Bruce Cassidy has been in this position numerous times before, weighing the pros and cons of slotting in Player B over Player C — a bitter reality when Player A is knocked out of commission.
The Bruins sit just two wins away from a Stanley Cup title, but the road to a potential championship has been arduous for Cassidy and the B’s, especially on the injury front, with regulars like Kevan Miller (43 missed games), Charlie McAvoy (28 missed games), Zdeno Chara (20 missed games), Torey Krug (18 games missed), Patrice Bergeron (17 games missed) and David Pastrnak (16 games missed) all sidelined for extended stretches during the 2018-19 campaign.
It hasn’t been easy, but Cassidy has managed to offset his club’s onslaught of ailments with some roster tweaks and shuffling. Whether it's incorporating youngsters like Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon into the lineup or bumping up David Krejci and Danton Heinen on first-line duties, more often than not the Bruins have emerged for the better when forced to flip around their lineup.
“You guys call it in-game adjustments. We call it throwing it in a blender and seeing what comes out,” David Backes said last week of Cassidy’s lineup decisions. "I’m guessing those thoughts go through his head on off days, in the time before, his preparation of, 'If this isn't going well, I’m going to flip these guys and see if this match works better,' or flip these guys or plant this guy on the bench and go three lines and see what happens.
“I’m, without giving him too big of a head, surprised at how much he makes that one subtle change and a shift or two later, the puck is in the back of the net or we get a momentum-changing shift. Seemingly, he pulls the trigger and pushes the buttons at the right time with the right group and guys respond really well to it. He's learned through his tenure here about what works, what gets guys motivated, how they’re most productive in what situations. He’s done an excellent job. Give him the tip of the cap, but don’t tell that to his face.”
Cassidy is once again in a similar quandary now — with two potential vacancies on his club’s blue line. Although this time, the stage — and stakes — are much higher