The Boston Bruins have had at least one defenseman injured pretty much every game this season.
And if you take John Moore out of the equation, the B’s are shaping up to be totally healthy at the blue line in time for the postseason — barring something happening the last week of the season.
So, after literal weeks and months of piecing things together on a semi-nightly basis, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will have the luxury of healthy scratching players who are making strong cases to be in the lineup.
With that in mind, though, there are six guys Cassidy is likely to use in the playoffs: Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Mike Reilly, Jeremy Lauzon and Kevan Miller.
“Who’s the best D-partner for Reilly?” Cassidy responded when asked Tuesday how he might experiment with the lineup in the coming days. “Brandon Carlo is coming into the game late and (Reilly) hasn’t really played with McAvoy, so it might be Miller by default. (It could) be Brandon Carlo, which allows for the McAvoy-Lauzon if we want to keep it that way and Grzelcyk with Miller/Carlo.
“That’s the experimenting back there, so I don’t think it’s messing around too much by any means, those are probably going to be our six if everyone healthy, it’s just who goes with who. It depends on the matchup.”
In such an instance, the Bruins would be healthy scratching Jakub Zboril, Connor Clifton, Jarred Tinordi and Steven Kampfer. The super depth options would be Urho Vaakanainen and Jack Ahcan, who all but certainly will be locked in as Black Aces.
Not the worst situation to have.
The task then becomes figuring out where all the pieces land, as Cassidy alluded to, and the next few days should go a long way in determining that. Though Carlo spent the beginning of the season playing most often with Grzelcyk, but probably will get some run with Reilly, perhaps as soon as Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.
One factor to keep in mind is Miller and Grzelcyk played together often when the latter broke into the NHL, so there’s familiarity there. That could be a good thing if Reilly and Carlo prove to be a good fit.
If the Bruins want to go pure depth chart style, the defense would probably look like this:
If they elect to roll with the one defensive defenseman and one puck-mover concept, it would probably be:
Last season, there occasionally were back-to-backs, which could be the non-injury way a healthy scratch like Zboril or Clifton gets into the lineup. In an effort to preserve Miller’s knee, the Bruins have not been playing him on back-to-backs. If those get worked into this postseason schedule, Boston might be forced to take the same approach.
The Bruins clinched their playoff spot with Monday’s win, so as they play the final games of the regular season, how Cassidy pieces together the defense is something to keep an eye on.