By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
After resisting the temptation to tinker with his top two lines in Monday night’s 3-2 Game 3 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday night – something that was in direct contrast to what Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy had done deftly at times in his two-plus years behind Boston’s bench – the coy Cassidy went back to what has got his team to where they are right now in a pivotal Game 4.
“It was just moving Pasta [David Pastrnak] around. He wasn’t on top of his game for whatever reason. [Danton ]Heinen has played with [Brad] Marchand and [Patrice] Bergeron when Pasta missed his five weeks and he did a good job up there,” said the crafty head coach. “I’m not sure if Danton can do it every night at this point in his career against top lines and top D’s, but he certainly does a nice job in spots. Pasta and [David] Krejci have played together, so it was just a different look.
“We’re just moving some pieces around and hopefully it gives us a spark. Maybe it makes them think. You never know if it might affect the way they do things. I don’t think it did because they just played their game. But at the end of the day, we still got Pasta back with Bergeron and Marchand on the power play, and on a few 5-on-5 shifts. It certainly worked out for us tonight.”
Just like old times, you could say. Cassidy’s crew – as they have done more times than not when the B’s bench boss has played musical chairs with his top two right wings – responded to the changes and evened up the best of seven opening round series against the Leafs with a 6-4 win.
When asked after Game 1’s 4-1 loss that saw his team looked listless why he didn’t dabble in different line combinations, the man they call Butch pretty much batted the inquiry away.
“Some of the guys that usually move around, listen, I didn’t love their game,” Cassidy said matter of factly. “So when they are on, I’ll move them around, double shift them. Couple of the guys that that’s happened to in the past, I didn’t know if it would’ve helped them to be honest with you.
“Some of that in season, too, is to get their attention, reward other guys. We’re now in the playoffs. Right? There shouldn’t be attention-getting. It’s about ‘hey, let’s get out there and be better than the guy across from you.’”
While he may have a point regarding getting his best players to play their best in big games, it is also worth noting that regardless of the time of year his job is to get his team going any way he can, even if it means breaking up the best line in the NHL.
And, not for nothing, his previously slumping top sniper was all on board with the change following the series-tying triumph.
“I think it sparked everybody,” Pastrnak said. “It gives them a little different look. It was fun. I’ve been playing with [Krejci], so I know what to expect. We all know [Heinen] played great with these guys so it’s good for us.”
Good indeed. What was also good was that the Bruins head coach went back to the style of coaching that has helped turn a team that was on the outside looking in for a considerable stretch before he took over the B’s bench from Claude Julien in February of 2017, and into a legitimate contender.
Since then the Black and Gold have gone from a bubble team to make the playoffs to perhaps the odds on favorites to win the Stanley Cup if they can make it past this heavily talented Toronto club.
Coaches always want their players to stay true to who they are when the pressure ramps up in the NHL’s second season. I’d be willing to bet the players in the Bruins dressing room want the same from their head coach as the games continue to get bigger.