Points ain’t nothing but a number for Zdeno Chara
|12.03.11 at 1:03 pm ET|
Statistically speaking, Zdeno Chara is having the best season of his career. After not registering a point in the season’s first six games, the massive defenseman with the league’s hardest shot has five goals and 13 assists for 18 points, with only Tyler Seguin registering more points for the B’s since Oct. 20.
That leaves Chara on pace for a career-high 64 points (his current career-best is 51, which he registered in 2007-08). Not all of Chara’s points have been blasts from the point, or even teammates burying rebounds of blasts from the point. Chara was in on the rush Wednesday when David Krejci fed him to set up a wrist shot from right before the hash mark for what became his fifth goal of the year.
It’s been a big year offensively for Chara, but he knows that a defenseman’s worth is not always measured by stats. Even so, the 6-foot-9 blueliner is happy to be producing at a pace he’s never seen before.
“My first priority is to play well defensively. My job is obviously to shut down top lines every game, so that’s the No. 1 job to me,” he said after Saturday’s morning skate. “Anything above that is a plus. Any time I can help the team offensively and contribute on the other side of the ice, it’s a big plus.”
Seven of Chara’s points (3 G, 4 A) have come on the power play, and he leads the team in points on the man advantage. With the power play performing better than it was down the stretch last year and Chara producing more, the B’s have been able to give penalty killers a much harder time than they were when they would go games at a time without scoring on the man advantage.
“I think it’s about doing everything,” Claude Julien said Saturday. “I mean, in order for [Chara] to get some shots you got to have some versatility on your power play and some of the opportunities have to come from different places. Tyler on the half wall has done a great job of course there, [Milan Lucic] in front of the net and other guys. Again, we’ve moved some guys around. [Patrice] Bergeron finds the right people to pass to, and with Zdeno where he is right now, it allows him to take a shot whenever he’s open and if they pay too much attention to him, then there’s something else open.”
Chara is currently a plus-15 as well, meaning that while he may get beaten occasionally (as he was when Phil Kessel flew by him in the neutral zone Wednesday to set up a 2-on-1 and a Toronto goal), he still does what he believes to be his No. 1 job: playing against top lines and seeing to it that no goals are scored unless they’re from the B’s. He’s on pace for a plus-53 rating, which would surpass last season’s career-best plus-33. Between the points and the strong rating (only Seguin and Chris Kelly have better ratings on the B’s at plus-19 and plus-16, respectively), there’s been very little not to like about the big man’s game this season.
“You also want to be an all-around defenseman,” Chara said of the offensive production being a part of his game. “That’s what it takes.”