First taste of life without McAvoy looked rough for B's

First taste of life without McAvoy looked rough for B's

BOSTON – The first returns of life without Charlie McAvoy weren’t very encouraging ones for the Bruins.

Clearly, there will be plenty more time to evaluate things with the 20-year-old out for the next four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee and the Bruins hope things will get better as they adjust to life without him for the next month.

Still, the Bruins defense was pretty poor Tuesday night in a 6-5 overtime win over the Red Wings at TD Garden and the newly reformed Zdeno Chara/Brandon Carlo pairing was at the heart of some of the worst struggles. Bruce Cassidy acknowledged those struggles after the game while hoping it was a one-time event, but the truth is the Bruins were lucky they were playing a poor team like the Red Wings where they could still come away with two points despite the careless level of play.

“Some of it, as a coach, you understand, and the other part of it is they’ll always be held accountable and they’re told that. We know there are 82 of these [games], and it’s hard to stay in the moment for 82, and [be] focused and not want to have a little offensive surge and trade chances,” said Cassidy. “But we’re trying to play to our identity, as well. So we talked about it. Hopefully, it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other and we take it to heart and build on it for our next game.

“Some of that was winning those pucks and getting the clears. So, that was the common denominator. I don’t think it was like Montreal where we turned it over a lot and it was all odd-man rushes. I mean, we had a line change in the second, we got messed up, they got a breakaway. They’ll do that, Detroit, they spring guys. So it was kind of the opposite of Montreal where our slot coverage, typically our strength, [was where] we needed to be better.”

The aforementioned Chara/Carlo pairing certainly didn’t get all of last season’s chemistry back in one fell swoop against the Red Wings. Instead, the 40-year-old Chara had one of those nights where perhaps he looked his age a little bit and made errors in puck management and defensive-zone coverage while on the ice for four of the five goals Detroit scored. Perhaps even more noteworthy, Chara ended up playing 25-plus minutes with many more on tap this month. He didn’t ring up a single registered hit or blocked shot despite leading all players in ice time.

Carlo wasn’t much better. He was on the ice for three Detroit goals and both tall, rangy defenders were far from the shutdown pair they were on many nights last season. We may learn in the next month that McAvoy was indeed a big part of Chara enjoying such a successful season and there may be some choppy waters ahead without him.

But some of the rough night for Chara can also be attributed to it being late in the season when the Bruins are in a stretch of 16 games in the 31 days of March. The truth with Chara is that the B’s would be best served to rest him at some designated points in the final month of the regular season. That may mean convincing him to be a healthy scratch on a couple of occasions given A) Boston’s comfortable position within the Eastern Conference playoff standings and B) the Bruins ideal depth on the back end since the addition of Nick Holden.

“I’ll have to look closer at that,” said Cassidy, when asked about the Chara/Carlo pairing after the game. “I think there was so much going on [against the Red Wings] that I didn’t worry too much about that part. They’ve played together, so they will find their chemistry. I thought Brandon was skating better again. He is trying to move pucks out of the zone with his feet, so that’s a good thing.”

That is a good thing and that is the hope over the next month. Playing with Chara again as a shutdown pairing might be the best thing that could happen for the 21-year-old Carl. Certainly, he played with more surliness and attitude in the defensive zone than we’ve seen in the past. Those things bode well for both Carlo and the Bruins as he prepares for his first playoff experience as well and perhaps it will work out over the next month.

But the defensive debacle against Detroit also painted a pretty stark picture of what life could be like for the Bruins in the playoffs without their 20-year-old wunderkind Charlie McAvoy and it wasn’t a very pretty one at all.



No supplemental discipline for Schenn on Krejci hit

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No supplemental discipline for Schenn on Krejci hit

UPDATE: 1:10 P.M.: The NHL Department of Player Safety ruled that no supplemental discipline is needed for the Blues'  Brayden Schenn for the violent hit he delivered to the Bruins' David Krejci in the B's 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis on Wednesday night. 

In the second period, Schenn clobbered David Krejci in the corner with a punishing hit to the head as the B’s playmaking center was facing him immediately after releasing the puck. Schenn was whistled for a two-minute minor for charging at the time of the collision, but luckily Krejci was able to remain in the game and played 15:54 of ice time in the loss.

Upon further review, it was very clearly a big, heavy hit delivered to Krejci’s head, but there were plenty of mitigating factors. Krejci had his head down until the last second while looking down at the puck on his stick and was hunched over as Schenn moved in to deliver a check on a player eligible to be hit. Schenn’s skates left the ice to finish the hit after impact, which made the collision look even worse to the casual observer, but that isn’t considered launching into a hit by the NHL’s standards.

Adding to the equation is that Schenn has been suspended twice by the NHL before, three games in 2016 for a charging hit on TJ Oshie and one game back in 2013.

Clearly, it’s a difficult call for the league as they try to deter hits to the head and reduce the number of concussions. Still, this would appear to be another situation where, as the league says, a player “assumed a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable." It’s absolutely similar to the Patrick Hornqvist/Charlie McAvoy hit from a few weeks ago that never ended up with any supplemental discipline for the Penguins hard-hitter despite plenty of hue and cry from the Bruins fans.

So what does everybody else think about this hit, and whether or not Schenn should be facing discipline from the NHL as a result of it?


Talking points: Ryan Donato's goal helps Bruins clinch playoff berth

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Talking points: Ryan Donato's goal helps Bruins clinch playoff berth

GOLD STAR: Jaden Schwartz stepped up and won the game for the Blues with a couple of really good plays in the third period and overtime. He took advantage of a line change and a lax Bruins defense to snap a shot past Anton Khudobin from the face-off circle in the third period that tied up the game, and then went on a one-man rush in overtime before blasting a puck past Khudobin for the game-winner on a beautiful individual play. Schwartz finished with the two goals that represented all of the St. Louis offense, four shots on net, a hit and a takeaway in 20:02 of ice time while logging a plus-2 rating as well. The Blues clearly needed somebody to step up to the plate with Vladimir Tarasenko and the Schwartz was with St. Louis on Wednesday night.

BLACK EYE: The Bruins were quite literally black and blue after a physical, punishing game with the St. Louis Blues. A number of players took heavy hits against a St. Louis team that felt free to throw hits and take runs with Zdeno Chara and David Backes out of Boston’s lineup among other players, and that culminated with Brayden Schenn drilling David Krejci in the second period. It was a hit that earned Schenn a two minute penalty for charging midway through the period, but shouldn’t result in anything more for the Blues forward. The hit wasn’t late, his skates were on the ice when he made contact, and Krejci was crouched down when Schenn made impact on a heavy check with his elbows tucked in, so it looked like a relatively clean hit that isn’t going to be on the radar of the NHL’s Player Safety Department. That physicality for the Blues really seemed to slow down the Bruins a little bit as things went on over the 60 plus minutes of the overtime game.


TURNING POINT: The Bruins actually only got outshot by a 15-13 margin in the second period, third period and overtime, but it was clear that they slowed down in terms of attacking and creating chances as things moved on in the game. By the latter half of the game the Bruins were simply trying to hang on to their one-goal lead, and then after that simply trying to hang in there for the point earned by getting to overtime. They managed to do it, but it was a different wave of momentum in the game once the Blues tied things up in the third period on Schwartz’s first goal. After that the Bruins were scrambling and hanging on, and did just enough to hang in there for a single overtime point for the second game in a row.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Donato made it two goals in two games when he stepped into a loose puck created by an Alex Pietrangelo turnover that bounced off referee Brad Watson after he attempted to throw a puck up the middle of the ice. Donato pounced on the fortuitous bounce and rocked a puck on edge past Jake Allen for the game’s first goal and another affirmation that the 21-year-old can both shoot and score. Donato was pretty quiet after that goal, of course, with a couple of shots on net, but it seemed like a big, heavy hit on him by Dmitri Jaskin in the second period kind of quieted the youngster down a little bit. Still, you’ve got to love the production from a player just getting his feet wet at the NHL level.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 – The number of points for the Bruins after falling in overtime by a 2-1 score to the Blues, and in getting to the century mark the B’s clinched a playoff spot for the second season in a row.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s step one. Going into the season we wanted to make the playoffs and be a Stanley Cup contender. Right now we got in and we’re going to be a contender, right? Now it’s about being in the best position possible going forward.” –Bruce Cassidy, to reporters in St. Louis about clinching the playoff spot on Wednesday night.