Bold choice to go with Karson Kuhlman over David Backes pays off for Bruce Cassidy

Evan Marinofsky
June 10, 2019 - 7:48 am
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Another game, another Bruce Cassidy move paying immediate dividends. 

When the move was announced Sunday morning, there were questions about Cassidy choosing to go with rookie Karson Kuhlman over veteran David Backes. 

In what's become typical fashion around here, Cassidy was proven right as Kuhlman went on to score the third goal of the game with an absolute snipe from the top of the circle to make it 3-0 Bruins. The goal made Kuhlman the 21st player to score a goal for the B's this postseason. 

"I think we had a couple neutral zone transitions," Kuhlman said of the goal to NESN. "Was fortunate enough to get that pass from (David) Krejci and at first I was just thinking just take pucks to the net. I passed up on a few early and saw (Jordan Binnington) slide over a little bit and was fortunate enough to get it off and put it where I wanted it." 

Isn't the rule something like when Joe Haggerty and Jimmy Murphy shame a decision, it always ends up being the right one? 

At any rate, Cassidy took a victory lap, and rightfully so, in his postgame press conference. 

"I think what (Kuhlman) does is he brings some speed, he gets in on the forecheck with his foot speed," said Cassidy after Game 6. "David's more of a physicality guy. Kuhlman can make some plays as well and that shot -- he's sneaky with that wrister. He's scored a couple times with that righty across his body. I don't want to give away state secrets here but he does have that shot." 

Cassidy's choice to go with the faster, more skilled guy over the more physical, grizzled veteran against this tough Blues team took guts. The common decision would've been to re-insert Backes for Game 6 and keep things as they were prior to Game 5. 

But in the biggest coaching job of his career with the Stanley Cup on the line, Cassidy did as he typically does -- he took a chance. 

"He's a competitive guy," Cassidy said of Kuhlman. "He won it in college. You can't replicate this environment but I think he understands a bit about not getting ahead of himself -- just play. He adds a dimension to that line." 

Cassidy realized that through putting Kuhlman with Jake DeBrusk and Krejci, he'd increase the overall speed of the line. It also gave a viable option for Krejci to pass to, which is exactly how Kuhlman's goal came to be. 

For Kuhlman, going from not playing since the second round to playing in an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Final was a bit of a jump. 

"I think the past couple of weeks, just trying to stay my best physically and mentally ready to go just in case I do get the nod to come back in and like I said, I was fortunate enough tonight to come in here and play my game," Kuhlman said to NESN. "Get up and down the ice, be solid defensively and do whatever it takes to help this team win." 

Kuhlman did everything it took to win on Sunday night. 

And he made his coach look like a genius in the process. 

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