What We Learned: Do we really appreciate Zdeno Chara enough? (Puck Daddy)

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it. A galaxy of Pittsburgh Penguins stars blinked out, just like that; the only light remaining was from black dwarves Brandon Sutter and Chris Kunitz. At the center of it all, the pillar upon which Claude Julien has constructed his defense and his team and his approach to the game itself, was the NHL's resident Galactus, a towering world-eater who has been the best at his job in the entire world for a period of several years. The fact that we aren't falling down in with sheer joy at the idea of being able to watch Zdeno Chara play smothering, punishing, enveloping defense every time he climbs over the boards like a giant is a little sickening. Men of his size have moved with grace and skill and speed in other sports, but never in the full armor of an NHL player. Others approach his size, of course. Tyler Myers and John Scott and the late Derek Boogaard, all just an inch shorter. Hal Gill and Brian Boyle check in at 6-foot-7. But none have played the game at a level even approaching that of Chara's, who now moves on to his second Stanley Cup Final in three years. Just how unappreciated is Chara in his own time, even with the acknowledgement that he is indeed a former Norris Trophy winner and six-time All-Star? There were certain elements of the Boston media who, as recently as the Maple Leafs series, were advocating that he be stripped of the Bruins' captaincy. All that, though, has gone as silent as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Jarome Iginla, and all but five Penguins did in their terrible dud of an Eastern Conference Finals sweep. That Chara wasn't nominated for the Norris again this season -- or indeed, in any season since about 2007 -- seems like borderline criminal oversight by the people who vote on this sort of thing, and whose ballots typically run more or less in accordance with Nos. 1-3 in scoring by defensemen for any given season. Letang (who utterly embarrassed himself in every zone during this Eastern Conference Final), PK Subban and Ryan Suter were among the nominees who finished ahead of Chara, and there they go at Nos. 2, 1, and 3 , respectively, in points this season. Chara? Well shoot, you gotta click over to the second page to find him in a tie for 38th with Patrick Wiercioch and Marek Zidlicky, among others, at 19 points this season. What a bum, right? Obviously he has a little bit of help on the defensive side of things, what with another terribly underrated defenseman in Dennis Seidenberg capable of parachuting into any matchup, alongside Chara or apart from him, as well as Patrice Bergeron, the premier defensive center in the world, in front of him. All have combined to put Tuukka Rask, as with Tim Thomas before him, in line to become a very, very rich goaltender. Maybe, too, it's the ordinariness of Chara's excellence that makes it so difficult to appreciate.

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