|Looking back and ahead: Zdeno Chara||05.22.12 at 11:08 pm ET|
With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.
2011-12 stats: 79 games played, 12 goals, 40 assists (career-high), 52 points (career-high), plus-33 (tied career-high)
Contract status: Signed through 2017-18 season ($6,916,667 cap hit through 2016-17 season, $4 million cap hit in 2017-18)
Looking back: Chara had the best offensive season of his career and was once again one of the most dominant defensemen in the league. He averaged 25 minutes a night, which is right around his average over the last three seasons.
What was uncharacteristic for Chara, however, was his midseason slump. Though the Bruins as a whole were not playing their best hockey, the B’s captain didn’t look like himself in many of their losses. From Feb. 8-19, Chara finished with a negative rating in five of six games and was an overall minus-9 in that span. He was a minus-3 on three separate occasions in February and March after only having a rating worse than minus-2 once in the previous season.
Despite some bad nights from the captain, the 2011-12 season marked the second consecutive and third overall campaign in which Chara finished with a plus-33 rating. That was tops amongst NHL defensemen and third amongst players, and he had a lot to do with the fact that the five best ratings came from Bruins this season (Patrice Bergeron led the league with a plus-36, followed by Tyler Seguin‘s plus-34, Chara’s plus-33, Chris Kelly‘s plus-33 and Brad Marchand‘s plus-31).
After skating with Johnny Boychuk in the regular season, Chara was paired with Dennis Seidenberg for the playoffs. Though he was beaten a couple of times and finished the postseason with a minus-1 rating, Chara teamed with Seidenberg to limit Alexander Ovechkin for the most part and keep the games low-scoring.
In the end, it wouldn’t be surprising if Chara’s season earns him his second Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, but in the interest of full disclosure, my top vote went to Nashville’s Shea Weber. While there’s no denying that Chara is the best defenseman in the league, his midseason struggles made it tough to say that this was truly a full campaign of vintage Chara.
Looking ahead: While other players get plenty of accolades too (Tim Thomas‘ save percentage record, Seguin’s points, that Selke Trophy that should finally be making its way to Bergeron this summer), there is no doubt that Chara is the Bruins’ best and most important player.
Chara may be getting up there in age, but he is truly one of the few players in the league a team should be happy to have signed through his 30s and into his 40s. There might not be a better-conditioned player in the league, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a player more dedicated to his training, both from a work and diet perspective.
With Boychuk re-signed, you can assume that Claude Julien will continue to play Chara with Boychuk, at least to start next regular season. The guy who has the best chance at breaking up Chara and Boychuk might be youngster Dougie Hamilton, but don’t expect that to happen next season. Hamilton needs to show he can handle 20-plus minutes a night before he can be paired with a guy like Chara, but the idea of a Chara-Hamilton pairing could really put the Bruins’ blue line over the top. Hamilton could be the offensive presence on the back end that the team has been seeking for years.
Getting back to Chara: The offensive numbers may go up and down, but he’ll be the first to tell that while he likes to score, he prides himself on not letting the other team score. In a nutshell, that’s what he is. He’s the guy who will play close to half the game, be a nightmare for opposing teams’ offensive stars, and keep opponents off the board. Then there’s that slapshot.
|Zdeno Chara a finalist for Norris Trophy||04.26.12 at 12:40 pm ET|
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was among the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, which is awarded to ‘to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.’ The other finalists are Nashville’s Shea Weber and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson.
Chara had a career-best 52 points (12 goals, 40 assists) during the regular season and his plus-33 rating was tops among all defensemen. This is his fourth nomination for the Norris, which he won in 2009.
|Bruins getting offensive with the defense||04.24.12 at 10:21 am ET|
For all of the talk – and deservedly so – about Patrice Bergeron finally getting nominated as a finalist for the Selke award for best defensive forward in the game, it’s ironic that the offensive play of the Bruins’ defensemen is a key reason they even find themselves in a Game 7 Wednesday night against the Caps.
“Yeah, they’ve played well all series, but also I think all year and it’s just another aspect of our game that shows right there that we’re deep offensively, but also we’re deep on defense and throughout the lineup,” Bergeron said Monday. “They’ve been helping us in this series a lot to just get offense, but also defensively to stop their skilled guys and can’t say enough about all of them back there. They all do their job and they all take pride in it.”
Everyone knows about the abilities of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg in helping to contain Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom. And everyone knows that both of them bring cannons from the point with their slap shots. What fans – and even the Caps – may not have counted on was the offensive contributions of Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference.
Boychuck had one of his patented “Johnny Rockets” on a power play to tie Saturday’s Game 5 at 3-3, when time was running down. Sunday, it appeared for all the world that Ference – on “Earth Day” – had given the Bruins the game-winning goal in regulation when he pinched down and scooped up a rebound off a Tyler Seguin shot and put it in the net.
Earlier in the game, it was Ference who smartly read the rush of Patrice Bergeron and Rich Peverley out of the offensive zone circle draw toward the slot and fired a shot that Peverley tipped past Braden Holtby for the game’s first goal.
“I think he’s done a great job,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Ference. “We’ve always liked Andrew’s battle and also for his size and also for the fact that he certainly has good versatility. He moves well, he skates well and again, we keep encouraging our D’s to support the attack and go out the ice and he’s done a great job of that.”
There is a risk, of course, like when Chara and Seidenberg get caught too far up ice as was the case on Capitals’ goals in Games 3 and 6. In Game 6, the Capitals tied the game, 2-2, when Jason Chimera got behind Seidenberg, who had a broken skate, and beat Tim Thomas.
“Our D’s seem to be finding a little bit more balance in this series as we get near the end, between jumping in [and] supporting, and also being reliable defensively we can’t forget the fact that this is a team in Washington that’s got some guys that can score goals and they love to blow the zone quickly. So we’ve got to be careful we don’t get our D’s caught up the ice all the time, but he did a great job [Sunday] at identifying that opening and going up the ice and giving us that lead.”
The Bruins will be relying on that again in Game 7 as they look for every advantage.
After taking a high stick from Alex Ovechkin in the second period of Sunday’s win over the Capitals, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara resembles Frankenstein with a series of stitches right across the bridge of his nose. It could’ve been worse, and Chara knows it. Now, he can look ahead to Game 7 Wednesday night at 7:30 at TD Garden.
“I feel good,” Chara said. “Obviously, it’s been tough to have back-to-back games, both afternoon games but again, it’s the schedule, and we all have to get through it and now we have two days to recover and get ready for Game 7.
“You always hear that teams play for that advantage, to have Game 7 at home but at the same time, we just have to be ready to play our way, the full 60, and even more if it needs to be. It doesn’t mean just because we’re at home we’re going to have an easy game. We still have to win the game on the ice.”
Chara and the Bruins have been pushed to the limit in more ways than one against the No. 7 seed Caps. Every game has been decided by one goal, the first time in Stanley Cup history that the first six games of a seven-game series have been so close. Now, the Bruins are back in familiar territory, a Game 7. But don’t think for a minute that Chara and the Bruins necessarily drew it up that way.
“No, I don’t think that’s the way we meant it,” Chara said. “Those games are always tough to win. Everything can go right and everything can go wrong in those games. You just have to make sure everything you do is maximized to almost perfection because obviously that’s the game that decides if you play for another day or you’re done.
“It’s very close, very tight series. Every game decided by one goal just tells you it’s really been close.”
Chara also took time Monday to thank a teammate that has finally been recognized by the league for his ability to play both ways on the ice. Patrice Bergeron was one of three finalists named for the Selke Award, given annually to the best defensive forward in the game.
“I’ve been saying that for years,” Chara said. “He should’ve been nominated way before this year. He’s such a reliable guy to have on the ice. He plays all the situations. You can really count on him when he’s on the ice that he’s going to get the job done. It’s just a pleasure to have a teammate like that. He’s such a tremendous person and hard worker, and obviously a leader, there’s no question in my mind he should be the winner.”
Like Chara, Bergy knows what it’s like to play through pain and he appreciates that Bergeron is doing it again this year, suffering an upper body injury in Saturday’s Game 5 that limited him to one faceoff draw in Game 6.
“That’s the way it is at this time of year, everybody sacrifices and does whatever he can to help the team,” Chara said. “That’s just the way it is.He’s been doing that for years. He’s always playing against top lines. Whatever job or task you ask from him, he’s going to do that. Explain all the situations, it’s always huge to have someone willing to play defense first before the offense. Not too many guys take as much pride in it as Bergy does.”
|Barry Pederson on M&M: Capitals play into Bruins’ hands by focusing on physicality||04.13.12 at 1:29 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson joined Mut & Merloni Friday to discuss Thursday night’s 1-0 overtime victory over the Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
“If we had any doubt that Seidenberg was going to take his game to the same level it was at last year in the playoffs, man, did he ever show that,” Pederson said. “He and [Zdeno] Chara I thought did a tremendous job on the Ovechkin line. Of course, they had the advantage of having [Patrice] Bergeron‘s line out there as well. And then [David] Krejci‘s line did a great job against [Nicklas] Backstrom and [Alexander] Semin.
“The Bruins were very solid physically. Defensively I thought they were tremendous. The game I didn’t think should have been as close as it was. I thought in the second period in particular, the Bruins on the power play, they had 4 1/2 minutes to start the second period, the power play, and then they had that 4-on-3 a full two minutes. To me, that’s where the game should have been put out of reach for Washington. They only had seven shots against after two periods. The Bruins let them hang around, then they needed Tim Thomas to kind of hold the fort for them in that third period.”
Added Pederson: “The Bruins’ strength, as we all know, is their defensive game led by Thomas and Chara and Seidenberg and the physicality that they bring. If Washington wants to play that way, that to me is playing right into the Bruins’ hands. When you see a player like Ovechkin trying to take a run at Seidenberg and Chara, you could just see that pairing just licking their chops, saying, ‘Come on, bring it on. If we can get you off that offensive game and get you thinking about playing physical, that’s an advantage to us.’ ”
The Bruins struggled Thursday on the power play, a reminder of the team’s problems in last year’s playoffs.
“They were just way too stationary,” Pederson said. “When you watch the replays of it, you can just see they’re all standing — if you envision a box, they’re at each corner of the box, with the three Washington defenders allowed to collapse, and nobody was in a scoring position. So, Washington is just saying, ‘Hey, keep the puck on the outside, that’s fine, our goaltender can see it, there’s no traffic in front, there’s nobody who’s a direct threat to us.’ I just thought they got way too stationary.
“When the Bruins power play looked a little bit better that latter part of the season into the final month, they were moving around. I especially remember [Rich] Peverly on the point on the power play was very active. They were dropping down. Seidenberg would be dropping down and getting involved and not just staying stationary, moving the puck to the point. Because one of the things I was very impressed with with Washington, especially in the first two periods, they were blocking a lot of shots. So, for the Bruins to be successful, they’re going to have to get those shots through. They’re going to have to get their defense involved a little bit more by pinching and by being active in the offensive zone.”
|Bruins leave Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron back in Boston||04.04.12 at 1:02 pm ET|
WILMINGTON – Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara all stayed out on the ice for extra work after Wednesday’s practice, and all three players will join Johnny Boychuk in staying behind when the team travels to Ottawa for Thursday’s game against the Senators. Of the four players, all but Boychuk will simply be given the game off for rest.
Boychuk left Tuesday night’s loss to the Penguins in the third period with a leg injury, but Claude Julien offered no update on the status of the defenseman aside from the fact that he won’t be making the trip.
Thursday’s game will be the first this season in which Bergeron has not played, and it will leave Chris Kelly as the only Bruin to play in each contest. It will be Thomas’ second straight scratch as the team aims to keep the reigning Conn Smythe winner fresh for the playoffs.
|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.” Read the rest of this entry »