By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Peter Cehlarik had the best and worst seat in the house for the third period of Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Devils.
Best because there’s no beating the view in a game short on action (take the small victories where you can get ’em as a spectator). But the worst because it was the last place the 23-year-old wanted to find himself in his first game back with the Big B’s after a chaotic three-day stretch of reassignments and recalls from the AHL: Benched by B’s coach Bruce Cassidy.
But for the forever-blunt Cassidy, Cehlarik’s benching had little to do with the second-period penalty the Slovak winger earned for his trip against Connor Carrick, but rather literally everything else he struggled with in an 11-shift, 8:54 effort.
“There was a few things we didn’t like,” Cassidy admitted when asked about Cehlarik’s night. “We’ve talked about allowing guys to play through certain parts of their game and sometimes it’s better to sit and watch. Tonight, we chose the latter.
“It was a little more about his routes, responsibility away from the puck, managing it at the end of the second period in your own end. Those are things we’ve talked to him numerous times about, so we went a different route.”
Cehlarik’s benching was really more damaging than you’d think, too.
The Bruins were an obviously fatigued bunch, having played two high-intensity games earlier in the week, and Cassidy’s inability to trust Cehlarik forced him to double-shift most of his left wingers in a one-goal game. And it also killed the idea of getting him comfortable with new third-line center Charlie Coyle, still in search of his first point as a Bruin, on what seemed like a promising, big-bodied third line. The latter point is a big one, too, as the Bruins simply need to get Coyle some more offensively-capable players if they are going to truly maximize the impact the Weymouth, Mass. native has on a nightly basis down the stretch. And on the surface, there’s no doubt that Cehlarik should provide an upgrade over Joakim Nordstrom (without a point in 19 straight games dating back to Dec. 17).
But it starts with following the guidance of a coaching staff that seems beyond frustrated with No. 22’s details right now.
Cassidy also seemed beyond done with the idea of giving anything that could excuse Cehlarik, due to the mental and physical obstacles of the up-and-down shuttles between Providence and Boston or linemates, from owning up to his struggles.
“He’s here in the NHL,” said Cassidy. “He’s earned his right to be in the lineup.
“I think we’ve used him up in the lineup with [David] Krejci. We’ve used him with Charlie Coyle, two very good players, so I think at some point the responsibility falls on the player to be ready to play and play the Bruins way. I thought he got away from that a little bit, so that’s it. Only he can answer whether he’s frustrated or the travel. It’s certainly not the hour travel. Maybe the fact that he got sent down might have bothered him. I don’t know, I can’t answer that. We made some decisions at the deadline to – as much as for roster purposes than anything. We’ve got past that. He got called up because he deserves to be here, and tonight we just made a decision to just cut back and use other people.”
Again, not exactly the greatest vote of confidence there.
But with Sean Kuraly in the league’s concussion protocol after the hit he absorbed on Thursday night, and with David Pastrnak still out of action due to a thumb injury, pulling Cehlarik from the lineup entirely would lead the Bruins to Providence, where a recall for Karson Kuhlman or perhaps Lee Stempniak would await the team.
Not exactly a Murderers’ Row of options.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 1-0 win at TD Garden…
Brad Marchand, 666: Number of the Beast
This is absolutely meaningless, sure, but this is the absolutely meaningless crap I live for, to be honest: In what was his 666th NHL game, Bruins winger Brad Marchand went ahead and scored the only goal of the night… against the Devils. Another quick little nugget to note: Marchand also came into this game with 666 career penalty minutes.
(Iron Maiden blares in the background.)
Beyond the devilish numbers of his night, the first-period goal saw Marchand’s recent run continue, with eight goals and 19 points in his last 13 games. No. 63 is on fire, and at the perfect time for the Pasta-less Bruins.
Boston defensive game remains on point
One of the sneaky-important things to the Bruins throughout this 16-game point streak, in my opinion, has been their ability to ability stifle the opposition in terms of meaningful shots and chances in the Black and Gold’s end. In fact, tonight featured Boston’s third straight game of allowing an opponent to 21 shots or less, and the results over that stretch speak for themselves, as the Bruins have surrendered just two goals over that 61-shot sample (a .967 save percentage).
But take an even deeper dive and you’ll see that the Bruins have been straight-up dominant in the defensive zone over this 16-game point streak, having allowed the fourth-fewest even-strength shots on goal (363) and the eighth-fewest scoring chances against (322) since Jan. 29.
In other words, the Bruins are controlling the tempo almost entirely.
“For us it’s like we’re here to get two points, right?” said Cassidy. “We’re trying to bring the game home. Of course, we’d like to extend the lead. We talked about that earlier in the year as a problem for us. We’ve done a good job of that lately. I think in the third there were a few opportunities without being reckless. Like I said, I don’t think we gave up much risking offense. At some point you think maybe they’ll chase the game a little bit and get caught, didn’t happen.
“We were content to play our game and play it well, like I said, try to extend the lead. I thought we had a few looks off the rush, didn’t happen. Like I said, looking back in the third there wasn’t much except the breakaway.”
The Bruins will have to hope that continues on Tuesday, too, as the Carolina Hurricanes will arrive in Boston averaging a league-leading 34.8 shots on goal per game this season.