Standing at 6-foot-9 and weighing in at 255 pounds, Zdeno Chara is a massive figure in the National Hockey League – literally.
Boston’s captain, and face of its franchise, has undoubtedly been one of the league’s most dangerous defensemen at both ends of the ice throughout his seven-year stint with the Bruins. He recorded at least 43 points in each of his six 82-game seasons in Boston, while posting a plus-33 ratings in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
His slap shot is one of, if not the, most powerful in the game – topping at 108.8 mph during the 2012 All-Star Game festivities.
None of this is news to the Penguins, but instead of solely focusing on shutting down the 15-year veteran’s strengths; they are preparing to exploit some of his weaknesses.
“He covers a lot of ice and he’s been a great defenseman in this league for a long time,” Jussi Jokinen said, “but I think he’s big, so mobility isn’t his biggest asset and we need to get pucks behind him and make him play in their own zone and make him move and make him move his feet. We need to try to use a lot of speed, I think if we can do that, we can create some chances and score some goals.”
The Penguins also hold an edge most other teams don’t enjoy.
Pittsburgh’s top two lines are stacked with talent: two Hart and Art Ross Trophy winners (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin), a sure-fire future Hall of Famer and Art “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner (Jarome Iginla), a 40-goal scorer (James Neal) and two of this regular season’s most productive wingers (Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis). Despite playing averaging 29:13 minutes per game this postseason, Chara can’t play against all those stars.
“I guess it’s good if you look at our team,” Dupuis said. “He can’t just play against one line. He’ll be on the ice quite a bit if he’s trying to match against both lines and I don’t know how they’re going to do that, but it’s a good thing we have going there.”
All that being said, the Pens know Chara will most likely be a factor at both ends, especially since he’s in the midst of his most productive postseason – scoring a career-high 11 points (2G-9A) through the first two playoff rounds against the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers. The key for the Penguins will be to limit his impact, which they did a decent job of during the regular season, when Chara scored three points (1G-2A) with an even rating while Boston posted a 0-3 record against Pittsburgh.
“He’s got a big shot and he’s always looking to get rid of it,” Deryk Engelland said, “and we have to do a good job of getting in his shot lane and blocking shots and letting (Tomas Vokoun) see the puck and defensively for him, he’s solid down there. We have to make him play hard through 30 minutes, or whatever he’s going to play, and make it hard on him, hitting him, wearing him down and just making it so he’s not up in the play all the time.”