It will be right to the top of the depth chart for new Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm, as the Bruins plan to start him out to the left of Charlie McAvoy’s on the Black and Gold’s top defensive pairing.
“We’re gonna start him there,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed after Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “No matter who we played tomorrow, we were gonna start [him there]. [Matt] Grzelcyk has played with [Brandon] Carlo, let’s see how Lindy goes with Charlie.”
Lindholm’s move to Boston’s top pairing comes after a 2021-22 Anaheim run that saw him paired with first-year NHLer Jamie Drysdale almost exclusively, with the pairing the fourth-most utilized pairing in the league at the time of Lindholm’s trade. Prior to his time with Drysdale, Lindholm was a frequent partner of stay-at-home defenseman Josh Manson.
That alone speaks to Lindholm’s ability to move around a defensive depth chart and make it work with different types of defenders, and it’s something the Bruins do plan on exploring at some point between now and the end of the season.
“Over time, we will make that switch just to see what it looks like,” Cassidy said. “And if you know me, I’d probably like to see what everything looks like at some point because that’s how you find out if there’s some chemistry you wouldn’t otherwise know. Now, if it’s lights out for the next 19 games, yeah, but I suspect you’ll see him [with other partners] at some point.”
The good news out of the gate is that McAvoy has made it work with just about every partner he’s worked with this season.
Deployed for at least 100 five-on-five minutes with four different partners this season (Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, Mike Reilly, and Urho Vaakanainen), the Player X-McAvoy pairing has held a positive differential almost across the board. The lone exception to that, namely in shots and goals, has been the Forbort-McAvoy pairing, which was utilized early in the season with the Bruins struggling to find their game and in what was almost a purely defensive-zone, hold-it-down role.
The Bruins’ belief is that stacking Lindholm-McAvoy together can be a true 1A and 1B type of threat, with Cassidy likening it to when the Blue Jackets would roll out Seth Jones and Zach Werenski together as a pair. Cassidy even joked that he’d have to call ex-Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella and pick his mind about the dynamics of such a pairing.
The Bruins will get their first look at the Lindholm-McAvoy pairing Thursday night when they begin a five-game homestand with a visit from the Lightning.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has been covering the Bruins since 2010, and has been a member of the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association since 2013. 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.