By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The playoff debut of Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon had some encouraging highs and deflating lows. The hope is that the low points don’t lead Bruce Cassidy to make reactionary decisions with his lineup.
Lauzon is no doubt young and green, which popped up at inopportune times during the Bruins’ 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. But even though he’s the sixth defenseman on the depth chart and lacks experience compared to his competition for that spot, he still represents an upgrade over the back end that faltered against the Blues’ bigger forwards last June.
He brings an element of size that you don’t get with Connor Clifton, and he can certainly match the latter’s feistiness. And despite his inexperience, he’s still a safer bet in his own end than John Moore. But the concern heading into Wednesday’s clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning is that Cassidy may turn to Moore or Clifton in an attempt to shake things up on the roster.
The kid deserves another chance.
Lauzon did negatively factor into each of the Flyers’ first two goals, which is concerning for anyone wishing to keep him in the lineup. He floated a little too high in the defensive zone, as did the entire gassed group on the ice. He and Torey Krug seemingly wanted to wish a clean breakout into existence. The breakout didn’t happen, and Michael Raffl was left wide open in front of Jaroslav Halak.
The goalie had no shot.
And on the second Flyers goal, Lauzon appeared to screen his own goalie. It’s a tough spot for a guy trying to defend the front of the net, but just a little more spatial awareness could have prevented the goal.
But just minutes before that team-wide breakdown, Lauzon made arguably the final key defensive play that the B’s would make the whole game. Taking advantage of a fortuitous bounce, the Flyers burst into a 3-on-1 situation against Lauzon. The kid didn’t panic. He showed off his solid stick work to break up a pass and whack the puck safely into the corner. In this case they did get the breakout they wanted.
Lauzon is certainly capable of providing these micro-boosts to the Bruins lineup throughout a game. He should get at least one more opportunity to clean up the little mistakes and, in turn, accentuate the little positives. Replacing him with Moore or Clifton won’t necessarily solve your problems.
Through all this, NHL Player Safety may make Cassidy’s decision for him. Lauzon received a game misconduct after colliding with Raffl on their way to the boards and engaging in the ensuing scrum. The incident injured Raffl and brought the inevitable accusations of slew-footing.
You can find anything wrong with a moment like this when you watch it 90 times at quarter-speed. But in reality, it looks like a simple hockey play. Lauzon ostensibly got the boot to ensure that the game didn’t get out of hand after that point.
It remains to be seen if Lauzon will get a call from Player Safety. This is a good time to remind you that Lauzon would be considered a repeat offender because he served a two-game suspension for a hit to the head earlier this season.
Assuming Lauzon gets a reprieve from the league offices, he should also get one from his head coach. When at his best, he gives the B’s a combination of size, toughness, and defensive responsibility that they never had on the third pairing last season. They’re only going to need his presence more when the opponents get bigger and more skilled.
Sports Hub Sidelines Podcast
Ty Anderson and I offered our immediate Bruins postgame thoughts on Jeremy Lauzon and plenty more in a bonus episode of the Sports Hub Sidelines podcast. Have a listen below. And be sure to check out all of our Bruins playoff coverage here on 985TheSportsHub.com.
Matt Dolloff 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 Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.