BOSTON – Zdeno Chara didn’t want to even speak about the fractured finger sustained in the middle of the series against Montreal that pretty clearly affected the Bruins captain.
The 6-foot-9 defenseman didn’t deny he had the injury, believed to have been caused by a Michael Bournival slash at the beginning of Game 3 in Montreal. It was apparent something was bothering his hand in the final two losses to the Canadiens.
Chara spent plenty of time without two hands on his stick and had obvious trouble receiving passes cleanly while avoiding taking shots. He had his two worst games of the playoffs in Games 6 and 7.
Still, the towering defenseman didn’t want to use any of that as an alibi for what transpired out on the ice, and said that it looks like he’ll be avoiding surgery on the finger.
“I don’t like to talk about injuries. It’s something that doesn’t need to be surgically done so far, and hopefully it stays that way,” Chara said Friday as the Bruins packed their equipment away for the season. “But again, it’s not something that I’m going to be blaming, or making excuses.
“That’s the way it is. We all play with different injuries, or you’re banged up, and that’s part of hockey and the playoffs. For sure that’s not why we lost.”
Chara finished with only four points (2 goals, 2 assists) and a plus-4 in the 12 playoff games, but had only been on the ice for two 5-on-5 goals until the disastrous Game 6 of the second round series vs. the Habs.
It appeared that part of the defenseman’s awkwardly defenseless reaction to the Max Pacioretty breakaway in that game might have had to do with his weakened hand.
Injuries aside, Chara did average just 25:20 of ice time in the 12 playoff games, which was pretty much exactly where the Bruins wanted him to be. It was also almost five minutes less per game than No. 33 averaged in the postseason run to the Stanley Cup Final last year.
It appeared Chara had plenty left in the energy tank (or as Claude Julien would call him “far from being dead, guys...he’s very much alive, and in very good shape.”) and it was simply a matter of an injury reducing his effectiveness when he needed everything at his disposal against a fast, dangerous Habs unit. The shutdown defenseman simply wasn’t at his best, just as many Bruins were not, against Montreal.
Said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli: “I would put him in with a bunch of players that they didn’t perform at the level that they should have, and that is one of the reasons why we lost. I’m not singling out Zee [Zdeno Chara], I could name five, ten players, I could name myself because we didn’t get the right defensemen [at the trade deadline]. But Zee [Chara] I thought is a world-class defender and he played a good series but not a great series.
“Was he tired? I didn’t think he was tired. He may have looked to you that he was tired, but he’s a big, tall, long guy and those strides, when they get going, it doesn’t always look like he’s fast. Montreal, they have the smaller forwards that buzz around and I think all our defenseman had some difficulties.”
He certainly was falling down on his skates quite a bit in Game 7 while trying to keep up with the speedy Habs attackers, but smaller, quicker players have always been something of an Achilles' heel for one of the NHL’s most intimidating defenders.
Chara, quite simply, was merely average against Montreal, in a series where he and his teammates needed to be much better, and that’s why they’re on the outside looking in as the Canadiens and Rangers prepare for the conference finals.