Zdeno Chara proves why he’s the ‘toughest guy in the [NHL], bar none’
|03.28.12 at 9:55 am ET|
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is notoriously humble and soft spoken about his own accomplishments.
That’s why it’s often a good idea to listen to his teammates and coach when trying to gauge what impact he’s had on the Bruins, even a teammate like Brian Rolston who hasn’t shared a dressing room with him for that long.
Asked what he’s learned about Chara since coming back to Boston in a deadline trade with the Islanders, Rolston was honest enough.
“Probably nothing,” Rolston said. “He’s so hard to play against; he’s a tremendous leader. Obviously he does that by example, but he’s the toughest guy to play against in the league ‘ bar none. If you were to pull the forwards on every team they would say the same thing and coming in on a nightly basis knowing that you have to face him ‘ it’s a tough task.”
Rolston set up the game-winner of Tuesday’s 5-2 triumph over Tampa Bay when he tried a wraparound midway through the third, only to have the puck flutter its way out to a wide open Benoit Pouliot. But the heroics of Rolston and Pouliot don’t happen without Chara, who has he did all night, brought the puck in deep into the offensive zone to apply more pressure on a team known for its stingy defense.
The secondary assist was Chara’s third of the night, a night on which Chara matched a career-high with three helpers and was honored before the game for becoming the latest and greatest member of the NHL’s 1000-game club.
“Yeah, those were big,” Rolston added. “Z had a great game, another great game for us. It’s huge, it’s huge ‘ if you can get the defensemen helping out, and especially against on team like that that collapses down all the time. It’s difficult to get anything going down low so it’s great to have defensemen contributing offensively.”
That’s exactly what Chara did when he took the puck midway through the first at the Tampa Bay blue line and charged around the zone like Wayne Gretzky, eventually running at the net, creating a scoring chance for Shawn Thornton when Dwayne Roloson left a juicy rebound.
“Basically, I get a puck on the blueline, I was trying to ride the blueline and then just kind of opened up and I really decided to challenge that seam and once I got a little bit more room, I was kind of deciding between a shot and pass,” Chara explained. “But again, everything was happened and I decided to take it to the net and we’ve always been taught when you do those things, good things happen and they did. We scored on the rebound, and it ended up being a good play.”
Brad Marchand made it 4-2 when he scored with just over four minutes left for insurance. Having Chara on the ice Tuesday was like having an additional forward who can attack.
“Yeah, it’s really big,” Marchand said. “We really count on him, he plays 25 or 30 minutes a night and he’s a leader off the ice. We definitely wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for him last year. Having a guy like him on your team makes it a lot easier going into the playoffs, and you know he showed tonight why he’s such a big asset to our team with three assists and getting that first goal going. He just plays all areas of the rink.
“With how they play, they don’t give up a ton and they always sit back and it’s tough to break up their box. With a guy like him, who’s very gifted, he seems to know the right time to jump in and create an opportunity like he did tonight.”
Opponents have been dreading facing Chara for 14 NHL seasons now, the last six in Boston. His coach was asked what makes him so good.
“You don’t expect me to sit up here and tell you how to beat Chara, do you? It’s not going to happen,” Claude Julien quipped, before adding on his way out the press conference door, “you can’t beat him.”
One of hockey’s toughest men – 35 years young – scored three assists and led his team to victory on a night he was honored for his service to the league.
“I think that’s the most important thing, that’s more important than my three assists,” Chara said in typically humble fashion. “We just want to play really well going into the playoffs and at least out there you have to get your game established and play the right way and for the most part, I thought we did. But, still there’s areas that can be better and we can improve and just have to be ready for the next one. It was a tough game to play, they’re always dangerous, they always create good scoring chances and obviously they have some guys that are extremely well at finding the net. But the important thing is we won the game.”
But that’s not to say he didn’t appreciated the five-minute pre-game ceremony, during which he was given a portrait of his classic slap shot by the Hockey Hall of Fame, a silver stick by Bruins president Cam Neely and a hotel stay anywhere in the world for one night by his teammates.
“Well, it’s obviously very nice to get that recognition and ceremony,” Chara said. “I very much appreciate it. It’s very nice from the NHL, the Boston Bruins organization, from my teammates and everybody that supported me. But when that ceremony is over, you have to focus on the game and you just got to be ready because you have to play 60 minutes. There’s no other way to really describe it, just be ready and play hard the whole game.”
It’s what he’s been doing for 14 NHL seasons now.