The Bruins are trying just about every combo they can on the backend.
And with the Mike Reilly-Jakub Zboril combo looking like a potentially promising fit on the third pairing, Bruce Cassidy’s tinkering has come on the top two pairs, with Tuesday’s practicing featuring Matt Grzelcyk reunited to the left of Charlie McAvoy on the top pairing, and Derek Forbort opposite Brandon Carlo on the middle pairing.
The former is something the Bruins have seen a ton of since the start of last year (and with some undeniably promising numbers), while the latter is something that we’ve for the most part only seen with the B’s down a man in 2021-22.
And it’s being done with the hope that it can spark both Grzelcyk and Carlo.
“I think the Grizz-Carlo [pairing] has been just average,” Cassidy said following Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “I just think that pair right now hasn’t been as strong as it could be.
“[Grzelcyk], I think, right now is off a little bit. I think having him play with Charlie will get him a little back on track. They tend to play well together.”
Per NaturalStatTrick, the Grzelcyk-McAvoy has been deployed for 99:46 of five-on-five work this season. During that stretch with those two on the ice, the Bruins hold a 67-36 edge in shots, 63-41 scoring chance advantage, 18-8 win in high-danger chances, and 6-2 edge in goals. One of 57 NHL pairings to log at least 400 five-on-five minutes since the start of last season, the Grzelcyk-McAvoy pairing ranks first in corsi-for percentage (62.22%), shots-for percentage (67.56%, at 302-145), and goals-for percentage (74.29 percent, at 26-9).
In essence, this has been Cassidy’s go-to pairing when the Bruins are looking for offense.
And that hyper-paced top pairing leaves little to the imagination with what’s expected out of the Forbort-Carlo duo.
“I think Brandon’s played some of his best hockey with [Zdeno Chara] in a shutdown role [and] just focusing on that,” Cassidy said. “I know it’s been a few years, but he can do that well. Hopefully it will get him back to where he needs to be.”
“It should be pretty easy to know what each other’s doing out there,” Forbort said of his move to Carlo’s left. “It’s gonna be simple, hard, just make easy plays and be hard to play against. I’ve gotten quite a few shifts with him when we’re up a couple goals or when they’re switching things up when we’re down and they want more offense.”
Thrown out there at the end of games or sometimes at the end of a Boston power-play opportunity, the Forbort-Carlo pairing has totaled 34 and a half minutes of five-on-five play as a tandem this year, with the Bruins outshooting opponents 25-24 and outscoring them 4-0 over that limited sample.
(Lest we forget that Forbort has apparently unlocked his goal-scoring ability since jumping to Boston, too.)
The Bruins get back in action Wednesday night in Buffalo.
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.