Boston Bruins: What’s with all the early-season injuries?

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 08: Goaltender Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins covers the puck as Anthony Mantha #39 of the Detroit Red Wings looks for the rebound while being defended by Connor Clifton #75 of the Bruins during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on November 8, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 08: Goaltender Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins covers the puck as Anthony Mantha #39 of the Detroit Red Wings looks for the rebound while being defended by Connor Clifton #75 of the Bruins during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on November 8, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Bruins only had 11 healthy forwards against the Red Wings. Here’s why a lengthy report proves to be a difficult problem.

The Boston Bruins lost to the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 Friday night. The loss came as a surprise given where both teams are in the standings. The Bruins lead the Atlantic Division, while the Red Wings are in last place.

However, look at how the Bruins lined up against Detroit:

Do you notice anything out of the ordinary? The Bruins scratched Brett Ritchie because of an injury, so they only dressed 11 forwards.

Steven Kampfer dressed as a seventh defenseman, but he didn’t even see the ice. So, Boston took on Detroit with only 17 total skaters.

That’s no excuse for the lackluster effort against the Red Wings. Even with a shortened bench, the Bruins should not lose that game. They are by far the better team, whether or not Ritchie or any other forward occupies that bottom-six spot.

That said, the lineup in Detroit definitely highlights a big early-season question: what’s with all the injuries in Boston’s forward group?

Could it be the result of a short offseason? The Bruins come off a long playoff run, and they return with largely the same lineup. Or is it simply bad luck?

The Bruins currently have six forwards on the injured list: Ritchie, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Joakim Nordstrom, Karson Kuhlman, and Par Lindholm.

DeBrusk’s injury is the most concerning given his place in the lineup. As the second-line wing, the Bruins rely on DeBrusk for secondary scoring behind that top line. He recently started to heat up, so the Bruins definitely feel his absence.

The other guys may not individually make an impact like DeBrusk, but all together they are a problem. With so many bottom-six players out, Boston’s lineup is stretched thin.

Let’s use the Detroit game as an example. Not only did the Bruins only have 11 forwards; a few of these forwards didn’t even get much ice time. Zach Senyshyn only saw 7:58 minutes of ice time, while Sean Kuraly had 11:10.

Even Peter Cehlarik, who started in DeBrusk’s spot on the second line, was out there for 12:07. It’s tough to win when the coach doesn’t trust a top-six wing to play more than 12 minutes.

What this means is that Bruce Cassidy had to overwork the top forwards. He double-shifted David Pastrnak quite a bit, so Pastrnak played over 23 minutes. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand also had more than 20 minutes in ice time.

That much ice time is a lot for a regular season game, and it’s definitely unsustainable. Cassidy can’t continue to roll out his best forwards 20 minutes a game night in and night out.

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Whether or not the injuries are bad luck or a byproduct of last season’s lengthy playoff run, one thing’s clear: the Bruins need to get healthy soon. Otherwise, they could face some tough stretches ahead.