(Photo Credit: @NHLBruins)
By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me On Twitter @cnosek6342
We all know that the Bruins are currently being decimated by the injury bug during the month of November. To quickly recap, those currently missing from the lineup include; Patrice Bergeron (rib and sternoclavicular injury), Zdeno Chara (knee), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), and Charlie McAvoy (concussion).
Recently defenders John Moore and Kevan Miller also missed some time, and after their game against Toronto on Monday night it seems that Miller may be lost again for at least a couple more games. So with many fans who had previously holding hopes for a deep playoff run now jumping ship, please stop and take a deep breath and relax. Now, I am not saying this team is going to run off and win the Stanley Cup this season, but what I am saying is these injuries will ultimately help this team in their quest for multiple cups in the long run.
Since the season started, the Bruins have had massive production from their top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak. With Bergeron on the shelf for a month plus, Cassidy was forced to shake up the lineup try to spread out some of their goal scorers. With his first move of putting Nordstrom on the second line center, he sent a clear message to Jakub Forsbacka Karlsson that he had to earn his spot in the lineup after his call-up to provide reinforcements.
Clearly, Nordstrom playing as the second line center wasn’t ever going to be the long-term answer, but it gave the young JFK a chance to earn some stripes being paired with Heinen and Bjork. As shown above, he was able to get on the scoreboard with a different line (compiled of Acciari and Heinen) which started him to play well enough and a consistent enough two-way game that he has since been moved up to fill in for the injured Bergeron between two of the leagues most dangerous scorers.
Lately, he’s brought the level of intensity the team was worried was missing from his game on a night-over-night basis that saw him sent to Providence at the end of the preseason. Now, holding his own, he has answered the question that he can be this teams third line center over the next few seasons and if he continues to play this way will show that he can be a solid second or first line center in the future (depending on who else this team keeps moving forward).
In trying to get some players back in their stride and while not trying to lose anything offensively, Cassidy has left no stone unturned. He has even gone so far as putting Jake Debrusk on his off wing, something he had never done in his career. Although there were some minor growing pains for the first couple of games, the second year forward proved that he has the flexibility to play well on either wing on any line in this lineup. He is now up to 12 points in 24 games this season and has been scoring at a Pastrnak like pace as of late.
Pulling out all the stops to get everyone in the lineup on the scoresheet consistently, Cassidy even tried – for a second time this season – putting David Backes back at the center position to try to get him going. Although finding his way onto the stats sheet, now up to 3 points on the season – thanks to a goal and assist in the November 24th game against Montreal – Backes is still proving to be the weak link of this team. How much longer he remains in the starting 20 remains to be seen, but with his leadership and $6 million cap-hit Cassidy is under a lot of pressure to get the veteran forward producing like his St. Louis days.
(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer)
Even though coming into this season there wasn’t much in the way of questions when it came to the defense of this team for this year, there were many questions being asked about the years to come. With only newcomer John Moore and rookie Urho Vaakanainen as the only defenders set to be under contract past the 2019-2020 season with any NHL experience, the questions were rightfully starting to be asked – after all how much longer can this team rely on 41-year-old Zdeno Chara to keep playing?
With injuries on the backline to start the season, Matt Grzelcyk was clearly going to get his chance to show his talents, and he has not wavered in doing so. Gryz and many other youngsters have had a chance to showcase their talents at the NHL level this season as the black and gold have seen a total of 12 different defensemen so far this season.
Zdeno Chara Brandon Carlo Charlie McAvoy Urho Vaakanainen
John Moore Kevin Miller Torey Krug Connor Clifton
Jeremy Lauzon Jakub Zboril Steven Kampfer Matt Grzelcyk
So far every one of these 12 guys, regardless of their age, has shown this season that they are able to get the job done at the NHL level to some degree. Now, I’m not trying to rewrite the defensive depth chart, but the growth we have seen in the games of Clifton, Lauzon, Zboril, Grzelcyk, and Vaakanainen show that this team has more depth than we originally thought.
Although no one wants to see any player get hurt, these young players that Sweeney and his staff have brought in are clearly on the right developmental track. This will bode well for this team this season as none of the injured players are in a situation where they have to get rushed back from their injuries. Bergeron and Chara, especially, could really use the extra time off as their bodies have taken regular beatings over their careers and unless this team starts to freefall in the standings, these two can take some time to make sure they are 100% healthy to go into the playoffs.
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