Commentary

B's count on team defense

Going mostly with four defensemen, the Bruins will need flexibility from offense

Updated: April 11, 2010, 8:33 PM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The number 4 in this once-crazed hockey town meant something completely different than what it means right now for the Boston Bruins.

For a long time it stood for Bobby Orr -- and probably still does. Currently that lowly number represents the amount of defensemen the Bruins have logging all the ice time.

Because of injuries to Andrew Ference (groin/hernia), Mark Stuart (hand), and Dennis Seidenberg (lacerated forearm tendon), Boston's blue line is down to four regulars. Only Ference has a chance to play again soon as Stuart will miss the next 2-4 weeks while Seidenberg will be sidelined for eight weeks.

With the Bruins attempting to clinch a postseason berth with only two games remaining, these injuries don't help.

[+] EnlargeZdeno Chara
Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty ImagesZdeno Chara played with a facemask on Thursday to protect his broken nose.

"What we've got right now is what we're probably going to end up going forward with," said Bruins coach Claude Julien.

What Boston has right now and for the foreseeable future is Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman, Johnny Boychuk and Matt Hunwick on the back end.

On Thursday at TD Garden, Chara logged 30:20 of ice time, Wideman had 23:23, Hunwick chipped in 26:16 and Boychuk played 28:49 to help Boston to a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's big," said Julien. "We're asking everybody to step in and make it as easy as possible on our guys who are logging a lot of ice time back there. I think our forwards did a great job coming back and helping out, but those guys have done a tremendous job in the last three games, basically playing with four-plus Ds. Again, scoring some big goals for us and we need contributions right now from anybody who can give it to us."

Julien dressed two other defensemen -- Adam McQuaid and Andrew Bodnarchuk -- but the pair combined for 11 minutes of playing time.

"You can't be forgetting about those other two guys," said Chara. "McQuaid and Bodnarchuk are still chipping in. They still help us out and it's not just us four on the back end. It's six guys and we are all chipping in. It doesn't matter if someone plays 10 minutes or 30 minutes."

Wideman, who was booed every time he touched the puck on Thursday, turned those jeers to cheers when he scored what proved to be the game-winning goal at 1:59 of the third period. His wrister from the point found its way through traffic and beat Sabres goalie Patrick Lalime to the top right corner to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

"I thought he's been playing good," said Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. "He's human, obviously. It's not easy to get that kind of pressure and people taking shots at him, but he's playing well and he scored the game-winner tonight. We're behind him and we know he can do the job."

Chara helped out offensively, too. His blistering slap shot from the point was redirected in by teammate Mark Recchi at 16:35 of the third period to give the Bruins a 3-1 advantage. It was Chara's 36th assist of the season, but the amount of ice time he's been playing has been more important for the team of late.

He also proved on Thursday that he wears the "C" on his sweater for a reason.

The captain broke his nose during the game against the Capitals on Monday and needed surgery on Tuesday. There was no way he'd miss the Sabres game, and he was even sporting a full cage to protect his face.

"I've seen in the last month a determination in him that he's going to make sure this team makes it past the regular season," said Julien. "He's playing solidly for us. He's played through a lot of [injuries] and even though he was going to play tonight, it wasn't easy, and breathing isn't easy for him. He found a way to come in and play a solid game. He's been the leader we all expect him to be."

Even though Chara credited the six defensemen who played on Thursday, the onus the rest of the way will be on the top four. What you see on the blue line is what you'll get if and when the postseason begins for the Bruins

"I don't think there's going to be an easy way," said Julien. "We're not in and we still have to win games and control our own destiny and we've got to do what it takes."

The Bruins have no choice.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

MORE NHL HEADLINES