The Bruins have started their season on a the longest point streak in their history at 8-0-1, but they’ll be hard-pressed to extend it without their best defenseman for the next four games.
That’s the punishment Charlie McAvoy received for his check to the head of Oliver Ekman-Larson in the third period B’s 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers on Monday.
On the play in question, the B’s were in the attacking zone when, well after the Panthers’ defenseman had gotten rid of the puck from in front of the Florida net, McAvoy delivered a check to the head of Ekman-Larson. McAvoy was assessed a match penalty on the play.
In the NHL’s video announcing the suspension, it is pointed out that the head is the direct point of contact and that the head contact is avoidable.
McAvoy’s history was also taken into account. He was been fined by the league and suspended a game in the 2019 playoffs when he caught Columbus’ Josh Anderson with an illegal check to the head.
McAvoy has the option to appeal, but it would be heard by commissioner Gary Bettman, making it unlikely that it would be overturned. Calgary’s Rasmus Anderson appealed his four-game suspension for a hit on Columbus’ Patrick Laine but it was upheld.
The suspension does not come at a good time for the B’s. Not only was McAvoy playing his best hockey of the season in the last few games – he had tied the game on Monday earlier in the period – but the B’s were already going to be shorthanded. Matt Grzelcyk had suffered an upper body injury in the first period of Monday’s game and is expected to miss “a couple of weeks,” said coach Jim Montgomery.
Ian Mitchell, who played a couple of games earlier in the season, is a candidate to come up and Montgomery said first-year pro Mason Lohrei is as well.
“(Lohrei ) is definitely one of the players we’d consider,” said Montgomery. “I think he had a really good weekend (in Providence). We’re excited about the player because of what he did in camp, as probably you guys are.”
Lohrei has four assists in seven games in the AHL while Mitchell has one helper in two games with Providence. Mitchell also assisted on Matt Poitras’ first NHL game in the defenseman’s first stint with Boston.
The B’s have a tough schedule over the next four games. They play the Maple Leafs’ high-powered offense on Thursday before traveling to Detroit on Saturday and Dallas on Monday. The last game of the suspension is a home game against the Islanders.