NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Columbus Blue Jackets

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara continues to play at a high level at age 42.

ZDENO CHARA has so many things to be proud of during an NHL career that just doesn’t want to end.

The 42-year-old Chara will play in his 1,661st NHL game, counting playoffs, when the Bruins hit the ice Monday night for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. He has been the Bruins’ captain for the last 13 seasons. His legs have slowed, but being the tallest player ever to play the game has allowed him to handle things against opponents’ top scorers — what he lacks in speed he makes up for with reach and guile.

But as this series starts, Chara has the chance to do something no Bruin has ever done — be the captain of two Stanley Cup winners.

Lionel Hitchman was the captain in 1929. Cooney Weiland wore the “C” in 1939 and Dit Clapper had it two years later.

The Bruins didn’t win another Cup until 1970 and did it twice in four seasons. And while many of us felt Bobby Orr could have worn a “G”, for God, the team had no captain.

So, Chara, the captain in 2011, has the real shot of doing it twice as the B’s come in favored against the Blues.

His Hall of Fame career doesn’t end this week or next. The Bruins’ answer to Tom Brady (age-wise) will keep playing. He will still lead a team -– years after many thought Patrice Bergeron should have taken over the “C”.

Both players addressed the fans after Thursday night’s packed-house practice ($20 a ticket and $10 to park, money to the Bruins Foundation). It was a fitting end to a night of tremendous support for fueling the next duck boat parade.

Chara’s NHL career began in 1997 – before defense partner Charlie McAvoy was even born. Now, he has the real chance to again reach the top of the mountain.

Singing the Blues

We mentioned the other day that this Cup would be extra special to David Backes for two reasons – his first Cup and doing it against his old team.

“There’s going to be heightened emotions,” Backes said. “It’s a binary decision now: It’s us or them. There’s no third party. No ties, none of that stuff. One of us is going to win the Cup. Either the St. Louis Blues or the Boston Bruins.”

“I think it’ll be extra sweet if we’re able to win against that team and maybe an extra thump if they win it and we’re not able to in this room.”

As far as the matchup, Backes says, “We’re very similar to each other in that we’ve got great goaltending, we’ve got defensemen that limit quality chances against, forwards that can do some damage on offensive side of things so a battle of will but plenty of skill on each team.”

Reminder, the Red Sox have moved Wednesday’s start against the Indians up an hour, to 6, to give Bruins fans a shot at seeing at least some of Game 2. Highlights will be shown during the Sox game.

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman has a new contract – and some strong feelings about where he earns his paycheck. “I mean that’s how it is here,” Edelman said Thursday. “Opening Day, we’re at the Sox. Wearing the Bruins hats right now. Go to the Celts, support them. It’s a very close-knit city. It’s probably — I’ve never played anywhere else, but I would say it’s the best sports city in the world.

“It’s exciting, man. This city has just always got some crazy sports vibes going. I don’t know — right now it’s the Bruins’ turn. It’s exciting to see a young team, a new team go out there with some of the older guys that have been around and compete at the highest level. So I’m excited for them and I’ll be at the games.”

Looking around

Now, for our weekly glance around the sports world, this Sunday with an extra salute to our veterans:

…Classy move by the Astros Friday, saluting the late Nick Cafardo with a picture and flowers at the entrance of the press box. “This is nice. We all miss Nick Cafardo so much,” said The Athletic’s Steve Buckley.

…While many through the years said Bobby Orr was tripped by Noel Picard before making that fateful Cup-winning shot in 1970, Orr once told me there was no trip, that he flew through the air after realizing he’d just won the Cup.

…Unlike the 17 games they’ll play on this side of the pond, the Red Sox and Yankees will play their two games in London on turf.

…The Warriors joined the Celtics as the only teams ever to go to five straight NBA Finals. More Dubs: Steph Curry ended the Houston series with a 33-point second half, then posted 36, 37, 36 and 37 in the four-game sweep of Portland. He and Draymond Green also became the first teammates ever to have triple doubles in the same playoff game.

…Baseball teams have taken this rest thing a bit too far. First, the Blue Jays, with the Red Sox in town for Victoria Day Monday, rested phenom rookie Vlad Guerrero Jr. in the holiday game. Then, on Thursday, the Yankees rested both Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez, who had already combined for 19 homers this season against the Orioles.

…Old pal Phil Kessel appears to be on the move out of Pittsburgh – the Penguins are reportedly talking deal with Kessel’s hometown Wild.

…Speaking of Torres, Baltimore announcer and old friend Gary Thorne was so exasperated after a Torres homer that he screamed, “Get him out of there! Don’t throw to him! Put up four fingers! I mean, he’s just tearing the Orioles apart.”

Erik Karlsson, one of the prime commodities on the NHL free agent market this season, appeared to have said bye-bye to San Jose with the following Twitter post: “Thank you to the entire SanJoseSharks organization, fans, and especially teammates. It was a great run that ended too early. But lots of great memories where created. The entire Bay Area has been nothing but classy and respectful to me and my family. Thank you.” Karlsson has his defensive deficiencies but is a dynamic offensive D-man.

Carl Yastrzemski‘s grandson, Mike, was slated to make his MLB debut for the Giants Saturday night.

…Hungry during the Final? TD Garden has added a bunch of options to the concession menu: a doughnut burger, which is a double cheeseburger sandwiched between two glazed doughnuts with bacon, fried jalapeños and crispy onions. It should come with both Pepcid and a sign warning the people sitting near you.

…Colorado’s Trevor Story broke Alex Rodriguez‘s record of fastest to 100 homers by a shortstop by hitting No. 100 in Game 448.

…From SportsNet: “Only Hall-of-Famers George Hainsworth (1.86) and Turk Broda (1.87) have a better road playoff goals-against average in their careers than Tuukka Rask‘s 1.97 (minimum 25 career starts). He’s got a 1.84 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage in 17 games. The only goalies to beat those totals in at least the same number of appearances are Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003 and Jonathan Quick in 2012.”

…First the phone call and an apology. Now, Kyrie Irving is dining and clubbing with LeBron James. A reunion?

…Congrats to old friend Jack Curry, whose outstanding book with David Cone, “Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher” has quickly reached the NY Times non-fiction bestseller list.

Dennis Rodman‘s son DJ, a 6-foot-6 high schooler, has committed to play at Washington State, one of his two college offers.

…OK, raise your hand if you had the Twins sporting the biggest division lead through Friday – eight games over the Indians.

…Big news: the NBA free agency period has been pushed up six hours – to 6 p.m. the night of June 30 – allowing for prime time coverage for the entire country.

…In a win-win, Providence men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley had interest from Michigan but stayed and has a new contract as the Friars’ basketball coach.

…Bruins President Cam Neely on himself and GM Don Sweeney having the chance to win a Cup as executives, which didn’t happen for them as players: “Well, if you can’t win it wearing skates, it’s OK in a suit. You know, obviously, as a player that’s what you want to do. You want to win a Stanley Cup, and we had a couple of opportunities. Unfortunately, we fell short. So, you learn from those experiences and hopefully we can take some of that experience and apply it in the jobs we have now.”

Rob Gronkowski, continuing his new life as America’s guest, was part of the loaded celebrity lineup for Thursday night’s “Red Nose Day” TV extravaganza.

…The Yankees celebrated the one-year anniversary of Rays reliever Ryan Stanek‘s first appearance an “opener” by starting reliever Chad Green against the Orioles. During his first year as an opener, Stanek has been a key to making the experiment work. “He has been outstanding,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “He sets a tone. He’s definitely comfortable in the opening role. Ryne’s a big part of our bullpen and we need to find him a way to get outs in both (opening and relief) roles.”

…Through Friday’s Astros win over the Red Sox, baseball’s best records from 2016-19: 1. Astros 322-216, .5985; 2. Red Sox 321-216, .5978; 3. Cubs 319-216, .5962, Dodgers 320-218, .5948.

Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge were among those attending the John Havlicek memorial service the other day. “It’s really sad to see him pass. He was one of the great Celtics,’’ said co-owner Steve Pagliuca. “It’s always emotional to see the old Celtics players come back, 11 championships in 13 years. And they were all here to support John Havlicek. It’s incredible that a team just stays together.’’

…From Elias prior to Chris Sale‘s five-K game Friday night (when his record dropped to 1-6): “Chris Sale has struck out 10+ batters and allowed 4 or fewer hits in each of his last 4 starts. That is tied for the longest such streak ever by a Red Sox pitcher (Pedro Martinez, 1999) and is 1 start shy of the MLB record (Johan Santana, 5 straight in 2004).”

Andrew Benintendi has been dropped from the leadoff spot after going 3-for-34 with four walks leading off games for the Sox this season.

…There seems to be a good chance of Robert Kraft avoiding suspension by the NFL for his Florida trouble.

…For the first time since 1984-85, the top five players in the NBA draft: Luca Doncic, Trae Young, Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marvin Bagley III, are the names on the All-Rookie team.

…Hall of Famer Jayson Stark on the Twins: “8-HR games by the Twins in the 55 seasons from 1964-2018 – 0; 8-HR games by the Twins in the 1st 2 months of 2019 – 2. It’s turning into a fun year in Minnesota!” The Twins joined the 1999 Mariners as the only teams with 100 homers in the first 50 games of a season.

Ben Watson on the difference returning to the Patriots: “When we came here I was a rookie, wasn’t married, now we have seven kids, been married 13 years, and so this place is always special to us as well.”

…Guerrero Jr. on fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Chavis: “First of all, Chavis is a great human being. He’s a good player, an excellent hitter. If he keeps working hard he could be Rookie of the Year.”

…How badly do they want Kawhi Leonard to stay in Toronto? Restaurants are offering free food and drink and, more importantly, a local real estate guy has offered a multi-million dollar condo.

…A tip of the cap to Koji Uehara on his retirement. Remember 2013? Uehara was a huge part of that, going 4-1, with a 1.09 ERA and 21 saves in 73 games – 74 1/3 innings, 33 hits, 9 earned runs, 9 walks, 101 strikeouts in the regular season and then, in the title run: 13 games, 1-1, 0.66 ERA, seven saves, 13 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 1 earned runs, 0 walks, 13 strikeouts.

…More Leonard, from NBS Stats: “Kawhi Leonard is the 6th player in postseason history with at least 7 35-point games prior to the NBA Finals, joining Elgin Baylor (1961), Bernard King (1984), Michael Jordan (1989, 1990, 1992), Hakeem Olajuwon (1995), and LeBron James (2009, 2017, 2018)!”

…Finally, former Pat Chris Long, who won a Super Bowl in New England and then another in Philly, has followed his retirement announcement by admitting he smoked marijuana as a player. “I certainly enjoyed my fair share on a regular basis through my career,” he told Dan Patrick. “If not for that, I’m not as capable of coping with the stresses of the day-to-day NFL life.”

With all the pain these guys go through, good for him and anyone else seeking help.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.