BOSTON -- One of the Bruins’ most dependable, reliable assets looked anything but that in the final three games of the Stanley Cup finals, all of which -- not coincidentally -- were losses.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara has been the steady workhorse of the Bruins, logging a yeoman’s load of ice time every night during the playoffs and often neutralizing the opposition’s top playmakers. Yet against a Blackhawks juggernaut featuring skilled forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane, the Bruins captain was made to look ordinary.
In all, Chara was on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 17 goals this series, including seven of the 12 goals scored in the final three games. He finished a minus-five for the series.
In Monday's Game 6, Chara was on the ice for the Hawks’ first two goals. Out of a faceoff early in the second period, Toews undressed Chara and left him in the dust coming up the boards, swooping in and going five-hole on Tuukka Rask to make it 1-1. Then with less than 80 seconds to go in the contest, Chara couldn't prevent the game-tying goal, with Toews coming out of the corner and slipping a pass through the big defenseman as Bickell went backdoor.
Was Chara hurt? A team source told ESPNBoston.com that Chara played through “bumps and bruises”, but nothing particularly serious. Asked about his injuries, Chara told a group of reporters, “I’m not talking about my physical status, sorry.”
Perhaps Chara had finally hit a wall after logging heavy minutes throughout the playoffs. In the triple overtime loss to Chicago in Game 1, Chara logged close to 45 minutes of ice time. On Monday, he led all Bruins with 25:29, second in the game to Duncan Keith’s 28:51. For the playoffs, Chara set a career high in minutes, averaging more than 25 per game.
With the Bruins in another physical battle trying to shut down one of the league’s most explosive offenses, maybe it all finally got to him.
“I think that it was the case for every team,” Chara said. “I think it wasn’t just Chicago. I think that throughout the whole playoffs, no matter who you play it’s going to be physical, it’s going to be grinding and it’s not just Chicago. It was just the playoffs. I think that that’s the way it is. It’s physical and you have to expect that.”