By: Jack Gotsell | Follow me on Twitter @jackgotsell
The Bruins made drastic changes heading into Game three of their second-round playoff tilt versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. The game did not go as planned for the black and gold, and the Bruins faithful were left questioning the changes made by Bruce Cassidy, the calls by referees, and the officials’ overall performance.
Cassidy’s biggest head-scratching change was taking defenseman Connor Clifton out of the lineup and replacing him with Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore. Clifton plays a risky and very physical style of hockey. In Game two of the series, Clifton brought a lot of energy to the lineup, mixing it up with one of the biggest players on Tampa, Patrick Maroon. However, Bruce Cassidy elected to go with more size in Lauzon and Moore, which failed to bring the same energy Clifton brought in Game two to Game three.
No Bruins defenseman looked good in the Game three loss, and every Bruins defender was on the ice for a goal in the 7-1 loss. Bruce Cassidy was disappointed by the response of the Boston Bruins; however, a lot of that blame falls on himself as he took a player that responds well to physical play and has playoff experience out of the lineup. Clifton’s physical presence in the lineup was missed dearly. Cassidy was wrong to take Clifton out due to his size and being ready and willing to take on even the largest of Tampa’s forwards.
Cassidy also played with the forwards, as well, and elected to go with seven defensemen and 11 forwards instead of the traditional 12. Kuraly was out with an injury and was not a part of Cassidy’s changes as he was unable to go. Par Lindholm came into the lineup, which was a good decision by Cassidy, and Anders Bjork came out. This is not where Cassidy blundered as Bjork has been almost invisible throughout the playoffs.
The blunder came from Cassidy’s decision to replace Bjork for a seventh defenseman and playing Zdeno Chara for 18 minutes and four seconds, which led the Bruins defense in time on ice, which was a big mistake. Chara has not had a good playoff by any stretch and has been the biggest liability on the back end for the Bruins.
People have clamored for Chara to stay in the lineup due to his penalty-killing ability; however, he was on the ice for all three of Tampa’s powerplay goals. If Cassidy was to cut down Chara’s minutes, that might be a reason to keep Chara in the lineup and play seven defensemen, but that’s not a good enough reason to keep Chara in the lineup after what we saw in Game three.
The decision to play 11 forwards backfired, as the lines rotated throughout the game, and their chemistry looked completely off. Instead of playing Chara and a seventh defenseman, the Bruins should have gone with Grzelcyk, Krug, and Lauzon on the left side and McAvoy, Carlo, and Clifton on the right side. This would have allowed for Studnicka to come into the lineup on the third line and keep chemistry intact.
Studnicka is a young forward, and his natural position is center. He hasn’t looked out of place this postseason, and the Bruins are in desperate need of secondary scoring now that it appears Bjork and Karson Kuhlman are unable to produce. Studnicka is not as tough on the puck as the previous two, but he has more skill. With Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle on the ice Studnicka should be able to find some space and make an impact at wing on the third line.
I will give Cassidy this praise though, he gave it back to the terrible officiating. After a soft call on Nick Ritchie and the linesman setting a pick, Cassidy had this to say, “The call on Ritchie happens a hundred times a game, and it’s not called. The second goal? I mean, c’mon. The linesman runs our guy out of the play.” We have seen first hand that sometimes calling out the officials can make a difference from Craig Berube, head coach of the St. Louis Blues, who last year made a comment about officials in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Bruins. His comments led to much more favorable calls the rest of the series. For the Bruins faithful, hopefully, the favor is returned.