NEW YORK — The Bruins might boast one of the top lines in all of hockey, but bench boss Bruce Cassidy has never been one to shy away from mixing things up if the results aren’t showing on the ice.
Injuries have played a part, but the 2018-19 Bruins have so far rolled out 32 different forward lines that have logged at least 15 minutes of 5v5 time together — along with 12 combinations with 40 minutes of TOI.
Cassidy has often shown a willingness to demote or flip a player or two in the middle of a game if he’s not a fan of what he sees — but Wednesdays’ alterations might have been the most drastic in-game turnover so far this season.
After close to 30 minutes of listless play up front against a rebuilding Rangers club, Boston’s fourth line of Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner stood as the lone trio that remained untouched.
For the remainder of the night, here’s how Cassidy rolled out his lines:
Ultimately, Boston only finished with one point on the night in what was a disheartening 4-3 shootout loss to New York, but Cassidy’s latest realignment up front did offer some hope at a possible respite for Boston’s secondary-scoring woes.
During a stretch in the second period in which Boston lit the lamp three times in the span of 3:22 — a revamped top-six corps tallied a pair of goals during 5v5 play, starting with Danton Heinen’s tip of a Matt Grzelcyk point blast at 10:37. Just 1:12 later, the second line made its presence felt — with Krejci feeding his new winger in David Pastrnak down low for his 31st goal of the season.
Cassidy has made in-game switches like this before, but often times, it’s just tinkering set aside for when his club needs a spark.
“Being around these guys for a while, you sense a little frustration,” Cassidy said. “Even the best lines, some days, aren’t clicking. It just seemed like Pasta was a little off tonight, for whatever reason. He’s been very good for us, so hey, make a switch. Maybe it just changes the energy dynamic of the line a little bit.
“Maybe the matchup makes them think a little bit, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to sense when players are coming back to the bench and they’re quieter than normal. They don’t have an energy level, they’re not positive, so hey, we’ll switch it up and see if that gets them going. Sometimes it does, other times it doesn’t.
But could these lines have some staying power? Given the instant results generated by these new lines, especially at an area that Boston has struggled in at 5v5 play, the case could be made that a top six with Pastrnak slotted down with Krejci might be the Bruins’ best in-house option in terms of balancing out an offense in need of some production away from its top line.
“We tend to go back to our groups, but this is something that we’ve talked about looking at for a while,” Cassidy said. “So it’s something that we may have to think about here in the next couple of days.”
Let’s take a look at Boston’s rearranged lineup from the second half of Wednesday’s game, and if Cassidy might have indeed found something with these new trios.