BEDFORD, Mass. — Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t know if Zdeno Chara would be available for Game 5 or when he’d know if his captain could return after being hit in the face with a shot Monday.
“Right now I got nothing. He’ll go see someone today. We don’t play for two more days,” Cassidy said at Hanscom Field shortly after the Bruins landed back in Massachusetts.
Chara took a puck in the mouth from close range on a Brayden Schenn shot. The 42-year-old captain, who doesn’t wear any kind of face protection, left the ice with his mouth bleeding considerably just over 3 minutes into the second period.
Multiple media outlets reported Tuesday that Chara sustained a broken jaw.
Cassidy explained, across two media sessions — one in St. Louis, one in Massachusetts — how he’d proceed if Chara missed any of the remaining three games of the Stanley Cup Final. Already missing Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller, Cassidy said his options reinforcement might require creativity.
“We’ve won games without — go down the list. That’s the first thing. Should be a mindset that you can still get it done,” he said. “How are we going to get it done? That needs to be discussed, how you have to make up for the loss of certain players at key positions. Zee and Griz have been great on the penalty kill. They’ve been effective on it, a lot has to do with the goaltender and some of the regulars. Now we have to plug someone in there. We got to fix that hole.
“(Chara) is a shutdown defender, forces guys to go outside,” Cassidy continued. “We’ll work to get inside. How are you going to fix that? I don’t know if you can all of a sudden. We have to talk about the mentality of boxing out better. That also involves forwards. There’s different things you got to do to support each guy missing. Griz is more of a puck mover. How are we going to move the puck better when he’s out of the lineup? Forwards have to support the puck better. Did a good job of that in Game 3. (Monday) not as much. This matchup is not good with Zee out, let’s face it. They’re a big, heavy team. You lose that element... But someone else is going to have to step up and I think we do it as a group.”
Cassidy said he’d consider dressing seven defensemen rather than simply replacing Chara with one player.
Steve Kampfer is the most experienced option, but he’s a right shot and Cassidy would prefer to replace Chara with another left-shot defenseman, which means 20-year-old Urho Vaakanainen could play his third career NHL game in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“Well, the back end could have a domino effect. Again, speculation. I hate doing this. If we are out two D, Griz and Zee, we might have to play seven defensemen. Putting guys in that haven’t played a ton,” Cassidy said.”Maybe you got to look at how does this best work out to use a guy situationally, take Zee’s PK minutes, if the other guys match up, which of course would be reaching into an area that a young kid hasn’t played in the playoffs at all. You have to be careful there.”
If they dress seven defenseman, he’ll have to adjust things up front.
“One forward would get double shifted obviously,” Cassidy said. “When you take out a forward you have to make sure it doesn’t affect your special teams.”
With that in mind, David Backes and Noel Acciari would be the most likely players to sit as neither plays a prominent role on the power plays or killing penalties. But losing either would sacrifice some physicality as both have been among the team’s more prolific hitters.