The Boston Bruins are preparing for the possibility of life without defenseman Zdeno Chara in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Just in case.
Chara sustained a broken jaw, according to The Athletic, when he was struck in the face by a Brayden Schenn shot that climbed his stick in the second period of the Game 4 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday night. With the series tied at 2-2 and shifting to Boston for Thursday night’s game, his status is uncertain. “He is going to see a doctor today here in Boston,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Tuesday. “If they have something for us, I’ll give it to you. Right now, I’ve got nothing.”
Chara dropped to the ice immediately after being struck. He lay there for a few moments holding his jaw and bleeding before being helped up and into the locker room. He did return to the bench sporting a shield on his helmet for the third period but was told not to play.
“He was advised not to return to play, had some stitches, probably dental work in the near future, but he wanted to be with his teammates,” the Boston Globe quoted Cassidy as saying after the game. “That’s why he was out there [on the bench].”
Two of the team’s top left-shot defensemen are dealing with injuries. In addition to Chara, Matt Grzelcyk missed Games 3 and 4 in St. Louis after sustaining a concussion in Game 2. The injuries left Cassidy talking about how he might adjust by using seven defensemen and 11 forwards in Game 5 if neither Chara nor Grzelcyk can play. Still, this is a team known for its depth.
“What we shouldn’t be worried about is ‘Can we win without certain guys in the lineup?’ If you haven’t been through it, the first thing that crosses you’re mind is ‘How are we [going to do it]?’ We’ve done it. We’ve won games without … go down the list,” the Boston Herald quoted Cassidy as saying. “There should be a mindset that we can still get it done. How do we get it done? That needs to be discussed. How do you make up for the loss of certain players at key positions? Z’s been great on the penalty kill. They’ve been ineffective [on the power play]. A lot of it has to do with the goaltender and some of the regulars, and Z. Now we have to plug somebody in there, so we have to fix that hole. He’s a shutdown defender. He forces guys to go outside, or work to get inside. How are you going to fix that?
“I don’t know if you can, all of a sudden,” Cassidy continued. “Your guys are a certain size. We have to talk about the mentality of boxing out better. That also involved the low forward. So there are different things you’ve got to do to support each guy missing. Grizz is more of a puck mover. How are you going to move the puck when he’s out of the lineup. Well, your forwards have to support the puck better. We did a good job of that in Game 3, not as much [in Game 4]. We know we can win with guys out of the lineup. It’s just the magnitude of the time of the year. This matchup is not good with Z out. Let’s face it. They’re a big heavy team, so we lose that element. But someone else is going to have to step up and we do it as a group.”
Through 20 playoff games, Chara has a goal and four assists with a plus-12, statistics that don’t measure what else the 42-year-old team captain brings to the ice.
“He’s an absolute warrior. If it wasn’t for a doctor, he would have played that game. He’s that kind of guy who you’re going to have to kill him to keep him off,” Brad Marchand said. “He’s an absolute leader and those things, you just gain respect for him every single day with what he’s willing to go through to be part of the group and lead this team. He’s an incredible person.”