Reshuffled Bruins lines gave Bruce Cassidy food for thought
A few thoughts and shots high off the glass after the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout loss Wednesday night to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
■ Perhaps a significant night for reordered line combinations. His offense listless in the first period (no goals, nine shots) coach Bruce Cassidy pulled apart his No. 1 trio, shifting All-Star right winger David Pastrnak to a Czech/Slovak trio with David Krejci and Peter Cehlarik.
“Looked good for a while,” said Cassidy, duly chagrined over the loss, which had the Bruins blowing a 3-1 lead in the third.
Cassidy would not commit to it, but it’s possible he’ll roll out his new combos Saturday when the Kings will be on Causeway Street for a 1 p.m. matinee. The new look Wednesday had Danton Heinen riding in Pastrnak’s spot on the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron line.
“I’m not going to say no,” said Cassidy, asked if he would return with the trios. “We’re going to look at it and see if that is the best way to go. I didn’t mind them. I thought the balance was good.
“I’m not worried much about Krech, Pasta, Bergy, March, whoever they play with. It will be more about how does the third line look?”
The third line, which began the night as Joakim Nordstrom-Trent Frederic-Heinen, inherited Jake DeBrusk as a refugee from the second line after Cassidy redefined the offensive borders. DeBrusk hasn’t potted a puck since Jan. 8 and has but a lone assist over his last 11 games.
“Jake has been up in the lineup and hasn’t produced much lately,” noted Cassidy. “Heinen’s been working hard and got rewarded going to the net [tipping home a Matt Grzelcyk shot for the first goal]. Even though he’s been out of the lineup, he is a good, responsible player.
“Jake moved down and maybe it forces him to earn his way back up a little bit. So there’s messages there. Just trying to win a hockey game by mixing them up. We got halfway there.”
■ His recent record fell to 1-4-2 with the loss, but Jaro Halak turned in one of his better performances of late, snuffing out 36 of 39 shots, including a half-dozen in overtime.
He’ll get one of the two starts this weekend, with the Avalanche in town Sunday for a second matinee in two days (a Garden rarity).
Tuukka Rask, who is on an 8-0-2 run, hasn’t been dinged with a regulation L since a 5-3 loss in Carolina Dec. 23.
With only 28 games remaining on the regular-season schedule, Rask has played in 29. He could finish with fewer than 50, a featherweight workload for a guy accustomed to logging in the 60-65 range for most of his time as a No. 1.
“Yeah, it’s been great,” said Rask. “I think it’s important to have two good goalies, and I think we have a great tandem with Jaro.
“Both of us have played good, and I think it’s important for your team to have two goalies. Injuries happen, and you never know. You can’t have one guy play just four games all season and all of a sudden he has to carry the load.
“I think both of us feel fresh and comfortable out there.”
■ Dorchester’s Kevin Hayes, on target to be an unrestricted free agent July 1, cut the Boston lead to 3-2 in the third, with only his 12th goal this season.
Extended for only one season ($5.175 million cap hit) last July, the 26-year-old Hayes could be on the move prior to the Feb. 25 trade deadline. He’s big (6 feet 5 inches) and would fill the Bruins’ need for an effective third-line center, one who also could contribute on the power play.
Joining the Bruins would mean Hayes having to adjust his mind-set. He would not disrupt the Bergeron-Krejci 1-2 order at center and he would not be working with top-six wingers in a No. 3 pivot role.
However, with Cassidy still hunting for answers on that second line, he could be a candidate to ride on Krejci’s wing.
■ Marchand added two more assists, increasing his team-high mark to 42 (8 clicks ahead of Pastrnak).
The Li’l Ball o’Hate now has 19 helpers over the last 20 games, more than double his goal output (9) in that stretch. As of Thursday morning, only nine NHLers had more assists this season.
Interesting glimpse with 4:18 to go in regulation: A trash-talking Tony DeAngelo reached up and appeared to pinch Marchand’s cheek during a stop in play. Marchand did not offer a physical response. Admirable. In years past, he might have kissed, licked, or otherwise hickeyed the 23-year-old defenseman into oblivion.
■ The Bruins went seven deep on their shootout list, and none of them was named Bergeron.
“We get our stats from Goalie Bob, he keeps track of it,” said Cassidy, deferring to goalie coach Bob Essensa for the extra extra session. “No one [on the bench] really looked behind me after five shooters.”
In other words, Cassidy was open to volunteerism after watching Alexandar Georgiev rub out Cehlarik, Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, and DeBrusk. Only Marchand scored among Boston’s first five shooters.
“Krech finally did,” said Cassidy, who used Heinen as the No. 6 shooter. “I said, ‘Hey, if anybody wants to go . . .’
“It’s guesswork. We have Pasta and March who go a lot. Jake. Charlie’s had a certain level of success as a young guy. Cehlarik, I was told, in Providence was very good, so we gave him a look [at leadoff]. Then after that, it was probably Krech, Bergy . . .”
So Bergy was likely to hit in the No. 8 hole, but the night ended when Krejci failed on his doorstep wrister.
The whole exercise is a crapshoot. All things considered, Bergeron is the club’s most important offensive weapon, and therefore a bona fide shootout candidate. But like Krejci, he is not a goal-mouth deke machine, which places him right there with the rest of the coin-flip crowd.
Your faithful pick chronicler’s strategy: Have Zdeno Chara hit leadoff and order him to uncork his 108 m.p.h. heater from 20 feet out in the slot. Then call in the medics to reassemble whatever pieces remain of the goaltender.