The Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have mostly been expressing respect for each other, but that stance changed after the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins 6-5 in overtime in Game 4 Wednesday night at TD Garden. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews shot a verbal missile across the bow of Boston captain Zdeno Chara, saying the Blackhawks are not intimidated by his size or strength and they're not afraid of him.
Chara was on the ice for five of the six goals in Game 4, including the game-winning tally when Toews completely outmuscled Chara to allow Brent Seabrook's shot from the point to beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
Whether or not the Blackhawks believe they can handle Boston's physical style of play, any comments made won't bother the Bruins, according to veteran defenseman Andrew Ference.
"The Stanley Cup motivates you, not people's comments," he said. "We expect them to be able to take it. We're all playing hockey and we're all hockey players and guys are pretty tough. It's not that we never expect teams to be able to take our physical style of play, but we're still going to play physical because we know it has some effect on the game.
"If that's their game plan, that's their game plan. It really doesn't concern us and the way we prepare for the game or anything."
Bruins power forward Milan Lucic has been a physical force during the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially in the finals. He's been applying bone-crushing, teeth-shattering hits on the Blackhawks and slowing them down.
"We've just got to stick to our game and play the way that we do," Lucic said. "They're a confident group and we knew they were going to be. [Toews] is a really good player, so whatever is said is said and it doesn't really bother us. We've got to focus on what will make us successful."
Have the Blackhawks figured out a formula to contain Chara's size and strength?
"I guess we'll see," added Ference. "That's why you play the game to see if your strategy and your way of playing is better than the other team's. That's sorted out when you hit the ice."
It's unusual to see Chara with a minus next to his name on the score sheet, but his teammates are not worried about it.
"Yeah, without a doubt," Ference said. "You expect great things out of him all the time because he delivers. Just because you're on the ice doesn't mean it's your fault; we've all seen enough games to know that. He has a lot of pride, but he also wants another Cup so I think that's going to trump any other feeling of pride or anything like that. The desire to win is going to outweigh anything."
Overall, Chara is averaging a career-high in the postseason for ice time, but his shot total has declined in the first four games of this series. He has 14 points, including a plus-10 in 20 postseason games this spring.
"Z, he plays lots of minutes and obviously there's going to be some shifts that are not his best shifts but that's how it goes when you play almost 30 minutes a game," said Bruins forward David Krejci. "He's been great the whole playoffs for us, even in the finals. Sometimes it happens you have a bad shift but I'm sure he's going to play a strong game tomorrow and we're going to have his back just like he has our back all season."