BOSTON — The decision to use Zdeno Chara on the power play is a simple one. The Bruins defenseman offers a unique skill set that allows him to do multiple things on the man-advantage, whether it’s uncorking slap shots or screening goalies in front.
Yet for Chara to really stand out on the power play, that unit needs to be making simple plays. That’s exactly what they did Tuesday night, and Chara was the main beneficiary as he netted a pair of power-play goals in a 2-0 win over the Calgary Flames at TD Garden.
The Boston captain, who is obviously known for his defensive prowess, certainly has a toolbox of offensive skills as well. The most notable is that booming slap shot. He let one rip from the right faceoff circle at 7:38 of the second period that Reto Berra had no chance stopping. Simply lauding Chara for the ability to hammer a puck at obscene speeds like he did in this instance probably sells the effort just a little short. Chara started the play on the goal line on the right wing. Seconds later he was at the point, working to keep the puck in. Once that objective was completed, Chara turned and skated down the slot and back to the right faceoff dot (while simultaneously directing Torey Krug back to the point as to optimize space) where David Krejci found him with a beautiful crossing pass.
Chara took it from there.
“Z got a great one timer; that’s tough on a goalie there — you don’t know if it’s coming high, low, five-hole and as hard as he shoots it, it finds a hole,” Bruins winger Jarome Iginla said after a two-assist performance. “I thought [Krejci] had a nice fake slapper over to him, to set him up right in [Chara’s] wheelhouse.”
Chara’s abilities both offensively and defensively are also made better by his incredible size. He’s a huge human being and has enormous reach. That can be just as effective on the power play as Chara has displayed this season. He now has nine goals on the season, and six of those have been on the power play.
Much of Chara’s power-play success stems from the decision to put him down low on the man-advantage. It’s something the Bruins have toyed with in the past, and that’s a role Chara also played in Ottawa during his days with the Senators. The Bruins have really stuck with it this season, and that has paid off pretty well for them.
Not only can Chara influence a power play with his incredible size in front of the net where he screens goalies, his long reach helps him gather loose pucks. He did both Tuesday night on his second goal of the game. Chara read the play perfectly as he started on the right wing before moving to the front of the net and then down to the left wing on the goal line. As soon as Milan Lucic — stationed on the halfwall on the right wing — passed the puck across the slot to Krejci at the left point, Chara went back to the front of the net. That simple pass was key, of course. It shifted the defense and shifted Berra’s eyes. Krejci quickly passed it back to Lucic who teed up a one-timer with Chara taking up space in front. The Lucic one-timer was stopped, but that’s when Chara showed his ridiculous ability — even at 6-foot-9 — to gather the puck in his skates and get the puck to his stick where he scored the Bruins’ second goal.
There was nothing unique or extremely talented. It was just a good game plan and better execution. It was simple, and when the Bruins’ first power-play unit is keeping things simple and not trying to do too much, that’s usually where they have the most success. On Tuesday night, it was Chara’s hard work and hustle that helped tie it all together.
“I’m just trying to work hard and be there for loose pucks and create traffic and finding some openings,” he said. “So really the main thing is to just work extremely hard.”
See? Sometimes, it’s just that simple.