John Moore didn’t have to fight Zack Smith on Thursday night.
For as much success as the Boston Bruins have had this season, it isn’t exactly commonplace for them to start getting into scraps right after a questionable hit, such is the nature of hockey nowadays. But in their eventual 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden, Moore didn’t like Smith’s hit on David Pastrnak, so he confronted him.
It wasn’t much of a battle. Though they’re both the same height and Moore has two pounds on Smith, the Bruins blueliner is a far less seasoned fighter than Smith, who made relatively easy work of Moore in the bout (which you can watch here). This comes as Moore was skating in his first contest since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, as offseason shoulder surgery had sidelined him until Thursday. He had suffered the shoulder injury at the end of the 2018-19 regular season but played through it so that he could take part in Boston’s postseason run.
So you could have forgiven Moore if he didn’t take on Smith. But he did, and he received high marks from head coach Bruce Cassidy because of it.
“You can’t say enough about him, right?” Cassidy said. “Here he is, coming off of shoulder surgery and obviously it’s a reaction thing. He’s not thinking about anything other than protecting his teammates. So that just tells you all you need to know about his character. Probably not the perfect guy in that situation coming off that injury, but good for him. He’ll earn a lot of respect in that locker room that he already had, but now even more.”
Moore looked like he was favoring his surgically repaired shoulder after the fight, going down the tunnel immediately afterwards. But after getting looked at by the team medical staff, he was cleared to return to action. For now, it doesn’t look like he re-aggregated the injury.
“He came back into the game,” Cassidy said. “He was fine when he was on the bench, so I assume, knock on wood that there’s — I don’t they would have sent him back out if there was anything going on, but I guess in the morning we’ll see. I think maybe just because of the injury, something may be — who knows, he might have been just a little mentally nervous as well if there was some sort of twinge, but he was cleared to come back, or he wouldn’t have come back.”
It’s unclear whether Moore will remain in the lineup Saturday night when the Bruins take on the Colorado Avalanche, or if Connor Clifton will slot back in. Moore ultimately skated 16:11 against Chicago, the least of any Bruins defenseman, but that volume shows trust on Cassidy’s part to not just tuck Moore on the end of the bench.