Bruins

With no Chara, it's a desperate situation for injury-plagued Bruins

bruins_zdeno_chara_120915.jpg
File photo

With no Chara, it's a desperate situation for injury-plagued Bruins

Some Bruins fans lament that 41-year-old Zdeno Chara isn’t quite what he used to be as a shutdown defenseman in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.

Well, they’re about to find out exactly how valuable he still is after he was sent home from their lengthy Western trip just one game into the four-game sojourn that will lead up to Thanksgiving. The 6-foot-9 captain was sent back to Boston on Thursday after suffering what looked like a left knee injury in the loss to the Colorado Avalanche and he’s going to be re-evaluated by Bruins doctors while the team still has three games to go in Dallas, Arizona and Detroit.

So, the Bruins will be without Chara for at least the next three games and probably longer if there’s a sprain or worse to the big D-man’s knee. They got a picture into life without Big Zee when a 3-1 lead was erased by five consecutive Avs goals without Chara on the ice and three-power play goals allowed in the final 40 minutes as they attempted to stem the defensive bleeding.

Certainly, Chara's skating has slowed a bit and isn't as much of a factor in the overall offense and on the power play these days. There won’t be any more Norris Trophies or All-Star berths likely in his future, but he’s still the best, most intimidating defensive stopper in the league who uses equal parts size, strength, toughness and a tremendously long reach with his stick to frustrate even the best opponents.

He’s also the most valuable penalty killer who's been the backbone of a consistently effective PK for the Black and Gold.

The Chara injury forced rookie Jeremy Lauzon into almost three minutes of PK time and pushed small puck-movers Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk into power-play time as well. That’s where the trouble begins for the Bruins. 

Now, it will force rookie Jakub Zboril into the lineup for the Bruins and has pushed minor league D-man Connor Clifton into his first call-up to the Bruins from the AHL. It’s unlikely that any of the injured Bruins D-men will be able to return for tonight’s game against the high-powered Dallas Stars, so that would leave Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, Chara, Urho Vaakanainen and Charlie McAvoy out of the lineup.

Check out the defensive pairings from the morning skate in Dallas:

Clearly, that’s a lot of young, puck-moving talent missing. That’s been reflected in an inconsistent Bruins offense, but the missing bodies also feature the iron of Boston’s defense and penalty kill.

Chara is the beating heart of all of that for the Black and Gold.

The Bruins are having enough issues right now ranked 24th in the NHL in the penalty kill while closing out just 76.3 percent of the power plays that they face, but they’ve been strong defensively in allowing only 2.61 goals per game. That could all change starting tonight in Dallas with no Chara and with a rag-tag group of blueliners full of rookies, power-play specialists and AHL call-ups expected to stop the NHL’s best offensive players.

Some Bruins fans have been looking forward to the day when the Bruins can move past a 41-year-old who's perhaps slowed down just a little bit. They also might come to regret that notion after watching the Bruins struggle through life without Chara until they get their big defensive stopper back.   

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Talking Points: Bruins' new-look David Krejci line pays off late in 3-2 win over Vegas

Talking Points: Bruins' new-look David Krejci line pays off late in 3-2 win over Vegas

GOLD STAR: David Krejci missed a couple of games with an upper-body injury, but made sure he returned for this final game ahead of the 10-day break for All-Star weekend and the bye week. And Krejci was a difference-maker. He scored the game-winner in the third period when he popped in a rebound of a Brandon Carlo point shot. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Krejci finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-1 rating with 18:04 of ice time, one shot on net, one takeaway and one blocked shots along with 6 of 12 face-off wins while centering Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman on a new-look line. It remains to be seen how the forward groups will be divided up when the Bruins come back from break, but things worked out pretty well in the 3-2 victory over Vegas on Tuesday night.

BLACK EYE: The Bruins won the game, but did it in spite of a power play that struggled mightily. 

The B's man-advantage went 0-for-5 on the power play against a Vegas team that’s stepped up its aggressiveness on the penalty kill. Boston managed just three shots on net in all that time on the man-advantage. 

They still won in spite of it all, obviously, but the B’s special teams were lousy with a powerless power play and a penalty kill that allowed a PP goal to the Golden Knights. 

Now, the Bruins' power play gets 10 days to re-energize and perhaps figure out a few new tricks.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins trailed 2-1 headed into the third period and it didn’t appear it was going to be their night. Still, they managed to summon a little extra effort in that final 20 minutes, outshot Vegas 14-13 and scored a pair of goals to win in regulation rather than risk another overtime or shootout loss.

It was Jake DeBrusk who scored on a left-wing rush to tie things up in the third and then Krejci who won it in the final few minutes before the Golden Knights got desperate by pulling their goalie. It was certainly a different tack for the B’s in this one. Rather than blowing a lead as they’d done a few times over the past couple of weeks, they rallied in the third to win it. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Good job by Jeremy Lauzon to step up and fill in at a time when the Bruins needed a little more physical thump. Even better, Lauzon managed to score his second career NHL goal on a deep point shot that traveled through a few Vegas bodies on its way to the net for Boston’s first score. 

Lauzon finished with the goal along with a plus-2 rating, two shot attempts, four registered hits and a blocked shot in 15:38 of ice time while also filling a lead role on the penalty kill. Considering it was Lauzon’s first NHL appearance of the season, it was very good with the physical, gritty play that could lead to more looks this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 22:53 – the Bruins leading ice time player was Brad Marchand among forwards and defensemen in a game that featured plenty of special-teams situations.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We did some good things [in] this first stretch. Enjoy yourself and get away wherever you’re going, mentally cleanse. But understand that [when] we get back, we get at it pretty quick.” –Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy on his message to his Bruins players headed into the 10-day break.

Mind-blowing stat shows importance of Jake DeBrusk scoring for the Bruins

jake_debrusk_012120.jpg
USA TODAY Sports photo

Mind-blowing stat shows importance of Jake DeBrusk scoring for the Bruins

The Boston Bruins are often carried by the efforts of The Perfection Line. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak had accounted for 79 of the team's 166 goals entering Tuesday night's game and were a massive part of their hot start to the season.

But secondary scoring is important as well. And in particular, Jake DeBrusk getting goals tends to have a really positive impact on the Bruins.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

According to the "Boston Sports Info" Twitter account, the Bruins are a remarkable 44-5-1 when DeBrusk scores in the regular season.

And in the playoffs, the Bruins are 6-3 when DeBrusk scores at least once. 

DeBrusk was a key for the Bruins in their 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night. He scored the tying goal for the team early in the third period to afford them the opportunity to come from behind to win.

Moving forward, DeBrusk's scoring will be important. The Bruins are simply better when he produces goals and when the second line can impact the game. If this is the start of a hot streak for him, it could coincide with the B's getting hot.

Of course, they'll have to get through a lengthy All-Star break before that can happen. The Bruins won't play again until Jan. 31 when they travel to Winnipeg to take on the Jets.