In each of their two losses this series, the Boston Bruins were down to five defenseman because of injury.
In Game 2, an off-balance Matt Grzelcyk was the victim of a monstrous head shot hit from Oskar Sundqvist behind the Bruins’ net. After he was sent to the hospital for testing, Grzelcyk was placed in the concussion protocol. Coach Bruce Cassidy did, however, offer some optimism when he said on Monday there is a chance he returns this series.
Then in Game 4, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was forced to exit the game with a bloody mouth after he was struck in the face with a puck that had been deflected off a stick and flew upwards.
After each of those instances, the Blues capitalized on the Bruins’ ailments by scoring critical late goals to secure the franchise’s first two Stanley Cup victories — one in Boston, and one in St. Louis. Now, the series is all knotted up at two and the Bruins defense is hanging by a thread.
In a Tuesday morning press conference, Cassidy spoke about the possibility of playing seven defensemen if indeed Chara and Grzelcyk are unable to play Thursday night’s Game 5 at TD Garden. At the moment, Chara’s status is uncertain.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) June 4, 2019
If Cassidy and his staff decide to bolster the defense to counter the Bruins’ recent injuries, the obvious next step is to decide on which forward will be removed from the lineup. Boston’s top trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak has struggled to score outside of Game 3’s blowout win, but it’s hard to see any of the three removed from the rotation.
The two most probable candidates to remove for an extra defenseman would be either David Backes or Noel Acciari.
Backes has yet to score through four games and has tallied just five shots on net. He’s also played just 18 seconds of power play ice time per game during these playoffs and hasn’t been on the ice during penalty kill time.
The Bruins can’t afford to be at five defensemen again. If Chara and Grzelcyk don’t play, there could be some serious adjustments.