A six-game run — be it an at times stumbling, oh-my-god-my-legs-have-legs kind of run — with Brad Marchand unavailable could have gone a lot worse for the Bruins, all things considered. And when it kicked off with a 6-0 junk-punching at the hands of the Hurricanes, the Black and Gold racking up three wins and seven of a possible 12 points feels like an undeniable win.
But, really it was the finale of their latest brush with post-Marchand life, a 5-1, start-to-finish beatdown of the Avs at TD Garden, that’s rightfully giving the B’s plenty to smile about.
“You know those videos you throw in the trash that you don’t like? Well, this is one you keep,” B’s coach Bruce Cassidy said after the victory. “There’s gonna be a lot of clips we’re gonna look back on a month from now and say, ‘This is where all five guys were involved in the forecheck, forwards were covering for the defense, et cetera.’ There’s gonna be some really good teaching moments in this one. And it also resulted in some goals and a nice win.”
Big picture-wise, with Marchand out, just about everybody the Bruins needed to step up at the left wing position did exactly that. Taylor Hall, who finished Monday’s win with three assists, took advantage of his boosted minutes with a goal and five points, along with 23 shots on goal, during this recent stretch without Marchand. Jake DeBrusk, who still wants a trade, was demoted down to the fourth line but still found a way to find the back of the net in back-to-back games. And Trent Frederic has looked more than at home to the left of Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith in what’s been a pure grind-’em-down possession line.
But now, with Marchand due back Thursday night in Seattle, changes are going to come.
“Someone’s going to be a probably a little bit unhappy, someone’s going to have to get moved around,” Cassidy, who noted that he wants to keep Frederic with Coyle and Smith, admitted. “It’s just the way it is.”
Based off what we know about what’s Cassidy liked with this lineup beyond the Frederic-Coyle-Smith line, you have to assume that the Hall-Pastrnak combination will remain together, that Marchand will (obviously) go back to Patrice Bergeron’s left.
The most important opening seems to be the right of that Marchand-Bergeron duo, and with no shortage of options.
Beginning with some familiarity, and with his aforementioned goal-scoring streak, DeBrusk could move back into that spot. The Bruins haven’t exactly loved DeBrusk at right wing (and he hasn’t been the biggest fan of it), but the Bruins did give this trio a solid 45 minutes of five-on-five time together last year, and the Bruins outshot opponents 27-13 and scored two goals.
Forward Jack Studnicka could an option there, too, as the Bruins toyed with the idea of the 23-year-old Studnicka playing right wing with Bergeron and Marchand last year when David Pastrnak was unavailable due to his recovery from offseason hip surgery. Studnicka has played center for the majority of his 2021-22 appearances with the Bruins, and in the midst of a run that’s come with one assist and seven shots on goal in five games played.
The Bruins also have other potential options in their bottom six such as Nick Foligno and Curtis Lazar, and the team did recall forward Jesper Froden ahead of their travel day out to Seattle. And Froden, who has 12 goals and 27 points in 37 games with the P-Bruins this season, actually got some reps to the right of Bergeron and Marchand during training camp.
“Talented kid,” Marchand said of Froden back in September. “You can see he has a lot of abilities— skates well, shoots the puck well, seems to get in good areas. Seems like he’s a real good player.”
“We’ll sort through that when we practice Wednesday in Seattle,” Cassidy of piecing together a Marchand-infused lineup on Thursday night. “We’ll put together the best plan possible and see where it goes.”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a big win at TDG…