Bruins encounter blue-line dilemma as playoffs approach
Minor injuries and scratches aside, the Bruins played 80 games with a healthy blue-line.
They were not so fortunate to finish with that same health in Games 81 and 82. And now, they are left with a dilemma entering next week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There is no timetable for the returns of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Krug exited Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators due to a lower body injury. Two days later, Brandon Carlo left during the first period of the B’s 3-1 regulation loss to the Washington Capitals following a borderline hit from Alex Ovechkin that went uncalled. Carlo’s injury was deemed to be of the upper-body variety.
Both the Senators and the Capitals are potential first round opponents depending on what the Leafs do against the Penguins and Blue Jackets. With a win and an overtime appearance, the Bruins will drop to the second wild card spot and face the juggernaut Caps in the nation’s capital next week. Anything less than three points for Toronto means the B’s will begin the playoffs in the Canadian capital against the Sens.
“He’s upper body,” interim coach Bruce Cassidy said about Carlo’s status postgame. “Obviously, we’ll see where he’s at [in the next few days]. Didn’t look good when it happened.”
“Well I didn’t like it,” the former Caps bench boss added about Ovechkin’s hit on Carlo. “I don’t think it was intentional. It looked like [Ovechkin] held up, but he still grabbed him and [Carlo] was in a vulnerable spot and he went head first into the glass, and generally, there’s a call on that. Sometimes two [minutes] and sometimes five. To have no call at all I thought was wrong, but I don’t think there was intent to injure the way I saw it.”
Intent to injure or not, the Bruins lost one of three players who played in all 82 games in 2016-17 – the other two being David Krejci and Dominic Moore. Entering Thursday, Krug was one of four to skate in 81 games before he went down against the Sens.
Injuries are a part of the game, and they are coming at an inopportune time for Cassidy and company to say the least. The Bruins have Joe Morrow as the spare defenseman. He only skated in 17 games in 2016-17 and hasn’t suited up in a Spoked B jersey since January 22nd in Pittsburgh.
Of course, there’s always the option for GM Don Sweeney to burn the first year of Charlie McAvoy’s entry level contract. Without any regular season experience at the NHL level, Sweeney may have his hand forced to burn that first year and insert him in a top-four role.
Either way, the Bruins blue-line is hurting.
“I think you just got to step up. We have Joe [Morrow] there he’s been practicing all season and he’s been ready a long time,” Colin Miller, who scored the Bruins’ only goal on Saturday, said about the team’s defensive depth taking a hit. “He’s ready to step into the lineup and hopefully he gets the opportunity.
Even when Brad Marchand returns from his two-game suspension, beating the Caps or the Sens is a tall task in and of itself, especially with a 0-5-2 combined mark during the regular season. Doing so without two of their top-four defensemen? Well, let’s just say those odds of a first round upset have significantly decreased.
But those are the cards the Bruins have been dealt.
“Everybody has to do well, everybody has to do their best,” said captain Zdeno Chara. “No matter who it is and who you play, if you want to succeed you have to be at your best. You have to do whatever it takes and that’s the bottom line. It’s going to be a battle and that’s why it’s best of seven.”