The Boston Bruins have done a lot of things right this season to be in a position to win another Stanley Cup Championship. The smartest thing the Bruins have done was to rest captain Zdeno Chara. Not only did the Bruins rest him during the regular season, but the coaching staff also found ways to limit his minutes in preparation for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The B’s made a last minute decision to hold Chara out of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against Carolina to let his injury heal. The Bruins did not need him in the lineup as they cruised past Carolina to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the 20th time.
Maybe this strategy is something San Jose should have followed in dealing with Erik Karlsson? Chara and Karlsson are two different types of players. One is more of a physical force and a stay at home defenseman, while the other is more of an offensive threat on the ice. Chara’s range and ability to keep opposing players to the outside is his strength. However, not being able to move or push off gave the opponent the upper hand. Having a lower-body injury of any kind makes it hard to play the game the right way. Just look at the struggles Karlsson is having against the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final.
All season long Karlsson has dealt with a groin injury, that has hampered his ability to play at a level he needs to be at. It took some time before Karlsson was back to 100 percent and not to mention the time it took for him to come back after dealing with a torn Achilles in Ottawa during the Senators run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2017. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Karlsson was back to the player of old before re-injuring his groin in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues. He would miss parts of the third period in that game before returning later in the period to provide a push to tie the game.
In Game 5, when St. Louis dominated San Jose in a 5-0 win, you could tell Karlsson was not himself. Instead of taking strong and powerful strides, he was protecting his injured groin as he took very timid and tight strides. On one play, Karlsson did not skate back to prevent Vladimir Tarasenko’s breakaway attempt, after Brent Burns fell down on the ice. Burns hauled down Tarasenko leading to a penalty shot that Tarasenko scored on. If Karlsson was 100 percent, Tarasenko may never have gotten that breakaway opportunity. Karlsson ended up being held out of the third period and his status for Game 6 is unknown.
On that note, it was smart of the Bruins to rest Chara in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final. Instead of making Chara’s injury worse, the Bs gave him a better chance to be as close to 100 percent as possible for the Stanley Cup Final. Chara returned to practice Monday and he will take it one day at a time, but he should be good to go for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final which is slated for Monday.
The 42-year old defenseman is not the player he used to be and may have lost a step or two but he and the team have done a great job managing his health and adjusting as he gets older. In the past you could tell Chara was tired in the playoffs after he logged all those minutes in the regular season, but thanks to head coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff, Chara is back to being a shutdown force on the Bruins’ blue line again.