WASHINGTON — They greeted him with head pats and shoulder taps, respectful nods and adoring words.
Those who knew him the best, or felt the strongest connections, wrapped their arms around him in full. Some of it was a bit awkward. Zdeno Chara went for a handshake, but Charlie McAvoy wanted a hug.
“It was obviously a lot of emotion going through,” David Pastrnak said after seeing Chara, the 44-year-old former Bruins captain, in the traditional end-of-series handshake line. “Zdeno is a guy that helped me grow up as a person and especially how to be a pro. It was a little emotional, but can’t wait to catch up and hope to see him back home at the end of this. The emotion was high and can’t thank him enough.”
Chara was not available to the media after Game 5, the end of his first season in D.C. Without a contract for next season, it is unclear if the big man will play a 24th season. Chara averaged 16:16 in the series, lowest among his club’s defensemen and 12th among all skaters. He went 0-0—0, was plus-1, and landed five shots.
“We’ve had so many battles together,” said his successor as captain, Patrice Bergeron. “It was definitely different to play him in a playoff series. Obviously we played against each other all year. Kind of helped getting used to it for the playoffs, but that being said, it’s always different at that time of the year. Try not to think about it, try to play your game and concentrate on what we can do as a team. I definitely feel great to finish it off right away tonight.”
Coach Bruce Cassidy said he exchanged a “quick hello.” Tuukka Rask was “saying good job, and that’s it. It’s after a game, so there’s not too many words exchanged there.”
Skating away from the line, his face stoic, Chara shook the hand of every official. He gathered with his new teammates to salute the fans, and waited by the gate for Alex Ovechkin. The captain, as Chara knows, is always the last one off the ice.
What’s next for Ovechkin?
Chara isn’t the only player with the uncertain future for the Capitals, who lost their third first-round series since winning the Cup in 2018. Ovechkin, 35, is without a contract for next season.
“We just lost in a playoff series,” he said afterward. “Let’s talk about my contract and all those stuff later on.”
First-year Caps coach Peter Laviolette said he’d “like to think” Ovechkin, who signed a 13-year, $124 million deal in 2008, would return.
“This is his team,” Laviolette said. “And he feels the disappointment just like everybody else does tonight. So for me coming in here, not having that opportunity to work with him before, I thought it was a good year for him and a good year for our team and we’re disappointed with the playoffs and the way they unfolded.”
Bergeron ties Middleton
Bergeron (45 career playoff goals) tied Rick Middleton for third-most in Bruins history … Cassidy tied Don Cherry (31 wins) for third in franchise playoff history. In second place is Art Ross (32) … Over the final six periods of the series, the Bruins’ penalty kill allowed 11 shots on 11 power plays … Earning their first Round of 16 series win: Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly and Curtis Lazar. Hall, who had a power play breakaway in the second but lost the handle, was involved with two series with the Coyotes (2020, including a play-in round victory) and one with the Devils (2018, his MVP season). Lazar made the playoffs as a rookie with the Senators in 2015. Reilly (two assists on Sunday) is getting his first taste … Rask on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goalie interference penalty: “Looking at that replay, it was pretty obvious that’s no goal” … In the first period, McAvoy stepped up on Tom Wilson, dropping both men with a thunderclap that could be heard across the ice, in the media’s digs in the 200 level. It sounded like a running back meeting a safety in the open field. McAvoy (game-high 25:14) blocked six shots … Jarred Tinordi grappled with Chara at 5:09 of the first, after the former Bruins captain dropped Craig Smith with a clean hit. Neither big man was penalized. Tinordi, making his series debut, laid four hits and blocked three shots in 18:20 … In the Tinordi-Chara dustup, Hall and Garnet Hathaway exchanged punches to the face and were whistled for roughing … Some of the Black and Gold faithful among the 5,333 in attendance started a “Let’s Go Bruins” chant in the opening minutes. It was swiftly drowned out by boos. Later attempts were met with less resistance.