As the Boston Bruins touched down Sunday evening in Boston, having completed a four-game road trip with games in Toronto, Ontario; Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; and Vancouver, British Columbia, they can hold their heads high with the way they played. Despite their loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, they managed to win the other three games, despite a huge number of injuries and illness.
When the team headed off to Toronto, they did so without Loui Eriksson who is still recovering from the concussion he sustained from the hit he received by Brooks Orpik the night before in the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They also were without the abilities of Chris Kelly, who, it was discovered, had suffered a fractured right fibula as a result of an uncalled slash by Penguins Pascal Dupuis.
Toronto Maple Leafs
As a result of these two injuries, Bruins head coach, Claude Julien had some thinking to do and ultimately called up Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser from the AHL affiliated Providence Bruins. The two players would arrive on Sunday with little sleep, and jumped right into the first game of the road trip. They would join fellow teammate Kevan Miller who had been recalled earlier as a result of injuries to defensemen Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk.
In what was becoming an all-too-familiar experience for the Bruins, they found themselves once again playing with five defensemen for the majority of the game with the Maple Leafs, as Dougie Hamilton played just under six minutes and went off, not to return to the game. In fact, he would later fly back to Boston with a lower-body injury. And towards the tail end of the game, it looked like the Bruins would be down yet another defenseman, when Leafs Dion Phaneuf boarded Miller. Miller was slow to get up and looked like he might be the latest concussion casualty, though fortunately that turned out not to be the case.
For his boarding, Phaneuf would receive a two-game suspension.
After beating the Leafs, the team headed to Calgary, where they would play the Flames on Tuesday. However, when the team practiced in Calgary on Monday morning they did so with some key players not on the ice: Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, Chad Johnson and Gregory Campbell. It was later revealed they were all battling the flu. It seemed like the team couldn’t catch a break.
With Hamilton out, it was hoped that Boychuk would be well enough to return to the game. No additional defensemen from Providence had been recalled and sure enough, the game against Calgary—which was an emotional homecoming for Jarome Iginla—saw Boychuk on the ice.
But just when it looked like the team was on the mend, it was announced that Eriksson was being placed on IR to allow the Bruins to recall forward Nick Johnson. Some were questioning what was going on when the Bruins posted on Twitter that Danny Paille was out with an upper-body injury and would not be playing against the Flames. And as it turned out, he too would be flying back to Boston rather than traveling with the team for the remainder of the road trip.
The Calgary Flames welcomed Iginla back in fashion, giving him a standing ovation for the many years he had served as part of their team. And the Boston Bruins would all return to the bench after the game to support him as he took his victory lap when he was announced as the third star of the game. In fact, Chara and the others would insist that Iginla take a second lap, showing the true brotherhood that exists among this team.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 11, 2013
And like the Leafs game, the Bruins would have to come from behind to beat the Flames, which they did. The Flames game also marked Gregory Campbell’s 600th NHL game.
From Calgary, it was on to Edmonton, where they would face the Oilers—and catch up with good friend, and current captain of the Oilers, Andrew Ference.
Of course, friendships would be put aside when the puck dropped on Thursday evening.
As the flu continued to claim its victims among the team, it was Tuukka Rask’s turn to suffer. However, the Bruins needed a backup goalie for practice, so University of Alberta goalie Kurtis Mucha was asked if he would like to fill in. It required him getting permission to postpone his spatial economy final, but apparently his teacher understood what a big deal this was and Mucha helped out the Bruins. Must have been quite a thrill.
— Kurtis Mucha (@KurtisMuchaGC) December 11, 2013
The Bruins, despite others still suffering from the flu who were playing, got out to a solid 3-0 lead in the game that resulted in the Oilers putting in their backup goalie to start the second period. Then Bruins fans had to watch as the Oliers got one goal and then another. And given the propensity for giving up late period goals, all the fans could do was hold their breath for much of the third period especially when Dennis Seidenberg ended up in the box with 3:08 left in the third and the Oliers pulled their goalie to give them a six-on-four advantage during the power play.
Luck was on the side of the Bruins though when Iginla managed to get a short-handed, empty net goal to make it 4-2 which would be the final score.
From the home town of Iginla and Boychuk, the team would then travel to Vancouver, the home town of Milan Lucic. It is also a town that loves their team and despises the Bruins.
Despite being back in net, it was apparent that Rask was still not 100%, though he would not offer this up as an excuse after the game, stating that he was just bad. However, the first goal was an insane “knuckler” that no one could have stopped. It didn’t stop the Canucks from poking fun at Rask.
From just over centre ice, Jannik Hansen fires a slapshot at Tuukka Rask. Rask acts like an elephant seeing a mouse, jumps annd GOAL!
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) December 15, 2013
And bad it was as the Canucks scored goal after goal. Late in the first, Jannik Hansen scored to put the Canucks up 1-0 at the end of the first. The Bruins Reilly Smith, who had not participated in morning skate because he was now suffering with the flu, came out in the second and at 4:11 tied the game.
Canucks head coach, John Tortorella, in his first season with the Canucks, called a time out and those watching the game got to see a true Tortorella tongue lashing as he lit into his team. It worked though, because the Canucks came back and just let the Bruins have it. Rask was replaced after letting the fourth goal in at the beginning of the third, but the momentum was all on the Canucks side by that point and they would score two more. The Bruins Smith would have his first two-goal game, but for the Bruins, by that point, just couldn’t come back.
Too many injuries and too many battling the flu resulted in the end of the road trip being disappointing. However, the team should feel good for what they accomplished in the face of so much adversity.