By Prime Time Sports staff Sam Connon, Dylan Corey and Libby Sweeney
The Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins are in extremely similar situations. Both have played over 70 games, are second in the Eastern Conference, and are dealing with hardships when it comes to injuries.
Opening Day is just around the corner, and the Boston Red Sox are no different. Crucial players from Kyrie Irving, to Zdeno Chara, to Dustin Pedroia will all miss time for their respective teams.
Injury bug continues to plague Celtics
The Celtics are in the thick of dealing with the most injuries they’ve had all season. In the past month, it seems like nearly every player on the roster has missed time for one reason or another.
Most notably, Kyrie Irving underwent a surgery on March 24 to remove a tension wire in his left knee. The end result is that Irving will remain out for 3-6 weeks. Irvings’ absence could mean trouble for Boston in the opening round of playoff action. In his first season with the Celtics, the 6-foot-3 point guard is averaging 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 5.1 dimes over 32.2 minutes per game in 60 appearances.
Continuing with the guards, Marcus Smart will miss the rest of the regular season, but could return late in the postseason. The Oklahoma State University product had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, which happened while diving for a loose ball. There is no specific timetable for Smarts’ return at the moment, but he should be available if Boston is able to advance to the second or third round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
21-year-old forward Jaylen Brown returned to the court on Sunday for the first time since suffering a concussion on Mar. 8 in a match up against the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his first game back, Brown made the most of his 25 minutes, scoring 19 points on 6-10 shooting in a victory over the Sacramento Kings. Going back to his rookie season, he has seen improvement across every major category, most notably an eight-point increase in points per game. In similarity with Irving and Smart, Brown will be a vital part of any postseason success.
Finally, Daniel Theis and Gordon Hayward are hopefully the only Celtics that will be out for the season. Theis has found a nice niche in Brad Stevens’ system, averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 boards a game. He is also a solid option off the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop, which will certainly be missed when the starters sit during the playoffs. Hayward will undoubtedly be a huge part of future success when he (hopefully) sees more than a grand total of five minutes in an entire season. Even though there is still some rumors that Hayward could make a reappearance in the event of a deep postseason run, Stevens has repeatedly shut down any speculation of him returning until next year. Until then, the C’s will have to find a way to keep up their success without either player.
Bruins can’t catch an injury break
The Boston Bruins lineup has recently been ravaged by injuries, though it seems they may finally be emerging from the worst of it.
Though several players are nearing return, with two returning to the lineup Sunday night in a victory against the Minnesota Wild, there are still six Boston Bruins that are not returning to the ice in the near future.
Centerman Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Torey Krug are the first to return from the plague of injuries. Bergeron, who normally centers the first line, had been out for a month with a fractured foot, while Krug had been dealing with an upper-body injury that forced him to sit out the last two games.
But the regular lineup is far from fixed. The defense of the Bruins are still missing a third of their relied defensemen in captain Zdeno Chara and star rookie Charlie McAvoy. Chara left halfway through the Mar. 13 game against the Carolina Hurricanes and headed to the x-ray room, according to NBC Sports Boston beat writer Joe Haggerty. The 6-foot-9, 41-year-old always is the front runner for time on ice with the Bruins, averaging a monstrous 23 minutes per game this season.
McAvoy, who normally challenges Chara’s time on ice as a 20-year-old with a monstrous 22 minutes on average, sprained his MCL during the rumble against the Montreal Canadiens on Mar. 3, and left the game in a knee brace. Several days later, the team announced it was a sprained left MCL and that the young defenseman would be re-evaluated in four weeks.
Today, head coach Bruce Cassidy said that both Chara and McAvoy have begun skating and should be close, though they did not travel with the team to Minnesota for Sunday night’s game.
David Backes suffered a deep knee laceration a little over a week ago when the skate of a Tampa Bay Lightning forward accidentally sliced Backes’ knee. The gash required 18 stitches, but there was no structural damage to the knee, which reduced his recovery time significantly. Sunday afternoon in Minnesota, Cassidy announced that Backes had begun to work out again and would be ready to join the team relatively soon.
The uncomfortable waiting will now be reserved for forwards Jake DeBrusk and Rick Nash. DeBrusk suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in the same game Chara did, but he’s been given no timetable to return, which may indicate the injury to be a concussion. Nash, who has played 11 games with the Bruins since he was acquired at the trade deadline, has not dressed for a game since Mar. 17. Also sidelined with an upper-body injury, Nash has been labeled “day-to-day” and may return to the lineup when the Bruins return to home ice on Thursday. Both Nash and DeBrusk have been relied on as scoring depth this season. DeBrusk had 39 points and was close to 20 goals for the season when he went down, and Nash had been working to bring his offensive skill that used to win games for the New York Rangers to help the Bruins.
The only player out for certain is Anders Bjork, whose season was ended when he had shoulder surgery on a labral tear in late February. The Bruins announced his shut down for the season on Feb. 22, and that he would be recovering for six months.
While the Bruins look to reassemble the anchored squad in time for the playoffs, which begin April 11, they haven’t necessarily been floundering without these key players. The team has only experienced two regulation losses in the month of the March so far, and those came in the period after DeBrusk and Chara were injured. The last time the Bruins lost two regulation games in a row was the end of February. All the other games in March have given the Bruins the points they need to climb towards the top of the Atlantic Division with 104 following Sunday night’s win against the Wild, leaving them two behind the Tampa Bay Lightning with a game in hand as well as two head-to-head match ups scheduled.
Locker room leader, starting pitchers starting season hobbled
With the start of the regular season just days away, the Red Sox have some major concerns on the injury front.
All-Star and former MVP Dustin Pedroia has been sidelined all Spring Training with a knee injury. Manager Alex Cora has said that Pedroia won’t be close to ready for Opening Day, and will start the season on the disabled list.
Pedroia underwent cartilage-restoration surgery last October following an injury-riddled 2017 season in which he only played in 105 games. His time off was the result of inflammation in his knee after having another surgery in 2016.
Normally the Red Sox’ go-to No. 2 hitter, the Sox will have to turn to Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt to fill in for Pedroia for the next month or two. Despite turning 34 last season, Pedroia is still one of the best second basemen in the game, batting .308 over the past two years.
Outside of Pedroia, the rest of the Sox’ injury woes are on the mound. Ace Chris Sale was struck by a line drive Saturday, and was diagnosed with a hip contusion. While he has been cleared to start in the opener, the moment was certainly a scary one for fans.
Drew Pomeranz, who had been making strides towards being on the active roster by Opening Day, will start the season on the disabled list. While the injury is minor, the organization elected to play it safe and give Pomeranz a week or two of rest. Eduardo Rodriguez is still recovering from a knee injury that plagued him last season, and is presumed to be out until late May.
With Stephen Wright suspended 15 games following an MLB ruling on his domestic violence case, the Red Sox are thin at starting pitcher. With David Price, Rick Porcello and Sale at the top of the helm, the team will be looking for another two starters to round out the rotation. Many expect Brian Johnson to be the fourth starter, with the fifth spot between Hector Velazquez, Marcus Walden, and Justin Haley.
There are high hopes for the 2018 season in Boston, but it is looking more and more like the Red Sox may not get off to the best start.