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Splits and shuffles are part of Bruce Cassidy’s moves behind the bench for Bruins

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy wasn't about to sit and watch after his team lost its first two games in Carolina.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

RALEIGH. N.C. — To Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, a series doesn’t truly begin to take shape until animosity grows, until adjustments have to be made, until one team throws a punch and the other responds.

The Bruins lost the first two games of their first-round matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes, putting themselves on the wrong side of long odds. But Cassidy expected a long series and now the teams are in the thick of one.

What got them to Game 5 on Tuesday at PNC Arena was a string of adjustments Cassidy made as his team had its back against the wall.


“Every coach enjoys it,” Cassidy said. “It’s part of the game. When it works out, you look like a genius. When it doesn’t, you’re an idiot. It’s just part of the drill.”

So far in this series, Cassidy has:

▪ Split the top defensive pairing of Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy;

▪ Reunited the top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak;

▪ Moved Jake DeBrusk to the third line and also the first power-play unit;

▪ Replaced Linus Ullmark with Jeremy Swayman after opening the series with two losses;

Jeremy Swayman, seen here before the start of Tuesday's game, didn't play in the first two playoff contests against Carolina.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

▪ Played five forwards on a power play in Game 3;

All of these decisions have gone Cassidy’s way and the Bruins climbed out of a 2-0 hole because of them. Cassidy said the changes he makes are within a larger structure he sees for the team.

“We’re never going to get outside of how we play,” Cassidy said. “I just don’t think you can play 82 games and decide to make a switch now when you really don’t practice either. When you change a lot, you need time and repetition to get it right.”

Cassidy experimented during the regular season. Even when he found combinations that worked, he looked for more possibilities knowing he might need them in the postseason. That tinkering, he said, makes it easier to shift gears in the playoffs.


“The guys then are used to it,” Cassidy said. “It’s not like a shock to the system, ‘Well, what do you mean all of a sudden I’m playing with this center, not that center?’ So moving pieces around in season can certainly prepare them for, ‘You know what, don’t look to your left or right, just look in the mirror and take care of business.’ That’s kind of the messaging this time of year with injuries or changing lines or whatever it happens to be.”

“You’ve got to trust him,” Taylor Hall said. “He’s our coach, he’s a great coach and we’re about getting wins here. So whatever lines or combos or anything, jersey colors, whatever is going to change the mojo for us and get us to win hockey games is what we’re going to do and we’re all bought into that.”

Hampus Lindholm out again

The Bruins were without defenseman Hampus Lindholm for the third straight game.

Lindholm, who suffered an upper-body injury in Game 2 on a brutal hit by Andrei Svechnikov, did not travel with the team to Raleigh for Game 5.

Cassidy said he was hopeful to have Lindholm back when the Bruins return to Boston for Game 6.

“We’re never going to have one guy that’s going to replace either of them,” said Matt Grzelcyk, referring to when they go without Charlie McAvoy and/or Lindholm. “We’re going to do it by committee and I think guys really take a lot of pride in that and want to buckle down.”


Best-case scenario

Before Tuesday, the only team in these playoffs to win after trailing by two goals was the Pittsburgh Penguins, who overcame a 2-0 deficit in their 4-3 triple-overtime win over the New York Rangers in Game 1.

“Good teams know how to close out games,” Cassidy said. “I think that’s a big part of it. Whereas in the regular season, you’re just not as dialed in and you have some teams that just don’t do it that often. So I think that’s the biggest thing.

“This time of the year, guys know what needs to be done. You’ve got to manage the puck at the blue lines. You have to be willing to get in the shooting lane. You might have to take a punch in the head. I think it’s just what you do in the playoffs.”

The Toronto Maple Leafs turned the trick Tuesday, overcoming a 2-0 hole to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, taking a 3-2 series lead in the process.

Julian Benbow can be reached at julian.benbow@globe.com.