What the Bruins are saying about Zdeno Chara’s toughness

"He's willing to play through anything."

Bruins captain and defenseman Zdeno Chara skates in practice on game day at TD Garden.
Bruins captain and defenseman Zdeno Chara took to the TD Garden ice before Game 5. –David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe

Was there any doubt that Zdeno Chara would at least try to give it a go for Game 5 after sustaining a facial injury while blocking a shot in Game 4?

Not by Chara’s teammates.

“I’m not surprised at all,” forward Jake DeBrusk said Thursday. “It’s just how he is as a guy. That’s why he’s our captain and that’s why he’s been our captain for awhile here. It’s really nice to see him get on the ice, and it’s a good morale boost for sure.”

Amid the speculation of his Game 5 status, the Bruins’ captain took to the ice donning a full fishbowl on his helmet during Boston’s optional skate Thursday at TD Garden. The Bruins, with Matt Grzelcyk (concussion) also on the mend, will need all hands on deck in their de facto best-of-three scenario with the Blues for hockey’s ultimate prize.

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“He was never ruled out even [during Game 4] in St. Louis. He was only ruled out for that third period. After that it was going to be day to day,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said about Chara’s potential return. “First thing you worry about is a concussion, right? Because then you’re in a protocol. Zee avoided that, so that’s good news, and then it’s a matter of what’s next. So yesterday we got some good news and this morning he’s here. He’s on the ice skating, so now it’s real.”

Cassidy was the only one who admitted having contact with Chara when the team returned to Boston. That was through text message.

The rest of the team didn’t see Chara until Thursday morning. But they certainly appreciated his appearance and hope to see their big 6-foot-9, 42-year-old presence in the lineup come puck drop.

“Much is made about his professionalism, his toughness, his approach. But until you see that in the flesh, you have a whole other level of appreciation for it,” first-year Bruins defenseman John Moore said. “The guy is 42. When I’m 42, I’m certainly not going to be the first guy in the gym, weighing all my food, squatting the most on the team. Those are things you respect. You throw in the fact that what he’s going through, that’s something I’ll tell my kids about.”

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“He’s an incredibly tough man, and he’s willing to play through anything,” Brad Marchand, one of five of Chara’s fellow 2011 Cup teammates left in 2019, said. “He’s shown so much character in the room with everything he’s been through. The fact that he’s out there this morning…there’s a reason why he’s still playing the game. He’s willing to do anything and he’s willing to put his body through anything, especially this time of year.”

The mere attempt of playing with a painful jaw injury adds another chapter to Chara’s fantastic Hall of Fame-level career. 

That time isn’t now. Heck, it might wait another decade even, especially given Chara’s conditioning and playing shape into his early 40’s.

Chara didn’t speak to the media Thursday morning following the scary incident in Game 4. The only thing standing in his way of playing in Game 5 is clearance from team doctors.

“At this time of the playoffs, everyone has injuries and there are challenges that you have to overcome to play,” Chara said in a written statement to reporters. “I’m no different than any player on either team.”

Playing through pain is a part of Stanley Cup lore. The Bruins saw that firsthand earlier in the decade when Patrice Bergeron took the ice against the Blackhawks in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final despite a punctured lung and bruised ribs.