As their season came into its last week, the Boston Bruins knew their defense was going to be a big factor in deciding whether or not the team earned a playoff spot. But after the latest injury updates, it seems like it will be the deciding factor.
Already without regulars Andrew Ference and Mark Stuart, the team learned yesterday that Dennis Seidenberg will miss eight weeks after undergoing surgery on a torn tendon in his lacerated wrist. Seidenberg suffered the injury Saturday night in Toronto.
Stuart is recovering from cellulitis on his hand, and Ference is nursing a banged-up groin.
According to Claude Julien, Ference will miss the remaining three regular season games, meaning that at the earliest Ference wouldn't return until a potential playoff series. Stuart’s return is on pace for two weeks, meaning the team would not only have to qualify, but most likely win a series in the playoffs if they plan to get him back this year.
The Bruins' defense will need to step up in a big way, and Matt Hunwick and Johnny Boychuk will be most affected by the sudden injuries to the defense. Both have been regulars all year for Julien, but have not experienced the work load they will be asked to put in from here on out.
Hunwick knows a thing about stepping up to fill roles. Just last season he saw considerable ice time as a forward when the team was short on wingers. Hunwick often played on the team’s top line, alongside Marc Savard and then winger Phil Kessel.
Back to present day. Saturday night in Toronto Hunwick and Boychuk totaled 27:36 minutes and 26:09 minutes on the ice, respectively. The totals put the two only seconds behind captain Zdeno Chara for most ice time on the team.
On Monday against the Capitals, Hunwick totaled 29 minutes of ice time, which included close to three full minutes on the struggling power play. Boychuk also put in a good night’s work, totaling 22:33 in total ice time.
Hunwick and Boychuk aren’t the only two who will need to step up. Dennis Wideman will need to quickly forget his costly penalty in overtime Monday night, and finish his sub-par season strongly. He will also be called on to fill up a lot of ice time as newcomers Andrew Bodnarchuk and Adam McQuaid can not be expected to fill in right away.
Captained by Zdeno Chara (who not to mention is playing with a broken nose), the Bruins' defense should be able to withstand the last three games of the season and help the team earn a playoff spot. However, just withstanding the pressure may not do the trick. The Bruins need to thrive in it.