April 25, 2011

Chara deservingly named Norris Trophy finalist

by Jesse Connolly

For Bruins d-man Zdeno Chara, this is his fourth nomination for the Norris Trophy. (Getty)

BOSTON -- As a man who constantly displays the utmost humility, it was hardly surprising that Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had a lengthy list of folks to thank on Monday afternoon.

After leaving the ice at TD Garden, as Boston held practice prior to departing for Montreal, Chara received word that he'd been nominated for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the National Hockey League.

"It’s obviously a big honor and I’m very humbled and very thankful," said Chara, who joins Nashville's Shea Weber and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom in the trio of nominees. "It’s, especially after you consider how many guys had such a great season, a breakout season, I’m just very thankful that people who did vote recognized the definition of the Norris Trophy award.

"And obviously a big thank you goes to all the people who helped me to get there, especially my teammates, all the organization, and obviously my family and fans."

As the anchor on the Bruins blueline, Chara was consistently faced with the challenge of having to shut down the opposition's top offensive talents on a nightly basis. To finish with a plus-33 rating, the best mark in the league, makes one truly marvel at the 6-foot-9 defenseman's campaign.

"You know, that’s something I take a lot of pride in," said Chara, a four-time nominee and winner of the Norris Trophy for the 2008-09 season. "I’m very competitive when it comes to defending the top lines and playing top lines. I know that it’s not an easy job, but I get up to it every night. You can’t think that it’s just you.

"Obviously you have five guys on the ice and the whole 25 on the team helping you. It’s a big motivation for me every night to face such skill and great players."

While Chara is certainly no slouch when it comes to offensive production himself, as he finished 19th among defensemen with 44 points, he recognizes that he doesn't have the raw abilities that other players possess to help him dominate in that area.

Knowing that, the Slovakian blueliner has always taken an immense amount of pride in his work ethic. From off-ice training to a warrior-like mentality during games, there isn't a hint of quit to be found in the towering d-man.

"To me, the first priority is hard work," Chara said when asked what it takes to be a good defenseman. "I always like to work extremely hard on and off the ice. I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated to play against top lines and the best players every night. I take a lot of pride in that, and I just want to help the team as much as I can to win.

"That was always my first thing. I always want to put the team in front of egos or individual goals. To me, that’s the most important thing, and everything else will fall into place. I know I’m not the extremely skilled defenseman who’s going to put probably 70 points on the board every year. But I know that if I play my game, I give my team a good chance to win hockey games. That’s all I can do."

If Chara keeps playing that way on Tuesday night in Game 6 against the Canadiens, there's a good chance the Bruins captain will have a new cast of talented, star forwards to work on shutting down next week.