Questionable Roster Changes Hinder Boston Bruins in Game 3

I’m not one to question head coach Bruce Cassidy on a regular basis. His winning percentage as the Boston Bruins head coach speaks for itself (.682 in four seasons). Yet when I heard who was dressed for Game 3, I couldn’t help but question what was running through our beloved coach’s mind. Here is the lineup that the Bruins used in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals:

Sean Kuraly, Anders Bjork, and Connor Clifton were all scratches. Kuraly was deemed as unfit to participate, so it sounds like Kuraly probably would have played if he could. Par Lindholm, John Moore, and Jeremy Lauzon were all inserted into the lineup in their places. 

I agree that Bjork absolutely needed someone to call him out for his lackluster play since the NHL restart. We know he has potential, but a few defensive mishaps combined with the inability to find the net led to his benching. I’m not sure, however, that he needed to come out of the lineup. The Bruins are a team desperate for secondary scoring. Yes, Bjork is underperforming, but he might be the Bruins’ best chance to eventually find a bottom-six goal other than from the stick of Charlie Coyle. Maybe it would have been more efficient to publicly call out Bjork for his recent poor play, but leave him in the lineup. 

With Kuraly out, Lindholm makes sense as a replacement. Lindholm filled in on the penalty kill, but even that didn’t work out with Tampa scoring on their first three of their power plays of the game. I would’ve been in favor of seeing Nick Ritchie out of the lineup in favor of Jack Studnicka, or keeping Bjork in and scratching Ritchie.

Ritchie continues to be an overall negative for the Bruins, despite his goal in Game 2. I simply don’t believe Ritchie brings consistent effort. His play looks lazy most of the time. His retaliatory slash in the first period of Game 3 was a boneheaded penalty, one that led to a Tampa Bay Lightning power play goal. Ritchie looks disinterested and is probably the slowest player on the ice which is not a good combination.

Sorry, but a third line of Ritchie, Coyle and Chris Wagner is not good enough. Coyle’s talents are being wasted with two wingers that aren’t known for their scoring. Cassidy’s lineup changes did exactly the opposite of what he set out to accomplish: find scoring depth.

When asked about scoring depth, Cassidy had this to say:

“What we’re looking for a little bit tonight in a back-to-back, it’s become a bit of a young-legs playoff, if you look around. We need some of that tonight.”

I don’t see how any of Cassidy’s changes brought in any youth or scoring ability. Any. Ritchie is the farthest thing from young-legs as you can get. Bjork and Studnicka haven’t proven they can score consistently, but they are two of the faster players on the team. I don’t think dressing seven defenseman helped the Bruins scoring problem either.

The Lightning can afford to dress seven defensemen because they can actually score from their bottom-six. The Bruins simply don’t have the luxury of playing one less forward with their inability to score. Seven defenseman was a mistake, especially when Connor Clifton is one of the defensemen to be scratched. Cliffy Hockey deserves better than to be scratched.

    BOSTON, MA – DECEMBER 01: Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton (75) holds the puck at the point during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings on December 1, 2018, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If a forward is leaving the lineup in favor of an extra defenseman, one would think the Bruins would leave their most aggressive defenseman, one that can provide scoring, in the seven-man rotation.

Instead, John Moore, who hasn’t played in months, was in the lineup.  I don’t see the logic behind playing both Moore and Jeremy Lauzon over Clifton. Yes, sometimes Clifton’s aggressiveness gets the best of him, but he always brings energy. I’m still not sold on lauzon being able to hold off the offensive juggernaut that is Tampa’s set of forwards.

In a game where the Bruins fell behind 3-0 early in the second period, Cassidy severely hindered the Bruins chances of making a comeback. All of his lineup decisions directly contradicted the “young-legs” he was looking for. The Bruins may have been destined to lose Game 3 no matter who was playing, but Cassidy certainly didn’t help the team’s chances with his ill advised personnel decisions.

Nick McCarthy

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