By Joe McDonald
3h ago 10
Uploaded by: Martin Arnold
– Zdeno Chara buckled, but he didn’t go down.
For one of the only times in Chara’s long career, a willing combatant got the best of him in fisticuffs. The Predators’ Yakov Trenin dropped the gloves with the Bruins captain after Chara made it clear he didn’t like the hit on defensive partner Charlie McAvoy.
The two exchanged blows until Trenin landed a right hook on the Chara’s surgically repaired jaw. It was a direct hit. Likely the kind the kid will be talking about for the rest of his career. After the on-ice officials escorted the two to the penalty box, it was evident Chara was not happy with the end result. Still, at age 42 and with 22 seasons in the NHL, he continues to do whatever it takes to stand up for his teammates.
Chara has received 68 fighting majors in his career. He clearly came out on top in nearly all of these tussles, with only a few bouts inconclusive or clearly going against the 6-foot-9 Bruins captain until Tuesday. In typical fashion, Chara declined to speak with the media about it after the Bruins’ 6-2 win over the Predators on Tuesday. Everyone else in the dressing room had nothing but kudos for the captain.
“I don’t think we knew a lot about that guy; I don’t know if he did,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “We tried to give him information. It was a bit of a high hit on Charlie, so Zee came to his rescue. It was a reactionary thing and good for him. Listen, he’ll do it. He’s a guy that knows when to step in, in those situations and did a great job tonight.”
At this point, even as willing as Chara is, perhaps he shouldn’t be doing this. It doesn’t help that other big bodies are out of the lineup, like the injured Kevan Miller and regular healthy scratch David Backes, who has his own issues with concussions. Winger Brett Ritchie, when in the lineup, should be doing more to protect his teammates, but that hasn’t been the case. So, it’s mostly all on Chara, whose willingness to drop the gloves speaks volumes to his teammates.
“It’s very impressive,” said alternate captain Patrice Bergeron. “That’s who he is. He’s a competitor. It doesn’t matter which game of the year it is, or what time of the year, he’s always at his best and focused. He wants the best for the team. It’s an amazing milestone coming up and he’s been the captain the whole time, which not many people have done that within an organization, so it’s impressive, to say the least.”
It’s also impressive that Chara will play his 1,000th game as a Bruin on Saturday against the New York Islanders, the team that originally selected him in the third round (No. 56 overall) in the 1996 draft. Chara doesn’t like talking about milestones, either. He prefers not to discuss them because he believes the team concept is bigger than anything accomplished individually.
Alongside Bergeron and David Krejci, Tuukka Rask has witnessed Chara’s dominance for the last decade. He also had a good look at Chara’s bout on Tuesday.
“Well, he’s our leader and he never shies away from that,” Rask said. “If he sees that it’s called for —and I didn’t see the hit — but it looked like he was coming in late and (Zdeno) probably thought it doesn’t fly, so he decided to drop ‘em. He’s our leader and it’s been like that forever.”
Ritchie is a player who could stand to protect his teammates a bit more. The first-year Bruin played one of his better games with the Bruins against the Predators, and was physical and effective, but could offer more in that area so Chara doesn’t have to.
“He’s a warrior,” Ritchie said. “He was giving it to that guy pretty good. That kid did actually pretty well, but (Zdeno) answers the bell and he’s a good leader. I didn’t see the hit, but it probably warranted a reaction and he’s always there to do that.”
Fighting is becoming a thing of the past in the NHL. But no matter what some believe, there is a place for it in the game. Chara understands that and it was on display again on Tuesday. He buckled, but he didn’t go down