When the Boston Bruins host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, their defense will likely look much different than it has through their first nine games.
By the 9:28 mark of the third period in their 3-2, come-from-behind overtime win over the Florida Panthers on Monday night, the Boston Bruins were playing with just four defensemen and missing their top pairing. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk suffered an upper-body injury just over three minutes into regulation and did not return.
Then, 9:28 into the third period, just over two minutes after he tied the game at two, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy delivered an unnecessary and predatory headshot on Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. That senseless act earned McAvoy a match penalty and ejection from the game when his team needed him most, as they then had to kill off a five-minute major thanks to him.
“I saw it live. I haven’t looked at it in depth,” Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery replied when asked what he thought of the hit and the subsequent penalty and ejection. “The league reviews all those hits, and they’ll let us know what their thoughts are, and we respect how the league goes about it. I think they do a real good process there.”
An NHL source told Boston Hockey Now on Tuesday morning that he expected McAvoy to get ‘2-4 games’ for the hit.
“I mean, that one is pretty cut and dry: textbook headshot and predatory,” the source opined. “I mean, look at that crazed look in his eyes. That tells me it was premeditated.”
Charlie McAvoy has been given a 5-minute match penalty for this hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson. pic.twitter.com/el8lOEY8M3
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 31, 2023
McAvoy has only been suspended once in his career. That came due to a hit he laid on then-Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson during the Bruins’ six-game series win over Columbus in the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As for Grzelcyk, Montgomery wasn’t optimistic that the 29-year-old puck-moving defenseman would return to the lineup soon.
“It’s going to be a couple of weeks, it looks like [on Grzelcyk],” the Bruins bench boss said.
“I saw it live. I haven’t looked at it in depth,” Montgomery said. “The league reviews all those hits, and they’ll let us know what their thoughts are, and we respect how the league goes about it. I think they do a real good process there.”
“Just tremendous character by our four defensemen that gutted it out,” Montgomery said. “And also, just our team coming back from 2-0 against a real good team and being able to come away and find a way to win.”
Rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei, as well as defensemen Ian Mitchell and Jakub Zboril are the likely call-ups for the Bruins.