Bruins

How Zdeno Chara’s familiarity with the Bruins may impact the Capitals series

Is it advantage Chara? Or will the Bruins exploit their former captain?

Zdeno Chara. Getty Images

COMMENTARY

With the realigned divisions, it wasn’t far-fetched to suggest that Washington Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara would meet his former team beyond the eight regular-season meetings.

The scenario became a reality on Monday when the Boston Bruins clinched a first-round matchup against their former captain and the rest of a fine-tuned Washington bunch.

The Bruins and Caps kick off their third ever postseason matchup on Saturday. And for sure, Washington will turn to their 6-foot-9 blue-liner for insight on Boston’s system.

On the flip side, the Bruins know Chara’s tendencies to a T.

“Obviously, playing for this coaching staff for as long as Zdeno has and playing with the players that he has for his tenure here in Boston, you certainly know some tendencies. Guys are aware of that,” Bruins president Cam Neely said. “But also, on the flip side, guys certainly know how Zdeno is going to play and what to expect from him and maybe how to exploit that a little bit as well.”

As if the eight regular-season contests weren’t enough, the Bruins and Caps could add an additional seven postseason matchups come series end.

It gives ample time for Chara to share valuable information with his new teammates. He has 14 years’ worth of insight on the team’s system on and off the ice.

But the Bruins know all of Chara’s strengths and weaknesses from his decade and a half in Boston. And surely, they’ll try to exploit all of Chara’s tendencies.

“He knows [Patrice Bergeron] more than anybody and [Brad Marchand]. They played together for years. I expect he will give whatever information is necessary,” Cassidy said of the Chara dynamic.

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“We will break down Zee like we would any other player. We know a lot of his tendencies. Maybe that will help us in certain situations. But, at the end of the day, he’s a competitor and we have a lot of competitors in our room.”

The battle-tested Bruins faced several obstacles in prior postseasons. They never had to face a 6-9 presence, however.

And it’s not just any 6-9 defenseman they’re facing. They’ll be up against a future Hall of Famer who knows all the X’s and O’s of Boston’s system.

Beyond that, Chara knows some of the communication tactics from the likes of Marchand, Bergeron, David Krejci, David Pastrnak and his fellow former defensive partners. And those verbal nuances hardly present themselves during film sessions and even the most detailed scouting report.

“Obviously teams will do video and stuff like that, but he knows all the code names that we use, and typically the situations that we like to use them in,” Marchand said of Chara’s system knowledge. “So even when we played them this season, we could see him talking to guys about the plays that we were gonna do. It can definitely cause some challenges at times, but it’s the playoffs. You’ve gotta work through that.”

Of course, Chara versus his former team is merely one piece of a larger picture.

Surely, Chara will share any tidbit he has of his former team that he hasn’t already. Yet, the Bruins and Caps know one another quite fondly following their eight grueling regular-season matchups.

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The Chara narrative provides plenty of intrigue heading into the series. But come Saturday’s puck drop, the Bruins and Caps will have more significant stakes up for grabs.

“We’re playing the Washington Capitals, and we’ve played them so many times this year,” Charlie McAvoy said regarding the first-round series against his former defensive partner. “It’s always fun to line up against Zee. Obviously, we have a special bond, but this is about the Bruins vs. the Capitals and that’s really it.”

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