Kalman: Time running out for Bruins’ young forwards to prevent a trade

Matt Kalman
January 15, 2019 - 12:24 am

The Bruins need secondary scoring.

Coach Bruce Cassidy’s search for it led him to shuffle two of his forward lines in the second and third period and bench David Backes for the final eight minutes of the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal at TD Garden on Monday.

Cassidy said his decision to flip David Krejci and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in the second period, and then put Krejci with Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato in the third had a lot to do with sending a message to his players. The coach may have also been sending a message to general manager Don Sweeney.

If ever there was an argument for the Bruins opening up their coffers to trade for a top-six wing like Ottawa’s Mark Stone, Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds or Carolina’s Micheal Ferland before the Feb. 25 trade deadline, it was Boston’s 43-shot performance against the Canadiens.

Brad Marchand’s perfect wrist shot on the rush and Krejci’s deflected shot from the point during a 6-on-4 power play were the only pucks the Bruins got past the resurgent Carey Price. And for much of the night Price didn’t have to work very hard to keep Boston off the scoreboard. Hence Cassidy shuffling the deck for much of the final 60 minutes.

There’s just so long the Bruins can rely on the line of Noel Acciari centering Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner, which has played extremely well of late, to be a second line when it’s clearly best-suited to be a fourth line. That line wasn't at its best trying to handle one of Montreal's top two lines most of the night Monday.

But Cassidy not only can’t find another line to provide offensive support for the Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line, he can’t find another line that can take care of business defensively either.

“I think it’s been there the last few games,” Bergeron diplomatically said about the secondary scoring. “I think we need to keep plugging at it. I think, like I said, it’s been there.”

There were fleeting signs of hope against the Canadiens. After spending the second period with Forsbacka Karlsson and Backes, DeBrusk moved back up in the lineup and satisfied Cassidy with his response to the line juggling.

“The standard we expect out of him I don’t think has been there enough lately, period. He’s been told that. We want him to play his way out of it. I thought in the third period there were some positives, so hopefully that gets him going into the next game,” Cassidy said.

And then there was Donato, who didn’t score but made a subtle play that was as valuable as scoring, especially considering the potency of the Bruins’ power play. With Michael Chaput trying to clear the puck off the glass, Donato put the body to the Montreal defenseman and caused a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck up over the glass. Krejci scored the tying goal during the ensuing power play.

If Donato, Heinen (who threw a great hit on Jordie Benn just before the delay of game) and Forsbacka Karlsson – a line that’s had positive moments to go with its numerous lulls the past several games – could just consistently establish a forecheck, they’d at least make up for their lack of finish. And, who knows, they might even eventually begin to bury some chances.

“You’re just trying to work through that and make sure you’re again doing the little things because when you watch it on video later and you see you’re not moving your feet on the forecheck, you feel like an idiot,” Donato said. “If you can do those things and create turnovers that’s how you create scoring chances, and I think that’s what we did.”

One successful forecheck and penalty caused by the “Kid Line” doesn’t make for a successful night. One active period by DeBrusk doesn’t mean he’s earned the right to be a permanent member of the top six again. A lot has to happen for Cassidy to commit to full-time lines, and the Bruins, despite their recent success (wins in six of their past eight games), are still desperate for someone other than their first line to score too often. They’re left to try and grind out wins that won’t be as attainable in the postseason as they’ve been in the regular season.

DeBrusk, Donato and Heinen have three more games before the Bruins’ nine-day break, and if they make it, six weeks until the trade deadline to prove the Bruins have enough depth to at least make two top lines.

Related: Don Sweeney: No ‘hard and fast rule’ about trading Bruins’ first-rounder