The Boston Bruins defensemen are picking up injuries and piling on minutes at an unsustainable rate. The strain already cost them one playoff game. And if they don’t get a blue-liner back soon, the Bruins will be watching the second round from their couches.
After winning Game 1, the Boston Bruins dropped Game 2 in Ottawa 4-3 in overtime. Sure, the Bruins earned a split on the road and are coming home for the next two tilts. But the way they lost Game 2 and what it portends should concern every Bruins fan.
Holding a 3-1 lead with 14:33 to play in the third period, the Bruins were in command. And then they weren’t. Ottawa’s Chris Wideman brought the Senators within one goal with a seeing-eye wrister. Then, two minutes later, Erik Karlsson skated circles around the Bruins zone and found Derick Brassard open for a game-tying one-timer.
It was around the time of Wideman’s goal that the Bruins lost their legs, got fatigued, and simply couldn’t keep up with Ottawa any longer. They chased the puck and allowed the Sens to do just about anything they wanted. The Bruins looked outright gassed. They allowed the Senators to dominate the final 15 minutes of the game. And with a scant 13 seconds on the clock, an exhausted, 40-year-old Zdeno Chara made what would be a fatal mistake. Trying to relieve the unending pressure Ottawa applied in the Bruins’ zone, Chara flipped the puck into the stands instead of off the boards and down the ice – a two-minute minor delaying game penalty.
The game-winner in overtime came off the stick of Dion Phaneuf seconds after the man advantage expired with the Sens still set up in the Bruins zone. It was an unofficial power play goal.
Injuries to the defense corp are killing the Bruins. Fully half of their defensemen are hurt and out of the lineup. That is devastating and occurring at the absolute worst possible time.
The recent blue-line medical woes began against these same Ottawa Senators back on April 6 when Torey Krug went into a turn awkwardly and wrenched his knee. He’s been out ever since.
Yesterday, interim head coach Bruce Cassidy told the Boston Globe, “With Torey, again, it’s day-to-day, we can’t speculate on him.”
In the regular season finale two days later against the Capitals, Brandon Carlo took a hit from Alexander Ovechkin while careening sideways into the boards. He suffered an upper-body injury but seems to be healing more quickly than Krug.
“With Brandon, we are hopeful he will be in sooner than later,” said Cassidy.
Next to fall was Colin Miller. He banged knees with Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki in Game 1 and left the game after the first period. Miller sat out Game 2. The Boston Globe reports Miller could be back for Monday’s Game 3.
As if that wasn’t enough, in Game 2 defensive stalwart Adam McQuaid was run into the boards on an interference penalty by old friend Alex Burrows. After logging just 2:47 of ice time, McQuaid left the game.
The Bruins called up Joe Morrow for Game 2 and may have to dip into the Providence Bruins roster for more help come Game 3.
Increased Playing Time
What this rash of injuries has meant for those still on skates is an unacceptable jump in playing time and a corresponding level of fatigue late in games.
As-green-as-it-gets rookie Charlie McAvoy acquitted himself well in his first two NHL games. But his time-on-ice (TOI) can’t be what Cassidy and general manager Don Sweeney envisioned for him. According to hockey-reference.com, McAvoy logged 24:11 TOI in Game 1, 27:47 in Game 2. That is a borderline-irresponsible amount of playing time for someone who hadn’t played a single minute in the NHL prior to Game 1.
Kevan Miller skated for 21:20 in Game 1, and 27:29 in Game 2. Miller averaged 17:48 over the course of the regular season. Chara averaged 23:20 during the season, but skated for 25:32 in the first game, and a whopping 30:09 in the second. There are only 10 defensemen who logged more minutes over the first two games of the playoffs, and none of them are 40-years-old. In fact, only one of them is even close, 38-year-old Montreal Canadien Andrei Markov with a two-game average TOI of 28:24.
Only John-Michael Liles saw his TOI drop from Game 1 to 2, 16:40 to 13:55.
Krug, Carlo, C. Miller, and McQuaid averaged 21:36, 20:49, 15:49, and 18:15 TOI, respectively, in 2016-17. That is a lot of minutes for the remaining defensemen to soak up. But soak them up they did, and the team paid the price.Unless the Bruins defense gets healthy very quickly, expect more late-game collapses and mistakes like the ones that cost them Game 2.