LAS VEGAS — Zdeno Chara came to Las Vegas with a chance to win two trophies at the 2011 NHL Awards at the Palms Hotel. He left with just one, but the Bruins captain wasn't complaining. Not after being able to hoist that other big shiny trophy last week.
Chara lost out on a chance to win his second Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman when Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom won the award for the seventh time, but Chara did win the Mark Messier Leadership Award, beating out Lidstrom and Phoenix's Shane Doan.
"I came to Vegas nominated for two trophies and I'm leaving with one, so I'm obviously happy," Chara said. "It's a privilege. I'm so honored to be here and be selected, and obviously the ultimate prize is overcoming everything and winning the Cup."
The Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 last week in Vancouver, and Mark Messier saw the foundation for that victory laid with Chara's arrival in Boston back in 2006.
"I think Boston's march to the Stanley Cup started when they signed Zdeno Chara," Messier said. "He wanted to go there and make a difference. He wanted to be the leader. He did that. In my mind, he's probably one of the most improved players in the National Hockey League in the last 10-20 years. I saw him come into the league as a rookie with the Islanders, then in Ottawa, and to see him grow into the player first and then the leader that he is has been quite remarkable."
Chara has been criticized at times in the past for not being as vocal or emotional as some felt a captain should be, but there should be no doubting his leadership style now. There certainly never was in the Bruins' room.
"He's a great leader," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who took home his second Vezina Trophy as the league's top netminder. "You don't win Stanley Cups without great leaders. To be honest, we had a whole room full of great leaders this year. They did a great job and led us to a Cup, and Zee being our captain was the figurehead. Without his leadership, that [Cup] doesn't happen."
Chara was also quick to credit his teammates, especially the other veterans who also provided plenty of leadership.
"I always want to be a good leader and be there for my team and for my teammates," Chara said. "That's always my first priority. I always look at it as a captain is there for his team, not the other way around. I got so much help and support from other guys in the room, this is obviously not just me.
"It's overwhelming and I'm so appreciative of this selection," added Chara, who was also named an NHL Second-Team All-Star.
Of course, being the competitor he is, Chara did admit he was a little disappointed at not also adding another Norris Trophy to his resume.
"It is a little bit [disappointing]," Chara said. "Obviously when you're selected [as a finalist], you're so close you want to be even closer and be the winner.
"But not to take anything away from Nick," Chara added. "He had such a strong season for the whole season. I know my game is a little different and I bring different aspects to the game than Nick, but he was really strong throughout the whole season."
Chara finished third in the voting with 688 points and a fitting 33 first-place votes. Lidstrom finished with 736 points and 35 first-place votes, edging Nashville's Shea Weber, who had 727 points and 32 first-place votes.
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