BOSTON – Less than 48 hours after one of his legendarily hard slap shots put a Montreal Canadiens forward in the hospital after striking him in the head, Zdeno Chara didn’t hesitate when given the chance to wind up and blast away on Monday afternoon.
It was the 40-year-old Chara that rocketed a slapper past Kari Lehtonen at the end of the second period, and in doing so energized the Bruins while getting them on the scoreboard. The Chara goal helped earn the Black and Gold a point in overtime before eventually falling to the Dallas Stars by a 3-2 score at TD Garden on Monday afternoon.
The Bruins captain had been texting with the felled Montreal winger on Monday, and was fully aware that Phillip Danault was out of the hospital and doing well aside from understandable concussion symptoms after a puck to the head. Perhaps that eased Chara’s mind just a little when it came time to lean into another wind-up slapper on Monday, but it was also certainly aided by the lack of brave bodies willing to front one of his heavy, hard point blasts.
“I obviously spoke to Phillip a number of times. I talked to him right after the game and wanted to make sure he was okay, and he texted me back that he’s doing fine. He’s been released [from the hospital] and that’s very positive, good news,” said Chara. “It’s obviously very unfortunate that it’s something that happens quite often, but it’s something you never want to see with somebody getting hit and hurt. I’m very happy he’s going to recover fully and hopefully he’s back on the ice and playing hockey [soon] like we all do.”
Was there any hesitation to Chara winding up and stepping into a 100-mph slap shot so quickly after the ugly incident in Montreal?
“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often where you have that clean [shooting] path to the net where you can settle the puck, take a look and take a full slapper,” said Chara. “Usually teams play so well structurally that there’s already somebody fronting it, and you’ve got to get it through him with bodies in front. It does happen, but it’s nice that you have that time to put everything on it.”
That’s exactly what the 6-foot-9 defenseman did in sparking the Bruins to come back from a 2-0 deficit and push for the overtime point while extending their point streak to a season-best 13 games and counting.
TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months.
Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin.
The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.
He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury.
Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.
Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.
TORONTO – The Bruins are making more moves well ahead of the Monday trade deadline as they shipped injured winger Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick.
The trade somewhat eases a crowded roster, essentially gives the B’s a replacement for the third-rounder they sent to the New York Rangers for Nick Holden earlier this week and gives them a solid return on an undrafted college hockey free agent that had fallen a bit this season on the B’s organizational depth chart.
Vatrano had two goals and a minus-3 rating in 25 games with the Bruins this season, but had typically been either a healthy scratch or strictly a bottom-six winger when he had been in the lineup this season. Vatrano, the East Longmeadow, Mass., native who turns 24 next month, had fallen behind Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on the depth chart as two of the aforementioned three had locked down top-nine roles.
In that respect, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear Vatrano getting moved as he’d hit a wall in his development with the Bruins after scoring 20 goals in his first 108 career NHL games and lighting up the AHL as a goal-per-game player. Now, Vatrano will get a chance to rekindle that goal-scoring ability with the Panthers and prove that he’s more than the one-dimensional player he appeared to be in three seasons with the B’s.
There was some thinking Vatrano might have served as a trade asset to be utilized in one of the potential deals that the Bruins have cooking for a rental wingers Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash or Thomas Vanek. Instead, general manager Don Sweeney scoops up a solid draft pick asset for a player that was sitting on the bench for the Black and Gold. That's a solid piece of asset management in a trade deadline period that so far is going very well for the GM.