Any defenseman will tell you that replacing an injured colleague on the blue-line can be taxing. Not only do they have to double shift on occasion, but they also have to log extra ice time and have to skate with a defensive partner they’re quite unfamiliar with.
That task becomes difficult when a defenseman goes down early, forcing coaches to go with a five-man rotation on the back-end. The task becomes even more difficult when that defenseman happens to be Zdeno Chara’s partner and a top Calder Trophy candidate.
The Bruins were forced into that situation when Charlie McAvoy exited the game with a lower-body injury just 37 seconds into Saturday’s contest with the rival Canadiens.
Here’s a closer look at the event that caused McAvoy to leave the game as he lost an edge while trying to retrieve the puck with Chara and Habs forward Brendan Gallagher following suit.
Another angle from Habs broadcast. Clearly doesn’t catch McAvoy so Charlie must have twisted something or landed awkwardly. pic.twitter.com/X3AF5Smriu
— Colin Beswick (@CBeswick) March 3, 2018
Without McAvoy, Bruce Cassidy rotated Chara, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller and deadline acquisition Nick Holden through the next 61 minutes and change during the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime victory over the Canadiens at TD Garden. Luckily for the B’s bench boss, he had some reliable options on the back end and timely stops from Anton Khudobin (27 saves).
Sure, there were some hiccups along the way. But on a night where the Black and Gold fired 50 shots on Antti Niemi – without the puck-moving McAvoy leading the way on the counter-attack – the five Bruins defensemen persevered and helped the team get two hard-earned points.
“Well, clearly we had some issues moving the puck out of our zone. Charlie is a transporter; he’s a mover, passer, all of the above. Offensive zone, he can create some space and get some shots through, make some plays. And then it wears on you from the opening shift defending,” Cassidy said about replacing McAvoy.
“That’s 23 minutes a night that you’ve got to now have to parse out over for the full 59 minutes through five guys. So, I think some of our pinches were a little bit late because maybe we were fatigued, allowed a few more odd-man rushes than we would like, but for the most part, it’s that puck- moving, first pass that we missed.”
This isn’t the first time the Bruins were without McAvoy as the former Boston University standout missed four games after undergoing a heart procedure in late-January. Thanks to their depth, the Black and Gold went 3-1 in that four-game stretch without McAvoy.
This time around, the Bruins have a little more depth following the Holden acquisition. They now have eight reliable blue-liners that can come in and contribute whenever one of their own succumbs to the injury bug.
But as has been the case with the forwards filling in for Patrice Bergeron as he nurses a foot injury until next week (at the earliest), the Bruins defensemen were up to the task against the Canadiens. Now, they await word on McAvoy’s status going forward.
“You’ve got to be prepared for those situations,” Carlo said after notching 20:04 of ice time. “We practice hard, we work hard in games. I think we’re definitely in good enough shape to be able to handle that situation so I’m glad we can get it done tonight.”
“It’s always tough when you lose your defense and play short,” Khudobin said, “but it happens in these games and you just have to stick with each other and maybe the forwards give you a little bit more help than usual and you keep playing.”
On a night where things could’ve been frustrating, the Bruins kept playing and got it done without McAvoy.