By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins won in double overtime on Wednesday night. It was their first home playoff game in two years (we needn’t mention their last home playoff game), and with roughly 5,000 fans in attendance, it was a joyous occasion for all involved.
But not, of course, for the Capitals. And certainly not for former Bruins cornerstrone-turned-part-time-Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara.
The 44-year-old (HE’S 44 YEARS OLD!) averaged 18:19 of ice time this season, his first after leaving the Bruins following 14 years as their captain. Yet after skating more than 19 minutes in Game 1, he was on the ice for fewer than 13 minutes in Game 2. With Game 3 going to double overtime, he got more ice time, skating 20 minutes overall, with 4:13 coming on the penalty kill. But he still had the least ice time among Capitals defensemen, and he also had a bad time out there.
The 6-foot-9 defenseman got smoked by teammates during pregame warmups. Then Chara took a penalty for slashing on one of his early shifts. He had a front-row seat to Brad Marchand’s mid-air bat on the power play to tie the game in the third period.
He got a shot on net during his first shift of double overtime, but he had the misfortune of witnessing a marvelous gaffe by Ilya Samsonov and Justin Schultz, leading to the sneaky game-winning goal by Craig Smith.
Chara wasn’t bad, but he probably didn’t feel great after that one.
Clearly, Chara’s role in Washington is different from what Bruins fans are accustomed to seeing from the workhorse defenseman. And though his departure may still not make much sense (Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen didn’t make the progress that the Bruins hoped, and Jeremy Lauzon didn’t exactly have a breakout season), what’s done is done, and there likely isn’t a whole lot of ill will felt toward Chara from the people of Boston.
That’s why, when images started surfacing of Chara skating past the raucous Bruins celebration in double-overtime, it was … just kind of a sad sight.
Chara was a part of those pig piles countless times during his Boston tenure, as Boston won 85 playoff games and a Stanley Cup with Big Z as their captain. He was a leader in countless ways, establishing a certain culture of accountability and responsibility while also setting a tone for the commitment level required for playing Bruins hockey. He was a great captain during one of the best decades in Bruins history. (And he never angrily berated a teammate as he made his way down the tunnel after a loss, as far as we can remember.)
Yet the Bruins’ front office … didn’t really want him. And the Capitals got him but aren’t really using him. It doesn’t feel very right. And now he’s skating past piles of happy Bruins, in a rowdy TD Garden. It’s all quite weird and, frankly, a bit sad.