Boston Bruins: Silver lining amidst a storm of injuries

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 19: Ryan Donato
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 19: Ryan Donato /

The Boston Bruins are battling a cruel injury bug, but there may be a silver lining to the barrage of ailments plaguing the team.

The Boston Bruins haven’t been blessed with health so far this season as major injuries have sidelined several workhorses including Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Charlie McAvoy. Kevan Miller has been particularly unlucky as he is out again for at least a month after taking a puck to the throat on Monday in a tilt with Toronto. Miller just came back from a broken hand and provided some much-needed relief to the Bs’ banged up blue line. He was immediately fed big minutes, which helped propel the Bs on a successful short run over the past week.

The hits keep on coming, but the Boston Bruins are chugging along and somehow staying afloat in the Atlantic Division, which has exploded to become the best in the league. The Bruins undoubtedly need all these missing pieces back to stay in contention down the stretch, but their absences have provided some valuable NHL experience to a number of Bs prospects.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson

The Boston Bruins are currently carrying four prospects to band-aid their wounds. Of the group, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has struggled the most. With that said, he arguably assumes the most responsibility and had some big shoes to fill after a promotion to the first line. JFK has shown glimpses of greatness and recorded his first two NHL goals, but hasn’t been able to sustain a first-line level of play.

Bruce Cassidy decided to revert JFK back to third-line duty after his compete level was lacking against Toronto. Don’t give up on JFK yet though. He has been effective against more favorable match-ups with the third unit. Bruce Cassidy appears to trust in the development process of young players, and has said himself that “there will be growing pains”.

Colby Cave

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Colby Cave was impressive in his first three games of the season with the Boston Bruins, which came against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto Maple Leafs. He helped the Bruins secure four out of six points against these top-tier teams and was promoted to the first unit on Monday against the Leafs when JFK was moved down. He was no Bergeron, but carried a certain swagger between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak that was encouraging despite the loss. Although he has yet to register a point, his stat line is solid as he is +2 and winning 57% of faceoffs. With Cave winning the draws, Marchand and Pastrnak can hopefully keep their production at a high level to keep the Bruins in the hunt.

Jeremy Lauzon

Jeremy Lauzon has played the most games of any prospect this season with 12 and is making it hard for management to send him back to Providence. He showed some signs of struggle against the swift attack of Toronto on Monday, but it was his first experience trying to contain the Leafs high-octane offense that stretches the ice like no other. Again, any hiccups are bound to happen, and after a dozen games, he was due for some difficulty. He was hampered by a concussion last season in Providence, so flew under the radar a bit. However, the 52nd pick in the 2015 draft saw a long line of defenseman ahead of him suddenly disappear, and he has responded with an impressive start to his career.

He has been sound defensively, moves the puck, and competes hard, which will bode well for his future in Boston. He is breaking even so far and has captured his first NHL goal. It is clear he is gaining the trust of the coaching staff as his time on ice has risen to over a 15 minutes a game.

Connor Clifton

Connor Clifton has been a pleasant surprise. The former Quinnipiac captain and 5th round pick by Phoenix seized an unlikely opportunity by breaking onto the scene with his fists flying. This is something the Bruins need in the lineup, especially without Kevan Miller. Brad Marchand leads the team in fights this season, which probably makes Cassidy cringe.

Not only has Clifton been strong and physical protecting his end, he also moves the puck efficiently. Clifton doesn’t have a point to show for his effort, but is +3 and averaging over 17 minutes throughout his first 6 games.

Clearly he has also gained the trust of the coaching staff and passed the eye test to this point. Thank the hockey gods the Bruins have a physical young defenseman in the pipeline.

Next Up

Another prized prospect that may have a chance to make his mark soon is Ryan Donato. Jake Debrusk took a shot off the back of the head Monday and is day-to-day. Donato seemed to promise production when he debuted last season by submitting 9 points in 12 games (5 goals, 4 assists). However, he struggled to start this season and was sent to Providence after 11 games with only one goal. Since then, he’s racked up 9 points in 10 games (5 goals, 4 assists) in the minors. Hopefully, his scoring touch is back and carries over to the NHL.

Bruins Bright Future

For all the talk of Toronto and Tampa as the teams of the future int he east, I counter with the Bruins’ depth in their prospect pool. The Bruins currently boast the leading goal scorer in the NHL who is 22 years old, David Pastrnak, as well as the next best puck moving defenseman in Charlie McAvoy at 20. Along with these two cornerstones, there are many more prospects chomping at the bit to crack the lineup and make their mark on the Bs.

Some are already becoming part of the team’s core such as Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and Danton Heinen. It is tempting to call for a trade at this point, but is it worth moving young talent or high draft picks to get an expensive scorer in return?

Next. Key Contracts Looming for the Bruins. dark

There isn’t much cap room with some significant signings already on the horizon. The Bruins future is bright and should only get brighter, if the shot callers play their cards right.