Canucks preparing for a series’ worth of Zdeno Chara
|05.31.11 at 12:44 am ET|
VANCOUVER — The Bruins know that they have plenty of guys who can create problems for other teams. Tim Thomas can be unbeatable, while David Krejci made things very hard for both the Flyers and Lightning in the last two rounds of the playoffs. Very high on (and perhaps at the top) of the list of players the Canucks might worry about is Zdeno Chara.
With the captain and Dennis Seidenberg providing Boston with an outstanding top pairing this postseason, Vancouver’s first line of the brothers Sedin and Alex Burrows.
As has been well-documented, the Sedins have not played to their usual point (or more) a game pace when facing the Bruins. Daniel Sedin has five points in 10 career games vs. Boston, while Henrik Sedin has four points in 11 games against the B’s. Not all of those have come against Chara, and ultimately the biggest thing Henrik feels he lacks going into the Stanley Cup matchup is experience against the 6-foot-9 defenseman.
“He was in Ottawa and we played him a couple times there,” Henrik said, “and Boston maybe once or twice [note: the Bruins have played the Canucks four times since signing Chara in 2006]. We played the Slovaks in the Olympics a couple of times, but that’s it.”
The Sedins faced Chara three times when he played for the Senators. Each brother had one goal over those three games.
“I haven’t really seen him play in game action like for a lot of time,” Henrik admitted. “It’s tough for me to [pick up] what his tendencies are. Like if you want to get close to him or if you want to try to move around him. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
The Sedins (and all of Vancouver’s forwards, for that matter) are not the only ones who have to worry about Boston’s captain. In an attempt to help a historically bad power play, Claude Julien finally moved Chara up front on the man advantage to create chaos for the goaltender. Roberto Luongo has taken notice, and said Monday that when the Bruins are on the power play, he hopes that Chara’s the only one in front.
“I think the key is not to get into battles in front of the net with him as far as our D men are concerned and things like that,” Luongo, a Vezina finalist, said. “For myself, I prefer to just leave him there by himself and it will be easier for me to pick up the puck than having one of our D men try to move him out of the way. I mean, I don’t know if we have anybody strong enough back there. Maybe [Aaron Rome], but apart from that, that’s it.”
Whether or not Chara has company in front, Luongo’s coach has faith that his netminder can deal with him.
“Roberto has seen big bodies in front of him before,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “He’s adapted his style to that this year. He’s staying in the blue paint to play his game. He’s been excellent all year, so it’s just another big body for him.”
Chara is a finalist for the Norris Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s top defenseman. He won it back in 2009 with the B’s, and has been a frequent finalist.
This postseason, he leads all skaters with a plus-11 rating. He missed Game 2 of the first round due to illness, but his 28:17 average time on ice is second only to Seidenberg for the most among remaining players.
“He’s one of the best defensemen in the league,” Vigneault said. “He’s strong 1-on-1, and without a doubt, he uses his size to his advantage. Obviously it’s a challenge for us offensively to try and generate when he’s on the ice.”
The players might not be used to Chara, but they’ll have to get used to him in a hurry. With Seidenberg turning in a stellar postseason that was brought into the spotlight with his eight-block performance in Game 7 vs. the Lightning, they should be prepared for a difficult time. On the other hand, Henrik Sedin hopes the unfamiliarity is a two-way street.
“I’m hoping it’s going to help us that they haven’t seen us that much,” Henrik said. “But we’ll see. They’ve got to watch their video, we’ve got to watch ours, so it shouldn’t be a big difference.”
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