The final game of the regular season, which came with 15 Boston regulars scratched from a meaningless game in Washington, didn’t drastically alter the Bruins’ roster plans entering the 2021 postseason.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy clearly likes where his team is at.
“Right now, I think we’re pretty solidified when we get back home,” Cassidy said of his postseason roster. “Obviously, we’ve got a question mark in [Ondrej] Kase that we weren’t sure where he would be, but we believe [Charlie] Coyle will be ready. Guys that typically play for us that were in tonight — the [Nick] Ritchies, the [Jake] DeBrusks — don’t believe any of them had injuries. Only [Jakub] Zboril left the game. So we should be pretty healthy with the guys we got.
“The good news is we’re probably healthier than we’ve been all year. So that’s the positive for us and going in [to the playoffs]. And hopefully that pays off for us.”
For the Bruins, that ‘solidified group’ starts with the star-studded top-six forward group with Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on Boston’s first line, and Taylor Hall to the left of David Krejci and Craig Smith on line two. Assuming Coyle is healthy, the Bruins’ most likely third line combination when the postseason begins will see Coyle riding on the right wing of a line with Ritchie on the left and Sean Kuraly in the middle.
The only true question mark comes on the fourth line, but that really comes down to just one spot, as it seems likely that DeBrusk and Curtis Lazar will make up two-thirds of the Black and Gold’s fourth-line combination. The last spot seems to be a battle between Chris Wagner, Trent Frederic, and even Karson Kuhlman.
That may be touch and go throughout the series, too, with Cassidy noticing a little something something that may be of interest in what was a dressed-up P-Bruins vs. Capitals game at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.
“It’s going to be Washington, so, you know, we’ll look a little closer at [Frederic]’s game [and] some of the bigger bodies,” said Cassidy. “But you also noticed that we forechecked well with foot speed against their D, so that’s where the [Anton] Blidhs and the Kuhlmans come in that can get behind their D. And so, again, all possibilities if the need arises.”
On the backend, the Bruins are expected to begin the postseason with the defense that was completely scratched from this contest, and with the Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo pairing looking like the only one set in stone for Cassidy as of right now. Going against a heavier Capital squad, the Bruins may opt to reunite Jeremy Lauzon and Charlie McAvoy on the Black and Gold’s top pairing, which would leave Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller together on the third pairing.
But, again, as you would expect given the way they’ve juggled lines and pairings and combinations all year (and throughout Cassidy’s tenure), the Bruins are expected to play around with all their options throughout the series.
In net, meanwhile, the Bruins will begin the postseason with Tuukka Rask as their No. 1 goaltender. That’s been said by Cassidy again and again this past week. But the Bruins will go with some undeniable-yet-inexperienced talent behind Rask, as Jeremy Swayman will be given the nod over the veteran Jaroslav Halak as Rask’s backup to begin the postseason.
“I think he’s earned that,” Cassidy said of Swayman’s official move into the No. 2 spot on Boston’s depth chart. Obviously a tough call with Jaro with his experience. [Swayman]’s just played more down the stretch.
“I thought Swayman grabbed the ball and ran with it. So that’s the decision there.”
Additional options, however, are never a bad thing, as Cassidy’s Bruins of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 can prove.
“Nice to know there’s a few choices there,” said Cassidy.
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.