By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s Game 3 lineup tweaks did not work out. In fact, they played a factor in what was the Black and Gold’s worst playoff loss in over 28 years.
But not every tweak made by Cassidy was by design.
This was especially true in the case of fourth-line dynamo Sean Kuraly’s removal from the lineup, which was originally explained with the forever-and-intentionally vague “unfit to play” designation.
“As for Sean, dealing with an injury, he wasn’t able to go,” Cassidy, who alluded to a game-time decision involving one of his forwards in his pregame availability before Game 3, confirmed Thursday. “Obviously, he’s a part of our kill we miss, especially in the faceoff circle. We only have two lefties, him and [Par] Lindholm. So, you miss that part of it.
“At the end of the day, you have to move on.”
The Bruins struggled to move on without their No. 2 penalty-killing center, however, and surrendered three straight power-play goals to Tampa in what felt like a great awakening from the Lightning man advantage.
It’s unclear what is ailing Kuraly, who finished Game 2 with an assist on the game-tying goal and a team-leading six hits in 14:36, and what his status is for Boston’s practically must-win Game 4, which has been postponed to a later date.
When it came to the defense, however, Cassidy was a bit more tightlipped about his decision to put Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore into action at the cost of Connor Clifton.
“I’m not going to go into all the specifics,” Cassidy noted. “Every team has the things they deal with internally.
“We went the seven defensemen route. We were protecting ourselves against… What if the game gets stretched on? We went into overtime the night before, three [games] in four nights. A couple of bumps and bruises. That was the decision: Bigger guys. I thought we needed to control the front of our net better after Game 2. We didn’t do a good enough job there. Bigger bodies can sometimes help that. It didn’t work out that way.”
Moore and Lauzon combined for 11 hits, but they struggled to give the Bruins much of anything when it came to solving Tampa’s smothering forecheck, and were just as guilty of the soft chips to nowhere as the rest of the Boston defense corps through the first nine periods (and five-minute overtime) of this head-to-head with the Lightning.
But Cassidy remains confident in his options no matter the additional changes, if any, that come in Game 4.
“Cliffy has been fine, Lauzy has been fine, Moore,” Cassidy, who has now played his eight NHL regular d-men in at least one postseason tilt, said. “They’re all, we feel, capable number sixes. We’ve used different guys in that role.”
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.