The Bruins saw a worst-case-scenario play out Thursday night in the first period of a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders. After laying an open-ice hit in the defensive slot on Isles captain John Tavares, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara left the ice and went down the tunnel, never to return.
Following the game, the news came — Chara had suffered a ligament injury to his left knee. First reported by former Bruin and TSN analyst Aaron Ward, the defenseman is expected to miss four to six weeks.
But how did the knee injury occur? The Tavares hit shows no indications of Chara suffering a knee injury. He stayed upright, there was no buckling. It was a solid open-ice hit with the hulking blueliner in the wide-base, chest-over-knees-over-toes position to lay the check.
Going back and watching last night’s first period — all five shifts and 4:13 of ice-time that comprised Chara’s day at the office — the closest indication to Chara suffering a knee injury comes around the 5:40 mark of the opening period.
Lined up along the half-wall on a defensive-zone faceoff, Patrice Bergeron won the draw, knocking the puck into the corner. Going to the corner off the hashmark, Chara gets tangled up with Isles forward Nikolay Kulemin. While the two are tangled up, it looks like Chara’s left knee — the one he reportedly injured — twists awkwardly.
There were no indications of Chara injuring the knee in the aftermath of the play. He was able to chip the puck along the back-wall to Dougie Hamilton, who started the breakout attempt that turned into an icing call when Simon Gagne couldn’t catch the cross-ice outlet pass in the neutral zone.
It’s not known how Chara suffered the injury. But that was the only instance from Chara’s brief time in Thursday’s game of any hint of a left knee injury. He could’ve re-aggravated something he was already playing with — a major possibility. Or he just happened to hit his knee the right way.
What we do know is that no matter how, when or where Chara suffered the injury, the 37-year-old who has missed just 20 games over eight-plus seasons in Boston will be out of the lineup for the next 15-20 games. A blow this team hasn’t seen in the Peter Chiarelli/Claude Julien era.