BOSTON — As uncomfortable and pained as he must have been, playing Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final with a broken jaw had to be an easy decision for Zdeno Chara.
By doing so, he gained immortality. Legend status in Boston. An elevated spot in this sports-rich city’s folklore.
He became a hero among heroes.
All Chara needed to do was score the game winning goal and he would have earned himself a spot on the ultimate hockey perch with Bobby Baun, the Maple Leafs defenceman who notched the GWG in Game 6 of the 1964 Cup final between Toronto and Detroit on a broken leg.
“Much is made of his professionalism, his toughness, his approach, but until you see that in the flesh, you have a whole other level of appreciation for it,” Bruins defenceman John Moore said Thursday morning. “The guy’s 42. When I’m 42, I’m certainly not going to be the first guy in the gym, weighing all my food, squatting the most on the team. Those are all the things you respect. You throw in the fact that what he’s going through, that’s something I’ll tell my kids about. Life lessons I’ll carry beyond hockey.”
Chara’s glorious night didn’t have quite the happy ending Baun’s did 55 years ago. In fact, with the Bruins trailing 1-0 after 40 minutes, he was a co-goat on the game’s only goal. Chara and his blue-line partner, Charlie McAvoy, both went behind the net to check Blues rookie Zach Sanford, who neatly passed the puck between his own legs to Game 4 hero Ryan O’Reilly in front.
On a night that will live large in his and our memory forever, that was a moment Chara would like back.
STARTS AND STOPS
Another playoff embarrassment for the NHL. Another black eye on officiating. This one the biggest yet, as Tyler Bozak’s uncalled trip on Noel Acciari led to the game winning goal of Game 5 in the Cup final. “That’s definitely a penalty,” said Marcus Johansson. “I think most people saw it on the big screen afterwards. Nothing we can do about that now. We’ve just got to suck it up and move on.” … Question to Torey Krug after the game: Has the officiating changed since (Blues coach) Craig Berube made his comments about the way it was being called. “Yes,” said Krug. “Yes.” … Jordan Binnington had by far his best game of the final. In the first period, he stopped all 17 shots he saw, some spectacularly, and after two he was 25-for-25 in the saves department. This should not have come as a surprise, however. In the previous Games 5, 6, and 7 Binnington has played in this career, he had allowed nine goals in seven games. And won six of them. For a guy that looked generally shaky in the first four against the Bruins, Binnington once again rose his play in the biggest game of the series … Perhaps the biggest save of the game was made by Bruins centre David Krejci, who jumped in front of a shot by Alex Petrangelo that was headed for the empty side with seconds left in the second period. Blues score at that point and the Bruins might have been done for the night … Brilliant was the choice of Banner Captains for Game 5. Derek Sanderson passed the flag to Bobby Orr, 49 years after passing him the puck for the iconic Cup winning goal. As far as spine-tingling moments go, it was right up there with the eardrum shattering reception the fans gave Chara in the pre-game introduction … On his first shift, which lasted 31 seconds, Chara hit a Blues forward and bounced off him. Clearly, he was not himself … He wound up playing 5:55 of the first 20 minutes, eighth most on the team. Through two periods Chara played 12:10, which was seventh most on the team. His ice time was cut in the third as Chara wound up playing 16:42 with four hits and three blocked shots.
ON SECOND THOUGHT
Brian Kilrea knows what it’s like to play with a broken jaw. He did himself, in the early 1960s. “When I played for Springfield, we played Cleveland on a Wednesday night and I (suffered) a double fracture of the jaw. They operated Friday, I got out of the hospital and I played Saturday night,” remembered Kilrea, the winningest junior hockey coach of all-time. “(Coach) Eddie Shore told me if I sat back and visualized, I would be alright. Naturally, in those days, you just played. So I did, with the double fracture, I had my mouth all wired, and they had a plaster around my jaw to protect it.”
Kilrea recalls how tough it was trying to catch his breath.
“I was breathing through the four bottom teeth I didn’t have and it was difficult,” he said. “Luckily, I guess for me, the doctor that did the operation came into the rink a little bit late. He said to Shore, ‘get him off the ice, or he’ll be talking through clenched teeth the rest of his life. I only played two periods, and then I was told I was benched. I became a black ace the next morning.”
Fans that were extra pumped from the moment the Bruins showed an all-Chara highlight video before the opening puck drop (a first here, we are told), jumped to their feet and roared when Vince Dunn fired the puck over the glass for the game’s first penalty in the sixth minute of the first. Some teams on some nights don’t get that kind of reaction for a goal … The Bruins No. 1 ranked playoff power play was booed by the faithful in the second period, with David Perron in the box and the most notable shot was an icing on Boston … Possibly suspension worthy was the elbow to the head Blues’ Ivan Barbashev delivered to Johansson. The refs didn’t see it as a penalty, even thought Johannson wound up at the feet of one of them … Brad Marchand had been warned to stop with the pitchforking Binnington while chasing the puck in the crease. He didn’t, and he was called for it in the second … Marchand’s night started on the wrong foot, as he must have lodged the soccer ball in the rafters outside the Boston dressing room because it was he who had to run through the media room to get the ladder.
OFF THE POST
The Bruins raised the bar significantly with a pre-game media meal that include chowder, lobster, steak and chicken. For eight bucks. Over to you, St. Loo … As a counter punch to the Blues’ Gloria, the Bruins P.A. guy played Macklemore’s Glorious. Not quite as catchy, but he gets marks for effort … In the crowd and receiving a huge roar was Woody Harrelson, who must have had the night off from his beer-slinging job down the street at Cheers … The Bruins led in hits (43-34) but won just 41 percent of the face-offs. Brandon Carlo, who someone was unfortunate enough to have for a second time in the media’s game winning goal pool, led all players with four blocked shots. Acciari led all players with eight hits.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019