If the Boston Bruins want to keep their season alive, they must scrounge up two more wins.
And if Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wants to make any changes, he’ll have to come up with them quickly.
The B’s are down 3-2 in their best-of-seven second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Islanders after losing Game 5 on Monday night at TD Garden. Now, the series shifts to New York one more time for Game 6, which will be Wednesday.
Much of the postseason, the lineup changes have been kept to a minimum. The only non-health change of personnel was Karson Kuhlman drawing in for Jake DeBrusk for Game 5.
But there are two schools of thought here: They can avoid making changes and just stick with the group that has gotten them there so far. Conversely, they could try to make some changes that might inject some life into the lineup, even if it’s at the risk of looking a little desperate.
Say they make some changes though, let’s look at a couple of the most likely options.
Put in Trent Frederic
This would be an obvious energy move. Frederic is a big, physical player, who has proven to get even the most composed players off their game. With the abundance of soft calls and infractions for retaliatory plays, Frederic could be good at getting the Bruins on the power play. The obvious concern is he hasn’t played since the regular season.
If the Bruins are without Curtis Lazar, who left with an injury in Game 5, then this becomes a pretty easy move. Sean Kuraly would become the fourth-line center, then Frederic could be on the left wing.
Put Jake DeBrusk back in
He was healthy scratched for ineffectiveness in Game 5, but you could argue he has not been the Bruins’ worst forward. It would not be the worst idea to have him draw in for Chris Wagner, who has been a physical player this series but hasn’t offered much else.
If the Bruins are without Lazar, the bottom six could look something like:
Nick Ritchie–Charlie Coyle–Karson Kuhlman
Trent Frederic–Sean Kuraly–Jake DeBrusk
Make a move on defense
It’s been tough sledding for Jeremy Lauzon this series. When he’s on his game, he’s fine, but too often he’s been either snakebitten or making mistakes, and the Bruins can’t really afford for either of those possibilities to take over Wednesday.
Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller’s availability obviously play a role in this. If either are available, they presumably could draw in for Lauzon, keeping Jarred Tinordi and Connor Clifton in the lineup. If both are available, the Bruins could take out Lauzon and Tinordi.
But even if neither Carlo nor Miller can play in Game 6, it still might be worth considering Jakub Zboril or Urho Vaakanainen in place of Lauzon. Zboril is the more proven option, having played 42 regular-season games and becoming a reliable bottom-pairing blueliner who can move the puck well. Vaakanainen potentially could give the Bruins more in the defensive zone, but he’s been inconsistent early on in his career, and that might be a risk Cassidy is unwilling to take.
If the Bruins decide to do anything, we might not know until Wednesday morning, as the Bruins won’t practice Tuesday. Cassidy, however, took a leap in Game 6 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final when the Bruins were down 3-2 by putting Kuhlman in. Kuhlman wound up scoring and the move paid off in a 5-1 Game 6 win.
Perhaps a similar move will be what the Bruins need two years later.