May 30, 2011, 1:00 PM EST
One would imagine that it is easy to lead others when you stand 6-foot-9. Yet it’s just not that easy to be the captain of an NHL team, especially in a demanding market such as Boston. Much like he fought through other difficulties in his career, Zdeno Chara is rounding into the kind of leader the Boston Bruins organization has been hoping for, according to Joe Haggerty.
Perhaps the growth first became clearer in the Bruins’ first round series against the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins found themselves down 2-0 in the series while Chara fought off dehydration and the anger Montreal fans displayed regarding the hit on Max Pacioretty to help Boston win the series in seven. Chara and the Bruins then shook off another demon when they swept their 2010 tormentors the Philadelphia Flyers from this year’s playoffs.
Maybe the best example of his growing leadership savvy came after he helped the team shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, though. Instead of making the Prince of Wales Trophy ceremony about whether or not Chara would touch it (he didn’t), he instead gathered his teammates to take credit for the achievement.
Haggerty writes that such a moment indicates that Chara is embracing the emotional side of the captaincy role.
There was an emotional component to the job that Chara always seemed to be searching for, and it was clearly a process. It would seem that in his most challenging NHL season the B’s defenseman finally broke down those walls, and everyone within the organization has taken notice of his evolution as he’s battled true adversity all along the way.
“We’ve been together for both our tenures here. We went to one conference final with Ottawa and lost, so that was a bit of painful memory. We just kind of connected briefly after [Game 7] and I could see a little bit of a twinkle in his eye,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “It was kind of a special moment for me to share with him. I can’t say enough about him as a player and his defensive impact on the game.
“I think [in the Tampa] series you saw him try and do a little more offensively on his own and at clutch times. That was — for me — him stepping up. His leadership abilities have grown exponentially. I can’t say enough about Zee and the impact that he has in the locker room — and on the ice.”
Chara and the Bruins faced some tough challenges in this playoff run and their last other two postseasons, but the Vancouver Canucks (and all the pressure that comes with playing in the Stanley Cup finals) present their toughest obstacle yet. Chara must help his teammates roll with the punches on the game’s largest scale because this Canucks team could create some serious headaches for any defense.
If his resilient playoff run is any indication, he might just stand head and shoulders above his peers once again.
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