CHICAGO – Anybody expecting Zdeno Chara to dwell on the loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final is going to have to wait for an awfully long time.
The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Chara was a minus-6 in the three straight losses to the Blackhawks in the Cup Final while fighting through crushing fatigue and a bothersome hip injury. The shutdown pair of Chara and Seidenberg ultimately didn’t have an answer for the line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell, and was one of the main narratives when the B’s went down in six games.
As is his stoic, focused nature, Chara had already turned the page on last year’s Cup Final loss and is instead focused on a regular season victory against a tough Western Conference opponent in Chicago.
“I think we’ve put last year behind us, and we really want to focus on this season,” said Chara, who has one assist and a plus-2 rating in seven games during the month of January while the team copes with the loss of Dennis Seidenberg. “It’s a really good team that we’re playing. We just need to be ready. They’re probably one of the best teams in the league, so it’s going to be a challenge.
“It’s a new season, and we want to focus on this season.”
Clearly Chara was still paying off some of the balance for last year’s Herculean workload when he averaged a career-high 29:32 of ice time during the playoffs, and was still a minus-1 player two months into this season. But the 6-foot-9 B’s captain has found his defensive game, and his teammates are confident he’ll be looking to strongly answer some of the missteps from last year’s series vs. Chicago.
“He’s an important player on our team,” said Milan Lucic. “He’s probably the most important player. He shuts down the best players in the world. It’s not just him, though. We had a lot of guys injured: [Horton] was injured, [Bergeron] was injured and obviously [Gregory Campbell] wasn’t able to play in the Final.
“It was stuff that we didn’t have going on in 2011 when we beat Vancouver, and that really caught up to us.”
It also gave the Bruins a window into what life would be like without Chara in the lineup, a prospect that would drastically alter the outlook for a team that still looks like a contender out of the East with our without Seidenberg.
Bruins coach Claude Julien fully admitted the fresh hurt of getting to within two wins of another Stanley Cup hoisting before falling short against the Blackhawks, but wanted his players to embrace the idea of moving onward and upward past the six game series against Chicago.
"There's no doubt it hurts, but you've got to get over it," said Claude Julien. "If all you rely on is the hurt and the past, then you can't move forward."
Perhaps playing them again will bring that closure that Julien is looking for.