The idea that a little contact can throw off Zdeno Chara left Milan Lucic shaking his head and wondering who exactly is drawing up the scouting reports for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Sure, they went right Boston’s big, bad defenseman in Game 4. If they want to try that again, the Bruins had three words for them: bring it on.
”Honestly, I don’t know where they would get that scouting report from,” Lucic said on Friday. ”He definitely doesn’t mind the physical play at all.”
The Blackhawks seem to believe they were on to something after they went at Chara in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals and came away with a 6-5 overtime victory.
That knotted the series at two games apiece as it shifts back to the United Center for Game 5 on Saturday.
Chicago went right at Chara, and came away with the belief that that’s the way to neutralize the 6-foot-9 defenseman — attack rather than avoid. For one night, the strategy worked.
Chara was on the ice for all but one of the Blackhawks’ goals and was a minus-3 for the game, tying a season worst.
”I think maybe at times in the first couple games we were giving him a little bit too much respect by trying to keep the puck away from him,” captain Jonathan Toews said. ”He’s not a guy that we should be afraid of. We should go at him, protect the puck from him, make plays around him and through him.”
It was clear early in Game 4 that the Blackhawks weren’t going to back down.
Bryan Bickell drove his shoulder into Chara in the corner and took down the tallest player in the league, certainly not the hardest hit of his career but one that allowed Chicago to maintain possession in Boston’s zone.
It also sent out a loud message that the Blackhawks were going to attack, take the fight to him.
Chara’s skill, endurance and reach make him one of the most difficult matchups in the league, and that was probably one reason why Chicago coach Joel Quenneville opted not to go with Toews and Patrick Kane on the same line the first three games.
Separating his biggest stars spreads out the skill and wears out defenses, but the Blackhawks needed a change so he put them together, hoping to challenge Chara.
Chicago was also a little more physical with him.
Besides the hit by Bickell, another example came on the winning goal in overtime. There was Toews tussling with Chara in front of the net, screening Tuukka Rask, as Brent Seabrook ripped a shot from just inside the blue line.