Chara Injury Provides Acid Test for Bruins D
An apparently innocuous body check on Islanders Captain John Tavares took Boston superstar Zdeno Chara out of last night’s game, and out of the Bruin’s line up for at least a month.
The hulking blue line is slated to miss 4-to-6 weeks with a knee injury sustained on the play; leaving the Boston defence facing an elephant they hoped wouldn’t enter the room for at least another couple of seasons – how do they cope without him?
Chara is arguably the Bruins most important player. The club Captain, he plays in all situations against opposing teams best players on a nightly basis – logging big minutes in the process.
But at 37, Chara’s future has become an increasingly prominent question for the organisation.
Signed through to 2018, the wear and tear of an NHL season is having a greater and greater affect on his physical health with each passing year; with Boston even resting him late last season in a bid to re-energise him for the play-offs.
In Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug, the organisation has two of the strongest young D men in the NHL – both of whom will now be required to shoulder far more responsibility with Chara out of the line up.
Veteran Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid will also have to pick up their share of the slack, but the Bruins blue line is much less formidable without Chara.
Simply put; the loss of a perennial Norris Trophy candidate like Chara would hurt any team, withChris Kelly describing the big Slovak as ‘irreplaceable’ – but his absence does present a somewhat intriguing opportunity for Hamilton and Krug, and the Bruins defence at large.
GM Peter Chiarelli dealt popular D man Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders in a bid to clear the teams defensive log jam (and free up some cap space). Whilst Chiarelli has taken plenty of heat for making that move (especially last night, when Boychuk made his return to Boston), it opened up further space for Hamilton and Krug to develop – increasing their ice time and ensuring they played key minutes in game breaking situations.
With Chara now out, it’s a great opportunity to see how the pair respond when they are asked to assume an even greater role with the team.
The injury is some what fortuitous schedule wise; with 7 of their next 11 games at home, and two trips to Toronto and one to Buffalo during that stretch. But with Seidenberg still putting a long term injury behind him, it is understandable there are concerns about how the Bruins defence might cope without such an influential figure.
The franchise has gone from having eight NHL ready D men to six, all whilst trying to recover from a sluggish start…
But the silver lining is there. It doesn’t look like Chara will need surgery, and so should be back around early to mid-December, meanwhile two of the Bruins future defensive stalwarts get the chance to impress.
It’s inconceivable Boston will miss the post season; and now Chara gets an early season break, which could (ironically) leave him in better shape down the stretch, while key parts of the clubs future also get to play a key role.
As part of their learning experience, it could be an invaluable six weeks for Hamilton and Krug – and the Bruins in general.
As much as the idea of a Chara-less Boston makes Bruins fans wince, a period without him might actually be the best thing for this club – because one day, he’ll be gone for good.