Any worries that the length of the 2011 Stanley Cup championship run and the massive amount of minutes Zdeno Chara logged during the title drive would render the star defenseman any less effective in the season after were rubbed out with more force than Chara nailing a puck-pursuing forward in the corner.
All Chara did to follow up Boston’s championship season was set career highs for assists and points and lead all NHL defensemen with a plus-33 rating (tied for third in the league overall). Like most of his teammates, Chara went through some rough patches but over the course of the whole season he was an All-Star and earned a spot among the three finalists for the Norris Trophy.
Now 35, Chara’s supposed to be on the downward side of his career. However, he might actually be getting better as the Bruins have been able to surround him with a better supporting cast and limit their captain’s ice time when possible.
Regular season: 79GP, 12-40-52, plus-33
Playoffs: 7GP, 1-2-3, minus-1
Contract status: Signed through 2017-18 at a cap hit of 6,916,667 until the last year ($4 million)
Regular season recap
Highlight: After missing two games with a rare injury, Chara got back in the Bruins’ lineup Dec. 17 in Philadelphia. Early on, Flyers tough guy Jody Shelley decided to test the Boston defenseman. Chara beat Shelley in the fight and then recorded one goal, one assist and three hits in a 6-0 rout of the Flyers.
Lowlight: Many point to New Year’s Eve as the night the Bruins morphed into a mediocre team. That night they lost to Dallas, and Chara was off his game. He was a plus-1 in 23:11 of ice time but didn’t get on the score sheet and his retaliation penalty against Brendan Morrow led to Michael Ryder’s game-winning power-play goal. Chara also turned the puck over several times during would-be breakouts.
Playoff recap: Chara was at his best in pivotal Game 3 with the game-winning goal with just 1:53 left, and two assists. But those were the only three points he scored the entire series. His solid job containing Alexander Ovechkin obviously hindered Chara’s ability to produce at the offensive end.
Grade: A. There were long stretches of the season where there was no defenseman better in the entire NHL, especially when you consider the Bruins’ unending need for Chara to get on the ice against their opponents’ best scorers.
Carnac predicts … with Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk still blossoming, plus Dougie Hamilton on the way, Chara will be able to continue to play fewer minutes and make the most of them at both ends of the ice. Although Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson will probably win this year’s Norris, Chara will be in contention for that trophy for at least two or three more years.