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Can Zdeno Chara stop Danny Briere’s playoff hot streak?

Apr 30, 2011, 12:41 PM EDT

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Zdeno Chara, Danny Briere AP

Danny Briere isn’t a big guy – he’s generously listed at 5-foot-10, 179 lbs. Yet the crafty forward comes up especially large in games of the hugest importance. Just take a look at the 91 points he’s scored in the playoffs since the lockout ended … that’s the highest total of any player in the NHL during that span.

Briere was the catalyst for the Flyers’ first round comeback, scoring three goals and one assist in those two elimination games and six goals and one assist for seven points in the seven-game series. He also got under the skin of his former teammate, Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.

Along with having great hands and outstanding offensive creativity, Briere scores a lot of his points by sneaking his way in front of the net. That’s a pretty admirable quality for an undersized forward because it opens him up to the savage abuse that comes with that territory.

In other words, it means that he’ll need to absorb plenty of hits from Boston Bruins’ behemoth Zdeno Chara. Chara is seven feet tall on skates, but as CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio points out, he couldn’t intimidate Briere in their 2010 semifinals series.

Briere scored five goals and five assists for 10 points in that seven-game series, a hot run that helped the small forward score a league-leading 30 points in last year’s playoffs. Chara is just starting to feel like his usual all-world self again after fighting dehydration in the first round, so perhaps it will be a tall order for the much larger player. Briere spoke to Panaccio about going up against the imposing blueliner.

“You have to find ways to make him work,” Briere said of Chara. “It is not going to be easy and we know that. I have had the chance to face him a few times in the playoffs.

“He is going to make it tough on us, but we are not going to back down. That is the only way to approach it and you have to be willing to compete against him.

“Probably to try and go around him and make him work. When you are as big as him, it uses a lot of energy to try to chase you. I guess that is the idea with a guy like Chara.”

Of course, Briere isn’t the only Flyers forward Chara must worry about, but he’s been Philly’s most explosive offensive performer for at least the last two playoff runs. It’s obvious which player is larger in the literal sense, but one of the series’ biggest factors boils down to who will come up the biggest in a figurative way.

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