PITTSBURGH – Much of the focus about the week-long break for the Boston Bruins was on getting the banged up players healthy, but there is one player that a brief respite probably helped more than anybody else.
Zdeno Chara topped 30 minutes of ice time twice in the five game series against the New York Rangers while helping cover for a defensemen corps ravaged by injuries, and appeared to be battling fatigue in the latter portions of the series. The play where Chara was pick-pocketed by Derek Stepan at his own net in Boston’s Game 4 loss to the Rangers seemed very clearly related to his state of mental, or physical, fatigue.
It hasn’t taken away from Chara’s overall dominant performance in the playoffs thus far while producing at both ends of the ice.
Chara is second behind only Kris Letang among NHL defensemen with 12 points in 12 playoff games, and shares the lead with a plus/minus of plus-7 while cranking out 42 shots in that span. He’s also routinely shut down the opposition’s top players at the other end of the ice, and accomplished that in the second round while also carefully bringing along 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton as his defensemen partner.
But even Chara admitted that it’s been a long season for him, and the week-long break was most welcome after playing 45 games in the previous 85 days. That goes doubly for a player that is tops among the players in the final four while averaging 29:13 of ice time during the postseason.
“Personally speaking, I started the season in Europe and then obviously we started the season over here. It was a busy schedule,” said Chara. “Then once the regular season was over, we started playing right away the playoffs. This was probably the first time in a long time that we had probably four or five days without a game.
“It depends how you use it, but I think it's not a bad thing to have a few days to rest to get ready for the next round. It all depends on how you use it.”
Claude Julien has pretty clearly outlined the benefits of a little rest for the Black and Gold after a particularly grueling final three months of the regular season and playoffs, and admitted there are some players it’s helping more than other.
“The break has been good for everybody,” said Julien. “Even us as a coaching staff, when the players were off we were still preparing as a coaching staff for the next day. It’s been good for players that played a lot, it’s been good for injured players to heal and it’s been good for coaches to at least take a step back, breath and get our focus and energy back.
“The only people that probably didn’t enjoy [the break] is you guys [in the media] because you had to write about the same things day after day.”
Julien might have been speaking the truth, but nobody is going to care whom it’s bad for if it’s so good for the Bruins organization prepping for an Eastern Conference Final showdown this weekend with the Pittsburgh Penguins.