Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins have a good problem to have when it comes to the glut of NHL talent present near the bottom of Boston's D corps.
Whereas many questions posed to Cassidy during Phase 3 practices have revolved around the club's efforts of shoring up its middle-six forward grouping (a largely fruitless venture, given the absences of David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase), the state of the club's blue line hasn't occupied nearly as much collective headspace for Boston's coaching staff.
In Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy, Boston has a top D pair comprised of a future Hall of Famer (and still damn good defensive force) and a 22-year-old budding star — capable of both snuffing out scoring chances and driving play through the neutral zone and down the other end of the sheet. As mismatched as their skillsets may be, the case could be made that Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo were Boston's most dependable defensive duo during last year's Cup run, with the strides in Carlo's D-zone game complimenting the usual offensive excellence Krug regularly orchestrates with the puck on his stick.
In Matt Grzelcyk, Boston has an analytics ace and versatile weapon on the third pairing — a key cog that would likely log heaps of additional minutes on another team much less fortune than Boston when it comes to defensive depth.
As such, the one question that does loom large for that defensive group— who slots in next to Grzelcyk — has been viewed as more a luxury than hindrance for Cassidy and his crew so far in camp.
“We got eight guys that can play in the league,” the B’s bench boss noted last week.
Much like Grzelcyk, John Moore would likely be the beneficiary of hefty minutes on teams saddled with a much more porous defensive corps. But on this roster, the 29-year-old veteran is likely tabbed as the team's seventh or eighth option out of the gate this postseason — a role he accepted and excelled in last season when pressed into action during the Stanley Cup Final.
Injuries might have derailed Connor Clifton from building off of last year's breakout season, but the 25-year-old defenseman out of Quinnipiac made the most of the NHL's four-month stoppage — with a clean bill of health serving as a green light of sorts for "Cliffy Hockey" to reintroduce the bombastic style of play that made him a playoff staple last spring.
Unlike both Moore and Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon entered Boston's "Return To Play" campaign with no playoff experience on his admittedly brief time up in the NHL ranks. And yet, for all that the Val-d'Or native might lack in terms of years or flash, Lauzon hasn't done little to relinquish his claim as Boston's sixth starting defenseman.
In fact, a quick glance at some of the underlying numbers doesn't just paint the picture of a youngster that shouldn't be on the outside looking in at any starting lineup this postseason — it highlights a defensive force who very well could serve as an X-factor for the Bruins during this unorthodox playoff gauntlet.