The Boston Bruins are not getting nearly enough from their bottom-six forwards, and everybody knows it.
That includes Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“The third line didn’t generate much last night,” Cassidy said Sunday. “Well, didn’t generate anything. To be honest with you, they’ve had better games. Obviously a breakdown on the last goal. Our winger dove down Should’ve had more patience, allowed them get to the middle of the ice and it kind of snowballed from there where guys are a little late because we didn’t do our job first. So that part of it hurt us. But at the end of the day, we’ll look at it for tomorrow.”
In the middle of his justifiably scathing criticism of a third line that simply hasn’t delivered in this series (especially on the wings), Cassidy also noted that he’s going to leave the Bruins’ fourth line with Curtis Lazar in between Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner alone after what he considered one of their better games.
“I thought last night was our best game from our fourth line in terms of playing below the goal line, getting pucks deep, being physical,” Cassidy offered. “I thought Sean was trying to do a little more, Wags had a good chance in the first period on a wraparound, Kuraly in the slot later was just off net. They did a better job than they have been in terms of creating offense on how they can best do it, which is forecheck, turnovers, putting some pressure on the D. And their penalty kill was good.”
But as it relates to the third line, the B’s bench boss mentioned both Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman as potential options for Charlie Coyle’s line as the Bruins prepare for Monday’s pivotal Game 5 at TD Garden.
“The tough part is the sticks,” Cassidy, who has had left-shot Jake DeBrusk playing on the right wing, acknowledged. “We’ll just see what we can do on the third line. Kuhlman’s played a little bit. Freddie hasn’t played in a long time. Those are the guys that have been with with us the most. But, again, you’ve got left wingers having to go to the right side unless it’s Kuhlman.
“So we’ll consider it and we’ll from there.”
The Bruins have already gone to Kuhlman once in this series, and he immediately delivered, with the primary assist on Charlie Coyle’s Game 2 goal. But that was Kuhlman’s only thing of note in the losing effort, as he failed to land a shot on goal and finished a minus-1 in 12:51 of action in the overtime loss.
Frederic, meanwhile, has not played this postseason, and has not appeared in a NHL game since the regular season finale back on May 11. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Frederic finished the regular season with four goals and an assist in 42 appearances, but could be a boost to the Bruins’ penalty-drawing game, as he finished the year with 15 penalties drawn (third-most among all Bruins), while his 1.9 penalties drawn per 60 minutes was the sixth-best rate among a group of 371 forwards with at least 400 minutes played in 2021.
At this point, it’s easy to see how either player could be a potential upgrade over the increasingly ineffective Nick Ritchie or DeBrusk, especially consider the latter’s obvious inability to adapt to playing his off wing.
But Cassidy will sleep on it and make sure the decision is delivered in the room first, and not through media Zooms.
“We’ll make that decision tomorrow,” Cassidy said. “I don’t want to do that through you guys. We’ll talk to the players, make sure we drill down and see what’s the best fit for us. So, like I said, you guys will know tomorrow who’s in the lineup. We’re pretty good at giving you that. So that’s what we’ll do.”
The Bruins and Islanders are tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoff series. What does Boston need to do to get back control of the series in Game 5?
If you ask Matt Dolloff and Ty Anderson of the SideLines podcast at 98.5 The Sports Hub, it’s a shakeup on the bottom-six forward lines. And even then, they still desperately need Brandon Carlo back on defense. But will we see either of those things on Monday night?
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.