The Bruins are getting pretty much nothing offensively out of their second and third lines. Bruce Cassidy has benched both Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen in the past couple of games for their inability to play the kind of hockey required to win games as it gets later in the regular season.
Granted, DeBrusk answered with two goals against the Sabres once he was released from the doghouse, but clearly, the Bruins think they need more from just their forwards besides Perfection Liners Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
It was only a couple of days ago that Cassidy was lamenting how Par Lindholm (two points in 25 games), Brett Ritchie (two goals, five points and a minus-5 in 23 games) and David Backes (one goal and three points in 15 games) didn’t step up when given a chance against the New Jersey Devils in a New Year’s Eve matinee loss when injuries and a Heinen healthy scratch created an opportunity for them.
It makes it all the more mystifying that the Bruins failed to jump on a chance to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a prorated NHL minimum contract once he was cut loose by the Los Angeles Kings last month. Instead, the Bruins opted to stick with their group of underperforming middle-line forwards and now the rival Montreal Canadiens have opted to make the no-risk signing of the former No. 1 overall pick.
Sure, Kovalchuk is 36 and was a bust for a bad L.A. team while scoring 19 goals and racking up a minus-36 in 81 games over the past two seasons. So, he’s not what he once was with the Thrashers and Devils when he twice topped 50 goals and had a career-high 98 points in 2005-06.
Still, he would also be playing in a much different, secondary position with the Bruins where he’d get a chance to bring some goal-scoring punch to a second line that badly needs it and he’d be a shooting option on a second power-play unit that doesn’t seem to have anybody on it that wants to shoot the puck.
Even as an older, slower player, Kovalchuk can still put the puck in the net better than most of the B's forward options they are running out there.
At worst, he would have been a no-risk proposition that the Bruins could have cut loose or sent to the minors with zero salary-cap risk if things didn’t work out. And it Kovalchuk did get reinvigorated in Boston, then the Bruins would have answered their top-six winger problem and added the extra goal-scoring punch they would need down the stretch and into the playoffs.
A trade deadline pick-up might not have even been needed if Kovalchuk really worked out for the Black and Gold at no real financial cost to Boston at all.
Instead, the Bruins opted for the status quo, with Lindholm and Ritchie bringing virtually nothing to the table but the hope that they will contribute more consistently in the second half of the season.
Perhaps there are bigger plans for the Bruins as they get closer to the trade deadline to address their lack of quality play on the second and third line, but it’s mystifying why they passed on Kovalchuk, who represented no risk and no cost.