In his defense, Toronto coach Randy Carlyle was giving the Bruins and coach Claude Julien credit for their ability to get the Zdeno Chara-Phil Kessel matchup on the road almost as well as they do it at home.
But in telling the media Sunday that he thinks Chara might play close to 35 minutes for the Bruins in Game 3 Monday at Air Canada Centre, Carlyle showed he’s not much of a student of recent Bruins history.
When asked about the matchup with Kessel, Carlyle said and was quoted in the Toronto Sun:
“I’m sure Chara will be out for every defensive zone faceoff. I’m sure Chara will play 35-plus minutes, possibly,” said Carlyle. “So, to say that (Kessel) got four minutes Saturday night without playing against Chara, he might not be able to get that (Monday). He might not. It’s the ebbs and flows of the game and it depends on how many power plays, how many penalty-killing situations, how many timeouts, how many shifts end with a timeout. All those things play into how many minutes a player is going to get on the ice versus another player.”
However, unless Carlyle is planning for an overtime (or possibly a multiple-overtime) thriller in Toronto, it’s highly unlikely the Bruins will ask Chara to log that type of ice time.
It’s a credit to the Bruins’ increased depth since the days of Dave Lewis behind the bench, and even Julien’s early days, that the Bruins rarely overtax Chara anymore. This season, Chara’s season-high for ice time was 29:23 in a shootout loss to Montreal. The most he played in a regulation game was 27:09 in a win against Ottawa in April.
Last season, he exceeded 30 minutes only twice — both games went beyond the third period — in the regular season. His season-high for a regulation game was 28:43. Even in the playoffs against Washington, Chara only exceeded 30 minutes in the double-overtime loss in Game 2 and the overtime win in Game 6.
It’s amazing to think that in the seven-game Stanley Cup Final against Vancouver in 2011, including one overtime game, Chara never passed the 30-minute mark. That playoff season, he went a season-high 37:06 in the double-overtime win in Game 5 of the first-round Montreal series. He exceeded 30 minutes only one other time in the playoffs, in the Game 2 second-round win against Philadelphia, and twice in the regular season.
So the days of Chara being a 30-minute man are long in the past. And even the presence of the amazing Phil Kessel probably won’t change that. In fact, it would be foolish for the Bruins, who have aspirations of a long postseason run, to ask Chara to play more minutes than he’s accustomed to just to try to shut down Kessel or any of the Maple Leafs’ bigger guns. The Bruins are built to get reliable play from their top four most of all, and even from their bottom pair, and that shouldn’t change in an effort to get out of the first round.