First of all, said Zdeno Chara, the job is a little more difficult than it may seem. A five-on-three power play, though offering acres of open ice, isn’t the NHL’s EZ-Pass to goal scoring.
“It’s not like you can get out there and just pass the puck around,” mused the Bruins captain, who saw rare power-play duty Saturday night, and aided a Patrice Bergeron power-play goal, in a 4-1 cakewalk over the Jets. “These days, the three guys on the kill are always very good players. They are in the passing lanes, and the straight-forward shooting lanes. So it’s not as easy as people think.”
It’s even harder, be it five-on-three, or five-on-four, for a player usually parked on the bench, which routinely has been Chara’s perch this season when the Bruins have gone on the attack. For years a mainstay on the man-advantage, Chara has had his average ice time for it this season drop to a paltry 0:22 per game — a wholesale collapse from the 5:13 he averaged in point duty during Claude Julien’s first season here in 1996-97.
However, Julien called upon his old point man late in the second period Saturday with the Boston lead at 2-0. With the Bruins gifted 44 seconds in five-on-three time at 16:19, Julien rolled Old Ironsides out of port, cannons polished and packed for blasting, and paired him with David Krejci for point duty.
Fearing Chara’s menacing slapper, which he still launches at over 100 miles an hour, Jets penalty killers Ben Chiarot, Adam Lowry, and Toby Enstrom shifted over to prevent him from taking unfettered aim on goalie Mike Hutchinson. Chara opted to pass right to Krejci. Krejci quick-dished a diagonal pass toward the left faceoff circle, and Bergeron put the hammer down on Boston’s first power-play goal in five games.
“There is a certain respect for his shot,’’ Julien noted Sunday. “They try to take that away from him. And in my estimation, it opens up other situations, as you saw.”
But Julien didn’t sound as though he’ll call on Chara’s sizzling shot as an attempt to reverse the club’s depressed power-play fortunes. Torey Krug and Krejci have been the point mainstays this season, backed lately by John-Michael Liles and Austin Czarnik.
The Bruins stand a lowly 22nd in the NHL on the power play, with a success rate of only 13.8 percent. Krejci has the lone power-play goal delivered by a Bruins point man this season. The Bruins have failed to score a PPG in 12 of their 18 games.
Employing Chara on the power play more routinely wouldn’t guarantee goals, but the threat of his shot alone could change the dynamic, and possibly the production, of the unit.
“I keep saying, you manage the team the best you can, you want to utilize the players the best you can,” Julien said. “You don’t want to overutilize players. It is a long year, so you kind of manage the ice time a little bit there, too.
“All I know is, he can definitely play on the power play. On the other hand, he is the best defender we have, as well. So you use the best strengths of a player and you know you can use him on the PP at time when you need him.”
Parceling out ice time is a legitimate concern, given that Chara, who turns 40 in March, still leads the club in average ice time at 23:26. He fatigued down the stretch last season, in part because the same was true of his regular partner, a banged-up Dennis Seidenberg.
This season, in the early going, Chara’s play is fresh and effective, thanks in no small part to how he has meshed with rookie standout Brandon Carlo as his partner. The two make for an imposing force on the No. 1 shutdown unit, and thus far Julien has chosen to make them spectators when the club goes on the man-advantage. He is not looking to mess with success.
Chara’s spirits were buoyed by his power-play time Saturday. He was grinning and animated as he talked with reporters after the game, defining in detail the intricacies of what makes for a successful power play in today’s game.
“You have to have quick one-touch [passes] to break the box,” he explained. “Any time you do that, then the guy who is getting the second pass is getting that extra second to make either a shot or play, so I think that is important.
“Because if you pass and stop the puck — pass, stop — the three or four guys in the box are good enough to adjust these days. But if you make a few one-touch, or find a seam, that is when you break it.”
His enthusiasm made obvious the answer to next question: Does he miss being out there?
“Yeah, I do,’’ he said. “I always say, I want to play all the situations. But that’s, you know . . .
“I am competitive guy, and obviously I want to help the team. But we obviously have [a unit] made of good players and I am just basically going to be patient and if the coaches decide to use me I will have to be ready.
“And I am going to do everything I can besides the power play to help the team. That’s how I look at it.”
He has a Stanley Cup. He is nearing 40, with a spot waiting for him in the Hall of Fame, and the time on his career is counting down. The seconds count now for Zdeno Chara. All the seconds, the ones he plays and the ones when he can only watch.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.