Bruins can never have enough able-bodied defensemen
Their defensive unit battered and bruised, the Bruins exited Round 1 of the playoffs in April with the likes of regular blueliners Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Adam McQuaid all out of the mix.
Just more than two weeks into 2017-18, the Bruins have learned yet again that it’s impossible to have too many able-bodied defensemen. Is it possible to have too much firewood at the ready for a long winter?
With McQuaid suffering a broken leg Thursday night, and Kevan Miller nursing an undisclosed injury, the Bruins early Saturday afternoon summoned defenseman Rob O’Gara from AHL Providence.
The gregarious O’Gara (Yale Class of ’16) saw his first NHL action of the season. A 24-year-old second-year pro, O’Gara played three games early last season with the varsity, but otherwise spent the season under then coach Kevin Dean’s watch at AHL Providence. O’Gara paired with Paul Postma for the night and was also used as a key penalty killer. He finished with 14:17 of ice time in the Bruins’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres Saturday night.
The rugged McQuaid will be out of the lineup for eight weeks or more with a fracture in his lower right leg, which allowed Postma finally to make his Black-and-Gold debut on the blue line vs. the Sabres. Postma finished with 11:40, which included time on the point on the second power-play unit.
Postma, 28, logged 191 NHL games with Atlanta/Winnipeg prior to signing here July 1 as an unrestricted free agent for a guaranteed $725,000. Their roster deep in quality backliners, the Jets rarely offered the 6-foot-3-inch Postma substantial playing time, particularly in the role he is best suited — puck-moving and power play.
Now that the oft-injured McQuaid again is hors de combat, Postma should log some 18 minutes a night, possibly more, and have a bona fide chance to cement a spot on the roster, even if only as the designated No. 7 D. Meanwhile, with no road games on their schedule until Oct. 30 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Bruins likely will keep only six defensemen on the varsity roster.
If help is needed, they can call down to AHL Providence, where O’Gara and Matt Grzelcyk are the two obvious WannaB’s in waiting.
Meanwhile, the Sabres, fresh after falling to the Canucks on Friday night in Buffalo, swapped a couple of ex-Habs blueliners off their roster, moving Josh Gorges to the injured reserve list and called up Zach Redmond from AHL Rochester.
Triple (power) play
The five-minute major to Vancouver’s Erik Gudbranson Thursday night — for driving Frank Vatrano into the boards from the backside — produced three power-play goals for the Bruins. They hadn’t connected three times on a major penalty since Oct. 28, 1998, a 9-2 win at Montreal . . . Anders Bjork scored twice against the Canucks. The last Boston rookie to post a hat trick: Vatrano, Dec. 18, 2015 at Pittsburgh . . . Hindered by a high ankle sprain to start last season, North Chelmsford’s Jack Eichel finished his sophomore year in Buffalo with an impressive line of 24-33—57 in 61 games. He arrived here substantially ahead of that pace, with 3-7—10 in 7 games and he scored a goal. He’s at a pace for 113 points over the 82-game season. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (30-70—100) was the NHL’s sole player to reach the triple-digit plateau last season . . . Eichel’s teammate, Evander Kane, picked up the tying goal that forced overtime and squeezed off a total of nine shots, five of which made it on net. He entered the night T2 in the league for shots on net (42), knotted with ex-Bruin Tyler Seguin. Alex Ovechkin (46) was on top. Another ex-Bruin, Phil Kessel, ranked fourth (35). Boston’s top shooter was David Pastrnak (19) . . . A very rough night for Krug, who finished a team-worst minus-3 and didn’t land a shot on net. He coughed up the puck low in the slot, leading to Benoit Pouliot’s goal with 6:55 gone in the third.
The Bruins are scheduled to have the day off Sunday and won’t be back in action until Jumbo Joe Thornton and the Sharks visit the Garden on Thursday. It’s a stretch in which the Bruins only play twice over eight days. The exceptionally light workload might allow the concussed Tuukka Rask to be back in time for Saturday night’s game here vs. the LA Kings. . . Noel Acciari, recovering from surgery on a fractured finger, skated (albeit without a stick) prior to the full squad’s traditional day-of-game skate. He is not expected back until early- or mid-November . . . Veteran winger Ryan White remains in camp on a tryout basis, GM Don Sweeney and Co. still pondering whether to offer him a contract. Meanwhile, another NHL club could evince interest in the 29-year-old ex-Hab. White and Postma were junior teammates for a while in Calgary, where they were coached by Kelly Kisio . . . Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly entered the night with the most faceoff wins (120) in the NHL, followed by Jonathan Toews (114) and Antoine Vermette (100). O’Reilly, who scored the OT winner, won 14 of 24 faceoffs. Patrice Bergeron won 14 of 20.