Bruins in tough spot with struggling Jeremy Lauzon
It hasn’t been a good postseason for Jeremy Lauzon.
Despite playing in just three of Boston’s seven postseason contests this summer after an injury kept him out of the final four games of their first-round series against the Capitals, Lauzon has been on the ice for a defense-high seven goals against at all-situation play. Break it down by a per-60 rate, and Lauzon has been on the ice for 7.12 goals per 60 minutes of all-situation play this postseason, which ranks dead last among a group of 97 defensemen with at least 50 minutes this spring.
In fact, it gets worse when you realize that the Bruins have only surrendered nine goals in total in Lauzon’s three appearances, meaning he’s been on the ice for all but two of the goals that have ended up behind Tuukka Rask in his appearances. That’s an astonishing bad goal share for Lauzon, whose ice-time is doled out with the idea that this is an area where he’ll shine.
It’s been a mix of bad luck and outright bad defensive play, too. From deflections off his skate and stick to screening his own goaltender to outright losing his man and last night’s puzzling overtime decision, nothing has gone Lauzon’s way this postseason. You could even argue that Lauzon has looked worse every game.
But there’s really not much the Bruins can do when it comes to Lauzon’s struggles.
For what feels like the fifth postseason in a row, injuries have decimated the Boston defense. Kevan Miller was injured on a high hit from the Capitals’ Dmitry Orlov in Game 4 and has yet to resume skating. Jakub Zboril was injured in the final game of the regular season and has been out of sight, out of mind since. John Moore and Steven Kampfer have both undergone surgeries and are out for the season.
This means that if the Bruins are going to pull the 24-year-old Lauzon out of the lineup, it’s going to be for Jarred Tinordi or Urho Vaakanainen. The latter has yet to appear in this spot in his professional career and the former has appeared in just one 2021 postseason contest to date (the B’s closeout Game 5 victory in Washington). And despite his status as a veteran, the usage and most common lineups would indicate that the Bruins trust Lauzon more than Tinordi.
This would also be a potentially significant more difficult jump, all things considered, as the Bruins are heading into a 12,000-person noise cauldron on Long Island, and with the Islanders riding some momentum and holding the benefit of last change for the next two games. It’s not exactly a great spot for any of the Bruins’ LD-3 options.
The Bruins also seem to know that these bumps are something they’re going to have to live with this spring.
Speaking after Monday’s loss, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy called Lauzon’s decision that sparked the Casey Cizikas game-winning overtime tally ‘ill-advised’ but was also quick to note that he’d learn from it. Brad Marchand, meanwhile, had his back and offered a ‘shit happens’ and noted that they’ve all been there before. And it seemed that Cassidy was subtly mentioning Lauzon when talking about his team’s ability to turn the page and correct their mistakes.
“The interesting part is we have a veteran group that you can go over video, talk to them between periods; the Marchands, the Krejcis, and Bergerons. And then you have a young group that needs to see it a little more and live it and practice it on the backend,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “It’s an interesting dynamic in that regard that some of the adjustments, I think you’re dealing with a little bit of a two-headed monster where you’ve got to go to part of your group and sort of walk through it a little more. And then the older guys, it’s more like, ‘Here’s what we’re looking at, remember against so-and-so opponent we made this switch and they can handle it quicker.'”
It’s important to remember that the Bruins signed up for this, too. They decided to move on from both Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara in the offseason to find out if Lauzon and/or Zboril could play at this level. And even when they made a deadline move to add to their blue line, they made sure that there was still at least one spot for them.
Banishing Lauzon to the press box for the second postseason in a row seems to be of limited interest to the Bruins, and would seemingly go against their own 2021 season philosophy. So it appears that the Bruins will instead focus on what they can do to improve Lauzon’s game as a staff, and try to better put him in situations that better play to his strengths.
“That’s just guys where they are in their careers, and that’s fine,” said Cassidy. “That’s on us as a staff to make sure the message does get across however you’re going to get it across. At the end of the day, we have to we have to be better as a staff as well to make sure that those things happen for us. And hopefully our players understand it and are able to execute all the things that we are telling them.”
What that means entering a road set in Long Island will be interesting.
The Bruins have deployed the Lauzon-Connor Clifton pairing as their attempted shutdown pairing through two games. Perhaps that was to get them prepared for what they could face at the Coliseum without the benefit of last change or perhaps that’s the role they view as best for that tandem. But with the Mike Reilly-Brandon Carlo pairing looking off since the start of this series, maybe Wednesday’s practice comes with some defensive-pair tinkering on the part of Cassidy to better balance his defense, perhaps going back to some old combinations, such as Lauzon with workhorse and three-zone dominator Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk back with Carlo, which would allow Clifton to return to his role as pairing-driver opposite Reilly.
Or maybe the Bruins will simply view Game 2 as Lauzon’s rock bottom, with better days on the way.
“At the end of the day, it’s a fluid game [and] things happen quickly out there,” Cassidy said. “You rely on your players to make good decisions. That’s what all the work you do all year for. I think our guys are good at that. That’s why we’re still playing.”
And why it seems likely that Lauzon will remain playing with ’em.
The Bruins had some bad luck with bounces in their Game 2 loss to the Islanders. But there’s also a lot from their game that they can clean up themselves heading into Game 3.
That’s the overarching theme of this Bruins postgame podcast, hosted by Matt Dolloff and Ty Anderson of 98.5 The Sports Hub. Among the topics discussed after Boston’s loss to the Isles: the Bruins’ poor second period; Jeremy Lauzon’s bad night and overtime turnover; the up-and-down play of each of the four forward lines; depth and talent issues facing the Bruins on the defense; and the play of Tuukka Rask.
Matt and Ty are covering each and every Bruins playoff game with a postgame podcast, win or lose.
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.