WILMINGTON, MA -- It likely wouldn’t have happened if Andrew Ference hadn’t been suspended for Saturday night’s Game 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they say that necessity is the mother of invention.
Rugged stay-at-home defenseman Adam McQuaid was paired with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara at Friday morning’s practice at Ristuccia Arena, and it appears he’ll get a look as part of the top shutdown defensemen pairing with Boston’s 6-foot-9 tower of power. That means McQuaid will be getting plenty of work against top lines, and will hold plenty more responsibility as players like Phil Kessel try to go away from the Black and Gold monster in the left corner.
McQuaid was a plus-1 with a hit and a blocked shot in 13:22 of ice time in Game 1, but it would appear he’ll be playing a bigger role on Saturday night. The 6-foot-5, 209-pounder is looking forward to the challenge of greater responsibility, and will probably just add to the nightmare of players like Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri that seemed to want nothing to do with the puck on their sticks in Game 1.
“[The Ference suspension] changes things a little bit because now we’ve got different personnel. We have confidence in our group,” said McQuaid, who finished with a goal and four points in an injury-marred season of 32 games. “Maybe different guys have to play in different roles at different times. We’re all going to have to step up and fill in a little bit.
“I haven’t skated with Zee too much, but it’s a situation where you have to step up. It’s a great opportunity to play with a guy like that. We switch around a little bit and play with different guys, so it’s not like we’ve never played together before.”
The Bruins tend to mix and match their defensemen, of course, but they’ve also tended to play their Chara/Dennis Seidenberg shutdown pairing for up to 30 minutes when it comes to playoff time. It will be interesting to see how much extra work McQuaid gets on a top pairing, but Claude Julien says “Mac” is up for the challenge.
Not only that, but McQuaid has also really upped his physical play in the last couple of weeks as the Bruins have rounded into punishing physical form. As long as he can handle the puck-moving duties needed from a big minutes player skating opposite Chara, McQuaid should be just fine.
“He’s done that job before. I don’t think that’s an issue,” said Julien. “With ‘Mac’ it’s about confidence with the puck, it’s never about defending. He’s been a pretty good defender that can handle the speed, and can handle the size. He’s probably been appreciated a lot in that way.”
The 26-year-old Prince Edward Island native certainly has done it before against top lines, but never during a Stanley Cup playoff run. So it will be a little different if he starts up with Chara right off the bat against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, but that could make for one big, strong, intimidating defensive pair that the Toronto skaters will be staring up at.