By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It would appear that defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and the Boston Bruins have dodged yet another injury scare.
At least if Grzelcyk’s day off from Friday’s practice was indeed a maintenance day, as noted by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy following Friday’s session at Warrior Ice Arena.
“Grzelcyk actually felt pretty good [Friday],” Cassidy said. “Didn’t go out on the ice obviously, but he’ll try it in the morning [Saturday].
“I suspect that he’ll play.”
After escaping Monday’s tangle with Jordan Eberle unscathed, Grzelcyk’s latest brush with a potential trip to the injured reserve came with a second-period collision in Thursday’s comeback win over the Flyers. Grzelcyk hobbled back to his feet and hopped to the bench, and while he remained on the bench in the game, the Bruins did keep him out of the five-minute overtime session.
That seemed to be done out of a mix of both precaution and necessity, as Cassidy essentially admitted that the Bruins didn’t want to put Grzelcyk out there at less than 100 percent and unable to cover the ice necessary at three-on-three play.
“Grz got hurt [Thursday] night, went into the boards awkward, but knock on wood nothing serious,” Cassidy acknowledged. “Let’s keep him off and get him ready for [Saturday].”
It is a bit concerning that Grzelcyk, already averaging nearly two minutes more than he did last year, has been dealt an injury in half of the B’s tilts this season. A bit of that has been bad luck, of course, and Thursday can file under that category, as it appeared that Grzelcyk simply lost an edge versus putting himself in a position to get obliterated.
And that will be part of the adjustment for Grzelcyk.
“We do want to make sure he’s not putting himself in harm’s way every night,” Cassidy said. “Then again, he’s gotta play hockey, and if he has the puck a lot there’s gonna be a chance he gets hit. He just has to be mindful of when to move it and when to hang on to it.”
Thriving in his role as Torey Krug’s replacement on Boston’s second pairing — Grzelcyk’s on-ice Corsi-For percentage of 65.05 percent is tops among a group of 141 NHL defensemen with at least 50 five-on-five minutes this season — and on the top power-play unit, the Bruins are aware that they simply can’t afford to run the 27-year-old Grzelcyk into the ground.
“We have to be careful,” Cassidy noted. “He’s got a different role with us. You never tell a player to pace themselves, but [you] tell them to keep themselves out of tough positions. His minutes will be up, but we thought they would be not as difficult minutes; top of the power play are not hard minutes physically on your body.”
Running a Boston power play that’s clicked for goals on three of their 13 opportunities, Grzelcyk is the Bruins’ top left-shot offensive threat from the blue line. That’s a critical role with the B’s top unit, too, as replacing him with Charlie McAvoy (a right shot) takes away the team’s favorite, go-to plays to run on the power play. Jakub Zboril is an option if necessary, but the Bruins are still trying to figure out exactly what it is that Zboril can do at this level.
“[Grzelcyk]’s an important part of our team now,” Cassidy said.
In essence, Grzelcyk is too damn important to give the Bruins these scares, and they know it.
But they’ll take the end results of said scares through the week first plus of the 2021 season.