All Zdeno Chara could do was sit and watch from the press box.
Without their 6-foot-9 captain (as well as Dennis Seidenberg) for their opening night matchup with the Winnipeg Jets, the Bruins entered Thursday without a viable top four defenseman.
The pairings in their 6-2 season opening loss were as follows:
Torey Krug-Adam Mcquaid
Joe Morrow-Kevan Miller
Matt Irwin-Zach Trotman
For a defense that was already thin to start the 2015-16 campaign, losing Chara, who is day to day with an upper body injury, was a problem that was too tall to overcome for the Black and Gold. Essentially, the Bruins blue-line had to play mistake free hockey against a young Jets squad that is looking to build off of their momentum from making the playoffs for the first time since their move from Atlanta.
Certainly this wasn’t anything new for head coach Claude Julien and company after a knee injury forced Chara to miss nearly two months of his 2014-15 season.
“Well we’ve dealt with that before, you know. We dealt with that last year. He was out for a while and you know you have to deal with those situations,” Julien said after Thursday’s morning skate. “And again my preoccupation can’t be about what I’m missing, but what I’ve got and what I’ve got tonight I think is good enough for us to win a hockey game. All we have to do is go out there and show it.”
For 20 minutes, it looked like Julien was on to something. The Bruins had several chances and capitalized early with David Krejci’s first of the year at 5:36 of the opening stanza. The D wasn’t too shabby either, only allowing six shots while creating their own opportunities in transition.
Then came the second and third where the mistakes piled up. From sloppy turnovers to communication breakdowns, the Bruins blue-line left Tuukka Rask out to dry.
“We had a really good first [period] and everyone was feeling good in between the first and the second and then things kind of snowballed from there,” said Miller, who delivered four hits in 22:26 of ice time Thursday night.
The snowball effect started in the second with Irwin (a -3 on the night) committing a turnover behind Rask that led to Blake Wheeler’s go-ahead goal at 9:17 of the second. It continued with Drew Stafford on the doorstep taking advantage of another B’s breakdown late in the middle stanza to give Winnipeg a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
That snowball seemed to lose steam when David Pastrnak pulled the Black and Gold within one early in the third. Still, the Bruins couldn’t get out of their own way and on this night the snowball became an avalanche after David Krejci lost a poke check battle and a streaking Chris Thorubrn skated past Irwin to beat Rask. That was the first of another stretch of three unanswered goals for Winnipeg.
“[These] can be easily avoided,” Patrice Bergeron said about the mistakes. “A few breakdowns, bad changes, stuff like that that can’t happen especially when you have a long [line] change. Our layers wren’t good enough, so, yeah, there were a lot of things that were our fault.”
Those breakdowns need to be corrected by Saturday when the Bruins welcome the hated Montreal Canadiens.
Perhaps there will be some good news in the form of a returning Chara. Even then, this young Bruins defense will be a work in progress.
“I mean, we have to. We have no other choice,” Krejci said about getting over Thursday’s loss and moving on to Saturday night vs. Habs. “We just have to take the positive out of this game and work on our defensive game because the second and third period wasn’t very good. Kind of work on it tomorrow and try to be better for Saturday.”