Mitch's Sports Report: Bruins Earn Point Against Jets But Lose Another Key Player To Injury
The Boston Bruins picked up a point in a 5-4 overtime shootout round defeat to the Jets in Winnipeg last night, but the team could be facing a far greater loss.
Just as the horn sounded to end the second period, Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk got drilled into the boards by the Jets' Josh Morrissey, who got a five minute boarding penalty and with any justice in the hockey universe will also be facing additional punishment from the league for the dirty hit, which left Grzelcyk dazed and barely able to get off the ice under his own power. He did not return for the third period and will be re-evaluated when the Bruins return to Boston, but I would not be the least bit surprised if he's kept out the rest of the regular season with concussion symptoms, although the initial word was that Grzelcyk suffered a lower body injury.
Grzelcyk is a defenseman in the mode of his teammate Torey Krug in that he's not very big in hockey terms, just 5'9" and a bit north of 170 pounds, so he relies on speed, guile, and smart puck moving skills, all of which have earned him regular shifts from coach Bruce Cassidy and with the playoffs just around the corner Grzelcyk was very much in the plan for post-season minutes.
The hope is the injury isn't too serious and that he can heal for the next couple of weeks before the second season begins. Again, the Bruins are still without four very important players in Rick Nash, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, and Charlie McAvoy. Some of those players are skating again, but for Nash, and his status is becoming worrisome as the playoffs loom closer. The Bruins traded a good forward in Ryan Spooner and some promising prospects to acquire Nash as a rental for the post season to skate alongside David Krejci and the two showed excellent chemistry before Nash went out with injury. He's an unrestricted free agent next season and if he doesn't get into the playoff lineup for Boston this post-season there is a possibility that all that sacrifice will be for naught, with Nash having played just eleven games for the Bruins before seeking another suitor for next year. But here's hoping he's just healing up and waiting to get back o the business of scoring and setting up goals for the Bruins in the playoffs.
If the Jets and Bruins do end up meeting in the playoffs, Morrissey may want to be on the lookout himself for some retaliation, but that doesn't happen much in playoff hockey when teams can't afford to give opponents power play opportunities, and really, it would be better if the days of bench clearing brawls due to revenge hits became a thing of the past, but that would requite the league to show it has the mettle to discipline players like Morrissey who put the health of other players at risk. And lest I be accused of hypocrisy when it comes to the Bruins, I'd say the same if it was Brad Marchand doing the boarding.
As for the game beyond that incident, Jets superstar Patrick Laine scored the game winner against Bruins back-up Anton Khudobin in the overtime shootout, but it was an unlikely star on offense for the Jets, with fourth line forward Brandon Tanev recording his first career hat trick in the contest.
The Bruins got goals from Ryan Donato, the Harvard rookie who's only played in just a handful of games and yet has three NHL tallies in that time, and from Danton Heinen, David Pastrnak and Torey Krug, and they overcame a 3-1 deficit to earn the one point for the regulation tie, which puts them just one point behind Tampa Bay for first place in the eastern conference with two games left against the Lightning and a game in hand.
In other race for the playoff news the New Jersey Devils got an absolutely huge goal off the stick of Stefan Noesen, who banged home a rebound with just 53 seconds to go in the third period to give the Devils a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes and a big two points to get some breathing room between them and the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers had to be groaning if they watched this one, because they were just one point behind Jersey for the last available wild card playoff berth in the conference and now sit three points back due to the late game winner.
Out west, the Colorado Avalanche are trying to catch the Anaheim Ducks for the last wild card slot in that conference and they may want to send a thank you note to the Vancouver Canucks, who beat the Ducks 4-1 last night, leaving Colorado just one point shy of Anaheim as that race comes down to the wire. The 'Lanche host the Philadelphia Flyers tonight with a chance to leapfrog into that wild card spot at least for the time being.
And, finally, it's always a bit disorienting in these parts where snow is still laying claim to much of the landscape, but cries of "play ball!" will be heard tomorrow as the 2018 Major League Baseball season officially begins.
Chris Sale will be on the mound for the Boston Red Sox in a late afternoon matinee against the Tampa Bay Rays in Florida and Red Sox Nation will be holding its collective breath that he feels no ill effects from the line drive he took off his hip the other day in spring training.
The NY Yankees will bring their 21st century version of murderers row to Toronto where they'll open up against the Blue Jays with Luis Severino getting the start, and the NY Mets turn to Noah Syndergaard as they look for a bounce back season, hosting the St. Louis Cardinals.