BOSTON - Imagine a 6-foot-9 behemoth with two ugly purple welts under his eyes and a series of stitches sealing a deep gash on his nose.
No, this is not a scene from a horror movie.
Welcome to the NHL playoff wars, starring Zdeno Chara.
If ever there was a portrait depicting how fiercely contested this best-of-seven first-round series between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals has been, it was there for all to see in the form of Chara's chewed-up mug on Wednesday morning, some eight hours before the teams were to square off in Game 7 at the raucous TD Garden.
When Chara was asked if he had a broken nose, he smiled weakly and said "Thank you."
If you connect the dots, it certainly does seem that his beak is busted.
Not that such a potential injury would stop him from playing. Far from it. In the NHL playoffs, where the street to the Stanley Cup can be more vicious than the title march in any other sport, it's a mere flesh wound.
In reality, stitches and welts have become as much of the NHL post-season fabric as playoff beards. Just ask some of Chara's teammates, who were envious when they saw the carved-up kisser of the Bruins captain.
"As long as the guy's not too hurt, I think you get a little jealous," defenceman Andrew Ference said. "He looks good. Especially a guy that big with the war wounds.
"I'm sure picking up his daughter at school, all the other parents are not looking quite so mean."
Chara has become accustomed to being targeted by opponents. If it means getting bumped and bruised, so be it.
"That's part of it," he said. "Obviously it's going to happen. Sometimes it's going to happen.
"It's a tough road. Sometimes you go through that whole road without a bruise. Other times you get a lot of sticks, pucks, and you're always wrapped up on the ice.
"But I think it's almost every game, especially in the playoffs, it happens not just against top players but everyone. Everyone tries to hit people and separate people from the puck."
Chara's suspected broken nose likely was suffered when he was high-sticked by Caps captain Alex Ovechkin in Game 6 on Sunday, a 4-3 Bruins overtime victory. Ovechkin received a double minor on the play.
The Caps are just 2-7 in Game 7s but Ovechkin could care less. This, he said, is a new team, a new year.
"We're ready," he said. "You have to stay loose and have fun."
Even if it means picking up a few stitches in the process.