Lauzon making a strong case to stick around with the Bruins

Lauzon making a strong case to stick around with the Bruins

BOSTON – Jeremy Lauzon has been solid every time he’s been called up by the Bruins the past couple of seasons.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound defenseman is never going to be flashy, but he’s shown an ability to play strong, physical defense around the Boston net while shutting down plays and helping keep pucks out of the back of the net. 

Still, the 22-year-old has also known the past few years that he’s also been ticketed to go back to Providence based on the sheer numbers on the NHL roster in Boston, where there has been quality depth on the back end.

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But there was also a feeling that things might be a little different these days for Lauzon when he was called up ahead of the 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights at TD Garden. He scored a goal and threw out four hits while keeping the puck out of the back of the net in 15-plus minutes of ice time, providing the hard-to-play-against minutes that weren’t prevalent enough on Boston’s back end a few days prior in Pittsburgh.

He was sent back down to Providence on Wednesday along with Karson Kuhlman and Dan Vladar to stay sharp over the 10-day All-Star break and bye week, but there’s a feeling that Lauzon could be back once the Bruins resume play. 

If Kevan Miller isn’t ready to practice and potentially play when the B’s get going and John Moore remains the inconsistent player he’s been since the B's signed him as a free agent, it may be Lauzon’s turn to show what he can do at least until Connor Clifton is ready to return in the middle of the next month.

Certainly, he was happy with the way he played in Boston after showing what he could do through a solid 48 games in the AHL, where he posted a goal, 14 points and a plus-18 rating. That he was able to do it on the right side when he’s a natural left shot makes it a plus for his versatility and it's what the B’s are looking for right now.

“I felt comfortable. I knew my confidence was high from how I’ve played recently in Providence,” said Lauzon. “Even if it was [four games in five nights] for me, I came in and my body felt great. I had a good night’s sleep last night, so I was just ready to show what I can do.

“I feel way more comfortable on the ice. So, I’m just trying to bring the game I was playing down in Providence up here and I think I did a good job of that. I close hard and I’m physical, so obviously Brandon [Carlo] is a role model.”

The Bruins bottom pairing D-men have been a weak spot since Clifton went down with Matt Grzelcyk getting picked on a bit.  That was less of an issue against the Golden Knights for the first time in a while. In essence, Lauzon gave the B’s what they were looking for after they blew a couple of three-goal leads within the same week.

“I thought [Lauzon] played hard, competed all over the ice. We’ve seen that before, so we expected that. [He] scores a goal — obviously, in a one-goal game, that matters. And [he] did it in the right way, didn’t overthink it. Just got it, got off the wall, make sure you pound it hard so it gets by the first layer. If it gets blocked closer to the net, at least it’s not going to be a quick transition,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We’ve been trying to instill that attitude in some of our other guys and Brandon [Carlo] gets one later and gets it through, so hopefully [that part of our game] kind of snowballs.

“But all-in-all, [we] had good composure and didn’t seem fazed by anything. We’ll always go back and look at it, there will be some details that we’ll talk about, but I liked his game. I thought he brought what we needed.”

Cassidy mentioned after the game that Lauzon, Anton Blidh and Kuhlman were all players specifically recalled to push some of the veterans on the Bruins roster, and that’s exactly what the Lauzon did in his season debut. One would expect we’ll be seeing more of Lauzon based on the way he provided the Bruins exactly what they need right now.


NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Lightning a clear top two

NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Lightning a clear top two

It took nearly five months into the regular season for it to happen, but the Bruins and Lightning have separated from everybody else in the NHL.

The two Atlantic Division powerhouses are just one point apart in the division, but they are both more than five points ahead of everybody else in the league. That includes a Pittsburgh team that’s been hot recently and a Washington club that’s back to their deep, dangerous selves after taking a season off last year after celebrating their Stanley Cup title.

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The Lightning have won 11 games in a row and lost two regulation games since Christmas, and they are finally living up to the massive potential within their roster. And now they’ve added the speedy, gritty Blake Coleman in an impressive deal to make them even tougher to play against.

Through it all, the Bruins have managed to stay on top of Tampa Bay, and keep one step ahead of them. That’s just as impressive as the Lightning’s scorching hot run over the last two months.

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Bruins needs are no secret ahead of NHL trade deadline

Bruins needs are no secret ahead of NHL trade deadline

There are few secrets about the Bruins or the strengths and weaknesses that face them heading into the stretch run and Stanley Cup Playoffs that follow.

The Bruins rely on the NHL’s best line — the Perfection Line — superior special teams play, and the NHL’s top goaltending duo along with a strong defensemen group for their winning formula, and it’s proven plenty good enough during the regular season in recent years. The B’s currently sit at an NHL-best 86 points on the season and have a six-point lead on everybody else in the NHL aside from their hard-charging divisional rivals in Tampa Bay.

The Bruins have won nine of their last 10 games after a ragged stretch of play in December/January and have been rolling since the NHL All-Star break while understandably feeling good about their game right now.

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“We’re taking a lot more value in [the defensive] part of the game, and some of it is getting the balance in the lines so that they’re fresh, getting everyone involved,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think most of our minutes now you’ll see, our forwards are typically at the least amount is 10 minutes sometimes for the lower guys if they’re not killing too many penalties, so I think that helps everyone stay in the game as well.”

When the Bruins are going well as they are right now, they are getting balanced play from their roster. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and it’s something that gets exposed when they play high-quality competition.

The weaknesses on the Bruins roster are equally clear and easy to diagnose because it’s been the same old thing for the last handful of years.

The Bruins have tried multiple times to acquire top-6 wingers who can produce offense, whether it’s been band-aid deadline solutions like Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford, or a stab at an attempted long-term fix when they traded for Rangers power forward Rick Nash. They couldn’t predict the abrupt, concussion-influenced retirement from the NHL for Nash following a few months in Black and Gold, and so a top-6 winger continues to be Don Sweeney’s "white whale" on the Bruins roster.

Once the playoffs begin and the Bruins face deeper, bigger and stronger defensive groups, the prolific Perfection Line routinely goes through stretches where they are held in check by opponents. It’s a prominent factor when the Bruins lost to the Lightning in the second round two years ago, and one of the prime reasons the B’s fell in seven games to the St. Louis Blues last June in the Stanley Cup Final.

When it happens, the Bruins become almost completely reliant on their power play to provide offensive punch while the other forward lines haven’t been able to effectively fill the scoring void.

The only way that’s going to change is for the Bruins to bring in a top-6 forward who can play the role of game-breaker and finish off the offensive chances set up by linemates David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins need another forward line that can put a scare in opponents offensively and they simply don’t have it consistently right now, just as they haven’t had it in the last handful of seasons.  

With names like Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman and Jason Zucker now off the trade deadline board, the Bruins are down to some of their top big-name trade choices in Chris Kreider, Kyle Palmieri and Josh Anderson.

Kreider would be the optimal choice because of his skating speed, consistency and the size and occasional mean streak that the Bruins could surely use among their top-6 group. But there are options out there provided Sweeney doesn’t get hung up waiting for Kreider to be made available to teams.

The other need for the Bruins at this point?

With Kevan Miller out for the entire season to this point with a fractured kneecap that sidelined him for last spring’s entire Stanley Cup Final run as well, the Bruins are a little light on the back end. The B’s could use a big, strong, hardnosed and physical defenseman capable of holding other teams accountable and doling out physical punishment in the D-zone.

The Bruins may have found an in-house solution in 22-year-old Jeremy Lauzon, who most recently served a two-game suspension for drilling Derek Stepan with a big, high hit against the side boards in a home win over the Coyotes. But that particular roster need is the reason they were linked to defenseman Brenden Dillon in trade rumors before he was eventually shipped from the San Jose Sharks to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for a couple draft picks.

It’s also less than ideal to rely on a rookie like Lauzon as a rugged, grizzled enforcer on the back end when it comes to playoff time. That’s something else to consider when Don Sweeney goes shopping over the next five days ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline, a date that’s quickly becoming anticlimactic given all the trades getting consummated well ahead of time.

Sweeney knows the team’s greatest needs, he’s on the clock and the pressure is on the Bruins general manager to adequately address them ahead of next Monday’s deadline.