BOSTON — Twice the Bruins have been forced to finish a Stanley Cup Finals game down a defenseman. St. Louis won each time.
That’s not a coincidence.
Wearing out opponents has been an ingredient of the Blues’ playoff success. They took advantage of injuries to the Sharks’ Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl to advance to the Finals, and with Boston potentially without defenseman Zdeno Chara for Game 5 on Thursday, St. Louis is two victories from lifting the Stanley Cup as the healthier team.
“We can see it throughout games and throughout series,” St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo said Wednesday. “It’s tough minutes to play against our forward lines when they’re playing the way they can. You can see the momentum we create by our line changes in the offensive zone, we’re just using all four lines. If I was a defenseman, that would be tough to defend against.”
Chara did not go to the arena Wednesday, 36 hours after taking a puck to the jaw in Boston’s Game 4 loss. Head coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t talk to and only briefly texted with the Bruins’ captain, who has a facial injury that has been reported to be a broken jaw.
The absence of Chara could prove to be the tipping point in a bruising matchup between the teams. Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is out with a concussion and St. Louis forward Robert Thomas is out with a suspected hand or wrist injury.
If Boston is without two of its top five defensemen in Chara and Grzelcyk, it would mean bigger roles for John Moore and Connor Clifton and the possibility of Steven Kampfer seeing his first action since Game 1 of the East finals.
“You lose a little bit of your team defense, well, maybe you’ve got to create more offense to balance that out,” Cassidy said. “You’ve got a guy that kills penalties well, maybe stay a little more disciplined. Down the line of how can you make up for what he brings without one guy going in there?”
Stephen Whyno is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Bruins-injuries-impacting-Stanley-Cup-Finals-13944113.php.