While a major reason the Boston Bruins are leading the Eastern Conference Final 2-0 has been their depth and secondary scoring up front, the B’s blue line has provided more offense than one may have expected coming into the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s not to say that the Bruins don’t have defensemen like Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy that can provide offense or that they don’t activate their defenseman into the offensive zone – as witnessed in Game 2 when the B’s got three goals from their blue line – the Bruins rearguards have been jumping up more and the result has been more scoring and wins.
With defensemen Connor Clifton scoring and Matt Grzelcyk lighting the lamp twice in the 6-2 win Sunday, the Bruins now have eight goals from their defensemen. Heading into Game 2 of the Western Conference Monday night in San Jose, they were tied with the San Jose Sharks for most goals from their defensemen. It’s no surprise that the Sharks also had a chance to go up 2-0 in their series.
“Listen, we are what we are,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said following Game 3. “Grizz [Grzelcyk] is not going to be a guy we expect to lead our offense back there. Torey Krug, yes, we expect him to score, make some plays. The other guys are more secondary guys. Charlie’s [McAvoy] in the middle. He’s a guy that we do expect to be a…one of those primary offensive guys, but he’s not on that first unit, so his numbers aren’t going to reflect it as much. Listen, they want to get up there and make plays when they’re available.
I think [Sunday] both the goals were guys that are good skates, can get up the ice and recover if it breaks down. With Clifton and Grizz, you know, they’re up the ice supporting what was going on, not leading the rush. I think that’s when our defensemen will contribute. It usually starts with a forward making a good play, separating somewhere on the ice, and then they’re the next layer of attack, and that’s generally how our offense comes from the backend – a lot of backends, but specifically ours. And it worked out for us tonight. We need it, generally speaking, you’re going to need it to…that’s more the secondary scoring.”
On Monday, Cassidy acknowledged that the Bruins don’t go into each game like the Sharks – who have arguably the two best offensive defensemen in the NHL in Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson – expecting their defensemen to light the lamp, but obviously, they don’t mind their blue line providing more offense than usual.
“A little more than normal the other night, but I think, to be honest with you, it’s been up and down the lineup, so it doesn’t surprise me,” Cassidy said before he and his team jetted off to Raleigh for Games 3 and 4. “Kampfer the night before steps in and now it’s Cliffton. ‘Grizz’ has played a lot of hockey for us, so nice for him. As I said yesterday, nobody wins without the secondary scoring long term in the playoffs and we’re certainly getting the benefit from it.
We’re encouraging it because we don’t necessarily play as up and down as other d-cores in the league. We certainly want our guys, when given the opportunities, to get up and down the ice and both those goals (Cliffton’s and Kampfer’s), were good reads by our defensemen. Grizz’s was the power play one and then one was just part of the breakout where he’s a little bit ahead of the play. You hope that continues on.”