Analyzing Zdeno Chara's big mistake 

June, 6, 2011

Alex Burrows' overtime goal in Game 2 in Vancouver was a stunner. It's not every day that you see a former East Coast Hockey Leaguer get a game-winning and maybe championship-turning goal with a solo effort on the game's biggest stage. It's also not every day that you see a Norris Trophy winner and a Vezina finalist beaten so embarrassingly.

For Burrows, it was a daring play to be sure and, with eight goals -- among them a Game 7 overtime winner in the opening round against Chicago -- he deserves to at least be in the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy. But it was Zdeno Chara that caught my attention.

Everyone in the game knows that Chara is the biggest player in the NHL and most know, or at least suspect, that he's the strongest. But on Burrows' goal add another superlative, one that is a bit more subjective but certainly true: most exhausted. Chara was on the ice for more than 28 minutes for the second game in a row and it would have been more if he hadn't been sent to the box for an interference call in the first for the Canucks' first goal scored by the ubiquitous Burrows. Chara leads all skaters in ice time in these playoffs with an average of 28:17, marginally above defensive partner Dennis Seidenberg and a fair bit ahead of Kevin Bieksa.

If you adjusted for ice time as a percentage of team-minutes-played -- an overtime adjustment --the workload for the two Boston defenseman would seem heavier still in comparison to their opponents'. And the thing is, Chara has to expend a lot more energy pushing his listed 255 pounds around the ice -- his real weight has been one of hockey's greatest guessing games because he is almost certainly 10, and maybe 20, pounds heavier than the conservative number that appears in the program. And you have to think that the effects of his bout with dehydration that sent him to hospital in the first round.

Gare Joyce is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine.