RALEIGH, N.C. — The Bruins opened the series without defenseman Charlie McAvoy. They clinched it without his top-pair partner.
Zdeno Chara, who participated in Thursday’s morning skate, did not dress for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. The team said he was day to day with an undisclosed injury.
“This time off will help him,” coach Bruce Cassidy said after the Bruins completed the sweep. “I believe he’ll be ready to go in Game 1, whenever that is. We don’t think it’s serious, but I’ve said that before about some of our guys and found out later.”
It was the first playoff game Chara missed in eight years, breaking a 98-game streak, and the second playoff game he has missed in his 13 seasons as Boston’s captain.
On April 16, 2011, Chara was hospitalized with dehydration before Game 2 of a first-round series with Montreal. The Bruins lost that game, but Chara returned for Game 3. Two months later, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed him the Stanley Cup.
On Thursday, Chara, 42, ceded his lineup spot to John Moore, who played for the first time since Game 7 of the Toronto series. Moore had struggled with an upper-body injury since he was checked in the back by Tampa Bay’s Adam Erne on March 25.
Moore, like Chara a left shot, allowed Cassidy to maintain his left-right balance. Matt Grzelcyk moved up to play with McAvoy, his fellow BU Terrier. Moore skated on the third pair with Connor Clifton. The trusted Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo pair remained intact. Krug skated 27 minutes, while Carlo logged 23:28.
Moore also filled Chara’s spot as Carlo’s partner on the penalty kill.
Chara played 22:06 in Game 3, including a heavy 5:26 on the penalty kill. He is second on the Bruins in average ice time (22:32) this postseason.
His next playoff game will be his 131st, one behind Don Marcotte for third in Bruins history. Patrice Bergeron, who played in his 129th on Thursday, and David Krejci (125th) were behind him on the list.
The Bruins had another scare when Grzlecyk was hammered by Carolina’s Sebastian Aho around the 9:00 mark of the third period of Game 4. He was slow to get to the bench and needed help getting over the boards. He said afterward he was fine. “Just lost my breath,” he said.
Despite the size of their task ahead, the Hurricanes went in as believers. Despite their seemingly comfortable advantage, the Bruins remained on edge.
Four teams in playoff history have advanced after being down, 3-0. A few of the plauers on those teams are key figures in this series.
Carolina captain Justin Williams was on the Los Angeles Kings when they overcame a 3-0 deficit in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, against the San Jose Sharks.
Tuukka Rask, then a rookie netminder playing in his first playoff series, was part of the 2010 Bruins team that lost four in a row to the Flyers in the second round. Boston’s core leaders today — Chara, Bergeron, and David Krejci — were the same on that squad. Rookie Brad Marchand was an extra.
After Krejci was hurt in Game 3 — leaving Boston down a key center — Philadelphia won Game 4 in overtime, shut out the Bruins at TD Garden in Game 5, and snatched one-goal wins in the final two.
“You learn from all the experiences, but especially more so the ones that aren’t as fun,” Bergeron said Thursday, in advance of Game 4 at PNC Arena. “The fourth game is always the toughest game to win in the series, no matter where you’re at.”
The Hurricanes know about battling back. They were under .500 at the close of 2018, falling to 15-17-5 after a Dec. 29 loss. Their playoff push strengthened their belief — they won four of five games to get in — and a seven-game win over the Capitals and a sweep of the Islanders steeled them further.
In that 2014 comeback with the Kings, Williams produced six points (four goals, two assists) in the final four games, including two goals in Game 4. He would love to add to his reputation as “Mr. Game 7.”
“You have to instill a little bit of doubt,” said Williams, who had one goal and five minor penalties in the first three games. “That’s the first step. You have to do that by winning a game.
“We’ve been hit three times here. It takes four to knock us down. We’re just going to keep showing up and see what happens.”
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy had little to say to his players before Game 4.
“Other than the typical game prep, there’s not a whole lot else. They know what’s at stake,” he said. “There’s no rah-rah speeches here. We win a game, we advance. We understand that. We lose, we go home and play Game 5.”
Williams liked what his coach, Rod Brind’Amour, had to say.
“I think his toothpaste analogy is pretty good with that, huh?” Williams said Wednesday, sitting next to teammate Jordan Staal. “You get to the end of the toothpaste and you can always squeeze a little bit more out of it . . . ”
“Just a little bit extra,” Staal said.
“I like Roddy when he said that,” Williams said. “So, we’re going to try and squeeze as much as we can out of our toothpaste here. We’ve got plenty left in it.”
Cassidy not swayed
The latest controversial missed call in a playoff series has not changed Cassidy’s opinion on video review.
“I’m probably one of the guys who thinks there’s too much involved,” he said. “There’s human error in the game. You’ve got to live through it. The argument that’s made is with technology, everyone in the rink sees the play, so how could you not use it if it’s available to you?”
Wednesday night in St. Louis, San Jose won Game 3 in overtime on an Erik Karlsson goal, thanks to an illegal hand pass in the offensive zone by Timo Meier. Officials did not see Meier bat the puck with his glove, and NHL rules state that a hand pass is not reviewable. San Jose leads its series, 2-1.
A similar play nearly cost the Bruins last round, when Artemi Panarin scored in Game 4 in Columbus after officials did not see the puck go out of play and hit the protective netting, four seconds before Oliver Bjorkstrand recovered and passed to Panarin. The Bruins won that game, and that series.
“You get some calls go your way, some don’t,” Cassidy said. “You’ve got to play through. That’s just tough in overtime. The game’s over . . . Unfortunate for St. Louis.”
Sweeney a GM finalist
The Bruins’ Don Sweeney was named a finalist for NHL General Manager of the Year, as voted on by a collection of his peers. St. Louis’s Doug Armstrong and Carolina’s Don Waddell were the other finalists.
Sweeney, in his fourth season helming the Black and Gold, has the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2013. They got there thanks in part to his deadline moves — bolstering the third line Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson in separate deals — and offseason depth signings Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, Jaroslav Halak, and John Moore.
With Chris Wagner flying home for more tests after blocking a shot with his arm late in Game 3, Noel Acciari made his series debut, replacing Walpole Wags on the Joakim Nordstrom-Sean Kuraly fourth line. Because of an upper-body injury, Acciari had not played since Game 4 against Columbus, a five-game, 14-day layoff . . . The Bruins’ six-game playoff winning streak was their longest since 1978, when they swept Chicago out of the first round and won the first two against Philadelphia. They have not had a seven-game run since 1972. The 1970 Bruins finished the playoffs on a club-record 10-game winning streak . . . Entering Game 4, Chara was the only Bruin to have suited up in the series and not recorded a point. From Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson (each with a 1-3—4 line) to David Pastrnak (0-1—1), the Bruins had 18 of 19 skaters on the scoresheet . . . Chara was also the only one without a shot on goal. Kuraly (10) led the team in shots, followed by Wagner, Marchand, and Jake DeBrusk (nine each) . . . Chara (plus-11), Danton Heinen (plus-10), Coyle (plus-9), and Charlie McAvoy (plus-8) were the NHL’s playoff top four in plus-minus.