( Photo Credit: AP Photo / Jeff Roberson )

By: Tim Dumas | Follow me on Twitter @TimDumas

There is little doubt that the return of Patrice Bergeron would provide a jolt – much like a defibrillator – for the Boston Bruins. But a change on the back end would also serve as a shot in the arm. 

After surrendering six goals for the first time in nearly six weeks, a change on the blue line might be in order as the Bruins shift their first-round series to the Sunshine State for game three at the Florida Panthers on Friday night (7:30, NESN, TNT). The series is tied 1-1. 

The Bruins’ defense needs less of what put them behind in Wednesday’s third period – turnovers and a lack of discipline in their own end – and more of what put them in a position to set NHL records for regular-season points and victories. Or, to the point, more Matt Grzelcyk. 

While Charlie McAvoy (minus 3, zero shots on goal) and Hampus Lindholm (minus 2) did not play well in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss, their status as top-four defensemen will remain unchanged. But Grzelcyk should get the nod over Derek Forbort on the team’s third pairing. 

Forbort has not played poorly in the series, and his shot-blocking ability is key during the team’s playoff run. But getting in front of shots is not what the Bruins need right now. Clearing pucks out of the defensive zone and keying the transition game – two of Grzelcyk’s strong points – are more important with the series switching to the road, where the B’s have not fared well in recent post-seasons. 

The Bruins have not won a playoff road game since defeating the New York Islanders in game three of their second-round series in 2021. But inserting Grzelcyk back into the lineup could change that. 

Forbort missed the regular season’s final month with a lower-body injury, all while Grzelcyk completed a steady season, finishing with the league’s second-best plus-minus (+46). The Charlestown native played a career-high 75 games this season and was a consistent member of a defense that helped the team to a league-best 2.05 goals against average.

But when Boston acquired Dmitri Orlov from the Washington Capitals before the trade deadline, the Bruins had seven dependable defensemen when only six were needed each game; one of them had to sit. 

After Forbort’s injury, the three defensive pairs remained consistent, but when Forbort returned to begin the playoffs, Grzelcyk was the odd man out for the first two games of the Florida series. But with Grzelyck consistently in the lineup, the Bruins won their final eight games of the regular season, and their penalty-killing unit remained at the top of the league. 

Why sit Grzelcyk? Why try to fix something that wasn’t broken?  

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, who is coaching in just his third NHL playoff series (his Dallas Stars were eliminated in the second round during the 2019 post-season), now has an important decision to make. While Bergeron’s health status is out of Montgomery’s hands, the play of his defense certainly is not. 

Inserting Grzelcyk back into the lineup will not supplant mainstays like McEvoy, Lindholm, and Orlov, but if the Bruins don’t want to fall into a deeper hole in this series, Montgomery should strongly consider putting Grzelcyk back onto the ice. His consistent play all season warrants such a choice.