Bruins insist Chara doesn’t mind contact
CHICAGO – The idea that a little contact can throw off Zdeno Chara left Milan Lucic shaking his head and wondering who exactly is drawing up the scouting reports for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Sure, they went right at Boston’s big, bad defenseman in Game 4. If they want to try that again, the Bruins had three words for them: bring it on.
“Honestly, I don’t know where they would get that scouting report from,” Lucic said yesterday. “He definitely doesn’t mind the physical play at all. Once again, I don’t know where they would get that scouting report from.”
The Blackhawks seem to believe they were on to something after they challenged Chara in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals and came away with a 6-5 overtime victory.
The Bruins, meanwhile, reacted with a collective shrug. Either way, the series is knotted at two games apiece as it shifts back to the United Center for Game 5 tonight.
“To be honest, we don’t care what they thought they’ve figured out because it’s about us right now and making sure we’re ready for Game 5,” Boston’s Patrice Bergeron said.
Chicago went right at Chara in Game 4 and came away with the belief that that’s the way to neutralize the 6-foot-9 defenseman – attack rather than avoid. For one night, the strategy worked.
Chara was on the ice for all but one of the Blackhawks’ goals and was a minus-3 for the game, tying a season worst.
“I think maybe at times in the first couple games we were giving him a little bit too much respect by trying to keep the puck away from him,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “He’s not a guy that we should be afraid of. We should go at him, protect the puck from him, make plays around him and through him.”
It was clear early in Game 4 that the Blackhawks weren’t going to back down.
Bryan Bickell drove his shoulder into Chara in the corner and took down the tallest player in the league, certainly not the hardest hit of his career but one that allowed Chicago to maintain possession in Boston’s zone.
It also sent out a loud message that the Blackhawks were going to attack, take the fight to him.
“I’ve seen guys try to get under his skin,” Boston’s Andrew Ference said. “He’s pretty hard to physically target. I don’t think there’s a lot of weak personalities at this point. Teams that are successful don’t have a lot of room for guys that can’t take criticism, can’t take abuse on the ice. That doesn’t mean dirty (play), that just means the rigors of the game.”
Chara’s skill, endurance and reach make him one of the most difficult matchups in the league, and that was probably one reason why Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville opted not to go with Toews and Patrick Kane on the same line the first three games.
Separating his biggest stars spreads out the skill and wears out defenses, but the Blackhawks needed a change so he put them together, hoping to challenge Chara.
Then, there was the physical component.
Besides the hit by Bickell, another example came on the winning goal in overtime. There was Toews tussling with Chara in front of the net, screening Tuukka Rask, as Brent Seabrook ripped a shot from just inside the blue line.
“He doesn’t like getting hit,” Bickell said. “Not a lot of guys attempt it, but to get a hit on him and to see him fall down, it’s rare, but I just needed to keep it going.”
The idea that Chara doesn’t like to get hit was news to the Bruins, and they were quick to rush to his defense.
They dismissed the idea that the Blackhawks might have exposed him, insisted he wasn’t to blame for all those goals and vowed Game 5 will be a different story.
“You expect great things out of him all the time because he delivers,” Ference said. “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.”