BOSTON (CBS) — Zdeno Chara is in his eighth season as the captain of the Boston Bruins, a franchise with great history and a fan base that tends to appreciate tough, hard-nosed players who give maximum effort above all else. Chara, a 36-year-old workhorse, fits that description to a tee, and yet, it still sometimes feels as though many of Chara’s contributions go underappreciated in Boston.
That’s not to say that he’s not appreciated at all, but it’s undeniable that the captain has received more scrutiny than anyone over the years. Perhaps it’s because his game focuses more on shutting down star players on the other team than it does on piling up goals and assists, perhaps it’s because he doesn’t show up on too many highlight packages with many dazzling plays, and perhaps it’s because he’s just so humongous that folks just sort of expect him to be great all the time. But make no mistake: Being great doesn’t come easy for anyone, and Chara is certainly no exception.
Chara enjoyed a rare night on Tuesday at the TD Garden, as he was the offensive star, scoring both Bruins goals in a 2-0 victory over the Calgary Flames. One came in classic Chara form — a slap shot — and the other came from what’s become a new role for Chara this year — clogging the front of the net on power plays and cleaning up the garbage.
Neither goal came easy, either. Minutes before Chara’s first goal, he took a high stick to his right eye. Despite the fact that Matt Stajan’s stick blade climbed the 6-foot-9 Tower of Zdeno in plain view, it went unseen by the two referees on the ice, and no penalty was called. Chara remained down on the ice, holding his face for several moments before making his way to the bench. He didn’t stay there long, as he was back on the ice on the power play minutes later, breaking a scoreless tie with a slapper from the edge of the right faceoff circle.
On Chara’s second goal, not one member of the Calgary Flames penalty kill wanted to even attempt to move Chara from the front of the goal mouth, and he collected a rebound and put it past goaltender Reto Berra for the insurance goal.
It was Chara’s first multi-goal game since January 2011, and it was just the eighth time in his 563 games — regular season and playoffs — as a Bruin that he’s potted multiple goals in one game. That this one came when half the roster is missing due to injury, suspension or illness is no coincidence. Chara is and always has been willing to do whatever is most beneficial to the team, and on Tuesday night, that meant he had to be a goal scorer.
“That’s the beauty of it — it’s a compliment because our team hasn’t changed,” head coach Claude Julien said of the team amid all of the missing players. “You go in that dressing room, it’s still the same, just a few new faces. But our demeanor, I guess our approach, nothing has changed. And I think if you’ve watched us play lately, I don’t think we’ve changed our game.”
Chara’s not always the most loquacious guy, and he’s never been one to self-promote, which may contribute to that aforementioned underappreciation. Yet when he spoke on Tuesday night, his eyeball a shade of red from that Stajan high stick, the captain unveiled the secret to his success.
“I’m just trying to work hard and be there for loose pucks, creating traffic and finding some openings,” he said of his new role on the power play. “Really, the main thing is just to work extremely hard.”
And there, in just those final 10 words, is everything you need to know about Zdeno Chara and what he brings to the Bruins. When his jersey No. 33 one day is raised to the rafters at TD Garden, complementing the 33 in green hanging on the other side of the building, there may not be one defining moment or performance that universally stands out to the 17,565 who will be there to witness the moment. To truly appreciate Chara, one must look at the overall success and occasional dominance of the Bruins for the past seven years and wonder what is the driving force behind it. There’s plenty of credit to go around, from Julien’s system, to stellar goaltending from Tim Thomas and then Tuukka Rask, and so on.
But coaches and goalies can’t step onto the ice and embody toughness for 25 minutes a night. That’s something that very few players in the league can do, yet it’s something that’s become the norm for Zdeno Chara. He’s won awards and a Stanley Cup, and he’s been paid millions for his service, but there’s no better credit to the Bruins captain than to simply say that every single night, he takes the lofty ideal that fans have of the perfect Bruin and he makes it a reality.
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