Blackhawks no longer avoiding Bruins giant Zdeno Chara
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com June 20, 2013 9:20PM
Updated: June 20, 2013 9:39PM
It won’t end up on any highlight reels of Bryan Bickell’s greatest hits. It wasn’t terribly thunderous, and it wasn’t terribly effective.
But when Bickell put his shoulder into Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara in the corner eight minutes into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final — toppling the tallest player in NHL history and very briefly allowing the Blackhawks to maintain possession of the puck in the Bruins’ zone — it sent a message the Hawks were eager to send:
They’re done deferring to Chara.
‘‘I think maybe at times in the first couple games, we were giving him a little bit too much respect by trying to keep the puck away from him,’’ Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘He’s not a guy that we should be afraid of. We should go at him.’’
Chara, whose skill, reach and endurance make him one of the most difficult matchups in the league — and a big reason why Hawks coach Joel Quenneville initially didn’t want to put Toews and Patrick Kane on the same line — was on the ice for five of the Hawks’ six goals in Wednesday night’s 6-5 victory. On Brent Seabrook’s game-winning goal in overtime, Toews boxed Chara out in the crease and created just enough room — and just a brief enough screen — to help Seabrook’s shot find its way past goalie Tuukka Rask.
‘‘I think we should be more [concerned] with getting in front of the goalie than worrying about Chara,’’ Quenneville said.
The minus-3 Chara took tied his season worst.
‘‘Against him, I think sometimes you worry so much about who you’re playing against that it goes to your disadvantage,’’ Kane said. ‘‘You just want to play the game. It so happened we scored five goals against him. I don’t think you’ll see that in any other game this series.’’
But you very well might see the 6-4 Bickell — the left wing on the Toews-Kane line — continue to target Chara, who stands nearly 7 feet on skates.
‘‘It’s important for me to open the ice up for my linemates,’’ Bickell said. ‘‘He doesn’t like getting hit. Not a lot of guys attempt it, but to get a hit on him and to see him fall down, it’s rare. I just need to keep it going.’’
The Bruins brushed off the Hawks’ big talk about their big captain.
‘‘Z’s one of the best defensemen in the league, and a guy that big and that strong, you don’t really want to play around with a whole lot,’’ winger Brad Marchand said. ‘‘They’re welcome to say whatever they want.’’