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Chara Has No Plans of Slowing Down

No rest for Bruins captain as he sets eyes on 20th NHL season

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - Perhaps, Zdeno Chara should have a chat with Bill Belichick. Like the legendary New England Patriots coach, taking days off is not in Chara's nature.

The Bruins captain prides himself on being in pristine shape. Each fall at training camp, he is among the fittest members of the Black & Gold, often taking the crown as Boston's pull-ups king.

As such, the last few days have been a bit unusual for Chara.

The end of the Bruins' season - which came Sunday afternoon at the hands of the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of the B's first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series - brings with it a bit of a reprieve for the 40-year-old. Not that he necessarily wants it.

"I do give myself a little break," Chara said during the team's end-of-season media availability Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena. "I'm into a more calorie diet. You can figure, it's a lot of sweets and homemade stuff. It's been day No. 3 without any workout. But, I don't plan to have that many more days.

"I like to get into it slowly, making sure that the body doesn't also rest too long."

Rest is not something Chara believes he needs much of, despite now being 19 seasons deep into his National Hockey League career. The big blueliner played in 75 games this season, as well as all six postseason contests. Chara averaged 23 minutes, 19 seconds of ice time during the regular season, before averaging an astounding 28:25 in the playoffs - 4:39 of which came on the penalty kill.

The only players to average more playing time to this point in the playoffs are fellow defensemen Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo, and Ryan Suter. Karlsson is 26, Pietrangelo 27, and Suter 32.

"Not to myself," Chara said when asked if he proved anything to himself by playing that many minutes. "I knew I was capable of doing that. I always take that as being part of my job to take loads of minutes…it's out of my control. I can only control what I can control and that's being in shape.

"When they give me those minutes, I'm handling them. I love it, I enjoy it. I want to be on the ice all the time. I want to be on the ice in all the situations. That's my goal, be a player that is not just being managed by ice time."

Video: Chara on the Bruins' youth movement 

Chara's ability to gobble up minutes was vital to the Bruins throughout their first-round series with the Senators, as he was the lone member of Boston's top-four standing by Game 2. Injuries to Chara's partner, Brandon Carlo, and second pairing stalwarts Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid left the Bruins' back end in tethers.

The Black & Gold needed his leadership and shutdown skill to help fill the gaps.

"He's a great leader," said Bruins backup netminder Anton Khudobin. "He's an unbelievable person, and even if you have any other questions, you know, lifestyle or whatever, he'll always help you, he's always there.

"And he's playing a lot of minutes for us, right, so even in playoffs, he could kill all two minutes [on the penalty kill] without changing, so it's really huge. It's really huge. As a defenseman, as a person, that's what he brings."

The injuries to the defense corps forced several young players into their first playoff series, as Tommy Cross, Joe Morrow, and Charlie McAvoy all made their postseason debuts.

McAvoy, meanwhile, made his NHL debut in Game 1 and was paired with Chara for the majority of the series.

"What an honor it was to play with a guy like that," said McAvoy, who was born the year of the Chara's rookie season. "He's a phenomenal player - you don't even have to say anything, everyone knows that. The thing that struck me the most was the kind of guy he was off the ice, as far as taking me under his wing and talking hockey, and even non-hockey related stuff.

"It was just - it's unbelievable to have someone like that talking to you. At first I had to blink a few times and think, 'Wow, I'm talking to Zdeno Chara, this guy's a future Hall of Famer.'

"He's an unbelievable hockey player, and it was just very special to be with that guy and learn as much as I can from him, and I hope in the future I can continue to grow through him."

The 19-year-old McAvoy, who many believe can one day take the reins from Chara as Boston's No. 1 defenseman, captivated many throughout the playoffs with his skill and uncanny poise with the puck. He credited Chara for much of his success.

"I had a quiet confidence in myself, but before you experience something like that you really don't know how you're going to fare and I think it was a credit to my teammates," said McAvoy. "When you play with someone like Zdeno Chara, he puts you in a position every shift you're out there to look good and be successful."

For Chara, the development of the organization's youth was one of this season's most important takeaways. Ten players made their NHL debuts - the most since 2005-06 - and 11 played in their first postseason.

"It's a great sign for the team and the organization, obviously," said Chara. "There is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming season. It's something, for sure, that the scouting team and the management can be very proud of. There's so much talent in the room that is coming up."

Chara hopes to be around to see them all flourish. Entering his 20th NHL season and the final year of his Bruins' contract, Chara does not envision himself slowing down anytime soon.

"I can't really say the number. People would say 45, Jaromir [Jagr] said 50…I can't really put a number on that," Chara said when asked at what age he would retire. "I just want to play and have fun and compete and work hard. I love everything about it. I love the sacrifice. I love the pain that goes with it. I love playing with young guys, I love playing with older guys, I love being around my teammates.

"I'm getting so much support from my family…this is what I want to do. I want to do it for as long as I can and as long as I'm effective. My job is to be ready and be effective.

"I've said many times, I would like to play beyond this contract. I want to still be very effective, still want to get better, improve, maintain my game and keep adding to my game."

However long he plays, Chara would like nothing more than for his career to end with the Spoked-B across his chest.

"As we all know, anything can happen in hockey," said Chara. "As much as it's sport, it's so beautiful to have players staying with one team and retiring with that team. It's possible, but it's something that you can't always rely on. It's something that could happen and might not happen."

Until then, though, there are no days off.

Video: Chara on ending his career with the Bruins

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