Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, forced to leave Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday in St. Louis after being struck in the face with a puck, has a broken jaw, according to multiple reports.
Chara, 42, left the game at the 3:07 mark of the second period with blood dripping from his mouth. After a 4-2 loss that evened the series at 2-2, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Chara would be re-evaluated when the team got back to Boston.
The Bruins haven’t announced Chara’s status, but The Athletic’s Blues reporter and Boston’s WEEI radio reported Tuesday that Chara’s jaw was broken in the incident. Both reports cited unidentified sources.
“I don’t know his status for Game 5. … If we have something for you (to update) we’ll give it to you. So I can’t say whether he’ll play in Game 5 or not. No idea,” Cassidy said late Monday.
The Bruins coach said Chara “had some stitches, probably (will have) some dental work in the near future.”
Although WEEI’s source characterized Chara as “done-ski” for the Stanley Cup Final, there could be an outside possibility that he could play with his mouth wired shut.
If Chara, in fact, can’t go Thursday in Boston, then he would be the second defenseman the Bruins have lost in the Final. Matt Grzelcyk is in the NHL’s concussion protocol after a boarding penalty by the Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist, who was suspended for Game 3 over the high hit in Game 2.
Cassidy has offered the possibility that if both Chara and Grzelcyk are unavailable, then the Bruins could play seven defensemen and 11 forwards.
Veteran Steven Kampfer and the young trio of Jeremy Lauzon, 22, Urho Vaakanainen, 20, and Jakub Zboril, 22, are among the Bruins’ defensemen options if Chara and Grzelcyk can’t play. Among that foursome, only Kampfer has played in this postseason, getting into two games. The other three played in a combined 20 regular-season games in 2018-19.
After Chara went out Monday, Boston was forced to rely on its remaining five defensemen. Charlie McAvoy led the Bruins with 25:51 of ice time and Torey Krug was second at 24:11, per NHL.com.
There’s this context too: The re-energized Blues claimed after their victory that the relatively penalty-free heavy game they played to tie the series Monday took its toll on a thin Bruins back end.
“I think we are wearing them down when they don’t have six (defensemen),” Sundqvist said. “Obviously, you don’t want to see a guy take puck in the mouth. It’s kind of like when you saw (Blues defenseman Vince Dunn) do it. But five D against our forecheck, I don’t think it’s that easy.”
Chara was injured when Blues center Brayden Schenn’s shot hit Chara’s stick and deflected into his face. Chara fell to the ice and when he lifted his head there was blood visible. Cameras caught him with a bloodied mouth as he skated off the ice.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 4, 2019
The defenseman returned to the bench in the third period with a full clear mask but did not get back into the game.
“That’s the type of guy he is, come out and be there to support,” Bruins center Charlie Coyle said. “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. 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.”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 4, 2019
Through 20 playoff games, Chara is plus-12 with a goal and four assists. He played more than 24 minutes in Games 2 and 3, but was limited by the injury to just 8:23 in Game 4, though he did pick up an assist on Coyle’s goal.
The Blues were leading 2-1 when Chara went out, but the Bruins quickly scored in his absence to tie the score heading into the final period.
St. Louis scored two unanswered goals in the third to seal the first Stanley Cup Final victory on home ice in Blues history — and turn the series into a best-of-three affair.
Game 5 is set for 8 p.m. ET Thursday in Boston.