When the 2019-20 NHL season paused, Jeremy Lauzon was skating on the Boston Bruins’ third pairing.
When the Stanley Cup Playoffs start Tuesday, that’s exactly where the defenseman will remain.
The Bruins are set to play Game 1 of their first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, and Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed after morning skate that Lauzon — not John Moore or Connor Clifton — would play alongside Matt Grzelcyk.
It long was assumed that the role was Lauzon’s to lose, and he really didn’t do anything to warrant being bumped from his spot over the course of the round-robin tournament. Thus, Moore and Clifton will be spectators for the foreseeable future.
“The way we finished the year, we?re still — we?re not burying that part of the season,” Cassidy explained Tuesday over Zoom. “Cliffy (Clifton) played and Johnny Moore, one game. So probably made that decision coming out of training camp with how I allotted the ice time. At the end of the day, if we need to make a switch we will. We just felt that gave us the best balance in our lineup of size and puck-moving ability with Lauzy (Lauzon) in there.
“I do believe the bigger guys needed a few more reps. He?s now been on the ice a little while. I thought was a little better against Washington. He settled into his game. So that?s the decision behind it. I do have a lot of faith in Johnny and Cliffy if Lauzy is not up to the task or any one of the other D. But that?s what we?re going with tonight and we feel that it?s going to give us a real good chance to win.”
Lauzon does balance out Grzelcyk’s game the best of the three. Even though he too is a left shot, Lauzon does a good job of closing out plays, which allows Grzelcyk to play a little more freely in the neutral and attacking zones. Moore, another left shot, isn’t quite as sound in that area, while Clifton — who would make up the only left-right third pairing of the available options — is an aggressive player that often joins the rush, which sometimes leaves Boston’s blue line too exposed when he plays with Grzelcyk.
Things might change, but it sounds like Lauzon might have to take a step back in order for that to happen. It’s not impossible for a young player still finding his way in the top flight, but that’s not the reality at present.
Game 1 of Hurricanes-Bruins is set for 8 p.m. ET. You can find the projected lineups for both teams here.