It’s still a bit strange seeing Zdeno Chara suit up for the Washington Capitals. For Boston Bruins fans, you might heighten that statement by, oh, about 6-foot-9.
But at 43, Chara is indeed a member of the Capitals. With Chara and the Capitals set to face the Bruins on Saturday, and still soaking in the joy of his first goal with the team, this seems like a reasonable time to check up on “The Big Z.”
Zdeno Chara through 8 games with Capitals, with Bruins reunion looming
If there was anything about Chara’s first goal with the Capitals, it’s the way he scored it.
While the towering defenseman is — justifiably — best known for his defensive acumen, Chara’s horrifying slapper can be a real offensive weapon. Not that his hardest-shot-winning weapon is exactly a secret, mind you.
Zdeno Chara scores his first goal as a Capital to extend the Capitals' lead to 5-3. It marks Chara's 206th career goal, the third-most goals among active defensemen (Shea Weber: 219; Brent Burns: 212).
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) January 29, 2021
There was plenty of talk about feelings, including from Brad Marchand, about the Bruins facing Chara in a Capitals uniform. But, as you can see from the way his new Capitals teammates embraced him after his first goal with the team, it’s pretty apparent that Chara’s already received a warm welcome.
This moment for Zee after his first goal as a Capital ❤️#ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/d3pv3UCbqm
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 29, 2021
So, that’s all warm-and-fuzzy. And it allowed Chara to reach one of those highly specific “old guy” milestones. But what about his actual impact on the Capitals, throwing out most of those caveats.
Well, obviously, it’s early. For a player Chara’s age, it’s plausible that he’ll hit a wall even too large for him.
But so far, so good. Thursday’s game represented Chara’s best in a Capitals uniform so far by a number of metrics. Along with that goal, he also collected an assist as the Capitals beat Chara’s far-longer-ago team the Islanders 6-3.
Through eight games, Chara’s averaged 20:29 time on ice. In two of the last three games, Chara exceeded 22 minutes in ice time. He’s been credited with a hit in seven of eight contests. Chara’s blocked at least one shot in all but two games, and generated a shot on goal in seven of eight appearances. This is no sky-scraping wallflower.
Better yet, his possession stats check out pretty nicely so far.
Managing minutes as season goes along?
No, this isn’t the version of Chara who should probably have more than one Norris Trophy on his shelf. The Capitals aren’t asking him to be that guy, though. Instead, he’s looking competent-or-better, even while mostly pairing up with flawed defensemen in Justin Schultz and Nick Jensen.
As the season goes along, and especially when players like Dmitry Orlov are once again available, the Capitals might want to experiment with resting Chara. Save him for those big-body playoff games.
Until then, Chara is looking pretty solid so far, even if we probably shouldn’t expect too many more goals during his time with the Capitals.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.