RALEIGH, N.C. — Bruce Cassidy didn’t sense a need for wholesale changes ahead of the Bruins’ Game 2 matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes. But he felt a need to tweak his lineup following Boston’s 5-1 setback in Game 1.
The tweak didn’t come in net, with Cassidy confirming Linus Ullmark as Wednesday’s starter. At times, the Swede encountered difficulties tracking pucks through screens and tips, but Ullmark’s performance wasn’t a significant issue even after Carolina opened the floodgates late in the second period.
The change came with the defensemen responsible for clearing shooting lanes in front of Ullmark. That, along with balancing Boston’s defensive zone breakouts, prompted Cassidy to move Hampus Lindholm with Brandon Carlo on the second defensive pair, with Matt Grzelcyk bumping up to a top-pair role with Charlie McAvoy.
The Bruins hoped to see the Lindholm-Carlo pairing a little more during the final weeks of the regular season. Lindholm’s stint on the injured list prevented an extensive look at that development. But a tough night for the Grzelcyk-Carlo pairing — particularly in the second half of Monday’s tilt — became a focal point in Cassidy’s decision.
“I just thought Gryz and Carlo had a bit of a challenging night, and we talked about using Lindholm with Carlo as well,” Cassidy said following Tuesday’s practice at PNC Arena.
The Bruins didn’t see desirable results in their brief look with Lindholm and Carlo together. Well, from an even-strength standpoint anyway.
Opponents outscored the Bruins 2-0 and held a 17-6 shots on goal advantage against the Carlo-Lindholm pairing in a little over 20 of their time together. Regardless of the initial results, the duo will try to complement each other’s skillset with a healthy dialogue against a heavy Hurricanes bunch.
“Obviously we haven’t had many games or shifts together. But from watching him along the bench and just over the past couple of years, he’s a guy that I have a lot of respect for in his game. So I think I have a familiarity with how he plays the game from watching him,” Carlo said of pairing with the former Anaheim Duck.
“I think the biggest thing for us will be communication and just using our big bodies and our long sticks to keep things to the outside tomorrow and go from there. But he’s a great player, and those kind of players most of the time are fun to play with. He’ll make the game easier in some regards, and I hope to do the same for him.”
It’s a tall ask for Carlo and Lindholm entering Game 2. They’ll need to establish cohesion in their first full game together. But the Bruins hardly have to worry about the chemistry between Grzelcyk and McAvoy.
The Grzelcyk-McAvoy pair produced the most 5v5 goals, with the Bruins outscoring their opponents 30-10. The Bruins also had significant advantages in 5v5 shots on goal (284-151) and shot attempts (463-294) with Grzelcyk and McAvoy.
The Grzelcyk-McAvoy reunion gives the Bruins a stout puck-moving trio. And Lindholm’s stout defensive traits and puck-moving skillset will help balance Boston’s transition game against an active Carolina blue-line.
“[Lindholm]’s excellent on the breakout like Charlie [McAvoy] is. So now we got one in each pair that can be a one-man breakout instead of loading them up. Loading them up obviously freed one of them up to join the offensive attack, right?” Cassidy said. “So you take [Lindholm] from one and give him to another [Carlo].”
Cassidy wouldn’t rule out reuniting Lindholm and McAvoy either. Certain situations may prompt Boston’s bench boss to go down that route.
“Maybe following a timeout, you can still use Lindholm and McAvoy if it’s an offensive draw or a key defensive draw and you need a breakout, etc,” Cassidy said. “So that’s the reasoning, and it’s a little different look for the matchups as well.”
The Bruins had quality looks through the first half of Game 1 but struggled to capitalize on secondary scoring opportunities against Antti Raanta. They don’t feel that they’re far off from netting those greasy playoff goals, but they’ll need to establish a better presence in the gritty areas on both ends of the ice. Perhaps Cassidy’s lineup tweak will help the Bruins in that department come Wednesday.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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