Chara embraces new PP role; named Norris finalist
Zdeno Chara will look to win his first Norris Trophy since the 2008-09 season. Chara had been nominated in 2008 and 2011 where he finished third in the voting while also finishing second in 2004. Along with Chara, Duncan Keith and Shea Weber were the other two finalists.
Chara had a remarkable season for the Black and Gold where he led Claude Julien’s system on the back-end to the second fewest goals allowed in the National Hockey League – allowing only 171 goals in 81 games. He finished the season with a plus-25 rating (seventh among NHL defensemen).
In 57 of the 77 games he played in this season, Chara sported an even or positive rating matching up against the top players around the world even strength and on the penalty kill.
While scoring 17 goals (fourth among NHL defensemen), Chara notched 10 power-play goals. The rise in goals of Chara on the power-play you may ask? “Big Zee” was camped out in front this year making it nearly impossible to move him due to his strength and size.
“Before every season, I always say that I want to be better,” Chara said. “I want to improve and sometimes, these kind of new things brings more motivation and kind of a little spark and I try to do my best in whatever position I’m in. Whether it’s power-play, PK, five-on-five. If I’m thrown in different scenarios then I have to make sure that it’s my job to do my best to be good at it. That’s where I tried- I was willing to do a little extra after practice and whatever guys needed me to do in that position to help them be better at the power play this season.”
Chara may have been nominated for the individual award which is awarded “to the defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position”, but he knows it’s a team effort even though his name is the one magnified.
“Well, it’s obviously a huge honor,” Chara said during a brief press conference Monday morning at TD Garden. “It’s one of those things that you’re very proud of and it’s something that you need to have the whole team working towards the same direction and working together and it’s a reflection of the whole season-having a steady and strong season as a team. That’s why we have a number of guys nominated. I’m very humbled and obviously it’s a huge honor to be nominated.”
What makes Chara so good on the ice is his love for the game. Not to mention his six-foot-nine stature, but he loves coming to the rink helping out young defensemen as well as working at his own craft and he never takes one day for granted resulting in his success for such a long time.
“I love the game,” Chara said. “I’ve said it many times-it’s a humbling game and I love everything about it. So every little part of it, you have to obtain joy. You have to have fun and work hard at it and if you do that, you have no regrets. You basically do what you love and it’s much easier than coming to the rink and thinking about, ‘Oh my God, I have to do this again.’ You always want to look at it in a positive way.”
The Bruins Captain does it all. He logs the most ice time for the team, matches up against unworldly players and even logs the most minutes on the penalty kill. This season, Chara logged over 244 minutes on the penalty kill (ranked ninth in the NHL).
His General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, praised his defenseman for embracing his new role on the power-play and working at it while suggesting he wouldn’t want another defenseman other than Chara matching up against the opposition’s best player.
“That’s one of the reasons our power-play has improved so much-one, there are two or three other reasons-but his kind of-not that he wouldn’t never not accept, because it’s his job, when we ask him something, but his willingness to embrace it and you know, stand in front of some pretty good shooters and to take a beating there,” Chiarelli said. “It’s a difficult job. He’s also the best defender in the league-I don’t think anyone’s close and I thought this past series he was terrific. I know it was after the voting, but I thought this past series he was terrific.”
If it were up to Boston fans, players and coaches, it’s a no-doubter. Chara would win his second Norris Trophy of his career, but it’s not. There are two other great finalists in Keith and Weber.
When it is all said and done and the votes are in, Chara should be the one accepting the trophy in Las Vegas in June. He may not give you the “sexy” stats that every coach dreams of, but what he does on a nightly basis is nearly not replicated by another defender in the league.
Chara is the best defenseman on the best team in hockey. There is a reason why his team keeps the puck out of the net and it’s because this man anchors the defense.