Zdeno Chara didn’t do enough to impress the voters in the Norris Trophy election that went to perennial winner Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit this season.
That doesn’t mean Chara wasn’t the best defenseman in the game.
While plus/minus obviously has his flaws, that Chara was able to post a league-best plus-33 rating while skating an average of 25:26 of ice time a game against the league’s best offensive talents night after night tells you all you need to know about the season Chara enjoyed.
In the end, he was able to raise the trophy that matters the most — the Stanley Cup — after he and Dennis Seidenberg turned Henrik and Daniel Sedin into ghosts, just the latest and most-impressive shutdown job done by the Bruins’ top pair.
Although so much of his energy was focused on defense, he still doubled his goal total from the previous season and surpassed 40 points for the seventh straight season while skating on a team that was in the bottom half of the league in power play for most of the season.
Chara did it all for the Bruins on the ice, and quieted all critics of his leadership abilities by helping to keep the team together long enough for the ultimate win. It wasn’t just an award-worthy season for Chara, it was one that will go down in Bruins history.
Regular season: 81 GP, 14-30-44, plus-33
Playoffs: 24 GP, 2-7-9, plus-16
Contract status: Signed through 2017-18 at a cap hit of $6,916,667
Best regular-season moment: It was maybe the moment that Chara looked the most human on the ice in his entire Bruins career. After scoring his third goal of the night to complete his first career NHL hat trick in a 7-0 rout of Carolin Jan. 17, Chara turned toward center ice and pretended to toss a hat off his own end just as the fans’ hats started to rain down on the TD Garden ice. Just so no one could accuse him of focusing too much on his offense that night, Chara also helped shut down Carolina star Eric Staal and his line.
Best playoff moment: The Bruins maintained the momentum they built by winning Game 3 and 4 at Montreal in their first-round series with the Canadiens by winning Game 5 back home in overtime. They never would’ve made it to the extra session were it not for a “save” in the crease by Chara on Michael Cammalleri, which was his lone blocked shot in 37:06 of ice time. Chara was also credited with five hits that night.
Worst moment: His inability to stop Alex Burrows after an Andrew Ference giveaway in overtime of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final and the illness that kept him out of Game 2 of the Canadiens series were tough to deal with, but nothing was worse for Chara than the hit on Max Pacioretty March 8 at Bell Centre.
We all know how things turned out for both players — a fractured vertebrae and concussion for Pacioretty, no suspension for Chara — and that there’s a debate that just won’t die about the legality of the play. But worst of all, the play caused some to demonize Chara as not just a vicious hockey player but evil human — which couldn’t be further from the truth. To his credit, Chara was able to battle through the controversy and play some of his best hockey down the stretch of the regular season.
Regular-season grade: A
Playoffs grade: A-minus. There were some mistakes and a couple off nights for Chara in the defensive zone, and he could’ve done a better job of finishing on the power play, but for the most part he was the same great defenseman from the regular season during the championship run.
Carnac predicts … with the way he keeps himself in shape, Chara won’t feel any Stanley Cup hangover when he gets back for next season and no one will battle harder to defend the Cup title or get back to the Norris winner’s circle.