It was a bit stunning to see a mess of lineup changes for the Bruins at the puck drop for Game 3 on Wednesday night, and clearly it didn’t work based on the blowout 7-1 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruce Cassidy did a little more explaining about the lineup tinkering on Thursday morning while the Bruins were still “licking their wounds” after falling down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Fourth-line center Sean Kuraly is banged up with an injury and couldn’t go for Game 3 after playing a pivotal role in getting the B’s to overtime in Game 2. He was the “game-time decision” that Cassidy referenced when first talking about going with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen for Game 3, but there were obviously more changes aside from simply replacing Kuraly.
Cassidy subtracted Kuraly and the inconsistent Anders Bjork, who has played a bit light in a heavy series vs. Tampa Bay, from the forward group and added gritty Par Lindholm, who ended up being on the ice for three power play goals scored against Boston in the loss.
On defense, Cassidy opted to scratch Connor Clifton and insert rookie Jeremy Lauzon and veteran John Moore into the B’s lineup. Lauzon hadn’t played since early in the Carolina series and Moore hadn’t played since the round robin games a few weeks ago. Cassidy admitted that Clifton was a coach’s decision with the intent of getting more bulk around battle areas in what’s been a highly-contested series to this point.
“Yeah, Clifton [was a coach’s decision], we put in Moore and Lauzon. I’m not going to go into all the specifics. Every team has the things they deal with internally. We went the seven-D route. We were protecting ourselves against... what if the game gets stretched on? We went into overtime the night before, three in four nights. Again, a couple of bumps and bruises. That was the decision. Bigger guys. I thought we needed to control the front of our net better after game too after Game 2,” said Cassidy. “We didn’t do a good enough job there. Bigger bodies can sometimes help that. It didn’t work out that way.
“Cliffy has been fine, Lauzy has been fine, Moore — I’ve said it before, they’re all we feel capable number six [defensemen]. We’ve used different guys in that role. As for [Kuraly], he’s dealing with an injury he wasn’t able to go, we weren’t sure on that. Obviously, he’s a part of our kill we miss, especially in the face-off circle. We only have two lefties, him and Lindholm. So, you miss that part of it. At the end of the day, you have to move on. We still have capable killers that last night just weren’t able to get the job done.”
Some of the decisions were understandable, but it’s tough to get on board with playing Moore in place of Clifton given how good the young D-man has been at stepping up in the offensive zone, playing physical hockey and agitating the other team’s best players.
At this point, Clifton still is the only Bruins defenseman who has a goal in this postseason and that says as much about Clifton’s play as it does everybody else in the Boston blue line group right now.