BOSTON -- Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has a Norris Trophy, several All-Star Game appearances and a Stanley Cup championship on his resume. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound blueliner is widely regarded as the best shutdown defenseman in the NHL.
So that he was on the ice for 10 of the Chicago Blackhawks' last 12 goals over the course of the last three games of the Stanley Cup Final was a major shock. There had to be a physical reason for Chara's struggles.
"I'm not thinking about my physical status. Sorry," Chara said after the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins, 3-2, at TD Garden on Monday in Game 6 of the Cup Final.
Chara was minus-1 in Game 6 and on the ice for two of Chicago's three goals, including Bickell's game-tying score with 1:16 remaining. Dave Bolland scored with 58.3 seconds to go to give Chicago its second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
It was Bickell who did the most to pound Chara and make sure the rugged defenseman paid a price almost every time he touched the puck. The Blackhawks united the line of Bickell, Toews and Kane in Game 4, which turned out to be a 6-5 series-evening win. Whether Chara was injured already or was felled by something in the series against Chicago, Chara and usual shutdown partner Dennis Seidenberg found Toews' line too much to handle for most of the rest of the series.
"I think that it was the case for every team. I don't think that it was just Chicago," Chara said. "I think the whole playoffs, no matter who you play, it's going to be physical, it's going to be grinding, and it's not just, obviously Chicago, the whole playoffs, that's just the way it is. It's physical and you have to expect that."
Chara refused to concede the Blackhawks had worn him down.
"I think it was just like any other series. Like I said, it was physical," the Bruins captain said.
After giving up nine goals combined in their losses in Game 4 and 5, the Bruins wanted to tighten up their defensive play in Game 6. They basically had done that until there were 76 seconds remaining in regulation and Bickell scored his tying goal by crashing the net and cashing in on Toews' pass from below the goal line through Chara's legs.
Chicago's nose for the net and some fortuitous bounces were the difference, according to Chara.
"I think like, if I would have to really talk about defense, I thought that throughout the whole playoffs we did a really good job," Chara said. "They did find some holes and at times, I have to be honest, it's not just a matter of being in the right position or covering guys, you know. It's some bounces you need to have your way. If it gets deflected and goes off skates and this and that, obviously that's not an excuse, but you need to have some bounces and it seemed like we didn't get those like we did before. But they did a good job going to the net, creating a lot of traffic in front and so ..."
Now we wait until the Bruins' breakup day Wednesday, when Chara and a list of other players are expected to reveal what ails them. For now, all we know is that it hurts the Bruins to know how close they were to being on the other side of this series.
"Yeah, I thought it was pretty even. It was two teams playing a little bit different styles, but both are pretty effective and it was very close," Chara said. "I think that all six games, end up deciding with one goal, and I think obviously one was them was the empty-net goal that made it a two-goal difference, but all the other ones were one-goal games. So, it was pretty close."