Chara's major minutes key in Bruins win

Chara's major minutes key in Bruins win
May 14, 2013, 12:45 am
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BOSTON -- Imagine telling Zdeno Chara, that, after flying into Boston from Toronto on Monday morning, he would have to play over 35 minutes later that night.

The reaction probably wouldn't be overwhelming, even for a guy who averaged at least 25 minutes per game each season since 2002.

Chara, the Bruins' captain, is no stranger to logging major minutes, especially when his team needs him most. And on Monday night, in must-win Game 7, these Bruins needed him more than ever.

"We're so used to a guy like Zdeno doing it night after night, that sometimes we don't give him the credit he deserves," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Monday's Game 7 comeback win. "And if it's not for Zdeno, the way he played tonight, we're not sitting here going to the next round."

Chara logged a monster 35:46 of ice time in Game 7. It marked the most minutes he played all series long. And again, he did it when the Bruins needed him most.

Dennis Seidenberg played only 37 seconds of ice time on Monday night. He took two shifts, both in the first period, and never returned because of an injury.

Having both Wade Redden and Andrew Ference scratched with injuries, and both Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski in the lineup for a Game 7, probably meant that Chara was going to see his minutes increased anyways.

Seidenberg's early exit meant that the Bruins needed Chara to step up and give a warrior-like effort more than ever before.

"It was hard," said Chara after the win. "We had a short bench right away. But that's when you have to be smart. Sometimes you do take longer shifts. Sometimes you take quick ones. But at that point, our thinking, I don't think was about thinking about the exhaustion. It was more about doing the right thing, the right play, being in the right position, and hopefully we scored before they do."

Defense wins championships. But up until the final minutes of the third period of Game 7 on Monday night, the Bruins' biggest need was offense.

The B's had allowed four goals, but they battled back to tie the game with four unanswered goals to win 5-4 in overtime and advance to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.

Chara was on the ice for all four of those goals after falling behind 4-1. But it was Boston's third and game-tying fourth in which the captain played a major role.

The Bruins' third goal came with 1:22 left in the game and cut Toronto's lead down to 4-3 when Milan Lucic put home a rebound from Chara's low shot from the right point. That gave Chara his only "official" assist of the game.

His other "unofficial" assist came just 32 seconds later, as he parked in front of Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer and allowed Patrice Bergeron to find the back of the net with a wrist shot from the middle-point.

"How can you see around that big guy?" asked fellow defenseman Johnny Boychuk. "Of course, if he's in front of the net, the goalie's probably not going to see it. He's such a huge body."

Reimer didn't see it, and Bergeron tied the game at 4-4. And by now, you know how it ended.

"I think when we scored the third goal, we knew we were close," said Chara. "Obviously, scoring the tying goal in the last minute of the game, we gave ourselves a chance again. That was huge. All of a sudden, from being out of it, you were back in it."

"Honestly, when I shot it and I got it through the first guy, I knew it was a pretty good shot," said Bergeron on his game-tying goal. "I couldn’t see it going in, but I knew it was close. Fortunate enough, it went in."

Fortunately for the Bruins, they have a guy like Chara to step up his minutes in a time of need, and at that point, desperation.