Peter Cehlarik isn’t untouchable, but it’d be nice if Bruins showed some more patience
By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The odds are that Peter Cehlarik will never be an All-Star. He might not even be an NHL player, to be honest. His most recent run with the Big B’s, which ended on Wednesday with a demotion back to the minors, has left you little (read as: no) hope on either front.
But at this rate, and with this usage, you’re never going to really know what the 23-year-old Cehlarik could ever be for the Bruins.
In five games since he was benched and called out by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy for not playing the game “The Bruins Way,” Cehlarik fired just seven shots on goal while averaging 11:59 per night. The stretch also saw Cehlarik bounced between a second-line role with David Krejci and third-line role with Charlie Coyle, and/or parked on the bench in the third period of close games (Cehlarik did not log a single shift in the third period of Tuesday’s loss in Columbus).
Pulling the plug on the Cehlarik-Krejci one-two was probably just, all things considered, as the duo failed to truly thrive together like they did when Cehlarik was first called up (and had Jake DeBrusk with them).
But Cehlarik-Coyle seemed more than capable as a potential third-line solution, outshooting the opposition 21-9 and generating 11 scoring chances in 23:10 of five-on-five play together over that five-game sample. The line was actually a dominant possession grouping together in their limited sample size, too, with a 62.96 Corsi-For percentage despite having 14 of their 24 faceoffs coming outside the offensive zone.
The only thing the Cehlarik-Coyle combination didn’t do was get on the board with a goal (Coyle has just one assist in nine games since being traded to Boston), really. That has since prompted Cassidy to blow up the third line as a whole, moving Coyle from third-line center to second-line right wing, and going with a patchwork “third line.”
(This sudden lack of patience with a new piece and young player is a little confusing given some of the other players on this roster that have been given enough rope to scale the top of the Monstrosity on Causeway, at the very least.)
So it’s instead off to the AHL for the 23-year-old, and in his place comes Paul Carey, a local 30-year-old AAAA journeyman with 18 NHL points in 97 games between four different organizations.
This would be acceptable if the Bruins were anything even close to healthy. But they’re not.
This is a team that’s still without wingers Jake DeBrusk (foot), Marcus Johansson (lung), and David Pastrnak (thumb). The team’s most offensive d-man, Torey Krug, is now on the shelf with an upper-body injury sustained in Tuesday’s 7-4 loss.
You’re seeing this lead to some heavy, heavy minutes for Boston’s most important pieces should they make a deep run, as Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci have all taken on playoff-like workloads. With 12 games in the next 25 days, too.
And while the Bruins have managed 18 goals over their last six games, it feels worth mentioning that 12 of those 18 goals have come from Bergeron, Marchand, or Krejci. Another three have come from Chris Wagner. Jake DeBrusk (currently out) has one, and same for defensemen Matt Grzelcyk (also out) and John Moore.
In other words, the Bruins could use a balance in minutes and boost in scoring from their middle-six forward groupings.
By now, and despite what his nightly deployment is trying to trick me into thinking, I know that’s not coming from Joakim Nordstrom, a player with just one assist in his last 25 games played. Actually, Joakim Nordstrom has been the least productive forward in the entire league since Dec. 18, as his single assist since then makes ranks him 343rd out of 343 among forwards with at least 25 games played. He’s the ultimate warm body that “doesn’t make mistakes” because he’s played a lot of games. He hasn’t done much in those games, sure, but he’s played a lot of ’em, which apparently means something. I just know that his near-constant promotion when things go south makes less sense with each passing game.
I have an equally difficult time believing it’s coming from Backes, who is without a goal in 19 straight games and counting, even if he’s indeed promoted to the Bergeron Line on Thursday night against the Jets.
And I have a hard time buying in on the idea that Carey’s fifth organization will be the one that finally opens the floodgates for him as a viable offensive threat.
But at the same time — with Cehlarik’s confidence in the toilet (this has been an issue for some young players this season) and the coach’s trust in his game long gone at this point — maybe believing it’s coming from Cehlarik, a player that has outproduced all three of these alternatives while being constantly juggled, is just as silly.
If only Cehlarik had some more games to his name, then maybe his lack of tangible production would slide, for some odd reason.