A tall order for Chara

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

MONTREAL -- From his lofty perch atop his towering 6-foot-9 frame, Boston Bruins man-mountain Zdeno Chara understandably sees the world differently than the rest of us.

But listening to the Bruins captain yesterday attempt to shoot down observations that the Montreal Canadiens were being far more physical than his own team, well, it was tough for observers not to roll their eyes.

He can't really believe the propaganda coming out of his own mouth, can he?

"I don't think they were all that physical," Chara insisted. "The playoffs are always physical. That's part of it -- everyone hits everyone."

Some more than others, Zdeno. Perhaps you should scour the stats sheet from Game 1, which shows the Habs outhitting the Bruins 37-25 during Montreal's 4-1 victory at the raucous Bell Centre.

Or maybe a nice video session watching the series opener would prove to be enlightening. That way, you could see for yourself how the high-flying Habs were taking the body at every opportunity.

Including yours.

Especially yours.

PANCAKED

The Canadiens are not hiding the fact that Chara is a marked man. Pancaked early in the game by the Habs' hard-charging duo of Tom Kotsopoulos and Steve Begin, Chara did not look anything like the Norris Trophy candidate who was dominant at times during the regular season.

During the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the opener, there was speculation that Chara still might be nursing a nagging shoulder injury.

Asked about that speculation yesterday, the hulking defenceman deflected away the suggestion with the same ease that Habs goalie Carey Price bats away shots.

"That's gone now," he told the first wave of reporters when asked about a potential ailment.

"Everything's fine."

Five minutes later, the next batch of microphones and cameras surrounded him. He gave the same answer.

"I don't really want to comment (about any injury)," he said.

"It's the playoffs. You just have to play hard."

If Chara is, in fact, nursing an injury, as is the growing suspicion, it is no surprise he is being targeted by the Canadiens. But that is the Habs' game plan whether he is hurt or not.

The belief inside the Montreal dressing room: It is better to initiate contact with the hockey giant than absorb it.

"Against a guy like that, you have to keep grinding him, keep taking it to him," said Kotsopoulos, Game 1's unlikely offensive star with a goal and an assist.

Bruins coach Claude Julien came to the defence of his captain, claiming Chara will not be bothered by Montreal's tactics.

CAULDRON OF NOISE

"He's well aware of what they want," Julien said.

"They didn't rattle him. He knew they were going to come after him and he knew they were going to hit him ... (but) they are not going to get him off (his game)."

The truth is, they already have.

Cranked up by the screaming fans inside the cauldron of noise that is the Bell Centre, the Habs bolted to a 2-0 lead after just 122 seconds Thursday night on goals by the Kostitsyn brothers, Sergei and Andrei.

Chara, for the record, was on the ice for Andrei's goal, which came at a time when Julien admitted his team looked "nervous."

Part of Boston's jittery start must be attributed to the towel-waving leather-lunged throng that greeted the Habs when they stepped onto the ice.

It was an intimidating atmosphere for the visitors, one that reminded a number of press box wags of the old Chicago Stadium, otherwise known as the Madhouse on Madison.

"The crowd, the noise, the music, all the towels waving ... it's like being a Roman gladiator," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas of the hostile atmosphere.

"You've got to soak it in a bit."

Thomas needs to be corrected on one point. In this case, his Bruins were not gladiators -- they were more like slaves being fed to the lions in front of thousands of approving, blood-thirty spectators.

Thomas said the ear-piercing noise made it difficult for his defencemen to hear him screaming "Screen!," as was the case on the play that led to Montreal's first goal.

For the Bruins, a bigger problem will be if Chara does not pick up his game.

Should that be the case, this will be a very short series.


Videos

Photos