The big question mark for the Boston Bruins this season was always going be their defense.
It was their biggest weakness last season, and after doing little to address the position over the summer it was almost certain to be an area of concern once again. Those concerns had to grow a little on Tuesday night when defenseman Zdeno Chara — still their best player on the blue line — had to leave their 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues early in the second period with an undisclosed injury. He did not return.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game that he had no update on Chara’s status.
Whatever the injury is, his absence seemed to be the turning point in the game.
After former Blues captain David Backes gave his new team an early 1-0 lead, the Blues were able to rally with three goals in the second period, including two just two minutes apart.
Paul Stastny‘s goal, which came shortly after Robert Bortuzzo scored his first of the season to tie the game at two, goes in the books as the game-winner.
For as thin as the Bruins defense looks on paper, their goals against numbers this season have been among the best in the league thanks in large part to starting goaltender Tuukka Rask returning to the elite level the Bruins have been used to seeing him at in recent years. Entering play on Tuesday he had an 11-2-0 record to go with a .946 save percentage. Without him in the lineup the Bruins are 0-5-0 while their backup goaltenders have a combined save percentage below .860.
No matter who the goalie is, it is a defense that needs some work and losing Chara, even if he is not quite as dominant as he was a few years ago, would certainly be a big problem.
The Blues, meanwhile, have now won four games in a row.
Inconsistency was the story of their season through the first month, but after getting blown out in Columbus a little more than a week ago they are starting to resemble the team they were expected to be when the season began. Jake Allen had to make 39 saves on Tuesday, which is probably more than Ken Hitchcock wants to see, but most of that work came in the third period as the Blues were trying to hold off a push from the Bruins in their comeback attempt.
Jori Lehtera scored two goals for St. Louis, including one in the first period that was upheld after the Bruins challenged for potential goaltender interference.
The Blues are back in action on Wednesday night in Washington.