The injury bug has once again bitten the Boston Bruins this season. For the better part of the last five seasons, the Bruins have had an absurd number of injuries that have caused them to dig deep into their depth chart to fill spots. This season has been no different for the team either with Jakub Zboril, Nick Foligno, John Moore, Trent Frederic, Erik Haula and Tuukka Rask all out of action as of the time of this writing with varying degrees of injury length.
Not listed in that group is Urho Vaakanainen who left Tuesday’s tilt against the Seattle Kraken with an apparent upper-body injury. The injury followed a play that saw Vaakanainen retrieve a puck from the corner of his own zone prior to being boarded by Kraken forward Yanni Gourde.
Vaakanainen would leave the game after being removed by concussion spotters and wouldn’t return to the game. Prior to this, he had logged 6:03 of ice time in what would eventually be a 3-2 Bruins’ victory.
Following the game, Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy expressed his displeasure with the way the play was handled by the officiating crew.
“He got hit from behind in the numbers and his head hit the glass. The concussion spotter took him off and he never returned,” Cassidy said. “I didn’t like the hit at all. For them not to make (a major) call on it was unbelievable to me given the standard they set. I don’t understand the standard tonight for that not to be a call immediately and maybe be a 5 (minute major) never mind having to look at it just to get (a minor). … I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like the call, but you move on and you play.”
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that Cassidy expressed his displeasure with officials for the way a play was handled. A similar situation occurred in the Bruins 4-3 victory against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 20 when Capitals’ forward Garnet Hathaway hit Brad Marchand and took him out of the game.
“That Marchand one I didn’t like at all. The official was right there in front of it and didn’t call it. The trail official called it. I’m not sure why the guy watching it didn’t,” Cassidy said following the game. “(Hathaway) hit a guy in the numbers in a vulnerable spot. We’ve seen that from that player in the past, too. I didn’t like that one at all.”
Hathaway escaped a suspension for this play and it appears Gourde will also get away with this play having served only two minutes.
Vaakanainen’s Injury Came Just Prior to Bruins’ Break
The Bruins have yet to address the severity of this injury to Vaakanainen, but the initial look wasn’t good. Fortunately for the team, the Bruins will only play their next game on Feb. 8 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This will give them a better chance to assess the damage to Vaakanainen and let him heal up to mitigate any sort of missed game action that may arise from this unfortunate play.
Vaakanainen has found his stride this season and has finally taken steps towards being the defender the Bruins thought he could be when they drafted him in the first round in 2017. Having him in the lineup on a nightly basis has been crucial for the Bruins given the minutes he’s played, regardless of whether he’s been on the top pairing, the bottom pairing or anywhere in between.
With Vaakanainen leaving the game Tuesday, the Bruins were still able to pull out a win with their five remaining blueliners. As mentioned, the team has experienced playing through injuries enough in the last few years to make them weirdly qualified to play shorthanded and pull-out victories. It’s certainly less than ideal, but having to play with an ever-changing roster due to injuries is simply part of the game at times.
With the Bruins heading into this break following a very busy schedule in January, they’ll get a chance to recover and rest before getting right back into the thick of things for the remainder of the season.
With their depth tested time and time again in recent seasons, something will eventually have to give. For now, though, the Bruins will have to dig in and once again find a way to compete regardless of who is in the lineup on a nightly basis. They don’t have any other choice.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.