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Stanley Cup Final

Chara focused on winning Cup Final with Bruins, not setting Game 7 record

Defenseman to face Blues in 14th deciding game, breaking NHL mark shared with Stevens, Roy

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Zdeno Chara has played in 13 Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over his 21 NHL seasons, so it's understandable if the Boston Bruins captain doesn't remember the first one well.

The 42-year-old defenseman's mind is more on his next one: Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). 

By playing in his 14th Game 7, Chara will set an NHL record, surpassing the mark of 13 he shares with defenseman Scott Stevens and goalie Patrick Roy.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

More importantly, he will have a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the second time.

"It's always fun to play these Game 7s. … Very intense," Chara said Tuesday. "I think you've just got to realize you've got everything on the line and play our best game."

When asked to recall his first Game 7, Chara correctly noted that he was playing for the Ottawa Senators, but said it was against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Unfortunately for Chara, he was sidelined with a knee injury when the Senators lost 3-0 to the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Chara's first Game 7 happened to be Stevens' 12th -- in the 2003 Eastern Conference Final. Stevens' New Jersey Devils defeated Chara's Senators 3-2 and went on to win the Stanley Cup by winning another Game 7 -- Stevens' last one -- 3-0 against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Stevens, now an analyst with NHL Network, marvels that Chara is still playing a big role for the Bruins in big games, particularly after sustaining facial injuries when he was struck with the puck in Game 4 of the Cup Final.

"He's a great leader," Stevens said. "He's a guy everyone looks up to on that team and everyone has a lot of respect for him in the League. He's done a great job of being the captain of that hockey club and to come back from that injury, that's a tough one to be able to play. … But it's the time of year where you do whatever you can do. 

"Especially at his age, you want to win another Stanley Cup and there's not a lot of time left for Chara."

Video: It All Comes Down To This. Game 7

Chara is 6-7 in his 13 Game 7s, including a 5-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round this season.

Chara has Game 7 experience in the Stanley Cup Final: He played 27:12 in the Bruins' 4-0 victory against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Cup Final. He's be among the veterans they'll lean on again Wednesday. 

"He just leads in so many ways," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who also played in that Game 7 in 2011. "When you look at someone with experience, you tend to look for them for guidance. Even when things aren't going right, if they have the momentum or we have a tough point during the game, that's when we'll look for guidance because a guy like [Chara] feels so comfortable it seems in every situation."

Stevens, a three-time Cup winner who retired following the 2004-05 lockout, was 7-6 in Game 7s, including 1-1 in the Cup Final. The one he remembers most is the Devils' 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2001 Cup Final. 

After winning the Cup in 2000, the Devils lost 4-0 in Game 6 at home and then had trouble getting up emotionally for Game 7. 

"You worked so hard and you go so far, especially after winning the year before and you're trying to repeat, that was a hard one to swallow," Stevens said. "The other one (against Anaheim), you win, so you got that one nailed down. I guess I'm being greedy."

Stevens wasn't sure of the value of Game 7 experience because winner-take-all games can be a tossup. But Stevens appreciates the value that Chara has in games like this and how he's evolved as a player as he's aged to remain a key contributor for Boston. Stevens, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on 2007, did similar late in his career.

"You sort of come full circle," Stevens said. "You make some changes for the better for the team and you do what you need to help the team win."

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Listen: Game 7 preview from NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast

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