BOSTON (AP) — Zdeno Chara didn’t say much to his teammates when he showed up, as usual, one game after a puck bloodied his face and knocked him out of the Stanley Cup Final.
And it wasn’t just because it was difficult for him to talk.
”He doesn’t need to say anything, really,” forward Charlie Coyle said on Tuesday, a day before Game 7 of the NHL championship. ”It’s already known.”
Nine days after Chara left Game 5 with blood dripping from his face, and three days after Boston won in St. Louis to force the series to the limit, the Bruins and Blues will bring the confetti down on another hockey season Wednesday night. Chara will be there for the 14th Game 7 of his career – an NHL record.
”It’s always fun to play Game 7s,” said Chara, who as captain would have the honor of being the first to skate with the Stanley Cup. ”Very intense. You’ve just got to realize you’ve got to lay everything on line and play your best game.”
A six-time All-Star and the winner of the 2009 Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, the 42-year-old Chara was still among the team’s leaders in ice time this season, his 21st in the league. So he left a huge, 6-foot-9 hole in the team’s lineup when he left Game 4 with blood dripping from his mouth after Brayden Schenn‘s shot deflected off Chara’s stick and into his jaw.
Chara returned to the bench, but did not play; coach Bruce Cassidy said he wanted to be there with his teammates. Chara was back for Game 5 in Boston, but alternate captain Patrice Bergeron did most of the talking to fire up the team before the game.
”We shared our responsibility,” Chara said after practice on Tuesday. ”It’s a great group of leaders we have, and it’s not that I’m going to be sitting at a desk and trying to figure out some speech. We all realize that it’s more about our actions than words.”
And Chara’s presence said it all. Cassidy said Chara is in a lot of pain, and he also has to adjust to playing with the full-face shield that limits his vision. (Although there have been reports that Chara broke his jaw, Cassidy has described it only as a ”facial injury.”)
The Boston fans gave the captain a lengthy ovation that he said caught him by surprise.
”I was overwhelmed by the response of the crowd,” he said on Tuesday in his most extensive comments since the injury. ”It’s very humbling, and I’m so honored to get that kind of a pregame crowd being involved and cheering us on. It just shows how passionate the Boston fans are. Very much appreciate it.”