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After having a few days to reflect on game six of the Stanley Cup Finals, there is a lot to be proud of as a Bruins fan, but there is also a big reason why the Bruins struggled against the Chicago Blackhawks and that reason was 6’9 captain Zdeno Chara. Chara, who is a former Norris Trophy winner, met his match when the Bruins faced off against the league best Blackhawks. Chara, who did not looked physically tired, seemed to make many mental mistakes over the course of the series. He was also on the ice for the majority of the goals scored against the Bruins.
At no point should Chara be blamed for the loss of the series, but he did not play well by any means, especially as the series went on. It started to get really noticeable with multiple mental mistakes in game four which ultimately lead to a Blackhawks overtime victory. Chara seemed to second guess many decisions of whether to skate the puck out of the zone or to pass it, and this lead to bad passes and some turnovers. He also found himself the one defenseman back on a couple two on one situations.
Now, it is not fair to blame Chara for goals against when it is an odd man rush, but both times instead of taking away the pass and letting Tuukka Rask face the shooter, he took the shooter, which led to a pass to the wide open man in front who ended up scoring. This happening twice in one game shows that Chara was not mentally with it. He generally takes the correct approach in those situations, but both times seemed to panic and make a poor decision.
This lingered throughout the rest of the series, where he seemed to not be able to handle all the pressure on him by Chicago. Chara, who did have four points in the series including a goal in game five, was a minus four in the series. That means he was on the ice for at least nine of the 17 goals scored in this series. Numbers do not lie, and anyone who understands the game of hockey and watched the series clearly saw Chara struggling to keep up with the speedy Hawks. Many people claim that he must have been tired with the way he played. That could be true due to his age and the amount of games played in the shortened season, but Chara has been here before and played big minutes when the Bruins won the Cup. The Bruins also beat the Rangers in five and the Penguins in four which gave the team a lot of time off before the Finals started. I do not believe fatigue is a major factor in this, and that the best team just found and exposed Chara.
Blaming Chara for the series loss is not fair, as it is a team game and you win and lose as a team. The defense was shaky in many places over the course of the series, and we are learning that many players were hurt. The better team won in this series and you have to give a lot of respect to the way the Blackhawks played.
Chara, who is 36, is a true competitor and will work hard to come back in top fashion next season. That is one of the knowns moving forward for the Bruins who will have many decisions to make this offseason. But the core of the team will be coming back and hopefully will be in line to make another Stanley Cup run.