By Matt Kalman
No one would’ve blamed Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for being tentative with his slap shot after what he went through Saturday in Montreal.
But given the room to operate Monday, Chara stepped up and let his shot rip for a goal that got the Bruins rolling after falling behind the Dallas Stars 2-0.
The goal cut the Dallas lead to 2-1 and helped the Bruins rally to force overtime and extend their point streak to 13 games before they lost 3-2 on a Tyler Seguin goal at TD Garden. The Bruins are 9-0-4 during their longest point streak since they went 15-0-1 in March 2014.
There are few weapons more lethal in the NHL than Chara’s slap shot, which famously has been clocked at close to 110 miles per hour in various contests. Luckily for Chara and everyone involved, the slap shot that hit Montreal forward Phillip Danault in the head Saturday wasn’t lethal. It forced Danault to leave the game on a stretcher and spend the night in the hospital, but he was released Sunday and seemingly was on his way to a full recovery.
The Bruins seemingly were on their way to their first regulation loss since Dec. 14 went they landed in a 2-0 hole against the Stars. But after the Bruins won a battle along the half-wall and Charlie McAvoy made a cross-ice pass, Chara skated to the top of the left circle and hammered a shot past Kari Lehtonen and then bent over to unleash his patented primal scream.
“It’s nice to obviously get a goal and obviously get a little bit of energy and see the fans wake up a little bit more, the team kind of fed off of that going into the third,” said Chara, who has a three-game point streak with a one goal and two assists in that span. “So it is nice when you create some momentum, some energy and eventually it led to the tying goal.”
Scary things can happen in hockey games by accident. Skates and sticks come up around the neck and head area, checks into the boards happen at strange angles, and shots find their way into faces and heads despite the best intentions of the shooter. The 6-foot-9 Chara, one of the fiercest men to ever play the game, was visibly shaken after his shot took Danault down. Chara waited a few feet away while medical personnel got Danault on a stretcher and Chara made sure to shake his opponents hand as he left the ice.
Chara’s concern didn’t end in that moment or even after that game.
“Obviously I spoke to Phillip a number of times, reached out to him right after the game. I wanted to make sure he’s OK and it seemed from what he texted me back, he was doing well,” Chara said. “He’s released and that’s very positive, very good news. Obviously it’s very unfortunate … it’s something that happens quite often. But you know it’s something that you never want to see anyone being hit and hurt. So very happy that he’s going to recover fully and hopefully he’s back on the ice and plays hockey [soon].”
Like a pitcher who seriously injuries a batter with a fastball up and in, Chara could’ve easily started to think twice about firing away. But at 40 years old and with decades of NHL experience, he understands this is not the time to put away such a vital weapon for the Bruins. Players obviously think twice about getting the way of Chara’s shot, and when there’s an opening for him he can’t think about the consequences that may inadvertently happen.
“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often. You have that clean almost path to the net that way you can settle the puck, take a look and just take a full slapper,” he said. “The game, it’s pretty quick and usually teams play so well structurally that there’s always somebody fronting it and if you get it through him, usually there’s bodies in front. So it does happen, but it’s nice that you have that time to really put everything on it.”
That’s nice for the Bruins, not so much for opposing goalies and anyone with the misfortune to get in between Chara’s shot and the goal.
The Bruins haven’t faced much adversity during their run of success, which beyond the point streak can be expanded to 12-1-4 in their past 17 games. Chara’s reaction to the Danault accident could’ve been a stumbling block; but just as he conquered so many other obstacles in his career, Chara moved on with stoic professionalism and a desire to win that’s greater than any fear of injury.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.