Big minutes coming for the blueliners
|04.07.10 at 12:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — What happens when the core disintegrates?
You could take the movie version like in that terrible version of a modern B movie “The Core” in which there are a lot of mysterious lightning storms that happen to strike over Rome as an example. Or maybe in the new blockbuster “2012” in which the world tears itself to shreds and humanity’s elite are forced to take refuge in the digital age version of the ark. Either way, it was not that pretty.
Perhaps not quite as dramatic, but the Bruins have relied on steady defense and goaltending this year to put themselves in position to make the playoffs despite their league-worst offense. Yet, in the last week, the Bruins have had two of their top three defensemen need to have surgery and their best blueliner and captain break his nose. Mark Stuart will miss about two weeks after having surgery for cellulitis in his finger and Dennis Seidenberg is out for the rest of the season (barring some miraculous playoff run) after having surgery to fix a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm that he sustained in the first period against Toronto on Saturday.
The Seidenberg surgery came more out of the blue because it seemed that he was all right on Tuesday after he talked to the media, giving no indication that an operation was imminent.
“I think in the morning he felt pain and obviously before the game we tried something with him and in the warmup he still felt pain,” coach Claude Julien said. “In the short time I have known him I think it is pretty obvious that he is a tough individual, so for him not to go something was obviously wrong and the diagnosis we got from Toronto was not the same diagnosis we got here.”
Add to that the perpetual mystery that is Andrew Ference (out for the regular season but being evaluated every day) and Boston has all of a sudden become very light on the back end.
Practice at Ristuccia on Wednesday looked a little more like training camp than a team preparing for its final three games in a season in a playoff race. Adam McQuaid and Andrew Bodnarchuk have been recalled to the Bruins from Providence, and the ways things are going they are up for longer than just the usual “emergency basis.” On the offensive side, Trent Whitfield and Brad Marchand are not exactly the players one would expect to see on the roster in early April, but so it goes. (To be fair, Marchand and Whitfield have earned their extended cups of coffee.)
Zdeno Chara will play on Thursday against Buffalo after sustaining a broken nose against Washington on Monday. It was odd to see the towering Slovak wearing a full face mask at practice on Wednesday. Julien said that Chara had “minor surgery but he will be ready to go tomorrow.”
The Bruins season has been some odd nightmare version of K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies, where the hits “just keep on coming.”
“Yeah, it is unfortunate. You lose some pretty good players that have been good for us this year and another one goes down but those are the type of things that you can’t control anymore and we have to deal with what we can,” Julien said. “We’ve played the last two games without them and they have held their own, so you have to go in and do the same thing here.”
The top four defensemen the Bruins have left are Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick, Johnny Boychuk and Chara, a group that does not have Bruins fans raising up in adulation, especially at the thought of a Hunwick-Wideman pairing. The onus falls to the forwards to chip in on the defensive end and to be especially cognizant of their placement on the ice, especially when Bodnarchuk and McQuaid are on the rink as well.
“It also means that our forwards are going to have to be really good and help out in our own end so we can spend the least amount of time in there,” Julien said. “It is a matter of buckling down and doing our job properly here to make it as easy as possible on our guys.”
With three games in the last four days of the regular season and a playoff position not quite wrapped up, the top four blueliners are going to have to log some heavy minutes to finish off the stretch.
“Yeah, there is a little bit more desperation on the blue line now that two of our top four guys are hurt,” Wideman said. “It is a tough spot but guys have to step up and fill in their ice time.”
In terms of the young guys, McQuaid is not a particular stranger to being up in Boston after having been recalled a couple of times and appearing in 15 games for the Bruins with one goal and 19 penalty minutes on the year. He knows he is not in the ideal situation, but the plan is just to keep it simple and try to log quality minutes.
“Yeah, I am trying not to think about it and just go out and play like it is another game. I know the importance of the games and I am just trying to play some solid minutes and just be steady while I am out there,” McQuaid said. “You never want to see guys who play important roles on the team getting hurt like that, but those are things you can’t control and it is tough to fill in for guys like that. But I am just going to go out and try to fill some solid minutes.”