By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Changes are coming to both the forward and defensemen groups for the Bruins in Game 3 of their opening-round series with the Hurricanes, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed.
“We’ve thought it through,” Cassidy said Friday. “We’ll be making some changes both at forward and D.”
With an optional skate on Friday and a 12 p.m. start on Saturday, it’s unclear just where those changes will come, and Cassidy didn’t want to delve into the specifics of the changes that are coming. David Pastrnak’s availability is an obvious factor at play, too. But Cassidy did note the changes will be meant to ‘get some energy’ in the lineup and change the look of their forward group after scoring just two goals (both on the power play) on 35 shots in a 3-2 Game 2 loss.
Up front, it’s likely that the change will come with Nick Ritchie taken out of Boston’s rotation.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Ritchie delivered a punishing hit to the Hurricanes’ Joel Edmundson in Game 1, and provided some net-front jam on Charlie Coyle’s goal, but was on the ice (and looking a little lost) for two goals against. Ritchie was less of a factor in Game 2, and was even benched for the final 13 minutes of the third period.
Through two games, the Bruins have given Ritchie 13 offensive-zone faceoffs at five-on-five (second-most among all Boston forwards), and yet Ritchie has only been on the ice for nine shots against the Carolina tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. And against a high-tempo Canes squad with an active defense corps, this doesn’t feel like a series that will bring the best out of Ritchie’s game.
The Bruins could replace Ritchie with Par Lindholm, putting Lindholm between Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner and moving the high-motored Sean Kuraly up to the left side of Coyle’s line. They could also throw top prospect Jack Studnicka back into the mix, though he doesn’t have experience playing with Coyle. Or, if Pastrnak is fit to play, they could simply keep Karson Kuhlman in action and with Coyle and Anders Bjork on the third line. This would allow Anders Bjork to move back to his natural left wing position, which is where the B’s seem to prefer to play him when with Coyle.
On the backend, the most likely change will come with Jeremy Lauzon subbed out for John Moore or Connor Clifton.
With ‘energy’ the name of the game, Clifton seems like the more likely addition to the lineup. Clifton’s status as a right-shot defender also gives him a leg-up on Moore, as the Bruins typically prefer to have their left-right balance whenever possible, even if Lauzon is a left shot who adapted to the right side without much of an issue. Clifton, who has played just two games in 2020, racked up five hits in 15:39 in his round-robin appearance against Philadelphia.
Game 3 can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub, the official flagship radio station of the Bruins, with Bob Beers and Judd Sirott on the call, and with pregame beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.