BOSTON (CBS) – There aren’t too many weapons that can counter magic.
But obviously a more utilized, and thus more engaged Zdeno Chara can do the trick.
Chara, who was limited to 22:05 of ice time in Game 1 on Friday, played 26:04 of dominant hockey in the Bruins’ Game 2 victory in their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at TD Garden.
The series is now tied 1-1 heading to Detroit for Game 3 on Tuesday.
Chara scored a power-play goal, was credited with four hits and was the main reason Game 1 goal-scorer “Magic Man” Pavel Datsyuk was limited to one attempt (a shot on net) in 21:05 of ice time.
“You know what, I always say whatever the coaching staff decides to play me, use me, I’m fine with that,” Chara said. “You know it’s all about wins and it’s a team game, so I’m ready whenever they ask me to and that’s the bottom line.”
Although Chara spit out the least controversial, robotic response he could muster when questioned about his increased ice time, you have to imagine he wanted to play more. The game plan for Game 1 didn’t work and the Bruins were facing the specter of heading on the road for Games 3 and 4 in an 0-2 hole.
Even if Chara and coach Claude Julien didn’t discuss more participation, you have to believe Boston’s captain let his coach know through telepathy, body language or carrier pigeon. Or maybe Julien saw error of his ways while watching video of Game 1. Maybe the coach realized that when you have the biggest, toughest defenseman in the land on your side and the other team has the most mesmerizing, breathtaking offensive performer on the planet, doling out minutes equally among a defense corps is a loser’s plan.
Chara was on the ice for Datsyuk’s goal in Game 1, but for the most part he played well enough in helping the Bruins hang close in a 1-0 loss. Well enough, though, is not great enough.
Julien claimed that the extra penalty-kill time Boston had in Game 2 (the Bruins were 4-for-4 against Detroit’s power play) played into the decision to increase Chara’s workload. But there really shouldn’t be any excuse, outside of a romp of six goals or more, to play Chara less than 25 minutes in any given game. In fact, the only other reason to keep Chara’s minutes down would be if he was battling the Bruins’ infamous flu bug as much as he was grappling with the Red Wings. But there’s no reason to believe that was the case.
Chara was much more engaged throughout Game 2, as he played with both Dougie Hamilton and Kevan Miller and was on the ice almost every time Datsyuk jumped over the boards. The increased ice time clearly allowed him to get into a groove that paid off with him jumping up into the play during a penalty kill to draw a penalty and have several heated confrontations with Red Wings players after whistles. At one point, Chara even nearly came to blows with teammate Reilly Smith’s brother Brendan, a Detroit defenseman.
With the 6-foot-9 Chara laughing at him, the 6-foot-2 Smith backed off just enough so the linesman could easily intervene. But the message was sent that no one was immune from the fury of an unleashed Chara.
“Nothing really. It’s just that’s playoff hockey,” Chara said of the exchange with him and Smith.
If Chara was guarded with the media after the game, he let all of his all-around game hang out during the 60-minute showdown with the Red Wings. You can add his Game 2 performance against Detroit to the lengthy list of moments that prove that he’s both one of the biggest difference makers in the NHL and a great captain for the Bruins.
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