The Bruins are awfully close to the dangerous ‘no help’ spot
Things are getting awfully dicey for the Boston Bruins.
In Nashville for a Thursday night showdown with the Predators, the Bruins remain without the suspended Brad Marchand and injured Anton Blidh. (Their statuses are the only reason why Jake DeBrusk, whose trade request went public earlier this week, is still in the Black and Gold lineup, actually.) The Bruins also remain unable to make any calls for help, as the P-Bruins are in a ‘lockdown’ situation due to a COVID outbreak, and with more players testing positive Wednesday per Mark Divver.
And on Wednesday, the Bruins practiced without team captain Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron’s absence came one day after a blocked shot left him hobbling back to the Boston bench. Bergeron would finish the game (because of course he did), but it was the second straight game Bergeron was left hobbling. The Bruins, for what it’s worth, were quick to dispel any worries about the Bruins being down another body on the NHL roster.
“Maintenance day for Bergeron,” B’s assistant coach (and current head coach with Bruce Cassidy in COVID protocols) Joe Sacco said following practice. “We expect him to be back [Thursday].”
(Sacco, in case you’re a conspiracy theorist or just love plain ol’ fishing for concern, also said it’s best not to read into any of the practice lines you saw during Wednesday’s on-ice session at Warrior.)
But what if it’s indeed Gameday Roster Doomsday — which really isn’t hard to believe with the way this week has gone for the Bruins and anybody even loosely related to the Bruins — and Bergeron isn’t good to go?
Well, the next-best option for the Bruins would be throwing Connor Clifton, a healthy scratch for the last six games, into action as either a seventh defenseman or forward. On the latter, it’s worth mentioning that Clifton did get get some reps as a fourth-line wing for the P-Bruins at one point, and he has practiced in that spot in the past. The chaos of ‘Cliffy Hockey’ taking its act to the forward grouping is almost definitely worth the price of admission if you’re in the Nashville area (and own a mask).
That would be a ‘simple’ fix for the Bruins.
Now, here’s where things could get even crazier for the Bruins.
In addition to being without Cassidy and assistant coach Chris Kelly due to COVID protocols, the Red Wings’ Tyler Bertuzzi landed in the COVID protocol Wednesday. Bertuzzi played the Bruins the night before, and played a ton, and Bertuzzi’s never been the type of player to avoid contact. In fact, the man seeks it out. Whole lotta bump n’ grind there. (I can say that on this website, right? My mind’s telling me no, but my body… my body… is telling me yes.)
If the Bruins have a sudden COVID outbreak on their roster, that’s yet another brutal punch.
Especially with Providence currently unable to help. So, what then? The Bruins could make a call to the ECHL’s Maine Mariners for help. But the problem there? Callum Booth, a goaltender, is the only player signed to an NHL contract. As fun as it would be to see, that wouldn’t help if there’s a problem on defense or up front. The Bruins, from all indications, would effectively have to sign a Mariner player to an NHL contract for them to get the call from the ECHL to the NHL.
The team could also call 2021 first-round pick Fabian Lysell from the WHL’s Vancouver Giants back to Boston on an emergency recall. And though the ultra-talented Swedish wing is off to a tremendous start in his first full season on North American ice, with eight goals and 22 points through 18 games (Lysell had a four-point night on Wednesday) with the Giants, bringing a teen up to the NHL on the first flight available and with no real practice isn’t ideal.
The alternative to all those options, of course, is playing with less than 18 skaters. The Bruins wouldn’t be the first team to have to do that this calendar year, but I’m almost certain they would be the first to have to do it for non-salary cap related reasons.
The optimal fallout here, and for reasons that go beyond Thursday in Nashville, is the Bruins have a COVID-free morning.
And the truly perfect solution is that Thursday’s lineup includes Bergeron. Even if it’s at less than 100 percent.
Luckily for the Bruins, ‘perfect’ is one of those things that seems to follow No. 37.
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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.