PHILADELPHIA – The Bruins likely wanted to rest Zdeno Chara in at least one of the final four games of the regular season. There's ample evidence a healthy scratch should probably come sooner rather than later for the 6-foot-9 captain after Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Chara looked slow, mechanical and deliberate in his plays with the puck, and seemed to be having breakdowns in the second and third period that opened the door for Philly to score four of its five goals.
The first was a goal surrendered by Boston just seven seconds after Philly had taken the lead in the second period,. Coach Claude Julien tossed Chris Kelly’s line and Chara’s D-pairing on the ice to quiet things down. Instead, Chara butchered a D-to-D pass intended to rim around to Dougie Hamilton, and it squirted straight toward Anton Khudobin. The B’s backup goaltender was clearly taken by surprise when the puck bounced over his stick, between his pads and into the net to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead, and Khudobin was pulled from the game.
“It was stuck against the boards. I tried to get it around to my D partner, and it just took a weird bounce,” said Chara.
Things got even worse for Chara in the third period, when he looked not so much like a Norris Trophy contender but like a 36-year-old defenseman who's logged a lot of heavy minutes this season. He couldn’t get a chip deep into the corner and instead played right into a turnover while allowing Jakub Voracek to get behind both defensemen. Voracek easily beat Tuukka Rask on the odd-man rush.
Julien was asked after Tuesday night’s loss if Chara looked like he needed a rest. But the coach simply wasn’t having it as an excuse for coughing up so many pucks at key points in the game.
“Let’s stay away from excuses because it’s not going to work. It’s a lot of BS right now,” said Julien. “We have to take the responsibility and quit hiding behind those excuses . . . because it’s a load of crap."
Chara finished a minus-2 with three giveaways in a performance that had far too many mistakes, and he admitted as much after it was all over as a true leader should.
“It’s not good enough . . . that’s for sure,” said Chara. “We started doing things that we’re not supposed to. They got a little jump from quick goals, but we shouldn’t try to force plays we’re not supposed to.
“We were making some strides forward [as a team in the last few games], but we’ve obviously taken two steps back again.”
Despite the coach’s unwillingness to use fatigue as an excuse right now, and rightfully so, the right play with only three games to go is to sit a sluggish Chara when he’s exhibiting signs that the heavy work schedule is creeping into his game. Because it’s going to be a really quick trip in the playoffs if Chara brings the same kind of game that he brought to Philadelphia on Tuesday night.