Zdeno Chara: 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, and apparently made of bulletproof steel.
The Capitals’ veteran defenseman was on a crucial penalty kill in Philadelphia on Saturday in the closing stages of the second period with Washington up 4-2.
First, Philly’s Kevin Hayes blistered a one-timer straight at the back of Chara’s leg.
“The big man fell like a tree,” said Capitals’ play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati.
As the saying goes, ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall,’ but Chara refused to fall completely.
With under a minute to go in the period, the Flyers reloaded on the power play. When another shot ricocheted about four feet high right in front of Ilya Samsonov (and nearly into the net), it was Chara who batted it out of harm’s way and into the corner. From there, Chara gathered it himself and heaved it out of the zone. But it wasn't far enough for him to limp to the bench. His work still wasn’t done.
Thirty seconds to go in the period now, but here comes Philly on the man advantage again and Travis Konecny’s turn to take a rip. His shot from the right circle goes off, you guessed it, Chara’s ankle. Any normal human being would’ve been seeking an ambulance by now, but the big Slovakian got right back down into blocking position to prevent Jakub Voracek from taking a shot. Twenty seconds to go.
Philadelphia sent it around the offensive zone without really troubling the Capitals’ netminder Samsonov. With one second to go in the period -- and Washington finally back to full strength -- Sean Couturier sent one more rip with time expiring. Who was in the crosshairs? Zdeno Chara, of course.
As he heard the second-period buzzer, Couturier’s shot went off the top of Chara’s foot. At this point, the 43-year-old’s entire lower body might as well have been held together by paperclips.
Three massive blocks within 60 seconds, and the Capitals’ 4-2 lead still intact thanks to Chara.
When Washington signed Chara in December to a one-year deal, general manager Brian MacLellan said: “We feel his experience and leadership will strengthen our blueline and our team.”
If you take away every other positive impact of Chara’s tenure in D.C., Saturday’s second-period demonstration would be evidence enough that those words ring true. His superhuman-like blocks remind Caps’ fans of Nicklas Backstrom’s heroism on the 4-on-3 penalty kill in 2010, when the forward blocked multiple shots from Tampa Bay, without a stick no less, to preserve Washington’s 3-2 lead.
“Warrior, warrior, and warrior again for number 33, and you wonder why everybody talks about him being that type of player,” said NBC Sports Washington analyst Craig Laughlin. “Go ice yourself down, buddy. You deserve it.”
Joe Beninati would second that opinion: “Get that man some Novocain, stat!”