Andrew Ference suspension leaves Bruins with choice to make on defense
|05.02.13 at 6:37 pm ET|
After a completely one-sided contest in Game 1, things got interesting Thursday in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Bruins and Maple Leafs when B’s defenseman Andrew Ference was suspended for Game 2 for an illegal hit to the head of Toronto forward Mikhail Grabovski.
Ference was viewed as a repeat offender because his last suspension (the only other one of his 13-year career) came within the past 18 months — he was suspended for three games last January for his hit on Ryan McDonagh.
You can say all you wanted about Ference’s start to the season — which was not good — but he recovered well and is once again one of the more important and underrated pieces for the B’s. His absence isn’t something to overlook, and if the Maple Leafs plan on showing up for Game 2 (a big “if” after they chose not to Wednesday), it could be a closer game than the 4-1 drubbing the B’s gave the Leafs.
Without Ference, the Bruins have two options: There’s Dougie Hamilton, who played in 42 of the Bruins’ 48 regular-season games, and there’s Aaron Johnson.
While Hamilton’s name might come to mind first because of his offensive skill and the fact that he’s, well, Dougie Hamilton, don’t rule out Johnson. The 30-year-old is a left shot like Ference and could either slide into Ference’s spot on the pairing with Johnny Boychuk or play with Adam McQuaid, allowing Wade Redden to move onto Boychuk’s pairing.
The issue with Johnson is that he’s likely rusty after playing in only 10 regular season games, the most recent of which was over a month ago on March 30 against the Flyers.
Hamilton being in the lineup would give the B’s a bit of a predicament from a pairing standpoint. With Dennis Seidenberg playing on the right side with Zdeno Chara as part of the top pairing, that would give the Bruins three right-shot defensemen in their other two pairings. Perhaps Hamilton being in the lineup would force Claude Julien to break up the Chara-Seidenberg pairing to allow Seidenberg to go back to the left side on another pairing, with Hamilton skating with either Chara or Seidenberg, but would the Bruins really want to break up that top pairing given how effective it was in Game 1?
So those are the Bruins’ two options: Play the more talented rookie — but one who looked more and more like a rookie in the second half of the season — who would likely cause a bit of shuffling among the defensemen. Or, play the veteran who hasn’t been in the lineup in over a month. Those aren’t the best options, but just remember that Shane Hnidy at the very end of his career played three games in the playoffs in 2011, getting just 3:09 of ice time per game, and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup that postseason. Losing Ference is bigger than you might think, but it isn’t the end of the world.