Climbing Mount Chara: Eric Staal Meeting the Challenge

Ken YongContributor IMay 9, 2009

RALEIGH, NC - MAY 08:  Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates during a break against the Boston Bruins during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at RBC Center on May 8, 2009 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Is there a more hyperbolic one-on-one matchup than the battle going on between the Hurricanes' Eric Staal and arguably the best—and certainly the most intimidating—d-man in the league, Boston's 6' 9" behemoth, Zdeno Chara?

All the talk after Game One was about how Hurricane's head coach Paul Maurice would need to devise a strategy to keep Staal away from Chara. And the Hurricane's did make some adjustments in Game Two to that end.

However, it was also clear to both Maurice and Staal that there was no dodging the inevitable: If they were to take this series, the road was through Chara.

Staal has so far remained unfazed, undeterred, and most importantly, unfatigued by the challenge. It's hard to imagine lugging that puck up ice and seeing that Goliath daring you to cross his blue line, knowing you're almost certainly going to be physically punished. It's almost inconceivable to do it over and over again, while retaining the kind of single minded intensity that Staal has brought to each and every shift.

The sheer determination displayed has been awe inspiring. And shift by shift, hit by hit, Staal has been able to will his way through Chara, carrying his team with him.

The series now shifts to Boston on Sunday, and while Staal's success against Chara has the Canes on the verge of another Eastern Conference Finals birth, the Bruins and their leader will be hoping that for Staal, the mountain is just a little too steep, the summit just a little too far.