As Adam McQuaid swept behind the Bruins net, the defenseman felt something in his right leg. He clutched his right groin or hip area and went down to the ice at 7:52 of the first period on Saturday night.
Unable to skate off under his own power, he was helped off the ice by Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille and did not return. He had played just 44 seconds, during which he fought Toronto’s Frazer McLaren and earned a five-minute major. There was no significant update on the defenseman’s injury following the Bruins’ 3-1 victory.
“It’s hard to give you a real good assessment after a game,” coach Claude Julien said. “He didn’t come back because he couldn’t. We’ll probably give you more [on Sunday] when it’s a little bit clearer. Injuries sometimes you have to give it at least a day to calm down and see what the situation is.”
With McQuaid out of the game, the Bruins relied heavily on four of their five remaining defensemen, with Zdeno Chara racking up 28:04 of ice time, Dougie Hamilton playing 24:43, Johnny Boychuk playing 24:28, and Dennis Seidenberg playing 24:15. McQuaid’s partner, Torey Krug, added 15:54.
“We were fine,” Julien said. “We were fine, we rotated through and they did a good job. Where we lacked was probably in the second period, got away from our game. But that wasn’t the defensemen, it was the whole team.”
The second period featured Toronto throwing 18 shots on net and scoring the team’s only goal of the game, by Joffrey Lupul. The Maple Leafs had just 16 shots in the other two periods combined.
“I think they played solid today,’’ Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said of the defense. “A lot of blocked shots . The second period caught us off guard again; we didn’t play good as a team, but I think it was five D’s, they battled hard and did the job.”
The initial plan was to have Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson alongside Patrice Bergeron on the Bruins’ second line, and Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith alongside Chris Kelly on the third line.
That all fell apart because of Soderberg’s ankle injury and ineffectiveness by Marchand.
But after the return of Eriksson, the team has finally been able to reassemble the lines it had hoped for, leading to improvement in not just the second line, but also the third.
Smith’s play of late has been especially positive. He scored the final goal against the Panthers on Thursday, intercepting a bad pass — forced by Soderberg — and ripping a shot on goalie Scott Clemmensen.
The Bruins have seen a recent uptick in their special teams play, especially on the penalty kill.
Boston allowed goals on five consecutive power plays, starting in a loss to New Jersey Oct. 26, when the team allowed four power-play goals. Since then, the Bruins have killed off 15 18 consecutive penalties.
“Our PK has been good this year,” Julien said. “The only reason we’re down there in our PK is because of that one game against Jersey. Other than that we’d be in the top two or three in the league. So one game really did some damage there. I think we went from second or third down to 24th or fourth to 24th in one game. So that’s how bad it was.”
The Bruins came in ranked 20th on the power play, at 15.9 percent, then connected on two of three chances Saturday.
“Our power play, again always looking to improve, but we’re certainly spending more time in the offensive zone, certainly moving the puck better; more chances this year,” he said.
“Hopefully if the finish can come, then we’ve got a decent power play. It hasn’t hurt us like it has in the past, and that’s a good sign.”
Chris Kelly said he didn’t get a chance to watch the video made by Brendan Shanahan regarding the hit on Thursday night that resulted in a three-game suspension for the Panthers’ Jesse Winchester, but he repeated his belief Winchester was not trying to hurt him.
“It’s such a quick game,” Kelly said. “Guys react. No one’s intentionally trying to hurt anyone. That’s my opinion. Maybe certain guys it is, but reaction in sport, sometimes those plays happen.”
Winchester told the Ottawa Sun on Saturday, “I’m guilty,” and said he respected the NHL’s decision to suspend him.
While Winchester, a former teammate of Kelly’s, hadn’t reached out to the Bruins center on Friday, he said on Saturday that he had tried to reach him.
He added, “He is a mentor. I didn’t want to hurt him.”
Point in his favor
Krug has six goals this season, tied for tops among defensemen. Julien sees that as a product of confidence. “He’s got lots of it right now,” Julien said. “He’s got the experience and he seems to have the knack to jump into the holes at the right time.” Julien did say the team is trying to make sure Krug is not too aggressive in entering the offensive zone, that he picks his spots. “But it’s about confidence and not just confidence, but also he’s got a pretty accurate shot,” he said. “When he gets those opportunities, he seems to be able to find those open spots there in the net area to score some of those goals. That’s something that you either have or you don’t have, and he seems pretty good at that.” . . . Matt Bartkowski and Jordan Caron were the Bruins’ healthy scratches.