Business booming for Chara
His six blasts, three assists shoot holes in foe’s strategy
It’s no secret in the National Hockey League that Zdeno Chara can shoot the puck.
The 6-foot-9-inch, 255-pound defenseman brings his stick above his waist and lets it rip faster than anyone in the league.
The opposition might know it’s coming, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
Tuesday night, Chara fired six of those scorching shots, three of which led to goals as the Bruins routed Tampa Bay, 5-2.
“He’s the toughest guy to play against in the entire league, bar none,’’ said forward Brian Rolston, a 19-year veteran who spent most of his career playing on the opposite side of Chara. “And if you were to poll the forwards on any team, they’d say the same thing.’’
Energetic after an opening ceremony in honor of his 1,000th career game (Saturday against the Kings), Chara was electric from the opening faceoff.
And after the Lightning took a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game (which didn’t come until five minutes in), it was Chara who turned things around for the Bruins.
Given the puck at his blue line midway through the first period, Chara surveyed the ice and noticed he had a ton of space to the outside. He said he wasn’t sure if Tampa’s defense was packing the middle to respect his slap shot, but it turned out to be a costly mistake.
Chara drove wide, beat two defenders, and rushed the net. His shot was saved by Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, but Shawn Thornton was there to get the Bruins on the board at 10:54.
“It just opened up and I decided to challenge that seam,’’ Chara said. “Sometimes those things just develop for you.’’
They seem to develop often for Chara. During a brief four-on-four in the second period, he fired three consecutive slap shots.
The first one went wide. The second and third were kicked aside by Roloson, but again a rebound was put in, this time by Dennis Seidenberg at 15:05.
Benoit Pouliot scored the winning goal in the third, the result of another Chara slapper from the point - a shot that seems to get better with age from the 35-year-old.
Chara’s rocket was stopped by Roloson, but the goalie left a rebound. Rolston got the puck, circled the net, and found Pouliot in front. He buried it at 11:34.
“It’s scary every time [Chara] takes that slap shot,’’ forward Brad Marchand said. “It’s almost like the Mighty Ducks [movie] - you just want to get out of the way and let the goalie take care of it.
“Everyone goes down after getting hit by that. In practice we do our best to make sure we sprint the other way when he’s shooting.’’
Marchand was smiling when he said it, but it was tough to tell if he was joking or not, especially after what happened to Lightning forward Tom Pyatt.
Pyatt’s lower body was caught in the path of a Chara slapper midway through the second period and he dropped and slid from near center-ice all the way to the side boards.
It took him a good 10-15 seconds to limp his way to the bench, and still he was having trouble lifting his leg over the wall.
Chara broke his own record during the NHL’s Hardest Shot competition in Ottawa this January. He’s won the event in five straight years, besting his speed each time. His five blasts, in miles per hour: 100.4, 103.1, 105.4, 105.9, and 108.8.
In his postgame interview, Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked to put himself on the opposite bench and figure out how to stop a multi-pronged attacker such as Chara.
The coach laughed at the thought.
“You don’t expect me to sit up here and tell you how to beat Chara do you?’’ he said. “It’s not going to happen.’’
When the laughter subsided, Julien stepped off the podium and the cameras shut off. He grabbed his water bottle, loosened his shirt, and started walking out of the room.
Suddenly he stopped, turned around, and shouted, “You can’t beat him. You just can’t.’’