"I'm not afraid of challenge," Zdeno Chara said on that hot July morning in 2006 when he was introduced as the newest and biggest member of the Bruins.

"I'm willing to lead by my example of hard work and dedication, discipline and drive. I want to bring this team on the winning track. I want us to be competitive for a (Stanley) Cup, and hopefully be champions."

While nobody would be so brazen to put it out there that Chara has been a bust during his five seasons with the team, the sobering reality, as any Bruins fan will tell you, is that the only time during the past four decades this town has cheered for the Stanley Cup was when a Colorado Avalanche defenseman named Raymond Bourque lugged the big goblet down to Government Center in 2001.

Chara, when he became a Bruin, was supposed to change all that. Just as Curt Schilling all but promised a World Series championship for the Red Sox when he arrived before the 2004 season, Chara stepped out of a cab and into a pledge: He was going to lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup.

Yet here we are, going on 39 years since the Bruins last won a Cup. And when the Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterffinals tonight at the Garden, it will be Chara's fifth opportunity to turn that pledge into a reality.

But now, more than ever, Chara has a chance to step up and become a Boston sports icon. This is his time, his golden opportunity, to book a seat on a duck boat. The catch, though, is that never before in his tenure has the spotlight been so focused on the 6-foot-9 defenseman. He is now, in the eyes of Montreal Canadiens fans, a card-carrying villain as the man whose vicious hit landed Max Pacioretty in the hospital. The defenseman now has a target on his back bigger than the 'C' on his chest.

To add to the controversy, there is the ongoing prattle about a criminal investigation being launched by the Montreal police. While this "criminal investigation" angle has a sort of Keystone Cops feel to it as we imagine clumsy, baton-wielding Montreal gendarmes rushing to the Bell Centre in an open-sided police van, it can't be easy for Chara.