After 14 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals on Dec. 30, 2020. He left Boston better than he found it and the Bruins handed the captaincy from their former defender to Patrice Bergeron on Jan. 6, 2021.
As the National Hockey League produced a format for the 2020-21 regular season and 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs it was revealed that the Bruins and their ex would get to meet each other eight times over the course of the season and– as fate would have it– at least four mores times times in the playoffs.
On Sunday night, Bergeron shook hands with Chara after the Bruins defeated the Capitals, 3-1, in Game 5 and eliminated Washington on the road at Capital One Arena– winning the series 4-1.
Chara, a 44-year-old veteran of the game, now faces the question of whether to retire or whether to return to the ice– wherever it may be for one more run, one more chance at getting a second Stanley Cup ring and his first since winning with Boston in 2011.
For Bergeron and the rest of his teammates, the Bruins’ journey continues as the transition from the old guard gives way to the youth, experience and new characters that have emerged.
There was life before Chara for Bergeron, who made his NHL debut in the 2003-04 season as an 18-year-old, and there is life after Chara, who signed as free agent with the Bruins on July 1, 2006, and played in a spoked-B uniform until the bubble burst in the 2020 Second Round in five games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Unlike the dissatisfying taste in the mouth of those involved in the Eddie Shore trade with the New York Americans in Jan. 1940, this time around– though there were likely tears shed over the departure of a fan favorite in Chara and a legend in Bruins franchise history– it seems there will be a happy ending sooner rather than later.
Shore never played for an NHL team after 1940, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947, and subsequently had his No. 2 retired by Boston as a result after some amendments to strained relationships with Art Ross and others had been made– if not put aside for an evening, at least.
Chara won’t have to wait quite as long and there are no hard feelings to get in the way.
Whenever he retires, jot down the very first home game (as it should be) at TD Garden in that upcoming season to see his No. 33 raised to the rafters and add three years to the date from his retirement for eligibility to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Shore, Bobby Orr and other legends of the sport.
Tuukka Rask (4-1, 1.81 goals-against average, .941 save percentage in five games) made 40 saves on 41 shots against in the win for the Bruins on Sunday.
Capitals netminder, Ilya Samsonov (0-3, 2.99 goals-against average, .899 save percentage in three games played) stopped 16 out of 19 shots faced in the loss.
Boston became the fifth team since the start of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs to win a best-of-seven series in four or more consecutive postseasons.
They joined the Capitals (4 postseasons from 2015-18), New York Rangers (4, 2012-15), Detroit Red Wings (5, 2007-11) and San Jose Sharks (4, 2004-08) in doing so.
Boston also improved to 13-10 all time in Game 5s when leading a series 3-1. The B’s are now 21-2 in best-of-seven series’ when they have a 3-1 series lead, as well.
The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Jeremy Lauzon (upper body), Kevan Miller (upper body) and John Moore (hip) on Sunday with Steven Kampfer (arm) joining Moore on the list of B’s that won’t return before next season.
As a result of Miller missing Game 5 due to an injury sustained on a high hit from Dmitry Orlov in Game 4, Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one change to his lineup from Friday night’s, 4-1, win to Sunday evening– inserting Jarred Tinordi in Miller’s spot on the third defensive pairing.
Capitals head coach, Peter Laviolette, meanwhile replaced Michael Raffl with Daniel Sprong on his third line alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov at center and Tom Wilson at right wing.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players for Game 5 included Nick Wolff, Trent Frederic, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Moore, Kase, Jaroslav Halak, Kampfer, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Dan Vladar, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman and Miller.
Just like in Game 4, there were no goals in the first period in Game 5 as the two teams traded penalties throughout the opening frame.
Both clubs were short a skater and played 4-on-4 for a pair of minutes when Garnet Hathaway and Taylor Hall received roughing minors at 5:09 of the first period.
The Capitals later had the first power play of the night when David Pastrnak tripped up Justin Schultz at 6:46.
Just as the Bruins got back to full strength, they went on the skater advantage as Wilson cross checked Jake DeBrusk and cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:47.
Late in the period, Brad Marchand roughed up John Carlson and was assessed a roughing infraction at 16:14, but Washington couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.
Nor could they prior to the end of the first period as Craig Smith tripped Alex Ovechkin at 19:31, though the skater advantage stretched into the middle frame.
After one period, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Caps outshot the B’s, 10-9.
The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2), hits (12-7) and faceoff win percentage (58-42), while the Capitals led in takeaways (3-1). Both teams had two giveaways each.
Washington was 0/3 on the power play, while Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.
Mike Reilly sent a pass up to Pastrnak as No. 88 in black and gold proceeded to deke around Nic Dowd prior to cutting to the corner and pulling the NHL 94 wraparound the front of the slot move.
Pastrnak (1) slid the puck low around Samsonov’s left pad and gave Boston a, 1-0, lead at 2:28 of the second period.
Reilly (1) had the only assist on the goal and earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff point in the process.
Less than a minute later, Sprong got a hold on Tinordi and was sent to the box as a result at 3:48.
The Bruins failed to convert on the ensuing power play, however.
Late in the period, Pastrnak took a hit at the attacking zone blue line to make a play to Reilly who, in turn, gave it to Bergeron as Bergeron (2) entered the zone and wired a snap shot from the high slot below Samsonov’s blocker and into the back of the twine.
Reilly (2) and Pastrnak (4) tallied the assists as the Bruins extended their lead to, 2-0, at 14:05 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of action on Sunday night, Boston led on the scoreboard, 2-0, despite Washington holding the advantage in shots on goal, 30-13, including a, 20-4, advantage in the second period alone.
The Caps dominated in takeaways (7-2), giveaways (7-5), hits (24-19) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the B’s led in blocked shots (16-7).
Neither team had scored a goal on the power play through two periods as the Capitals were 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the skater advantage entering the second intermission.
Conor Sheary (1) scored on his own rebound off of a one-timed redirection 11 seconds into the third period to cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1.
T.J. Oshie (3) and Orlov (3) had the helpers on the goal as the Capitals jumped out to a hot start in the final frame.
Midway through the third, however, the Bruins rushed up the ice, had it broken up, but promptly forced a turnover that led to Bergeron (3) snapping a quick shot from the slot over Samsonov’s shoulder on the blocker side to give Boston another two-goal lead.
Bergeron’s unassisted goal made it, 3-1, for the Bruins at 12:25 of the third period.
Shortly thereafter, Reilly cross checked Oshie and was sent to the box at 12:45.
Washington thought they had a power-play goal to pull themselves back to within one as Lars Eller banked a shot off Rask and in from the goal line, but Kuznetsov had pushed Rask seconds prior to the would-be goal.
Despite Tinordi clearing Kuznetsov from the crease seconds later, Kuznetsov initiated the initial contact with the B’s goaltender and therefore negated the goal on the grounds of goaltender interference without a minor penalty attached to the play.
Late in the third, Sprong tripped Charlie McAvoy and presented Boston with one more power play at 16:18, but the Bruins took the opportunity to run the clock and play “keep away” from the Caps.
With 1:13 remaining in the action, Laviolette pulled Samsonov for an extra attacker but it was of no use.
At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-1, and eliminated the Capitals in five games.
Washington finished Sunday night’s effort on home ice leading in shots on goal, 41-19, including an, 11-6, advantage in the third period alone.
The Caps also led in giveaways (9-5), hits (36-26) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Boston finished the action leading in blocked shots (19-14).
Neither team scored a power play goal in Game 5, as Washington went 0/4 and Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage.
The Bruins won the series 4-1 and advance to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result where they will face the other MassMutual NHL East Division series winner between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders.
If Pittsburgh defeats New York in their series, the Penguins will have home ice in the Second Round. If the Islanders defeat the Penguins, the Bruins will have home ice in the Second Round.
In either case, as of May 29th, Boston will near or at full capacity at TD Garden in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 reopening policy.
Fans in attendance will still have to wear a mask when they aren’t eating or drinking inside the stadium in accordance with the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols.