O-fer road trip exposed Bruins’ lack of ready, skilled forward prospects

Matt Kalman
March 14, 2019 - 11:21 pm

There’s still time for Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic and Zach Senyshyn to turn into productive NHL players.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they could use at least one or two of them to be ready to at least be short-term place-holders for their injury-depleted forward corps now.

Instead the Bruins have been forced to move Charlie Coyle and David Backes from their bottom-six roles into top-six roles, and to call up 30-year-old journeyman Paul Carey to help make up for the injury absences of David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk and Marcus Johansson (not to mention missing puck-moving defensemen Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk).

Ironically, Coyle, Backes and Carey (who also had to play in Boston’s top six) were a trio of bright spots in a 4-3 loss at Winnipeg – the Bruins’ third straight loss since their 19-game point streak ended. Boston went 0-3-0 on a road trip against the Jets, Columbus and Pittsburgh.

Coyle scored his first goal in 10 games since joining the Bruins, Backes was around the net and heavy on the forecheck, and Carey was mucking it up all over the ice while showing decent chemistry with center David Krejci. Carey didn’t earn an assist on Charlie McAvoy’s goal because he never got his stick on the puck, but he combined with Krejci to win a board battle that led to the score.

The Bruins were left to rely on McAvoy and Joakim Nordstrom for offense, and after a couple strong offensive plays by the Jets and a couple bounces that went Winnipeg’s way, the Bruins didn’t have enough firepower to keep up.

No one’s expecting Frederic, who had two shots on net (both on the same sequence), or Cehlarik, who was demoted to Providence on Wednesday, to replace the likes of Pastrnak or DeBrusk for the long term. However, you would expect that at this stage of the game they could get in the Bruins’ lineup and at least provide some energy shifts, some shifts that put the opposition on its heels and wear out some defensemen.

Instead we’re left watching Cehlarik get benched and then demoted, Senyshyn continue to play in Providence (23 points in 54 games this season) and Frederic grind on the fourth line. The Bruins clearly overestimated the rate at which these players would develop and be able to contribute in the NHL. Missing three top-six forwards would challenge any team, but the Bruins should be able to rely more on their much-touted youth to help them survive.

By coach Bruce Cassidy’s account DeBrusk is close to returning and Pastrnak shouldn’t be far behind. The Bruins better hope both quickly return to the lineup and to their respective rates of productivity in order to snap this team slump and maintain home-ice advantage over Toronto. And then they have to hope that their health, and the health of all of their core forwards, continues into the playoffs. Because we’ve seen the Bruins survive defensive depletion in past postseasons and earlier this regular season, but it’s apparent that there won’t be any capable reinforcements coming for the forward corps this season.

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