|Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara, left, celebrates after he scored the go-ahead goal against the Montreal Canadiens in the third period of a first-round NHL hockey playoff game in Boston on Thursday, April 16, 2009. The Bruins won 4-2. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) |
He is said to have the hardest shot in the league. He is man; he is myth. He is legend.
“He’s our heart and soul. I think it’s pretty obvious he’s such a valuable player for us, and he’s done a great job in all areas, so I can’t say enough about him,” head coach Claude Julien said of Zdeno Chara
after he lifted the Bruins to a win over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night in front of a sold-out Garden crowd.
Big Zee, whose slap shot from the point ripped through space and time, was also the admirable captain, setting an example of self-control throughout the first game of the playoff series.
“[I liked] the fact that he was disciplined and didn’t get sucked into penalties, which could have been easy for him to do. I liked the way he led our team tonight, and it was quite appropriate that he scored the winner,” Julien said.
And for a game with 60 combined penalty minutes, that wasn’t the easiest of feats. But then again, neither was dredging up the game-winner with 8:45 to go in regulation.
“We changed things around a little bit,” Julien said of putting Chara on the final power play line. “We just twisted things around a little bit. You know, sometimes you try and find a little bit of a spark.
“[I liked] the fact that he was disciplined and didn’t get sucked into penalties, which could have been easy for him to do. I liked the way he led our team tonight, and it was quite appropriate that he scored the winner.” - Claude Julien
“We just kind of fine-tuned a few things, and it worked out in our favor.”
But the man with the 105 mph slap shot doesn’t see his as the stuff of folklore; he’s just happy to have had the open lane.
“I had a lot of time...and there was nobody there, so I took the shot,” Big Zee said, simply. “We battled back, we didn’t get down and we stood with it and we got rewarded.”
That ‘we’ mentality is what the towering defenseman is all about. Credit, he said, goes to the entire team, and the younger players who stepped up and delivered, because one win means nothing in a best-of-seven series.
“They [The Canadiens] compete hard. They play hard. We know what we have to do,” he said. “I’m just happy that we won the first game. It's just one game. In a series you have to win [four] games. This is just one game.”
The Habs-Bruins match up marks the 32nd time these two rivals have faced each other in the postseason, the last time with their rankings reversed and the outcome going to the Canadian squad. That series went all seven games, proving Chara’s words truer than anyone might want to believe.
It’s just one game. But one game that the Bruins can notch into their playoff belts.
Game 2 is this Saturday night on Boston ice at 8 p.m. EST.