Monday, December 9, 2013

A Rash of Injuries to Test Bruins

After the injuries sustained in the Bruins vs. Penguins game on Saturday, the list only grew against the Maple Leafs the next night.

Here's a compilation video highlighting the major incidents in the brutal first period of the Penguins game.

Less than twenty seconds into the game against the Penguins, Bruins’ winger Loui Eriksson was on the receiving end of a crushing hit by Brooks Orpik.  Whether the Orpik hit on Eriksson was a dirty hit or not could be argued either way.  On one hand, you could say that Eriksson did not have the puck when the hit was delivered, making it a clear interference call.  The dirty hit argument would also claim that Orpik finished high, contacting the head.  On the other hand, it looks as though the puck was passing just under Eriksson’s stick just as contact was made and it is hard to tell whether Eriksson’s head was the primary point of contact.  Either way, the hit has put Eriksson out with his second concussion of the season.

As if losing a second line winger wasn’t enough, word of injury to Chris Kelly came after the game. A broken fibula is reportedly the result of this slash by Pascal Dupuis late in the second period.  Looking at the video, it’s hard to tell whether the slash was intentional.  While Dupuis was swinging at a bouncing puck around Kelly’s skates, it also came right after Kelly finished a hit on Dupuis.  Intent aside, Kelly was placed on Long-term IR and is set to miss 4-6 weeks.

The most notable event however, was the retaliatory actions of Shawn Thornton on Brooks Orpik following his hit on Eriksson.  Of course, right after I write a post about how Shawn Thornton isn't a goon, he goes out and performs the most goonish act of his career.  Thornton approached Orpik from behind, slew-footing him down to the ice and then proceeded to deliver two shots to his face as he was laying on his back, the second knocking him out.

Now I’m a big fan of Shawn Thornton, but his actions in this case are completely unjustifiable.  While Orpik may have had it coming to him after the Eriksson hit and his previous refusal to drop gloves with Thornton, this type of incident has no place in today’s game.  However, I still stand by my statement that this is not the type of player Shawn Thornton is.

He was clearly shaken in his postgame press conference addressing the incident.

Facing what will most likely be a pretty lengthy suspension, Thornton is the third Bruins forward who will be missing some time as a result of the events of this game.

The Bruins didn’t have much time to let the dust settle and figure out what their new forward lines would look like, seeing as they were scheduled to face the Toronto Maple Leafs the very next night.

This game only brought more bad news.  Dougie Hamilton left the game in the first period with what is being reported as a lower-body injury and has flown back to Boston.  It is likely that he will miss the rest of the road trip as the Bruins are set to face off against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

The Bruins depth will continued to be tested, even more so now that Hamilton will be missing some time and McQuaid has been placed on the IR.  With three Boston forwards slated to miss time, Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser have been recalled from Providence to join Jordan Caron as fill-ins. Thankfully, the Bruin’s depth at the blue line has come up huge recently in the absence of McQuaid, and Johnny Boychuck.  Kevan Miller continued his strong play against the Leafs notching his first NHL goal last night.  Bruins coach Claude Julien is optimistic Boychuck will be returning to face Calgary on Tuesday.

This Canadian road trip and the games following will be a huge test for the Bruins.  At this point in the season, sitting atop the Atlantic Conference, the Bruins cannot afford to slip in the absence of these players.  However, if the Bruins can continue to get wins (as they did against Toronto last night) with a patchwork offense and a depleted defensive core, it bodes well for them moving forward.

If the Bruins can continue to play well in their absence, getting these players back will only provide them a boost in the New Year.  How the team responds in the face of this mounting adversity will speak volumes about the Bruins institutional depth and, more importantly, their heart.

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