By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is no stranger to putting his combinations in a blender.
But Cassidy is doing something drastic, even by his measures, and taking David Pastrnak away from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in an effort to better balance the Bruins’ offensive punch.
The split has thrown Jake DeBrusk, who has spent the last three games on Boston’s third line, up to the right wing of the B’s first line in Pastrnak’s spot, while Pastrnak dropped down to the second line with Nick Ritchie and David Krejci.
It may seem like a bit of a rash decision after just the second regulation loss of the season, but it’s one that’s made with the idea of sparking two top-six forwards key to the Black and Gold’s operation.
“It’s a little bit of a few guys, offensively, haven’t had much luck,” Cassidy, referencing DeBrusk and Krejci specifically, said. “[Bergeron-Marchand] tend to push whoever’s with them, and Krejci has played with Pasta before, so it’s just a little bit of a different look. We’ve talked about doing it in the past. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes, but hopefully, it jumpstarts both lines a little bit.”
Once again dealing with a rotating cast of wingers, Krejci has ‘faded’ with just one assist in his last three outings. And there’s no doubt that Pastrnak will be his biggest boost in 2021; Craig Smith was the latest right winger to skate with Krejci, with Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman, Jack Studnicka, and Ondrej Kase among the other wingers to get looks with him this season.
The Krejci-Pastrnak duo has logged just over 500 minutes of five-on-five play together over the last three seasons, and the Bruins have held a 246-239 advantage in shots and 29-13 scoring advantage over that 500-minute sample.
DeBrusk, meanwhile, is still looking to get on the board with his first goal of the season despite landing 20 shots on goal (including seven in his first game back in action last week) through his first nine games of the 2021 season. DeBrusk has experience playing with Bergeron and Marchand, too, as he was promoted to that spot in the third game of the regular season, and remained there until he suffered his lower-body injury against the Penguins back on Jan. 26.
“I thought he played OK up there,” Cassidy said. “Got injured, but thought he was doing a good job.”
The moves have also led to a trickle-down of sorts, with Craig Smith back with Charlie Coyle on a third line with Anders Bjork shifted back to the left side, and Trent Frederic as the body-thumping left wing opposite Chris Wagner on the Black and Gold’s rugged fourth line centered by Sean Kuraly.
The move also comes with Bergeron, Marchand, or Pastrnak scoring nine of the team’s last 12 goals.
“Maybe this gets both lines scoring consistently,” said Cassidy. “We’ll see where it goes from there.”
The Bruins will continue to practice in anticipation of a Thursday night meeting with New Jersey.
We talked more about this with Toucher and Rich on Tuesday’s show. Have a listen below.
Also, Matt Dolloff and I host the SideLines podcast every week. Listen below for the latest episode.