Zdeno Chara approaching elite company among Boston Bruins defensemen

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Zdeno Chara approaching elite company among Boston Bruins defensemen
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Like Eddie Shore and Bobby Orr before him, Zdeno Chara has bolstered the Boston Bruins en route to a Stanley Cup. And he figures to have at least five or six more opportunities to garner a second championship ring, which would tie him with those VIPs.

As early as this Wednesday, he could join Orr and Ray Bourque as the only Bruins with multiple Norris Trophies on the shelf. And whether he is a victor or runner-up this time, odds are he will still accumulate a few more.

Is it time for Bruins fans to break out their mental granite and let Zdeno Chara complete the Mt. Rushmore of Boston’s best all-time defensemen?

Maybe so, or maybe not just yet. Regardless, Chara’s candidacy for such revered status is as viable as ever.

The time-honored special attention to tough defense amongst Bruins buffs matches that of captivating left fielders in the annals of Red Sox Nation. And Chara will likely go down as a much more wholesome follow-through on Shore, Orr and Bourque than Manny Ramirez ultimately was in succeeding Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice.

Outline the defining traits of each of the three Hall of Famers and the current captain is boasting at least one of them in the afterglow of last week’s victory―if he wasn’t beforehand.

Shore set the precedent for burly Bruins’ bluelining within the franchise’s first decade-and-a-half of existence. And while Chara will never match Shore’s commonplace feat of playing an entire 60-minute contest, his nightly average of 25-plus minutes played is equally impressive in today’s game.

Like Orr, Chara came from a comparatively successful Ontario team (one from OHL Oshawa, the other NHL Ottawa) to a floundering Boston franchise. Granted, Orr’s Bruins required only three seasons to build up from non-playoff to championship status, whereas Chara’s took five. Then again, the revolution built around Orr took place in a time when the NHL had 12 teams, as opposed to the 30-team circuit it has been throughout this young century.

Since coming to Boston, Chara has played in 443 out of 456 possible games. That’s not even counting the four consecutive All-Star Games he has appeared in. That level of durability during the season, and the regularity at the mid-season exhibition both put him on a par with Bourque.

Ditto his burgeoning leadership qualities. It was naturally perplexing when Chara was anointed team captain three days before he made his Bruins’ debut in October 2006. And it didn’t help to be overworked by fellow newcomer Dave Lewis, who was shrewdly shooed out of the Garden after one blunder-struck season as head coach.

With incumbent skipper Claude Julien, though, Chara has personified the team by exponentially endearing himself to the New England fan base. Four years removed from one more playoff no-go and an uncharacteristic minus-21 rating, Chara had a league-best plus-33 rating this banner season.

Compare that stat to his fellow Norris nominees. Nashville’s Shea Weber was a plus-7 while six-time honoree Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings finished at minus-2.

Naturally, additional factors will have to go into the final vote. But especially given everyone’s respectable offensive output, Chara’s runaway rating suggests he did his day job the best.

And again, even if he does not add another individual accolade right away, Chara is already a certified championship captain. In the coming seasons, he will wear that irremovable label while he continues to dish out the same peerless presence that Bruins fans have salivated over since the Shore years.

Shore played in a pre-Norris Trophy, pre-plus/minus era. Orr never wore the “C” over his heart. And Bourque couldn’t corral the Cup until he transferred to Colorado.

Still, all three speak for themselves in their own way as Bruins legends.

Chara is somewhat of a different animal from the aforementioned. But just the same, he has the right formula and is on the right pace to join their pantheon.

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