By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
As the Bruins begin their home and home matchup against the Sabres tonight in Buffalo, they will do so without the services of two of their top defensemen, Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug. The two Boston blueliners were victims of the crushing attack that the Washington Capitals laid upon the Black and Gold before Christmas at the TD Garden when head coach Bruce Cassidy’s club had the 7-3 victory well in hand.
Without Zdeno Chara in the lineup – and the bust that is Brett Richie choosing to play like a five-foot-nothing forward instead of the 6’ 4”, 220-pound physical presence he should be – the once Big Bad Bruins looked more like the meek 13-year-old who has his lunch money stolen more times than not by the bully in middle school.
While fighting may be well on the way of the rotary dial phone in today’s NHL, there is still a need for physical play and standing up for a teammate when the situation dictates it.
It’s not as if general manager Don Sweeney necessarily has to find the 2020 version of Jay Miller, but the reason he is still in search of his first Stanley Cup ring as a GM was on display again this past Monday.
The fact that David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand were pretty much the only B’s to retaliate against the Caps Tom Wilson after the stick to the groin the borderline goon delivered to the Bruins leading scorer in the third period of the blowout, speaks volumes to the void of the physical presence that the franchise has been known for throughout its Original Six history.
Even if the ghost of Kevan Miller ever returns to the B’s blueline he’s an injury waiting to happen and one fight away from having his shoulder explode again.
For as much as he seems willing to assume the role as a policeman for his undersized teammates, David Backes is well past his prime, not to mention his concussion history makes one want to hide their eyes every time he drops his gloves.
Give how close the Bruins are to the salary cap ceiling – and assuming that they will almost have to add a top-six forward to help with the secondary scoring before the trade deadline at the end of February – it likely means the players who can show a mean streak will have to come from the current roster.
The likes of Chris Wagner, Ritchie, Brandon Carlo, Sean Kuraly, and Kyle Clifton will need to develop some timely snarl if the B’s hope to get back to the Cup Final.
And if they are to do so, it’s highly unlikely that the won’t have to get by the team that beat them up physically this past Monday in their own building.
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