Chara’s return a booster shot
Bruins respond to captain’s play
MONTREAL — Would he or wouldn’t he? Nobody knew for sure if Zdeno Chara would conquer his dehydration problems and make it back into the Bruins’ lineup for Game 3 last night.
It turns out Chara didn’t have to drink Canada Dry to get ready to go.
The extra rest from sitting out Saturday’s Game 2 was his tonic.
Even the torrents of boos from the 21,273 who filled the Bell Centre that rained down with his every touch of the puck rolled off his giant shoulders.
“I felt pretty good,’’ said Chara, looking fairly fresh after logging his usual glut of ice time, a team-high 26 minutes and 20 seconds over 34 shifts in the Bruins’ 4-2 victory. “Friday, I wasn’t feeling well. I had another 24 hours to recover, and I had all day today. I felt much better today.’’
The chances of him playing seemed strong after he took part in the team’s morning skate.
“Since this morning, I knew I would most likely play,’’ he said. “I even wanted to play in the game before that [Saturday]. Obviously, I knew it wouldn’t be a smart decision for the team. So for sure, I was anxious to be in the lineup tonight.’’
The odds grew more favorable after he took a hard twirl in warmups, although there was a bit of a wrinkle tossed in by Bruins coach Claude Julien.
Julien paired Chara with the more-seasoned Dennis Seidenberg rather than the less-experienced Johnny Boychuk.
Julien acknowledged keeping an eye on Chara for signs of faltering.
There weren’t any.
“We were gauging his game a little bit by how he was going to be feeling, period after period,’’ Julien said. “He seemed to feel good, and we gave him the ice time that he was capable of handling.’’
Chara’s teammates were eager to see for themselves how much of a bounce back their captain could make.
“We were concerned,’’ said defenseman Tomas Kaberle. “It was tough that he didn’t play the second game, and everybody knew why. But he was ready to go tonight. He can play 30 or 40 minutes. It doesn’t matter to him. He’s a workhorse.’’
Goaltender Tim Thomas, who had perhaps the best view of the situation, was convinced early on.
“I knew right from the first period,’’ Thomas said. “He looked great. He looked strong. Especially in the first period, he laid a lot of big hits. Sometimes, a sickness will hit you pretty hard, and when you bounce back, you’re happy just to be alive and feeling good. It gives you a bounce, and that’s what it looks like to me.
“I was very happy that I didn’t have to worry about him, and that I could worry about doing my own job.’’
Not that there weren’t a few glitches.
Call it bad timing or bad karma, but a mix-up between Chara and defenseman Andrew Ference put six skaters on the ice and put the Bruins shorthanded barely 68 seconds into the game.
“I don’t know if we made a turnover or what,’’ Chara said. “I tried to make a change, and we didn’t see each other. He stayed on, and I jumped on. It happened.’’
Chara was also party to both Montreal goals, having given the slip by both Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec.
On the plus side, Chara was credited with three blocked shots, three hits, and carded an assist with an off-target slap shot that led to Nathan Horton’s goal.
Most satisfying to Chara was the win, which ensured that the series would return to Boston.
“We knew the importance of this game,’’ he said. “We approached it that way. We’re just happy with the result. Now we’ve got to get ready for the next one.’’