On Wednesday night, Zdeno Chara returned to Boston after an illustrious 15-year tenure with the Bruins. Without fans in attendance at TD Garden, his former team still provided an appropriate welcome back montage after the first TV timeout.
“It sucks that there weren’t any fans there,” goaltender Tuukka Rask said of Chara’s return. “We lived through all those moments together, but it unfortunately wasn’t as emotional as it would’ve been if fans had been there.”
After the tribute, the Bruins and Washington Capitals proceeded to the business at hand.
Chara’s current team came to Causeway St. hoping to extend their cushion over the Bruins in the East Division standings. They now sit three points ahead after a heavy contest between the two sides.
Here’s what we learned after Washington’s 2-1 shootout win.
Rask saved the Bruins’ bacon
The Bruins will have a few extra bumps and bruises following a physical battle with the Caps. Aside from showcasing their muscle, the Bruins looked a little off in the attacking end and even defensively at times.
The Capitals tested Rask in pivotal moments. They capitalized on a Sean Kuraly third-period turnover with Lars Eller tying things up at 1-1 less than five minutes after David Pastrnak finished a 2-on-1 for his 10th goal of the season.
Rask did all he could to steal a victory. His highlight reel stacked-pad stop on Alex Ovechkin in a 1-1 game and a pair of sensational saves in overtime on Dimitri Orlov and Nicklas Backstrom. But his teammates couldn’t secure his 300th career victory on a frustrating offensive night capped off by Jakub Vrana’s shootout winner.
“They’re a heavy team and they’re skilled skating,” Rask said of the Capitals, a team he’s struggled with over his career. “They’re built a similar way that we’re built too, so it’s always a tight matchup over there and it’s tough to find space.”
Ovechkin witnesses Trent Frederic’s abrasiveness
Frederic has goaded a who’s who of notable names into fights or untimely penalties without crossing the proverbial fine line. He added one of the marquee names to his hit list.
Some may question why Frederic made a run at Ovechkin in a couple of instances. After all, Ovechkin didn’t drop the gloves with Frederic in their initial rendevous. But Frederic kept poking at Ovechkin and eventually the future Hall of Famer had enough.
Upon Frederic’s initial cross-check, Ovechkin speared the former Wisconsin winger in the “Badgers.” Washington’s captain had a prototypical night with 16 shot attempts — five landing on net — and six hits in 23:13 of ice time. But taking one of the most prolific goal scorers out of the game even for two minutes made Frederic’s effort worthwhile.
“He’s come into the league and decided he’s going to be an agitator to a certain extent, but keep his discipline, so he’s not putting us at a disadvantage,” Bruce Cassidy said of Frederic. “I think he’s done a good job of it.”
Frederic’s abrasive style hasn’t haunted the Bruins yet. His offensive skillset is slowly coming along as well. He’ll remain a keeper with each attempt to round out his traits. With firsthand experience, Marchand echoed that sentiment.
“He’s been doing a great job so far,” Marchand added. “You know, he’s in other people’s faces every single game. He’s tough, he’s physical and he’s got some touch around the net…you know, he just has to toe that line, and he has. He really hasn’t stepped over it. You know, he draws Ovi [Ovechkin] into a penalty tonight — which is their best player — so you get him off the ice and it’s a win for him.”
Charlie Coyle’s status puts lineup in flux
The NHL announced Coyle’s addition to the COVID protocol list about an hour and a half before puck drop. The Bruins found out about Coyle’s status midday according to Cassidy. The announcement came rather untimely on a night where David Krejci and Matt Grzelcyk returned to the lineup and Jared Tinordi made his Boston debut.
The Bruins planned on Coyle centering Trent Frederic and Craig Smith for Wednesday’s matchup. His late scratch forced Cassidy’s hand, prompting Jack Studnicka — originally slated for fourth-line duty — to Coyle’s spot with Frederic and a struggling Jake DeBrusk. With the latter moving down a spot, Smith skated with Krejci and Nick Ritchie with Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Anders Bjork rounding out the fourth line.
The Bruins could’ve used Coyle to balance out the lineup. Instead, they had their first name added to the COVID protocol list this season.
But Cassidy may have another decision on his hands for Friday. DeBrusk, Bjork, Kuraly and Wagner have all struggled of late. Bjork and Wagner both sat in Sunday’s win against the Rangers. DeBrusk and Kuraly could use a game or two watching from afar.
Kuraly could hit the UFA market at the end of the season. DeBrusk and Bjork, despite inking contract extensions last year, both find themselves on the trade rumor mill. Coyle’s return, whenever that takes place, will likely prompt one of them out of the lineup. Neither stepped up in Coyle’s absence on a night where the Bruins could’ve used a spark from their secondary scorers.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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