As of yesterday, Zdeno Chara was fifth among NHL defensemen in scoring. The Bruin captain’s 5-13-18 line equaled the output of Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville’s Shea Weber, his two fellow finalists for the Norris Trophy last season.
“My job is always to shut down top lines every game - that’s the No. 1 job to me,’’ Chara said. “Anything above that, it’s a plus. Any time I can help the team offensively and contribute at the other side of the ice, it’s a big plus.’’
Had Chara continued to flicker offensively as he did at the start of the season, he might not have hit 18 points by the All-Star break. After six games, he had submitted a 0-0-0 line. Perhaps appropriately, the Bruins were 2-4-0.
The team’s fortunes have changed since Chara has been racking up numbers on the scoresheet. During the team’s 14-game point streak, Chara (4-10-14) has been a point-per-game player.
Last night, Chara triggered the Bruins’ first goal by thumping Phil Kessel along the boards. Seconds later, Nathan Horton fed David Krejci for the opening strike. Chara wasn’t credited with an assist, but the Bruins wouldn’t have scored without his pinch-and-pop move on Kessel.
Chara has been most dangerous on the power play. Of his 18 points, 7 (three goals, four assists) have been on the power play. He has been manning the right point alongside Dennis Seidenberg, whose first priority is to dish pucks to his partner for blistering one-timers.
“That’s our goal,’’ Seidenberg said. “He’s our biggest weapon. You want to give the puck to him.
“He’s been getting his one-timers off, which we want to do. But also, we have to get better at moving the puck a little more cleanly and putting it on the tape. That makes it a lot easier for the other guys to create stuff down low, and if Z’s up top, giving it back to him.’’
Chara’s short-lived stay down low on the power play last year seems like a decade ago. Because the Bruins had so much trouble generating man-advantage scoring chances, the coaching staff designated Chara for net-front duty. He also had been used down low during six-on-five end-of-game situations. In Ottawa, Chara had also served as a net-front presence during two-man advantages.
Given how effective Chara has been at the point, it’s a good bet he won’t be shifting to the front of the net soon.
But that’s also a reflection on the improvement of the team’s forwards. Coach Claude Julien emphasizes seamless play between his point men and down-low shooters. Because Tyler Seguin (6 power-play points), Milan Lucic (three PP goals), and Nathan Horton (three PPGs as well) have been more dangerous down low, Chara has had more room to grip and rip.
“Some of the opportunities have to come from other places,’’ said Julien. “Tyler on the half-wall’s done a great job for us there. Looch in front of the net and other guys. We’ve moved some guys around. [Patrice] Bergeron finds the right people to pass to.
“With Zdeno where he is right now, it allows him to take his shot whenever he’s open. If they pay too much attention to him, then there’s something else open. At one point last year, we just felt that once they closed off a certain area of our power play, we didn’t have the strength to take advantage of another area. This year, it’s been a lot better.’’
First fight for Corvo
The Bruins were leading, 4-1, last night. There were just over five minutes remaining in regulation. Toronto’s Joey Crabb had belted Joe Corvo with what the Bruins defenseman believed was a questionable hit. So, in his 592d career game, Corvo did what he hadn’t done for his 591 previous appearances: drop the gloves.
“I’m not scoring goals,’’ Corvo said with a smile. “So I’ve got to do something to try and stand out or do something positive. I’ll just fight my way out of this, I guess.’’
Corvo is better known for his scoring touch than his fists. Entering last night, Corvo had 79 career goals and not a single five-minute major. But for some reason, Corvo’s shots - he took two last night, giving him 55 on the year - haven’t been finding the back of the net.
In contrast, several of Corvo’s punches found Crabb’s face. The fight ended when the linesmen broke up the scrap along the boards. Shawn Thornton delivered Corvo’s stick and gloves to the defenseman while he was in the box, no doubt delivering an attaboy for notching his first fight.
“It’s amazing how calm you become when you’re right in it,’’ Corvo said. “You don’t know what to expect. But you’re pretty calm.’’
To Corvo’s recollection, he fought several times in the AHL and a handful of times in the ECHL.
“He could have easily walked away from that and let it be,’’ Julien said. “But he’s seen our team, how we handle ourselves, and how we solve our issues on our own. We don’t wait for anyone else to do it.’’
Kampfer, Caron recalled
The Bruins promoted Steven Kampfer and Jordan Caron after last night’s win. Both had been assigned to Providence Thursday. Caron scored a goal in Providence’s 5-4 shootout loss to Manchester last night. They will accompany the team on its two-game road swing to Pittsburgh and Winnipeg . . . Patrice Bergeron won 19 of 23 faceoffs . . . Former Bruins prospect Joe Colborne, making his first NHL appearance at TD Garden, had one shot and four hits in 13 minutes 59 seconds of ice time. Colborne jousted several times with Adam McQuaid.