In this week’s edition of Bruins Weekly, another key member of the defense goes down with an injury, the power play struggles continue, the Bruins have their first COVID-19 issue, and more.
Defensive Depth to Get Tested Again
The Bruins can’t catch a break with injuries to their defense and this week, they lost another key member of the blueline. Matt Grzelcyk has missed 13 games this season with various injuries, rookie Jeremy Lauzon is out a month following surgery on a fractured hand, and veteran Kevan Miller is out with an issue in his surgically repaired knee. Now you can add Brandon Carlo to the list after he took a shot to the head into the glass behind the Bruins net from the Washington Capitals Tom Wilson Friday night. Saturday, Wilson received a seven-game suspension from the NHL for the hit.
After being down on the ice, Carlo went to the locker room before being transported to a Boston hospital. Sunday, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said that Carlo is week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Boston currently has Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril, and Grzelcyk, who has played in the last three games, as the only blueliners in the lineup from the opening night roster against the New Jersey Devils. Newcomer Jarred Tinordi, just claimed off of waivers, Connor Clifton, John Moore, and Urho Vaakanainen are going to be key pieces of the defense rotating in and out of the lineup moving forward until their injured teammates get healthy.
Power Play Searching for Answers
The power play was a big reason for the Bruins’ success in the 2019-20 regular season. Boston finished second to the Edmonton Oilers last season and despite losing Torrey Krug in free agency and missing David Pasternak to begin the season as he recovered from hip surgery, the unit was clicking early in the season. Patrice Bergeron (four power-play goals) and Nick Ritchie (five power-play goals) carried the unit before Pastrnak’s return on Jan. 30. While the unit was even more productive when Pasternak returned, things have not been so good lately.
Since Feb. 21, the Bruins are 0-for-12 on the man advantage in their last six games and have lost four of those games. Their last power-play goal was scored by Ritchie in a 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Lake Tahoe, Nevada on Feb. 21. Sooner or later, Cassidy might have to make adjustments on the power play. In January, he went with a five-forward power play, which proved to be successful with goals in four straight games. It would not be surprising to see Boston give that another try soon.
Bruins Have First COVID-19 Issue
In February, the Bruins had two home games against the Buffalo Sabres and one against the Devils postponed because both teams were in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. Through the first 19 games, Boston had yet to place a player in the protocols, but that all changed Wednesday night. Two hours before the puck was scheduled to be dropped, the Bruins announced that Charlie Coyle would miss the opening game of their two-game series against the Capitals because of COVID protocols.
Fortunately for the Bruins, he only missed one game and returned to the lineup in Friday night’s 5-1 win. There was no reason given by Boston as to whether he was a close contact of someone who tested positive or whether it was a testing issue, but the Bruins seemed to have dodged a breakout within the team for now.
Final Trip to Long Island
One of the changes for the 2020-21 regular-season is the new divisional alignments to limit travel. For the Bruins, that means eight games against their new MassMutual East Division foes. In a strange schedule quirk, the first four games for Boston against the New York Islanders are scheduled to be played on Long Island. The Black and Gold will make their final trip to the play the Islanders Tuesday night. The Bruins are 0-3 in their first three meetings and have been outscored 12-4.
Not only will Boston done with their games at the Islanders this season already, but they have also played their four games at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. They fared much better there, going 3-1. Neither the Islanders nor Rangers have visited the TD Garden, but each team has four games in Boston in the final seven weeks of the regular season. The Bruins still have all eight games remaining against the Sabres, so there are still two more trips to the state of New York this season.
The Week Ahead
- Tuesday: at New York Islanders, 7 P.M.
- Thursday: vs. New York Rangers, 7 P.M.
- Saturday: vs. New York Rangers, 1 P.M.
- March 15: at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 P.M.
- March 16: at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 P.M.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.