Bruins’ Defensive Depth Being Tested

Through the first three months of the season, the Boston Bruins defensive group has remained healthy and has been one of the most durable groups. That quickly changed in the last seven days.

With captain Zdeno Chara missing their game on Dec. 23 against the Washington Capitals after having surgery, the Bruins lost two more defensemen that night, before suffering another injury Sunday night. It’s safe to say that Boston will be busy shuffling players from their American Hockey League affiliate Providence Bruins over the next couple of weeks.

3 Injuries in 3 Games

After learning that the 42-year-old Chara would undergo surgery on his jaw for an infection from the hardware that was inserted following a fracture he suffered in the Stanley Cup Final last June, Charlie McAvoy (lower-body injury) and Torey Krug (upper-body injury) were injured. It was a game that turned into one of the more physical match ups all season for Boston.

Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Krug took a big shoulder hit from Capitals’ agitator Tom Wilson in the second period in the offensive zone and went to the dressing room with what the team described as an upper-body injury. In the final minute of the third period McAvoy suffered his injury when T.J. Oshie delivered a heavy hit along the boards that resulted in a lower-body injury. Both players were placed on injured reserve.

Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres at the TD Garden, the Bruins lost their third defensemen in as many games when Connor Clifton exited the game with an upper-body injury after getting hit with a shot. All three players will not make the trip to New Jersey to the play on Devils Tuesday afternoon.

Next Bruin Up

Losing three defensemen is a huge loss, but the Bruins know that no one is feeling sorry for them and will look for the next available bodies to step up and make an impact. The team’s depth chart will be tested with Chara, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk taking on more ice time. John Moore, who has played in nine game this season, will see his minutes increase as well.

Matt Grzelcyk - Bruins
Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins, September 17, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With Boston being cautious with injuries as they hit the midpoint of the season, they will look to Providence for body’s to fill out the roster. Steve Kampfer was recalled from the minors Sunday and made an impact with two assists on both of Jake DeBrusk’s third period power play goals in a 3-2 win over the Sabres. Monday, Jeremy Lauzon was called up for the first time this year after spending 16 games with the Bruins last year. A big physical defenseman, Lauzon will add depth to a depleted group.

What It Means

Coach Bruce Cassidy will have to do some mixing and matching moving forward with his defensive pairs. Grzelcyk will move up to the the top power play unit, while the 22-year old Lauzon will be asked to step in and use his 6-foot-1 physical frame to log key minutes. In 35 games with Providence this year, he has one goal and nine assists, but more importantly is a plus-16.

Matt Grzelcyk Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

If another injury should occur, look for Urho Vaakanainen to get called up again as he played in five games earlier this year, while also in the AHL is 2015 first-round pick Jakub Zboril who got his feet wet last year in two games for the Bruins. If any of these injuries turn out to be long term and with the wear and tear that faces Chara at his age, could general manager Don Sweeney look at add experience on the blue line before the trade deadline? We’ll have to wait and see.