There’s a famous adage amongst NHL general managers and coaches that “You can never have enough D” and right now the Boston Bruins are the perfect proof of how true that is.
Time To Scout Defense Too
On Tuesday, we gave you a list of left-handed defensemen that could be potential free agent rentals for the Boston Bruins should they decide to add some defensive depth before the February 25 NHL trade deadline. While defense is a position of strength and depth for the Bruins – who when healthy and even injured at times, have proven to be a Stanley Cup contender thus far – general manager Don Sweeney and his pro scouting staff may soon add another depth defenseman that can eat some minutes up to their trade wish list. There’s no doubt a top-six winger remains the priority but given the way the Bruins defensive well is being tested right now, it wouldn’t hurt to have another experienced blueliner for another potential run to the Stanley Cup Final.
When healthy, the Bruins have one of the deepest and most balanced blue lines in the NHL and obviously the potential of a Kevan Miller return will add more depth, but what if he doesn’t come back? The Bruins could go internal and give Jeremy Lauzon, just recalled from the Providence Bruins Monday, a long hard look depending on how long Connor Clifton (upper-body) is out. They may also bring top blue line prospect Urho Vaakanainen up I-95 for another look should they need to. If Lauzon and Vaakanainen don’t prove to be ready for the grind of a stretch run and the playoffs though, and Miller can’t return, what then? That and the recent rash of injuries has likely reminded Sweeney, a defenseman himself, that cap-permitting, it wouldn’t hurt to at least be exploring the rental options on the market as we get closer to the deadline.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy did give some good news following the disappointing 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils Tuesday as he told the media Krug looks like a green light for the Bruins tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden tomorrow night. He also said McAvoy isn’t too far behind.
“I can’t speak for where they’re all at because I didn’t see them today, but my guess is Torey will be ready to go,” a rightfully frustrated Cassidy said. “Charlie could be, but I think Torey was farther along.”
Clifton however, maybe a bit longer.
Blue Line Worn Down
By no means should the Bruins defense absorb all the blame for the Bruins complete collapse, blowing a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils Tuesday. This was a collective failure and the entire roster needs to correct whatever led them to basically stop playing once they took a 2-0 lead 4:27 into the second period. That being said, it was clear from here that the depleted blue line finally came back to earth and succumbed to extra minutes and having to adapt with three regulars out of the lineup. Losing Steven Kampfer as well in the second period after he blocked a shot, was just salt in the wound.
The Bruins blue line held up without Krug and McAvoy — both on injured reserve — in their two-game sweep of a back-to-back set with the Buffalo Sabres Friday and Sunday. As if those key losses weren’t enough, they lost Clifton as well in Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Sabres just as the rookie defenseman was starting to find his game and help fill the void left without McAvoy and Krug. With Lauzon joining the fray, the Bruins blue line still appeared to be in another zone and playing their simplified (due to injuries) system to perfection. When the B’s made it 2-0 on a Joakim Nordstrom goal, it seemed like they’d go into full Clash Clampdown on the Devils and be on their way to a victorious New Year’s Eve bash to ring in 2020. Based on the way the game went from there maybe the Bruins were looking ahead to that, but it was also clear they were wearing down.
“We just didn’t have enough urgency, puck management, decision making, I think those go together,” Cassidy said. “We gave them some easy opportunities and couldn’t get out of our end…they had a lot of life in the third. They’re at home, they want to do well. They just had more will than us in the third, that’s for sure.”
The Bruins just stopped being aggressive, got lazy with the puck and forced plays that weren’t there. It’s hard to criticize them though considering their ever-growing MASH squad, but it was if they just said to Jaro Halak, “Carry us home man and we owe ya, buddy!” and that’s what Jaro did making 42 saves and four more in the shootout. However, the Bruins still needed at least a few more good shifts or anything to stem the wave of momentum from the Devils after the Nordstrom goal and they never got it.
“It’s frustrating,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We kind of sat back and they were doing some of what we want to do to other teams, just a quick chip out of their zone with speed. They were getting some good O-zone time because of that. I think they simplified their game and got some good results….we spent too much time our zone.”
Chara’s Minutes Too High
Good on the Bruins to own their mental breakdowns but mental breakdowns can derive from fatigue and the Bruins looked drained in the last two periods. Truth be told, they looked the same way from large portions of the win over the Sabres Sunday. As expected the minutes were playoff hockey like for captain Zdeno Chara – who led all skaters with 27:50 TOI – and for Brandon Carlo, who came in at 27:22 by the shootout. Chara wracked up two blocked shots and Carlo helped set up Nordstrom’s goal. Matt Grzlcyk was all in with an assist and a blocked shot in 23:41 TOI and John Moore played two minutes more than his average time on ice. The extra workload appeared to finally catch up and the bottom three and then two, struggled.
Chara is capable of logging those minutes still and he and Carlo held the fort down the best they could, but Chara isn’t 23 like Carlo, he’s 42. While he keeps himself in shape like fellow 40-something Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, he’s still human and these extra minutes are best reserved for the playoffs. If this recent rash of injuries on the blue line were to happen in late April or May, Tuesday was a harsh reminder that yes, you really can never have enough D!