BOSTON -- In case anybody was wondering, Zdeno Chara detests the idea that he’s a minus player one month into the season.
The debate can go on until the cows come home about the reasons why he's a minus player, and the overall merits of the plus/minus stat, but the Bruins captain is a minus-1 for the season after 14 games.
To put that in perspective, Chara was a plus-80 over the last three years with identical plus-33 marks in each of his last two full NHL seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
“It bothers me,” said Chara. “I don’t like to be a minus player, and I hate to be in that column. For sure it’s part of the game that I’m looking to improve, so we have to go for it. I’m not sure if I could pinpoint one thing. When it’s just a minus-1, you’re not playing terribly badly.
"But I think we think we’re all better [players] than we are in plus/minus. We just need to find a way to score more goals, and prevent other teams from scoring more. Sometimes you end up on the ice when you score more goals, and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you end up on the ice when good things are happening, and sometimes you’re out there when the puck ends up in the back of your net. It’s just the way it is.”
The minus-1 is next to Chara’s name for a couple of different reasons. The Bruins offense hasn’t been stellar to start the season, clearly a factor in the lackluster total. Some of it is that Chara's also been a victim of circumstance, as he was on Long Island when he was on the ice for a goal against as the lone last defender when Brad Marchand and Dougie Hamilton had both blown the coverage.
“I don’t think anybody’s used to seeing [Chara] there [in the minus]," coach Claude Julien said. "He’s usually a pretty high plus player, but sometimes you take stats for what they’re worth; it could be circumstances. I prefer looking at video, and looking at ‘Is he really that responsible for those goals against, or does he happen to be on the ice when those kinds of mistakes are made?'
“So we’ll take it for what it’s worth. I don’t think Z’s been a bad player for us this year. Z’s probably going to tell you that he can be better; that’s the way he is. When things are going wrong, everybody has to look at the player who we can pick on. Right now I think we should be picking on ourselves as a team because we definitely are all struggling.”
To Chara’s point, he’s only had three minus games among his first 14 this season. But two of them were the back-to-back losses to the Islanders and Stars that have him starting the month as a minus-3.
But Chara has also been a little slower to react, and a little more mistake-prone early in the season. The 36-year-old B’s captain had one of his best games of the season in the shootout win over Anaheim when he played 29:45 of ice time, but then looked as if he was paying the price 48 hours later against the Isles. Chara once again racked up 29:45 of ice time against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night, and made a critical mistake getting off the ice for a change in the third period.
That change opened up the ice for Vern Fiddler to drive right down the middle, and earn the penalty shot that ended up tying the game with only a few minutes remaining in the game. By his own admission, Chara said it's attention to small details like line changes that will make the big results even better.
“I think we need better results. We all know our game isn’t exactly where it should be, but at the same time I don’t think we’re all that far away from where we should be,” said Chara. “We just need to focus on doing the little things right, and be better . . . and the sooner the better for it.”
Chara and the Bruins will get their chance to end their November doldrums with a Thursday night tilt against one of the weak sisters in the Atlantic Division, the Florida Panthers.