In the Bruins’ 4-1 Game 1 win over the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, Andrew Ference logged 19:36 of ice time, third most on the team behind Zdeno Chara (23:38) and Dennis Seidenberg (21:32). The Bruins will have to look elsewhere for those minutes in Game 2.
On Thursday, the NHL suspended Ference for one game. League disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan ruled that Ference threw an illegal check to the head of Mikhail Grabovski in Wednesday’s first period.
Ference and Grabovski were racing after the puck in the corner in the Boston zone. Ference reached the puck first and played it with his backhand. Ference then raised his left arm and shoulder and clipped the left side of Grabovski’s head. No penalty was called. Grabovski was not injured.
“It’s important to note that we don’t view this check as defensive in nature,” Shanahan said in his explanatory video. “Ference is in control of this play and is not merely bracing for contact. Although Grabovski is bent over in his pursuit of the puck, he does not change the positioning of his head just prior to or simultaneous with contact in any way that contributes to this illegal check to the head. That puts the onus on Ference to avoid this forceful contact entirely. Or at the very least, hit Grabovski squarely through the body.”
Ference was considered a repeat offender. He was suspended for three games last season for boarding the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh.
Ference skated with Johnny Boychuk on the No. 2 pairing in Game 1. Ference’s outlet pass led to David Krejci’s second-period goal, although he was not credited with an assist.
“I think we’ve just been playing well together by talking and reading off each other really well,” Boychuk said. “When we had our chances to jump up, we have.”
The Bruins will miss Ference’s steady play, puck-moving ability, and experience. Ference and Boychuk were partners during the 2011 Stanley Cup run.
The Bruins will consider multiple options to replace Ference. Their first concern is whether to split Chara and Seidenberg, the shutdown strongmen.
If they believe that Chara and Boychuk could play against Phil Kessel’s line, Seidenberg would most likely shift to the left side on the No. 2 pairing. Dougie Hamilton, a healthy scratch in Game 1, would reunite with Seidenberg, his partner from the start of the season. The third duo of Wade Redden and Adam McQuaid would not change.
If the Bruins prefer to keep Chara and Seidenberg together, Aaron Johnson could get the nod over Hamilton. Johnson is a lefthanded shooter, while Hamilton is a righty. The Bruins prefer their defensemen, other than Seidenberg, to play their strong side. Johnson was a healthy scratch in Game 1 and has appeared in only 10 games this season.
Matt Bartkowski, who is in Providence, is eligible for recall.
“We have lots of depth,” coach Claude Julien said before Ference’s suspension was announced. “I’m not worried about that. Ference is still in my lineup right now unless somebody tells me otherwise. We’ve got lots of guys that provide us with depth back there.”
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin are in their longest scoring drought of the season. The forwards, who make up the Bruins’ most consistent all-around line, are scoreless in their last four games.
Sometimes, statistics don’t accurately reflect players’ performance.
Although they didn’t score in Game 1, they turned in one of their best collective efforts of the last month. All three played with pace, jump, and fire.
Their first task was to slow down Toronto’s No. 1 line of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Kessel. Van Riemsdyk scored a power-play goal with Bergeron in the box for tripping. But Toronto’s top-liners didn’t produce any even-strength offense, partly because of the Bergeron line’s defensive play.
At the other end, Bergeron’s line was flying. They combined for 14 of the Bruins’ 40 shots. At 1:10 of the second period, Seguin unleashed a shot that clanged off the crossbar.
All the players stopped skating, believing the puck had gone in. Video review confirmed the puck didn’t cross the goal line.
At 7:06 of the third, Bergeron thought he had given his team a 5-1 lead. James Reimer stopped Seguin’s first shot. But Bergeron crashed the net, poked the puck loose, and jammed it over the line. Referees Chris Lee and Kelly Sutherland ruled that Reimer had covered the puck and the play was over.
“We decided to start fresh, get the puck on net, get to the loose pucks, and be first to those pucks,” Bergeron said. “Every time we’re moving our feet and we’re skating, Siggy and Marshy are so fast that it’s tough to match. Just trying to use them as much as I can.”
The Bruins were given Thursday off. They will practice on Friday at Ristuccia Arena in preparation for Saturday’s Game 2. “It’s not because of a reward for [Wednesday] night,” Julien said. “We have to recover somewhere along the way. There’s still some areas of fatigue in our team that [coincides] with what we went through the last couple weeks.” . . . The Bruins aren’t expected to make any lineup changes up front. The final battle was for the third-line left wing spot. Kaspars Daugavins beat out Rich Peverley for the opportunity to play alongside Chris Kelly and Jaromir Jagr. “I thought our four lines were pretty decent as far as keeping the momentum going our way,” Julien said. “You’ve got to remember one thing: That’s the only line of all our lines that hasn’t been together. You look at the first two lines, those guys have been together forever, including the fourth line. I’m going to cut them a little bit of slack. Jags missed the last two games where there was an opportunity to build a little bit of chemistry with some players.” . . . The Maple Leafs on Friday will practice at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena for the second straight day.