TORONTO – There are going to be times in these playoffs when 42-year-old Zdeno Chara is going to look every bit of his age out on the ice.
Game 1 might have been one of those times as Chara appeared to be having some real difficulty keeping up with the fast, skilled Maple Leafs as they poured on their attack. Still, it was a different story in Game 4 Wednesday night with the B’s claiming a 6-4 victory to even the series at 2, and with Chara enjoying a vintage performance at both ends of the ice.
Chara ended up scoring the game-winning goal in the third period on a long point shot that whistled past Freddie Andersen. That proved to be the difference after Toronto staged a near comeback during a furious third-period rally.
“We had the lead and we played well, but obviously they played more aggressively and started fore-checking harder and more aggressively,” said Chara. “We’ll go back and look at some things and see what we could have done better.”
With our without the third-period rally, it was all part of a tremendous performance for Chara, who put up the goal and a plus-3 rating in 24:12 of ice time, threw five hits and blocked four shots in a game where his true defensive warrior tendencies came through.
“He’s a true professional and a great leader, and at this stage of his career just a really, really solid hockey player,” said B's coach Bruce Cassidy. “They’re trying to find ways to expose him and he’s trying to find ways to adapt to the new NHL, and he has. There’s a reason why he’s still playing and effective. Not only is he hard [on opponents], but he’s smart. He’s very intelligent and he’s been able to figure out ways to be effective.”
It was the best performance and most ice time that Chara has had in any of the four playoff games this spring, and he was joined by defensive partner Charlie McAvoy enjoying his best game of the series, too. Now comes the tough part in maintaining that performance through the rest of the series where the B’s will clearly need Chara at his best as they look to slow down the Leafs any way that they can.
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