BOSTON -- On an off day between games in Washington, D.C., last week, Zdeno Chara visited the National Geographic Museum's Titanic exhibit, which honors the 100th anniversary of that disaster at sea.
As the Boston Bruins' captain and No. 1 defenseman, Chara will now be largely responsible for preventing the defending Stanley Cup champions' title defense from sinking before the calendar even hits May.
The Bruins and Washington Capitals are tied 2-2 heading into Saturday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Chara, who's been known to meticulously pick his spots when it comes to fire-and-brimstone rallying speeches to his team, believes he and his teammates are able to use their experiences of 2011 to weather their current storm.
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"I think that we all know that we could be in a better position. But at the same time, Washington has played really well, and obviously now it's best of three. So it's a huge game for us [Saturday]," Chara said after a 30-minute practice at TD Garden on Friday. "I think that most of the guys in here from last year, we know that there is no room for getting too high or too low, or getting frustrated or panicking. You just got to regroup and get mentally and physically ready for the next game."
Boston famously lost the first two games of their first-round series with Montreal at home last season and rallied for a seven-game victory. In the Stanley Cup Final against Vancouver, Boston was down 2-0 and 3-2 before prevailing in seven games. But while adversity might not faze the Bruins much, an inability to score has been taking its toll. Chara's winning goal in Game 3 is one of just seven goals the Bruins have scored against Washington.
Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby has been phenomenal for Washington with a .953 save percentage. And the Capitals have helped him out with 90 blocked shots. Even Chara is having difficulty finding room to unleash his record-setting slap shot from the blue line.
"It seems like they really step up and block a lot of shots," Chara said. "Sometimes when we do get by them, obviously it's going to miss by a little bit. So we've just got to find ways to put them through and find the openings."
To their credit, the Bruins have limited Washington to just seven goals as well. And a big part of that has been the job Chara and defense partner Dennis Seidenberg have done on superstar forward Alexander Ovechkin. The duo limited Ovechkin to just one shot on net in Game 1 and has kept him to just 14 shots in four games.
Ovechkin has produced just one goal and three assists in the series.
"They've done a phenomenal job. He's a really tough guy to play against," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "He's big, strong, fast, and that's a great combination for any player. But the fact that [Chara] and [Seidenberg] are playing as physical on him as they are and how tight they're playing on him is great for us, and it gives us an opportunity to win. He's obviously one of the top couple players in the League, and he's a big threat for them. So having [Chara] and [Seidenberg] play the way they are is great for us."
With a League-leading plus/minus rating of plus-33, along with 12 goals and 52 points, Chara enjoyed one of the best regular seasons of his NHL career. The 2009 Norris Trophy winner made a strong case to be among the finalists for that award this season. He's continued his fine play into the postseason, with two assists to go along with his goal.
That he's managed to maintain his high level of play while skating most of his 26:40 of average ice time against Ovechkin is somewhat remarkable. After all, in addition to the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Ovechkin's skill set, the fearless Russian regularly initiates contact with the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Chara like very few players who've ever been on the same ice as the Boston captain.
In some ways, that physicality might make Chara a better player.
"I enjoy the physical part of the game, and obviously in the playoffs it always picks up," he said. "But I enjoy it. I enjoy playing physical, being physical and being involved. That's just the way it is."
Chara's museum trip last week taught him how the Titanic was felled. Now he needs to put those lessons to use to make sure the Bruins emerge iceberg-like from this series.