Bruce Cassidy Shakes Up Bruins Lines, Pairings After Horrid Loss To Panthers

The Boston Bruins surely want to forget about Tuesday night, and what better way to do so than by making wholesale changes?

After a 5-0 dusting at the hands of the Florida Panthers, B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy shook up the lines and defensive pairings during Wednesday’s practice. The Bruins — who are six points out of third place in the Atlantic Division and five points from dead last — need to quickly figure things out, as they’ll play the division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday in a tilt that could give them the shot in the arm they need, or keep them in a rut.

First, let’s take a look at the Bruins’ lines from Tuesday’s loss.

Brad Marchand — Colby Cave — David Pastrnak
Ryan Donato — David Krejci — Jake DeBrusk
Danton Heinen — Joakim Nordstrom — Noel Acciari
Chris Wagner — Sean Kuraly — David Backes

Matt Grzelcyk — Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug — John Moore
Jeremy Lauzon — Connor Clifton

And here’s how they looked at practice Wednesday afternoon, according to Bruins.com, with the players in new spots in bold.

Brad Marchand — Colby Cave — David Pastrnak
Joakim Nordstrom — David Krejci — Jake DeBrusk
Danton Heinen — Sean KuralyDavid Backes
Ryan DonatoJakob Forsbacka Karlsson/Noel AcciariChris Wagner

Torey Krug — Brandon Carlo
John MooreSteven Kampfer
Jeremy Lauzon — Matt Grzelcyk
Connor Clifton — Charlie McAvoy

So, one note here first. Cassidy said Kampfer would be in for “one of the younger guys,” and since McAvoy isn’t fully healthy yet and was skating on the “fourth” pairing, it means Clifton probably will be that odd man out.

This isn’t the first time this season Nordstrom has been bumped up to the second line left wing. Nordstrom has been invaluable for the Bruins this season, playing nearly every forward position from the second through fourth lines. The movie paid off earlier in the season, as Nordstrom’s ability to create traffic and make plays in small areas style of play helped energize Krejci and DeBrusk.

The problem all season has been secondary scoring, and to be honest, none of these moves can really help with that. It’s not a knock on Cassidy, as the problem largely is the personnel available, but there’s upside with some of these swaps. That said, Donato is a shoot-first player that has a hard time keeping up in the defensive end, so putting him with guys like Wagner or Acciari (who would be in if JFK is scratched again, a decision Cassidy said will be made Thursday morning) that aren’t afraid to throw their bodies around will help.

Heinen and Backes played well together on the third line last season, but that was facilitated by Riley Nash having a career season. It’s easy to point to Heinen’s 15 points in his last 64 games, but he still offers the most complete skill set on both ends of any of the bottom six forwards.

That brings us to the defense. Krug and Carlo jelled fine last season, but that was on the second pairing. Carlo, who brings little offensively, hasn’t proven he can defend against top lines without the help of Zdeno Chara, and though Krug is a gifted offensive playmaker, he’s hardly a shutdown defender. Mike Matheson blowing by Krug whilst going coast-to-coast for Florida’s second goal Tuesday doesn’t inspire confidence for Krug being on the top pairing. And those shortcomings are further disconcerting given what Tampa will throw at the two Thursday.

Kampfer hasn’t been great this season, but his presence allows Moore to go to his strong side, which is worth something, while putting Grzelcyk back on the third pairing with Lauzon is a duo that has worked well at times this season.

The reality is the Bruins are going to have to get by with a ragtag bunch until they get fully healthy. It’s not ideal, sure, but they still have to play the games, so they need to find a way to get results.

Thumbnail photo via Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images

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