The Bruins are going to start their latest Stanley Cup run without their captain on the ice.
After Jim Montgomery acknowledged on Monday morning that he didn’t have a “definitive lineup” for Boston’s playoff opener against the Panthers due to a virus in the locker room, captain Patrice Bergeron did not take part in warmups ahead of puck drop against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.
Bergeron was one of many players considered a game-time decision on Monday, with the first-line center kept off the ice over the past three days due to both illness and a nagging upper-body injury.
The only other lineup reshuffle is on the blue line, with Derek Forbort slotting in for Matt Grzelcyk. Montgomery noted over the weekend that Grzelcyk was dealing with a nagging injury.
With Bergeron sidelined for Game 1, Pavel Zacha will slot up to the top line as Boston’s 1C, with Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk flanking him.
“Pavel has assumed a lot of those responsibilities,” Don Sweeney said of Zacha’s reps down the middle on Sunday. “And he’s handled it really well. I mean, obviously the face offs if that comes up, it’s lefties versus righties. And Patrice is one of the best in the game. So it’s an area where everybody has to dig in.
“When one of your better players is out, like we’ve played different games with Patrice this year being out and all those guys have stepped in. But that’s to be decided. So we’re not focused on that. Obviously, Pavel gets some reps that’s much needed to play with Jake and Brad, because he hasn’t played a lot with him. … That’s not something we’re really concerned about, at this point.”
Boston’s depth continues to overcome Bergeron’s absences.
Enduring a stretch without a leader and five-time Selke winner isn’t easy. And indeed, the Bruins needed all hands on deck in Game 1.
But the Bruins didn’t enter unfamiliar territory without Bergeron. They won each of their four meetings without Bergeron in the lineup during the load management stretch of the 2022-23 campaign.
Behind a combo of depth and veteran leadership, the next-man-up philosophy without Bergeron continued on Monday.
“It speaks of the leadership underneath Patrice, and it speaks to our depth,” Montgomery said
Pavel Zacha transitioned back to the middle to fill Bergeron’s void on the top line. Amid the line shuffling, the former Devil logged 14:30 time on ice, notched a secondary assist on DeBrusk’s tally, and went 10-for-17 from the faceoff dot.
Having a bonafide scoring threat in Pastrnak also helped. As did the offensive depth from their four lines once the Bruins found their groove in the final 20.
A stingy defensive structure during the third period limited Florida’s primary and secondary scoring chances from their point-based offensive setup. The Panthers still generated enough traffic in front of Ullmark during the first 40 periods, but the Vezina favorite never wavered, producing multiple timely quality stops for his first career playoff victory.
“There’s always going to be instances where you get a good vision of [the puck],” Ullmark said of Florida’s scoring chances. “It’s always like that in the playoffs. But we always need to make the best of it.”
The Bruins don’t envision a lengthy absence from Bergeron. And they hardly want to enter that scenario as the postseason progresses.
A Big Day for Boston
With the Bruins kicking off the postseason on Patriots’ Day, which of course coincides with the Boston Marathon and the Red Sox’ traditional morning first pitch, the Black & Gold are expecting TD Garden to be bumping for Game 1.
“It’s always nice to start at home,” said Jake DeBrusk. “With all those things going on, it’s gonna be jumping and buzzing. We love that…we’re gonna try to get that crowd engaged as much as possible and give them something to cheer about.”
Montgomery, who attended the University of Maine, recalled the days of hearing teams about how special Patriots’ Day in Boston can be from his local Black Bears teammates.
“It’s awesome to be part of it,” he said. “The staff, players that have been here a long time talked about it. I remember being in college and a lot of the Boston teammates that had Massachusetts roots talking about Marathon day and how it was the best party day of the year. So, I mean, I imagine every crowd’s going to be loud tonight.”
Krejci said his wife, Naomi, is running the Marathon, though he’ll have to track her from afar as he prepares for Game 1. Bruins legend Zdeno Chara also took part in his first Boston Marathon and finished in 3 hours, 38 minutes, 23 seconds.
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