Examining the tactic of resting veterans
April, 3, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
Rocky Widner/Getty ImagesWith eyes on a long playoff run, the Boston Bruins have reduced Zdeno Chara's ice time.Any other player in the world and there might have been concern. But as we know by now, Patrice Bergeron really isn’t human. On Wednesday night against the Red Wings, he got his legs tangled with Drew Miller while shooting the puck. He hit the ice, was slow to get up and looked to be favoring his leg.
With the playoffs less than two weeks away, it’s a scary moment when arguably the most important player on the team favored to win the Stanley Cup goes down in a game that truly has little significance to that team.
But then again, it was Bergeron. The man who played through a punctured lung. Nothing to see here.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” he said, after the game. “Just took a few seconds to feel better and then it was good.”
The Boston Bruins were already playing without Jarome Iginla, scratched with a lower-body injury after skating Wednesday morning with the team. Bruins coach Claude Julien said Iginla would have been available for a playoff game, and that it wasn’t a major injury.
But these small moments are a reminder of the two things that could slow this runaway train in Boston: injuries and fatigue.
Even in this loss on Wednesday night, their first in regulation since March 1, they were dominant in puck possession and probably should have won if not for the individual heroics of Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Gustav Nyquist.
Dougie Hamilton summed it up quite nicely.
“It’s kind of unbelievable that we lost,” he said, and really it was. “I don’t know how we lost.”
The Bruins and other teams around the league that have locked themselves into a playoff position are in a unique position as the regular season games wind down. They want to remain competitive, they want to perfect their overall games for the playoffs, but they want to be fresh and ready to go when the playoffs arrive. The notion of keeping their team fresh in Boston is one that’s been a constant all season with the Bruins, coming off a short summer and playing in their second consecutive condensed schedule because of the Olympics.
It’s the same for the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, who have shut down Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for the rest of the regular season. At practice on Wednesday, Joel Quenneville shared word that Toews’ upper-body injury that originally was diagnosed as day-to-day would wipe out the remainder of his season.
Jonathan Kozub/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks have shut Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews down for the remainder of the regular season, in the hopes that they'll be close to 100 percent for the playoffs.
“We’re going to be smart and make sure that he’s going to be 100 percent,” Quenneville told reporters after practice. “And he will be 100 percent." And if the next game were a playoff game? "Knowing Johnny Toews? No chance he’d be out of the game,” Quenneville said.
It’s smart for these teams to be cautious with their players and provide rest. And perhaps Wednesday gave us a glimpse into Claude Julien’s game plan the rest of the season.