BOSTON – Although he’d never toot his own horn as a leading candidate for this season’s Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, Bruins blueliner Zdeno Chara admitted tonight he’s been keeping tabs on what some of his positional counterparts have been doing all season.
Chara continued to improve his chances at a second Norris in three years with a goal and a plus-3 rating in Boston’s 3-0 win over Chicago tonight at TD Garden.
“Well I know where they are. I know obviously, I will be lying if I would say ‘no, I’m not looking at them,’” said Chara, whose plus-31 on the season is second best among all NHL skaters. “I know that there are guys with really breakout seasons and really they have unbelievable offensive seasons. But like I said, my focus is on myself and obviously my team, and I try to be ready for the playoffs. If you work hard, and I’m being humble and modest, and good things will hopefully happen.”
Unfortunately for Chara, a lot of emphasis is ironically put on those offensive numbers when it comes to the award for the best defenseman. Otherwise, the fact that he routinely gets matched up against the other teams’ best snipers and has compiled a ridiculously bloated plus/minus while playing on the stingiest defensive team in the league would be enough to capture enough votes.
“Yeah, I mean it’s one of those things that it all depends on how the people voting on those awards are looking at it,” he said. “The description of obviously the award is being an all-around defenseman and that’s my job. Obviously I know that my job is facing top lines every night. And that’s my focus, to shut people down and prevent them from scoring.
“And if I can contribute offensively, that’s a big help and a big plus. But obviously my focus is on playing well for the team and helping the team win. It’s out of my hands basically. And I know there’s a lot of competition. There are a lot of guys that are putting points, but obviously I’m trying to really focus on all-around game and that’s it.
Chara won the Norris with just 50 points in 2008-09, but this year there are already five defensemen with more than that. That’s why it’s so vital that he’s gotten on his own scoring hot streak with 4-8-12 totals in his last 12 games, including the game-winning score tonight. Chara’s endured goal droughts of 23 and 19 games during a season that also featured his first NHL hat trick Jan. 17. So it has taken all he’s got in the tank to get himself within striking distance of other Norris contenders with 14 goals and 43 points.
“That’s the way it is. It’s a long season and sometimes you’re going to get breaks, sometimes you’re going to get bounces,” said Chara about the streaky nature of his offensive season. “And sometimes you’re going to make really nice plays and sometimes, like I said, it’s totally reverse. You won’t get bounces, even still making really nice plays, and goalies make some saves. But usually hard work and desperation and desire and hunger always pays off. It’s nice when those shots go in.”
It’s also nice to be among the trophy finalists. Making it to Las Vegas not only means a player like Chara gets to celebrate all his hard work, but it also means his team has enjoyed another excellent season – regardless of how things turn out in the playoffs.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Shea Weber, Keith Yandle, Lubomir Visnovsky and the like are all going to have their supporters when the ballots are cast. In the overall analysis, I’ve already proven that they don’t stack up to Chara.
Hopefully news of Chara’s recent offensive outburst makes more voters take notice of his play at both ends of the rink. Because those big-time points totals can sometimes be overwhelmingly seductive, even if they’re not proof of a great defenseman.