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What Bruce Cassidy thinks of the Bruins’ need for an ‘enforcer’

Matt Kalman
December 08, 2018 - 2:03 pm

With eight fighting majors the Bruins are tied with the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings for second place in the NHL, one behind the New York Rangers.

But that hasn’t stopped the chattering class from urging the Bruins to go out and acquire an “enforcer” so they don’t get pushed around. Never mind that the Bruins are playing without two of their tougher players, injured defensemen Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller, and are probably lacking offensive skill – they’re 27th in goals scored per game – more than physicality.

Coach Bruce Cassidy was asked about whether he thinks the Bruins are missing an “enforcer” after their morning skate in preparation for Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I don’t know, I don’t think we need an enforcer. I think a couple of our heavier guys are hurt that take care of a lot of that,” Cassidy said. “So we look at our lineup for our team, we thought we’d have enough [toughness], then guys get hurt – even a guy like Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] that plays hard against everybody goes out, he’s certainly not a fighter by any means but he’s hard to play against – so you lose Miller, Zee, are you going to disrupt your whole team to do that?  I mean that’s Donny’s [general manager Don Sweeney] call. I think there’s been some games that we could certainly have used [one], teams I thought have taken a little bit of liberties with those guys out, but I think we always answer the bell.

“May not be with our biggest guys now because they're out for obvious reasons. So I guess to answer your original question, I don’t think we need an enforcer, we just need to continue to have a team-toughness mentality and make sure we’re in there. I always think if you initiate you don’t have to retaliate, it takes care a lot of that. Maybe that’s where we need to be better is to put teams on their heels and we’d be hard on their skill before they become hard on ours. And usually to do that you take the lead, so playing from behind that’s where you have to better ... I don’t want them in the box all night either. So that’s part of it, get a lead and play their skill hard.”

The issue of adding toughness really arose after two straight games center David Krejci was run over the neutral zone. The second time it happened Joakim Nordstrom picked up his second NHL fighting major by challenging Luke Witkowski.

Cassidy’s response may sound like he’s toeing the company line, but he's also expressing a theory that was espoused in this space six days ago. If David Backes, Sean Kuraly and Boston’s other bigger, healthy bodies start throwing their weight around earlier in games and giving opponents something to think about, said opponents will be less likely to take liberties. And in the modern-day NHL, that’s how teams generate their toughness.

DeBrusk dinged

The Bruins will be missing forward Jake DeBrusk because of a possible concussion. DeBrusk told Cassidy he wasn’t feeling right Friday and now the wing has been ruled out against Toronto and for the game at Ottawa on Sunday.

Smith arrives

Gemel Smith was claimed off waivers from Dallas Thursday and will make his Boston debut on Saturday.

“I’m excited. A new experience, I’m happy to be here and excited to get going,” Smith said.

Goalies rotating

Jaroslav Halak will start in net for the second time in three games after Tuukka Rask played in the 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Related: How Bruins wasted McAvoy’s return and lost their third straight game