Bruins

Season rests on Chara's injury

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Season rests on Chara's injury

COLUMBUS The Bruins got to experience life without Zdeno Chara for roughly 27 minutes in Saturday nights grudge match against the Blue Jackets.

Give them credit for rising above the Chara injury, a rare Tim Thomas benching and an early two-goal hole for a needed victory, but none of that is a normal recipe for long-term success.

The Bruins cant love the prospects of moving on without Chara after he suffered what appeared to be a left knee injury in Saturdays 5-3 victory over Columbus at Nationwide Arena. The team is calling it a lower body injury for the time being, and coach Claude Julien couldnt or wouldnt tell whether it was minor or serious.

We dont know if its minor or major, or anything, said Julien. Im not quite sure. I havent had a chance, so its hard to comment until I know the severity of it. Throughout the season, youre going to have some injuries and youre going to have to live with them.

But in that very statement, major hasnt been ruled out for the 6-foot-9 freak of hockey nature, who was spotted walking under his own power in the visiting dressing room following the win.

I hope its nothing too serious, right? said goaltender Tuukka Rask. Thats a big load for a lot of other guys to be carrying if Chara is not in there.

So at this point its not a great leap to paint a scenario where Chara misses some time. Maybe its not the entire season, maybe its not a month, and maybe its not more than a game or two.

But its telling that the Bs captain never returned to the ice during a tight game after exiting with seven minutes to go in the second period.

If Chara is lost for any extended period of time, the Bruins would be hard-pressed to maintain their current status near the top of the Eastern Conference. They would also essentially be kissing any Cup hopes goodbye if their franchise defenseman is out for the season.

But enough about worst-case scenarios and could be situations with regard to big Zee and his mystery knee.

The facts are indisputable: It was a tight one-goal game when Chara collided awkwardly with Antoine Vermette during a Columbus forecheck near Bostons blue line. The big defenseman went right down the runway with trainer Donnie DelNegro once he finished up that shift, and was never seen again. It appeared on video replays Charas knee buckled after hitting Vermette.

With Chara down for the night it was up to Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid to step up and become a shutdown tandem in Charas absence.

It was also Dennis Seidenbergs job to absorb a whopping game-high 26:20 of ice time in a game that saw the Bruins empty the tank.

Boychuk was instrumental in keeping Columbus 1-for-6 on the power play with 5:36 of shorthanded ice time, and the blossoming blueliner nearly showed his effectiveness isnt just a byproduct of skating regular shifts with Chara.

McQuaid blocked a team-high four shots and Andrew Ference was quietly effective while logging his most ice time since mid-October (22:03). Up and down the lineup, each defenseman did his part to fill in for the fallen leader.

Its great to see them step up, said Milan Lucic. Weve had to deal with a lot of injuries in years past. Obviously last year we were lucky to stay healthy as long as we did, but when injuries happened somebody always stepped up. As a defense corps everybody stepped up in the second half of the game.

Hes big Zee for a reason and hes been the best shutdown defenseman in the league for the last couple of years. Hes our captain and our leader, and if he goes down it takes everybody to step up and fill the void.

The other part of any equation featuring a defensemen corps filling Charas absence by committee: Providing offense along with the air-tight defense. That was Corvos job and he built on a first-period goal with a power play score after Vermette was whistled off for hooking. Corvo finished with a game-high five shots on net and finally showed the big, heavy point shot that Boston would be forced to feature much more often if Chara isnt able to answer the bell for any period of time.

Its pretty key for the guys to pull together with McQuaid and Boychuk getting more and more minutes with Zee not out there. They really stepped up, said Corvo. They played really well in the third after he scored to shut them down.

Once Chara has met with the Bruins doctors in Boston, the team will know exactly whats what.

But it goes without saying Chara is arguably the most irreplaceable player in the entire NHL given his strength, intensity, leadership, blistering slap shot, power play acumen and overall offensive capabilities. Nobody can fill the size-12 skates of the 6-foot-9, 260-pound defenseman.

Chara is on pace to score a career-high 60 points and finish a career-best plus-55, and is soaking up 25 minutes of ice time a game. Those kinds of numbers represent the best-of-the-best elite around the NHL.

Life without Chara is a sobering thought after watching the Bruins battle and scrape to beat the NHLs worst team without his services for nearly half the game, and thats a bridge the Black and Gold don't want to cross if they dont have to.

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

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Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.

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Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

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Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS -- The Bruins are already missing a handful of players to injuries, and they may have lost a couple more in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Ryan Spooner was knocked out in the second period with a lower body injury, and Adam McQuaid was lost in the closing seconds of the third period when he was hit by a Colin Miller rocket from the point in his leg. McQuaid had to be helped to the dressing room after staying down on the ice for a few long moments, and the hope is that it’s the same kind of mostly harmless “dead leg” hit that allowed Kevan Miller to bounce back immediately from his Friday incident in practice.

McQuaid was spotted up and walking around in the visiting dressing room area postgame, so hopefully it’s nothing serious with one of the few Bruins giving everything he has on the ice each and every night.

Spooner finished with just eight shifts and 6:42 of ice time while failing to generate much offense, and went 1-for-4 in the face-off circle before getting shelved for the rest of the game. He just has a single point and is a minus-3 in four games this season and is once again has been pretty hard to notice on the ice during 5-on-5 play. It perhaps wasn’t a huge loss for the Bruins, given how much Spooner has been struggling to find baseline consistency, but the Bruins can’t continue to sustain injuries to their center men without those missing bodies beginning to take a toll.

The Bruins already have Paul Postma on hand if they take any injuries on the back end, but any more losses up front could mean the B’s dip into Providence where Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Kenny Agostino are all off to hot offensive starts.