(UPDATE: Report: Bruins’ Chara has broken jaw)
It didn’t look menacing, per se, upon first glance.
Sure, the puck came off Brayden Schenn‘s stick, deflected up Zdeno Chara‘s and into the big man’s mouth/jaw area, but it looked as if the bloody mess could be sewn up with a few stitches.
Chara was forced out of the rest of the second period. That wasn’t all that surprising. Stitches would take some time. The blood would need to be cleaned up.
And with a full face shield attached to his Warrior lid, Chara returned with the rest of his Bruins teammates for the final frame. A minute passed, then two.
No shift for Chara.
Then a power play by the Blues, which would have normally seen Chara out there killing it off. Instead, he remained stapled to the visiting bench at Enterprise Center.
A power-play opportunity would come, but Chara would not.
[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
In fact, Chara played doorman on the far end of the Bruins bench next to Jaroslav Halak for the entirety of the remaining period, one that saw Ryan O'Reilly pot the eventual game-winner to send the game back to Boston tied 2-2.
“We clearly know he got a puck to the face, very uncomfortable, was advised not to return to play, had some stitches, probably some dental work in the near future,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said following the game. “He wanted to come out on the bench and be with his teammates, that’s why he was out there. I don’t know his status for Game 5.
“Obviously, when he gets back home he’ll have to be re-evaluated, see how he feels tomorrow, for starters. If we have something for you we’ll give it to you. So I can’t say whether he’ll play in Game 5 or not. No idea.”
His status is obviously a big concern, but so were the words “was advised not to return to play.
Cassidy addressed that, sort of.
“I don’t want to get in the nuts and bolts,” he said. “The conversation was short, he was getting worked on, we’re getting on the ice. The trainers come to me and said, ‘Done for the night.’ Question was asked, he’d like to sit with his teammates. If medically he’s able to do that, that’s fine.
“Typically these injuries, coaches, at least in our case, we follow the advice of the medical staff 100 percent of the time. And they did in this case, and they said it was OK for him to sit on the bench. That’s what took place and that’s about all I got on that.”
Perhaps being allowed to sit on the bench is a good sign.
The Bruins are already without defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who was plastered from behind in the first period of Game 2 and has yet to return to the series.
Losing a second man from your top six would be a) bad luck and, b) bad news. Already missing Grzelcyk’s 16-plus minutes, losing Chara’s near-23 would be detrimental to their cause of a second Stanley Cup in eight years.
“If there’s any chance for him to be back, he’ll be back,” David Backes said. “If not, it’ll be next man up again. Whoever our next guy up is will have to fill that role admirably—and they’re big feet to fill.”
That could Steven Kampfer, among others. Cassidy said Kampfer would get the first look and they’d go from there.
“You never want to see that happen to anyone, especially someone on your team, someone who is such a big part of our team playing-wise, leadership-wise,” Charlie Coyle said. “It’s not an ideal situation but it’s how you respond to adversity and you see a lot of it during this time of year.”
Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday (stream here).
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck