Boston Bruins on Paper: Broken bottle of Merlot


You just don’t see stuff like that, except maybe in the movies.

The unsung hero, desperately wounded, somehow rising to his feet to help his line mates fend off a frontal assault by the desperate Pittsburgh Penguins – thousands of Boston strong on their feet to give the injured center a standing ovation as he skated toward the bench, hunched over in obvious agony…

…reaching the bench where he almost collapses into the arms of the team trainers, the look on their faces that of grave concern, giving millions of hockey fans across the globe chills from what they had just witnessed.

Gregory Campbell had just had his fibula broken.

Hockey players are tough bastards, excuse my French.  But what we all witnessed on Wednesday night at TD Garden was beyond being tough, and it invoked memories of gritty sports performances of Boston’s past but, again, it is beyond even that.

When Campbell sacrificed his body to block an Evgeni Malkin power play slap shot from getting to Goal tender Tuukka Rask, he took the puck just outside of the protection of the shin guard, and the force of impact snapped perhaps one of the most dense bones in the human body…

The center for the fabled Merlot Line could have (should have?) stayed on the ice.  It goes without saying – but I will anyway – that he most likely had a pretty good idea of the extent of his injury, but somehow thinking through the fog of intense pain he got up on his knees, then somehow managed to get to his skates.

He maneuvered on one blade, unable to put any weight on his broken right leg, sweeping his stick back and forth in a desperate attempt to aid his penalty kill line with any manner of effectiveness that he could conjure through what had to be pure instinct…

…and when the penalty was killed and the puck had been cleared from the zone that was his responsibility, only then did he gingerly skate off to the ovation and the pats on the back, taken to the treatment room for an aspirin and an xray.

It seems a little trifle to think about, but there is work afoot and Bruins’ coach Claude Julien likes to roll with four lines – and says that he will continue to do so.  Tyler Seguin picked up double shifts the remainder of Wednesday night’s epic double overtime victory, but if Julien is going to roll with four, he certainly has some decent options, which speaks to the depth of this team.

The favorite from a pure experience viewpoint has to be Jay Pandolfo, who has more playoff games and rings than most anyone else on the roster.  He’s sitting on the so-called “Taxi Squad” for the Bruins along with other options, recently signed Carl Soderberg, and Kaspars Daugavins, a waiver wire pickup from Ottawa late in the season.

“We’ve just got to make sure we get something out of all of our lines right now,” Julien said. “I think that’s the most important thing for us, and that’s where decisions are going to have to be made and how do we make it work so that we continue to have four lines.”

And while Julien probably won’t show his hand in that respect until we get closer to game time on Friday night, Bruins’ tough guy Shawn Thornton says that whoever it is, they are ready to go.

“They all know the playoffs is a long grind and they could be called upon anytime.” said Thornton of the players in waiting,  “I know they’ve been working hard on and off the ice, and whoever steps in, conditioning will not be an issue, that’s for sure.”

The Bruins have shown in each series this post-season that they are in better shape than their opponents to handle the rigors of playoff hockey, both mentally and physically – priding themselves on having the gas left in the tank at the end of games to pull away from their foes, and having an effective energy line feeds into that…

…regardless, the Bruins’ have a Game 4 on Friday night, and a chance to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins right out of the playoffs, propelling themselves into the Stanley Cup finals – and they are going to use Campbell’s guts and soldier-like determination as a battle cry, as well they should.

“What he did surprised a lot of people,” Julien said in regard to Campbell staying on the ice after having his leg broken, “but it didn’t surprise us because that’s just who he is, stay in there and make sure he finishes his shift. As a coach you probably wish he would have stayed down, but that’s not his job.”

A hundred, maybe even a thousand times this season, a player selflessly used his body to block a shot from reaching the goaltender…

…but not once have we seen an injury to that degree of severity, nor have we seen many players get up and make their way to the bench under their own power after taking the puck anywhere, and certainly none of us have ever witnessed in sports the kind of intestinal fortitude and pain threshold that would allow a man with a broken leg to stay on the battleground to finish the job…

…but Gregory Campbell knew his season was over – and he was not going out any other way but standing and fighting, or in his case standing as tall as the pain from his broken leg would allow.

So now there’s a broken bottle of Merlot, and the Bruins’ task is to replace it as reasonably as possible.  Whomever is selected for the honor, he will not be the same vintage as Gregory Campbell.

Very few of those bottles exist.