TAMPA — These are the type of nights that the Boston Bruins should take the video of their game and make sure every Norris Trophy voter gets a glance at just how Zdeno Chara gives the Bruins their $7.5 million worth.
Already in Florida without two of their top six defenseman (Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward), minutes before their showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning the Bruins found out that Dennis Wideman wouldn’t be able to go because of a tweaked muscle.
That left the club with three young defenseman who walked through the doors of the St. Pete Times Forum with a combined 59 games of NHL experience. But it didn’t matter. The Bruins again flaunted their organizational depth, and Chara again showed why he’s one of the best in the business, in a 3-1 win.
It seemed like Chara played with more defense partners than Larry King’s had wives. But it didn’t matter.
He had to often shift over to the right side rather than his usual left. And it didn’t matter.
And with the Lightning constantly trying to gain a mismatch by throwing out their top line centered by superstar Vincent Lecavalier, the Bruins easily could’ve finally crumbled under the pressure. But all that mattered was that Chara and The Pips were there to save the day.
“We had some young guys really play well tonight. They really stepped up and played great,” Chara said.
Amazingly, Chara didn’t surpass 30 minutes on the ice (he logged 28:47). Playing the role of “Lead Pip” was veteran Shane Hnidy. Normally a member of the Bruins’ third pair, Hnidy was second in ice time to Chara with a season-high 24:14 between the boards. And both Hnidy and Chara spent a lot of time skating next to the rookies — Matt Lashoff, Johnny Boychuk and Matt Hunwick.
“It was fantastic. I thought we had confidence in them,” Hnidy said. “They played well for us and we knew they were going to go out and play their game. It’s always been a team-first attitude here … and the whole team game together and helped each other defensively tonight.”
The defensive effort would’ve gone for naught had Phil Kessel not scored twice and David Krejci once — more young-player impact to power the Bruins.
Now they’ve started December the way they finished their masterful November. And it’s on to Sunrise for a Saturday date with the Panthers.