BOSTON — If Zdeno Chara felt the like he did last week over the course of the 2010-11 season, there’s no way he could’ve produced a season worthy of the Norris Trophy.
Chara’s mystery illness and the dehydration it caused prior to Game 2 of Boston’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Montreal cost him about 10 pounds of body weight, the captain revealed today after practicing at TD Garden in preparation for tomorrow night’s Game 6 in Montreal.
Luckily for the Bruins, Chara was basically 100 percent throughout the regular season and is getting closer to his fine form in this series. He missed just the last game of the season as a healthy scratch and then wasn’t available for Game 2 against the Canadiens.
In the regular season, he put up 14-30-44 totals and a league-leading plus/minus of plus-33. He logged an average of 25:26 of ice time, almost always against opposing first lines. The writers of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association were impressed enough that Chara was voted a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman.
“To me, the first priority is always hard work. I like to work extremely hard, on and off the ice,” the 2009 Norris winner said today when asked for his definition of a great defenseman. “I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated to play against top lines and the best players every night. I take a lot of pride in that and I just want to help the team as much as I can to win. That was always my first thing. I always want to put the team in front of egos or individual goals. To me that’s the most important thing. Everything else falls into place.
“I know I’m not the extremely skilled defenseman who’s going to put 70 points on the board every year. But I know if I play my game, I can give my team a good chance to win hockey games and that’s all I can do.”
Chara was joined on the list by Nashville’s Shea Weber and Detroit’s Nick Lidstrom when the finalists were announced by the NHL. Two years ago, Chara beat out Lidstrom and Washington’s Mike Green for the honor.
Last season, Boston dropped from first in the Eastern Conference the previous season to sixth when the regular season ended. Although the Bruins were second in goals against, they dropped to last in goals for. Chara dropped from 19 goals to seven and 50 points to 44.
This season the Bruins more resembled their 2008-09 incarnation. Chara points to that as a big reason for the recognition he is now receiving as an individual.
“It’s nice to be in that group again and be nominated. I know that last year was kind of a little bit not probably as strong as the previous year. But as a team, I think we all had kind of off years,” he said. “This year, we were back on track again and everybody performed with a lot of consistency. We had obviously strong goaltending from Timmy [Thomas] and Tuukka [Rask]. We scored more goals than last year. We again were [second in] the league with goals against. When you have these things fall into place in a team way, then everything else will fall into place. But we’ll see when we get closer to the awards. I just right now am focusing on the playoffs and trying to play the best that I can.”
Those playoffs could include a berth in the second round if the Bruins win tomorrow night at the Bell Centre. Having a little rest rather than playing a Game 7 could greatly benefit Chara, who’s still trying to regain his peak condition after his illness.
“I’m close. It’s not obviously there yet,” he said. “But I’m just trying to do my best to put the weight back on. It’s amazing how you lose it so quick, in a couple days, but putting it back on takes so long.”