Zdeno Chara is the heartbeat of the Boston Bruins. That won’t change during the 2019-20 season. What will change, however, is the defenseman’s usage. At 42-years-old, Chara is much closer to the end of his run than he is to the start. Father Time is undefeated, and Chara has already beaten the odds to play this long. He’s still a valuable player, evident by last season’s performance. He’s still a key leader and will have a huge impact on the coming season, but coach Bruce Cassidy should be looking to cut into his ice time.
With Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton all taking steps forward a season ago, the Bruins have options. They can limit Chara’s minutes and keep the wear and tear to a minimum. That will be important if the Bruins want their captain to go the distance in what could be his final season.
Chara played in 62 games a season ago, his lowest total since 1998-99. No, that isn’t a typo. In 1998-99 he played in 59 games for the Islanders, and hadn’t played less than 63 in a season since then (excluding the 48 game season of 2012-13). His ice time also dipped in 2018-19. Chara averaged 21:05 per game, down almost two full minutes from his 22:54 per game in 2017-18.
The offensive production dipped too. Chara finished with just 14 points (5 g, 9 a). That was his lowest total in a full 82 game season since 2000-01 when he had just nine points with the Islanders.
Possession wise, Chara actually took a step forward. He finished with a 53.8% Corsi For at five-on-five, up from 52.9% in 2017-18. His 53.8% was also positive relative to his teammates, as Chara finished with a Corsi Rel of +1.3%. The puck, as per usual, was going in the right direction when Chara was on the ice. That’s been a constant since he entered the NHL. That’s especially so since Chara became a member of the Boston Bruins.
Chara will always be a part of the leadership group in Boston. He’ll be huge for the Bruins in the room again this season, and will provide immense value off the ice. He’s taken steps back, but is in no way washed up on the ice. Chara can still handle a top-four role, and should be expected to again this season. He doesn’t have the speed needed to be elite in the modern game, but Chara is always in the right position and plays such a smart game.
He’ll never be a defensive liability, and should be an anchor on the penalty kill yet again. Don’t expect too much powerplay time in 2019-20. Chara had just eight points on the man advantage a season ago and has clearly been passed by the likes of Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug for that job.
Bruins fans can expect more of the same from Chara in 2019-20 when it comes to his contributions to the club. The only difference? Expect Chara to play less each night. Bruce Cassidy will need to keep him fresh so the captain can provide his best on each and every shift.
Official Prediction: 65 GP, 6 Goals, 11 Assists, 17 Points, +24, 20:54 TOI