For the first time since March 7, 2020, Zdeno Chara is coming back to Boston. It’s been strange to see Chara in a red uniform (though as a Caps fan, I’m enjoying it). I’m sure it will be even stranger for the guys in black and gold. Sometimes, when a player has been with a team as long as Chara was with the Bruins, people forget how good they are outside the context of their talented teammates. I think that’s happened with Chara (maybe not for B’s fans, but outside of New England). So, here’s a little highlight reel of his first 8 games in Washington and how he’s proven his $795k contract is a steal.
Chara’s never been an offensive-defenseman. He’s reliable in the defensive zone to block shots, throw hits, and force turnovers, while occasionally taking a shot for himself. He’s done that in Washington. In 8 games, Chara already has 10 blocked shots and 14 hits. He’s still putting his body on the line for his team, still making his presence known. His time on ice is slightly lower than it had been in Boston (around 20 minutes/game), but there was no guarantee he would get any more than that if he had stayed. At 43, 20 minutes per game is fantastic. He’s clearly still in great physical shape, despite his age.
He’s kept his time in the penalty box to a minimum, as well. He’s only taken 2 penalties in 8 games. I’m no statistician, but that’s a penalty in 25% of games, while his last 5 seasons with the B’s was almost one in 50% of games. If he continues to stay out of the box, he’ll likely get more ice time and more penalty kill time.
The Real Stats
Chara notched his first point as a Cap on the 22nd against Buffalo on a goal by Jakub Vrana. He was the primary assist on that goal. Thursday night, he had a fantastic game against the team that drafted him. He had a primary assist on Conor Sheary’s second goal of the game (what would later be the second of five straight goals). 8 minutes later, Chara scored his first goal as a Capital from Ovechkin’s office with a wicked slapshot. You can see another intangible in that clip: how much his new teammates love him already. The joy on the faces of his teammates is evident. As of this moment, his point production is already better than it was last season.
Back to Boston
I’m sure if there were fans in the TD Garden this year, they would have something to say when Chara returns. They’d certainly be appreciative of everything he did in the organization, but as Boston fans, after his highlight video ends, he’d be just another opponent. As for the Bruins themselves, Marchand seems to think they’ll take it kind of easy on him. The great thing about hockey is that even if they didn’t, when the game was over, they could go out to dinner and laugh as if no one through hip checks at each other.
In the end, tonight’s game will be a test to see who wants to be in the top spot more. There are still only 4 playoff spots in each division, and in such a competitive one as the East, each game between Washington and Boston is likely to be a battle. It’ll be an exciting one to watch, no doubt about it.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)