By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It was fair to wonder if Rick Nash had officially fallen out of favor with Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Acquired by the Bruins to be the winger David Krejci needed for this team to accomplish their postseason goals, Nash began and finished Game 6 riding on the left of a Boston third line with Riley Nash and David Backes to his right. Another way to phrase that? He lost his spot on the B’s second line to Tommy bleepin’ Wingels. Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, which featured Danton Heinen on a second line with Jake DeBrusk and Krejci while Nash remained parked on line three with his Game 6 linemates, didn’t do anything to put that curiosity to bed.
But speaking the morning of a do-or-die Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, Cassidy appears willing to ride-and-die with the second-line combo that undoubtedly had its moments together earlier this season — and in this series.
“I mean, we know, Rick hasn’t been here a lot — we know that,” Cassidy began. “He was a deadline acquisition, and he got injured. We got him here to play with Krejci. We still like that.
“We tried to balance the lines a little better in Toronto, moving [Rick Nash] to the left side [of the third line]. I thought he played really well. That line generated. We have Wingels there [on the second line], and Krech’s line scored, so you know, that part of it was fine,” Cassidy continued. “We’re just going back to the lines that we drew up originally that we feel we’ve had the most success with and will tonight, so that’s it.”
Much like Bergeron’s line, which is snakebitten beyond belief, the DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash trio has done everything ‘cept score for Cassidy’s club in this six-game war of frustration at both ends of the rink.
In over 50 minutes of five-on-five action together in this series, the obviously optimal Krejci line has outshot the Leafs 30-to-20, and have been credited with 28 on-ice scoring chances for. They’ve even done a masterful job of drawing some power-play opportunities for the Bruins, especially on home ice, too. But they’ve scored just one goal together.
Nash has been especially quiet, too, with just one goal on 22 shots in this series despite producing 27 all-situation scoring chances for thus far, which enters Game 7 as the third-most in the NHL this postseason.
“It seems like I just gotta get that little extra [bounce] to get that puck in the net,” Nash admitted. “You’re getting the opportunities, but this time of year the opportunities aren’t good enough. You gotta put them in the net.”
The B’s best chance at advancing comes with that second line remaining together and producing like they did in the regular season, or at least burying the chances they generate like they did in the regular season. But with the versatile Danton Heinen expected back in action after sitting Game 6 out as a healthy scratch (just the second healthy scratch of his season), Cassidy knows he doesn’t have to married to any one line’s chemistry in a Game 7.
“It’s a switch that we can make in-game, and we have this year,” said Cassidy. “We’ve made a lot of changes in-game, and if we don’t like what we see, could be one of them versus how we’re starting, hopefully finish.”
Cassidy isn’t the only one hoping for a little ‘finish’ out of that second line, too.
“I’ve gotta stick with it,” Nash said of his shots. “They’ll go in. I know they will. They always seem to.”
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.