is we have a complete effort from our whole group," Brad Marchand said when asked for the reasons behind the streak. "You see [Monday] night, Kurls' line was unreal and really won that game for us. All the D are stepping up, Tuukks has been great. We just have the depth really showing up right now."
Marchand's empty-net goal was his sixth career tally in the Stanley Cup Final, tying him with five other Bruins for the third-most in franchise history. Johnny Bucyk and Bobby Orr are tied at the top with eight goals apiece, while Wayne Cashman ranks second with seven.
Video: Marchand credits full lineup for support
Tuesday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bereron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Backes
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
John Moore - Steven Kampfer