The first practice after Monday’s Game 1 loss did come with a change for the Bruins.
That change won’t come in net, however, as the Bruins will stick with Linus Ullmark in the crease but jumble their defensive pairings up a bit ahead of Wednesday’s Game 2 contest at PNC Arena. For the Bruins, the tweaks will reunite Matt Grzelcyk to the left of Charlie McAvoy on Boston’s top pairing, and put Hampus Lindholm with Brandon Carlo.
“I just thought Grz and Carlo had a bit of a challenging night,” Cassidy said of the rationale behind the switch. “We’d talked about using Lindholm with Carlo at times as well. It also allows you then to in-game put Lindholm and McAvoy together maybe after they’ve sat a shift for Forbort and Clifton going over, so you can still keep them as a pair.”
Boston’s go-to pairing over the last two seasons, the Bruins are comfortable with what the Grzelcyk-McAvoy pairing can do. Together for over 758 minutes of play since the start of last season, the Grzelcyk-McAvoy pairing has been a monster at five-on-five, with a plus-259 shot differential (519-260) and plus-33 goal differential (50-17). That goals-for percentage is tops among all 48 NHL pairings with at least 700 five-on-five minutes played since the start of the 2021 season.
“Grz has played a lot of hockey with McAvoy [and] they’re a good pair, so no concerns there for me,” said Cassidy.
In the case of Lindholm, the move down to Carlo’s left will come with the Black and Gold looking to get that pairing going, which has been a bit of a challenge in their limited sample size to that. Paired together for just over 20 minutes of five-on-five action post-deadline, the Lindholm-Carlo pairing was outshot 17-6 and outscored 2-0.
“[Lindholm] is excellent on the breakout like Charlie is, so now you have one on each pair that can be a one-man breakout as opposed to loading them up,” Cassidy said. “You’re taking from one to give to another and we’ll see how it works out.”
In addition to sticking with Ullmark, the Bruins are expected to stick with the same forward lines for Game 2.
“We gotta get back to our game [Wednesday],” Cassidy said. “How we started was excellent, good first period [and] pockets in the third to start the third. Taylor Hall rings one off the post on a great reload. If that goes in, you don’t know how it turns out. We weren’t that far away, yet we recognize that they got to their game and were able to stay there and get the job done.
“So we have work to do to get to 60 minutes, but it wasn’t like it was a complete non-performance for 60. We had really good sequences of Bruins hockey, and we just have to extend those.”