VANCOUVER -- Zdeno Chara's job here has not been an easy one: captaining a Slovakian team that has struggled in international play recently, consequently drew the toughest group and the toughest schedule of any "power" team in pool play and doesn't possess nearly the number of top-flight defensemen or NHL-leading scorers as the other top teams.
Oh yeah, and on the ice, his job was to match up against the top players on every opposing team and wage hand-to-hand combat for at least 20 minutes of ice time per game.
Chara and the Slovaks nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament Friday evening, falling a goal short while buzzing around the Canadian net until the final seconds. Upon leaving the Canada Hockey Place ice, the 6-foot-9 Boston Bruins captain stopped to discuss his team's Olympic journey with NHL.com.
NHL.com: Given the draw you received and the schedule you faced, what does it say that your team was right in this game until the final seconds and that you play for a bronze medal Saturday night?
Chara: Well, it's been a nice run, but obviously tomorrow is our last game and we want to finish the tournament right and get a medal. We want to get a medal.
NHL.com: You already have accomplished more than anybody expected from this team.
Chara: Yes, but it's going to be just “a nice run” without a medal. With a medal, it's going to be a helluva experience and a life-long experience and achievement.
NHL.com: How were you able to mount that furious comeback in the final seconds, particularly with Marian Gaborik out for the entire third period?
Chara: We had to press. And we had to take some risks. The defensemen were pinching more and skating up the ice more. So we were just playing way more aggressive.
NHL.com: What is it like dealing with the hulking Canadian likes of players like Ryan Getzlaf?
Chara: He’s a skilled guy, He’s a physical guy. He plays pretty much every aspect of the game.