Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Mar 19, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) skates for a loose puck during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins locked up the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic weeks ago. They locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference shortly after that. And they’ve even locked up the No. 1 seed for the entirety of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For Jim Montgomery’s club, it’s all about staying healthy between now and Game 1.

That hope appeared to take a significant hit in the second period of Thursday’s win over the Maple Leafs when Charlie McAvoy collided with Patrice Bergeron and crashed into the boards behind the Boston net. McAvoy stayed down for an extended stretch, and though he got to his skates and skated off under his own power, it would be the last we saw of McAvoy on the way to a comeback, overtime win over Toronto.

  • The Bruins ruled McAvoy out before the start of the third period, and called it an upper-body injury.

    But that sinking feeling from the Bruins potentially losing a Norris-caliber defenseman with just four games remaining in the regular season was quickly put an end by Montgomery following this contest.

    “Yeah, we held [McAvoy] back,” Montgomery said when asked for an update on McAvoy’s status. “Just [for] precautionary reasons. We don’t think it’s anything serious.”

    Aaaaaaaand exhale.

  • Feb 28, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 28, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

  • McAvoy’s ability to get up and off the ice under his own power was obviously encouraging, and it’s no secret that the Bruins are in ‘protect all assets’ mode with less than two weeks to go before the start of the playoffs.

    The Bruins practiced this before this game, too, with both Taylor Hall and David Krejci held out of action. In the case of Hall, the Bruins are saying that he’s not fully cleared to rejoin the lineup just yet, while Krejci is dealing with a nagging injury that came with some slight discomfort during Wednesday’s practice session at Warrior Ice Arena.

    There’s just little to gain from forcing a less-than-100 percent player back into action, and such was the case when it came to a wincing McAvoy in the second period of action.

    You can expect the Bruins to keep McAvoy (and most of their roster, really) off the ice tomorrow, too, with Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena switched to an optional practice following Thursday’s win.

    “We want to make sure everyone’s feeling really good,” Montgomery said of managing the bumps and bruises. “When you have some soft tissue and some stuff [like that], you don’t want it to get to the point where it’s chronic.”

  • Apr 6, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) shoots the puck while Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo (25) defends during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 6, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) shoots the puck while Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo (25) defends during the second period at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

  • But with McAvoy unavailable for the third period of play, the Bruins leaned on Brandon Carlo for a strong finish, and the 6-foot-6 defenseman delivered.

    Out there for 6:56 of time on ice in the third period, Carlo came through with a big-time stop with Auston Matthews and the Leafs pressuring a tired Boston group in the defensive zone and with the game knotted up at 1-1. Carlo also came through with an absolutely ridiculous jumping keep-in to keep the attacking on the Leafs’ Ilya Samsonov on the way to Charlie Coyle’s game-tying goal, and with Carlo credited with the primary helper.

    “It was awesome,” Montgomery said of Carlo taking flight. “You know, I thought that whole shift [was]. Coyle was still out there as [Trent Frederic] and [Oskar] Steen went out with him. Freddie got it in deep, we got to the goal line, we forechecked hard, and Carlo being able to keep that puck in was obviously monumental for us getting that goal.”

  • The Bruins will return to action Saturday night against the Devils.

    Whether that lineup features McAvoy, however, remains up in the air. But for now, it sounds like the Bruins have dodged the worst case scenario involving a player they simply can’t afford to lose at any point this spring.

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