If Thursday’s practice was a preview of their Game 1 lineup, the Bruins will begin the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a mix of speed and tenacity on their fourth line, as Jake DeBrusk and Chris Wagner appear slated to skate on Curtis Lazar’s wings.
“A little bit of different look [with] a right stick,” Cassidy said. “Historically, it’s been Sean [Kuraly].”
Now, Lazar manning the fourth line isn’t anything new. He’s done that almost exclusively since coming over from Buffalo in the B’s deadline move for Taylor Hall. But with DeBrusk on the left, the Bruins are clearly looking for what would best described as a bit more offensive pop than what you’d typically see to the left of a line with Lazar and Wagner.
“If a guy like DeBrusk is on that line, which right now that’s the way it’s shaken out, then he has a right stick passing him on his forehand,” Cassidy noted. “I think most centerman naturally gravitate to making plays on their forehand. There’s obviously the odd exception, but most of them will. So if he’s a right stick, it helps the left winger, so that’s a little bit a different look. Maybe not as much pace as a Sean, but more slow it down and kick out pucks sort of attack through the neutral zone. So there’s a few little things, but I just think he’s brought some good energy and puck-play and a 200-foot game.”
Going with DeBrusk over someone such as Trent Frederic, while expected based on how the Bruins approached their lines in the final game of the regular season, also speaks to the idea that the Bruins are hoping DeBrusk can use his speed to make life hell for a Washington defense that’s not exactly the quickest-moving in their own end.
“You have to play with pace against Washington,” Cassidy said following Thursday’s session at Warrior Ice Arena. “You’ve got to play them behind their D, force their forwards to defend in their own end. They’ve got a lot of skill guys that want to get going. So that means having the puck and getting pucks back. So a lot of it is puck possession.
“Obviously, when you have the puck, you’re not physical in terms of dictating the physicality, you’re just strong on it using your skill and speed. That’s one thing we have to do and not get away from and get caught up in matching them hit for hit. When hits are there, you got to take them and show that, ‘Hey, we’re going to we’re going to wear you down as the series goes along as well.’ But hopefully you’re also doing it with foot speed and tiring them out chasing you around as well.”
The Bruins iced the DeBrusk-Lazar-Wagner trio for almost 16 minutes of five-on-five play in Tuesday’s meeting with the Capitals, according to Natural Stat Trick, and were even in shots (5-5) but outscored the Capitals 1-0.
With this group together on the Black and Gold’s fourth line, the B’s are expected to begin the postseason with Kuraly in between Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle on their third line.
“As much as [Lazar]’s game is good, it’s what’s the domino effect of him going in there? It’s allowed us to put together a different third line,” Cassidy offered. “So that, I think, is what you’re here for: it’s the good of the crest and good of the team, and that’s one of the big things that’s come of it.”
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.