The Washington Capitals are a physical team by nature, but their courage probably grew a size or two knowing the Bruins were without Zdeno Chara because of a follow-up procedure on his jaw, and without Chris Wagner and David Backes because of coach’s decision Monday.
Coach Bruce Cassidy dressed a lineup that was able to throw a rare beating at Alex Ovechkin’s crew, 7-3 at TD Garden, but wasn’t able to put a stop to some mayhem exacting on some of Boston’s best players.
Torey Krug was blasted out of the game early in the second period by a clean Tom Wilson check on the forecheck. Alex Ovechkin was called for holding when he easily could’ve been ejected for slew footing Matt Grzelcyk early in the third period.
What in the name of Brett Ritchie was going on?
Funny thing, Ritchie was probably the one Bruins player in uniform that could have cooled the Capitals’ hyperactive chicanery. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound brings little else to the Bruins, and all the special teams activity limited him to 8:11 of ice time, but that was 8:11 of ice time he should’ve used to bang some heads once it was evident Washington wasn’t as interested in playing hockey as it was maiming some Bruins.
Cassidy was in a jolly mood with Christmas coming and his team having won after going 0-0-3 through the first three games of its homestand, so he didn’t rip into the Capitals or his own players. Instead he seemed content to let the NHL handle the situation.
“There were a few incidents tonight, I imagine player safety might be a little bit busy,” said the coach when asked about T.J. Oshie’s late, high hit on Charlie McAvoy in the waning moments of Boston’s second win against Washington in the past 18 head-to-head meetings (2-12-4). I know if it was a guy like a [Brad> Marchand of the world, they’d be getting looked at. So there were some spears and some of those.”
Marchand agreed the League has some investigating to do.
“Yeah, I would [hear from DOPS}. You know, again, I didn’t see every play. There was definitely a few slew foots out there, and we know I’ve been victimized [for> that,” said the winger, who snapped a 12-game goal drought with his 19th of the season. “You know I don’t see everything out there. They play hard, they play physical, things happen when you play that way. So you know the league will take care of whatever they feel they need to take care of and we’ll move on.”
Unfortunately the Bruins don’t play the Capitals again this season, and they won’t reap the rewards of any punishment Washington receives. Instead the Bruins will come out of the break with possibly half of its top four defensemen on the shelf, and with almost no revenge taken on the perpetrators of those injuring plays.
After getting outshot by the Capitals, 42-17, the Bruins had some lessons to learn about beating the Capitals. A rare off night by goaltender Braden Holtby and an early lack of discipline (five first-period minor penalties) helped perpetuate a Boston blowout. But the Bruins weren’t the better team for 60 minutes, and they weren’t the tougher team.
It’s a second-guess to say that Cassidy should’ve dressed Wagner on a night Chara was definitely unavailable, especially since Ritchie seems determined to join the Martin Lapointe-Benoit Pouliot Bruins’ Free Agent Failure Hall of Fame. Luckily, though, it was the regular season and the Bruins got the two points. Few teams play the body the way the Capitals do, so the Bruins should be safe for much of the rest of the regular season. The playoffs could be another matter.
Assuming Cassidy doesn’t want Chara dropping the gloves at the drop of a hat, general manager Don Sweeney might consider adding some grit. But Wagner, Backes, Sean Kuraly, Chara, Charlie Coyle and even McAvoy are large men capable of defending themselves and their teammates. For now the DOPS can fight the Bruins’ battles, but they’re going to need to do a better job of sticking up for themselves when the stakes are higher.