Bruins’ trust in Jeremy Lauzon remains strong
At times, Jeremy Lauzon provided a steady hand on Boston’s back-end during his first few seasons. In other moments, he succumbed to pressure with costly turnovers and unlucky breaks.
Lauzon’s outing in Game 2 against the New York Islanders provided a perfect example of his ups and downs.
The V-al’Dor, Quebec-born blue-liner, began his night with an untimely bounce off his skates on Josh Bailey’s feed that found its way past Tuukka Rask for the Isles’ second-period equalizer. Like the rest of the team, Lauzon struggled clearing pucks out of his own end, coughing up a handful of turnovers resulting in lengthy defensive zone shifts in the middle stanza and early in overtime.
Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand came through in the third to force overtime. The Bruins survived the first few minutes of the extra session as the Islanders hemmed them deep with a healthy attacking zone rhythm. Lauzon found himself on the ice with fellow defensive partner Connor Clifton for a pair of lengthy shifts but came out of it unscathed. He even blocked a shot from Bailey in the slot to keep the Bruins’ chances alive early in sudden death.
Yet, just as Bruce Cassidy’s squad found their skating legs late in the extra session, Lauzon’s ill-advised turnover off Charlie Coyle’s skates promptly sent Casey Cizikas on a breakaway. The fourth line Isles forward capitalized, going top shelf blocker-side on Tuukka Rask to secure the 4-3 series-tying win.
“We made a play that was ill-advised and they scored on a breakaway,” Cassidy said following the Game 2 setback. “That’s one that had to go back down along the wall or toward the net. At the end of the day, you learn from it. We did some good things in the third up top and in overtime we started spreading them out better and it led to some offense. But unfortunately, that one [play by Lauzon] did not.”
Cassidy offered his honest assessment with the media per usual. But the Bruins haven’t lost trust in Lauzon.
This even as Lauzon’s turnover amplified his postseason struggles. The second-year defenseman found himself on the ice for seven of Boston’s 16 goals against, including three of the four Isles’ markers from Game 2.
Given the depth behind Lauzon and Kevan Miller still healing from an injury sustained from Capitals defenseman Dmitri Orlov’s high hit in Game 4, the Bruins don’t have much choice to go with anyone else. Lauzon’s return from a lower-body injury in Game 1 against the Islanders — sustained in Game 1 of the Washington series — provided a positive development. And with Game 2 behind them, a confident Lauzon fully has the support of Cassidy and the rest of Boston’s coaching staff as the series shifts to Long Island for Game 3 Thursday night.
“He’s a confident kid. If you watch him, he tries hard and plays out there, more than most at his experience level. So I’m not worried about that part of it,” Cassidy said of Lauzon following Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “I think the message to Jeremy now moving forward is ‘listen we’re all on to Game 3. Game 2 is over. Be true to your identity, and that is in the simplest terms, you have to be at your best to keep pucks out of our net. That’s your first job and that’s what you’re good at, and that’s why you got into the lineup. You’re obviously hard to play against and you’re willing to block hard and be physical.’
“We’ll keep encouraging him and working with him. He’s a great kid. He’ll be in there tomorrow night, and hopefully he helps us win.”
As the coaching staff discusses structure and strategy with their young defenseman, Lauzon’s work ethic and composure resonate with his teammates.
The immediate aftermath of Lauzon’s game-costing blunder provided another example of the tight bond inside Boston’s locker room. Lauzon’s fellow peers have all made mistakes at certain points in their careers. Brad Marchand echoed that sentiment to a T following Game 2.
“[Expletive] happens,” Marchand said of Lauzon. “He’s a great player for us. He competes very hard, and he’s out there every night working his butt off and competing for the group. We all make mistakes. We’ve all been there. It’s tough when it happens to you, but we’re going to bounce back. It’s not the end of the world — it’s 1-1 and we just have to work on that next one.”
That next one for the battle-tested Bruins comes Thursday, with Craig Smith potentially returning after sitting out Game 2 with a lower-body ailment.
Lauzon, Smith, Marchand and the rest of the team showcased their bounce-back abilities following the Game 1 overtime loss to the Caps. Now they hope the overtime blunder in Game 2 against the Islanders turns over to a Bruins’ victory in Game 3 in front of a hostile Nassau Coliseum crowd.