BOSTON – The Boston Bruins were looking to work some new faces into the lineup this week anyway, but a disappointingly porous defensive effort on Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs probably hastened that a bit.
Connor Clifton was flat out bad from his first few shifts of Tuesday night’s showdown with Toronto, and made some costly mistakes that led to pucks in the back of the the Boston Bruins net in the 6-4 loss. Matt Grzelcyk was minus-3 at one point during the game and struggled as well against the fast, skilled Maple Leafs attack looking to go on the offensive zone.
And Brandon Carlo was beaten badly on a speed rush by William Nylander in the first period that eventually led to a Toronto goal for Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly. Honestly, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm were the only two that came out of looking okay, and that was reflected in both Boston D-men avoiding being a minus in defeat.
Clearly it was more than just the defensemen as Jeremy Swayman wasn’t as sharp as he normally is between the pipes, and the Bruins forwards were up and down as well. In other words, it was the first Boston Bruins stink bomb in the last six weeks of play dating back to a shutout loss to the Caroline Hurricanes in early February.
“You have to take care of the puck, we didn’t do enough of that early on,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Obviously we weren’t prepared to play…shared responsibility. That’s our job as coaches, get them ready to play, and the players have got to be ready to play, know the magnitude of the game.
“We’ve been going well lately, so a bit of a surprise there in that area that we weren’t sharp early on. If all those things don’t happen, you need your goaltender to bail you out then, and that didn’t happen either so give them credit for starting on time, and that’s where the game got away from us.
“We chased it. Tough team to chase the game against.”
But it’s likely going to lead to newly acquired defenseman Josh Brown and the benched Mike Rielly getting back into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and it could be an opportune time to work ex-Boston College center Marc McLaughlin into the mix as well.
“There will be some lineup changes,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy in the minutes after the tough loss to the Maple Leafs. “There has to be.”
Cassidy was a little more measured after Wednesday’s practice while readying for Thursday night’s game against the Devils, but it seemed pretty clear changes are coming if healthy bodies allow for it against New Jersey.
“We’ll make some changes. Let’s get here in the morning and see if there’s any surprises. These three games, Tampa, the Islanders, and Toronto, we were running with the lineup that was playing pretty well,” said Cassidy. “We were sort of seeing where we were at and what was going well, and obviously the first two went better than [the Toronto loss].
“Now it’s 16 games in 30 days and we have 25 healthy bodies, so how do we best prepare while still accumulating points to keep everybody sharp and ready. We need to get into the playoffs, but once you’re in you know there’s a war of attrition if you go where you want to and keep advancing. The way it is we have to be wise with the way we manage people along the way. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to work other guys in and keep them motivated.”
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Linus Ullmark will be in net vs. the Devils, so there will be one big change there. But here’s an idea of what the lineup could look like based on Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena: