LAS VEGAS, NV Zdeno Chara is still going strong at 35 years old, and will serve as a Norris Trophy Finalist for the fifth time in his career as evidence of his continued dominance for the Bruins.
But even the biggest, the baddest and the best get slow downat some point, and that process is beginning for the 6-foot-9 defenseman as he heads into the long back nine of his NHL career. Chara led all defensemen with a plus-33 and led the Bruins to their third Northeast Division title in four years, and posted a career-high 52 points while averaging 25 minutes of ice time per night.
Chara is up against two defensemen still basking in youthful prime with Nashvilles Shea Weber and Ottawas Erik Karlsson, and the Bs defenseman said it could come down to a simple matter of taste among the voters.
Its not stressful. I was nervous the first time I was nominated, Chara said. You get a little bit nervous when it comes down to your category. That never gets old. Hopefully you get the votes and this is the year. No matter how you look at it, its very close.
For a number of writers and for people that are eligible to vote everybody likes something different. You have three cars in front of you: you have the BMW, you have the Mercedes and you have the Porsche. A hundred people are going to like the Mercedes, a hundred people are going to like the BMW and the rest are going to like the Porsche. Every guy is a winner maybe in the different worlds of each different group of writers. It just comes down to the total scores of votes. Of course you want to win. Its a huge honor.
So which car is Chara?
He wouldnt answer the question, but he probably is best described as a Slovakian tank or a Mack Truck with a hemmie.
Karlsson is clearly going to get a large number of votes after putting up 78 points this season, and finishing with nearly 30 more points than anybody else in the defensemen category. But the Sens D-man also was fifth on his own team in ice time on the penalty kill and didnt face the toughest offensive competition while trying to live up to his positional name.
One interesting footnote to Charas training: the 35-year-old fitness freak admits that hes scaled down his once maniacal training regimen. The long, punishing bike rides through the hills and mountains have been toned down slightly, and Chara has found the recharge button that hockey players need during the summer.
Its a great question. Every time after the season I sit back and make a little change to my preparation for the next season. I get older, but I also get wiser about the way that I train, said Chara. You do more in some things and less in others. You pay more attention.
In some ways I do less biking than I did before, and I do other stuff instead. When you look at it now I was biking maybe six or seven hours each day, and maybe that was a little too much. Now I try to train hard, but not in the volume of those hours as before. Then youre not gaining anything.
An older, stronger, wiser Chara must be a scary thought for opponents, regardless of whether or not he takes his second career Norris Trophy.