Matt Grzelcyk returning to Bruins lineup for Game 7 is one last Bruce Cassidy gamble

Matt Kalman
June 12, 2019 - 12:54 pm

It’s been exactly two weeks since Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk sustained a concussion on a suspension-worthy hit by St. Louis forward Oskar Sundqvist in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Now without a contact practice and within a day of being medically cleared, Grzelcyk is set to return to the lineup for Game 7 of the Cup Final at TD Garden on Wednesday.

“I felt good. Obviously really excited to get back in there hopefully,” Grzelcyk said after taking part in an optional morning skate. “ And it’s been tough watching, obviously, when you get to this stage. But just tried to stay positive, cheer on my teammates and hopefully get out there tonight and have a good impact.”

Coach Bruce Cassidy said assuming nothing changes with Grzelcyk’s status before the puck drops, Grzelcyk will replace Connor Clifton in the lineup. That’ll mean John Moore or Grzelcyk (most likely Grzelcyk) will have to play on the right side as left-handed shots. It also means the Bruins will be facing the Blues’ ferocious forecheck with a defenseman who has been skating for about a week, might be a little rusty, and despite medical clearance could be a tick or two off in terms of his timing and ability to move the puck quickly.

It also means no one is less superstitious than Cassidy, who is making a change from the lineup that won Game 6 on Sunday.

“Well I think your adrenaline will carry you through,” Cassidy said. “The one thing about Matt, if he does go in, missing some games, is he’s been skating with us. It’s not like he just jumped on the ice yesterday. He’s been participating, albeit non-contact. So there’s a little bit of a different animal there. But at this time of the year you’re not into a lot of contact in practice anyway.

“So he’s just going to have to understand because he did obviously live the first game and a half with St. Louis, he knows they’re physical. He’s been there, he’s been watching, he knows he has to get back in a hurry, make good decisions with it, take a hit to make a play. … So that’s the challenge in front of him, and we’ve had discussions with him about it and he’ll be ready for it.”

Cassidy has met almost every challenge in terms of lineup decisions this postseason. He got a goal out of rookie Karson Kuhlman in Game 6 and a goal out Steven Kampfer in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against Carolina. David Backes gave the Bruins a lift against Toronto and Columbus, and Clifton became a regular after Cassidy showed the trust to keep going with the rookie when there may have been other options (including Moore) earlier in the postseason.

At any other time of year, re-inserting Grzelcyk would be the obvious move. In the biggest game in Boston in decades against a team that’s not afraid to throw all its weight at an opponent’s head, this could become a problem.

We’ll find out if Cassidy again made the right move after Game 7.

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