By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
It seems Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is not waiting around to go down 3-1 – in what has been a sensational second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the upstart Blue Jackets through three games – to make changes to his struggling lineup. Based on his line combinations during Wednesday’s practice prior to Game 4 on Thursday in Columbus, the B’s bench boss looks as if he is going to insert veteran David Backes into the mix to try to change his club’s luck before returning to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday night.
Regarding Backes’ possible return, Cassidy was coy when it came to his aging – Wednesday was Backes’ 35th birthday – winger, who has watched playoff games as a healthy scratch for the first time in his career this spring.
🎥 Bruce Cassidy on the possibility of David Backes being in the Game 4 lineup: "If he goes in for anybody, he’s a net presence, something that’s needed against Bobrovsky." pic.twitter.com/91bPg2Dix7
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 1, 2019
When asked about the move following practice on their off day before Thursday’s Game 4 by the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy, Cassidy said, “I don’t know if we are going to make that change, Steve. We can probably address that tomorrow as we go through the lineup.
“If he goes in for anyone, David, he is a net presence. That’s something I think we need against [Sergei] Bobrovsky. I think we did a pretty good job with that [in Game3], at times. We just didn’t find the loose pucks.”
For his part, when asked about his possible return following the Wednesday practice that found him – at least, temporarily – reunited with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the Bruins second line, the birthday boy was obviously excited.
“That’s the hope, you know, playing alongside Krech and JD this morning. I don’t know if that’s the way it will shake out. As you have seen, it can go into the blender real quick if Butchie’s thinking that there is a different combination that may work better. But, it’s just good to be on a line and expecting to be playing and trying to help these guys win a Game 4.”
While there is little doubt that the 13-year veteran – who has posted a modest 35 points in 71 career playoff games – will inject some veteran leadership and energy, to think that he could be the spark that sets alight a Bruins offense that has been devoid of any kind of consistent offense from their most skilled players up front, is a big ask for a guy who could be in his last season with the Black and Gold, despite the hefty two years and $12 million remaining on his contract.
.@dbackes42 on his possible return for Game 4: "That’s the hope. Playing alongside Krech and JD this morning. I don’t know if that’s the way it’ll shake out…but good to be on a line and expecting to be playing." pic.twitter.com/YVQDLXSC2t
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 1, 2019
For the most part, physicality has not been an issue for the Bruins in this series. Of course, there are those who think that the targeting that David Pastrnak – who led the B’s in goals scored with 38 in the regular season – is being hampered by the price he has paid through the first 10 games played in the NHL’s second season.
Whether or not the pounding Pastrnak has taken from both the Maple Leafs and the Blue Jackets this postseason is the reason he has been so ineffective is something only he can answer. Even if it has, that doesn’t speak to why Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have been shells of their regular season selves so far this spring.
It is likely that Backes’ return to the Bruins bench on Thursday night will be a big lift emotionally for his teammates as they look to return back to Boston tied 2-2 for Saturday night’s Game 5 at TD Garden. That being said, the only boosts that count come this time of year are measured by the number of pucks the team needing one puts in their opponents net when the final whistle has sounded.
The big winger’s return could be the spark that Cassidy’s club needs to figure out Bobrovsky tomorrow night. Nevertheless, until guys like Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak figure out how to play like the best line in hockey, no shot of adrenaline will make a difference if Bobrovsky continues to be a brick wall in goal for the surging Blue Jackets.