Boston Bruins: Cassidy’s juggling spreads to defensive pairs

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 14: Mario Kempe
GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 14: Mario Kempe /

After an up and mostly down first two weeks of the season, the immediate future for the Boston Bruins remains uncertain. The young season has seen too many variations on offense, and now the blue line changes begin as the coaching staff searches for short-term cures.

First, more bad news

The biggest news right now in Boston is the injury to Tuukka Rask. After colliding with Anders Bjork in practice, Rask was carried off and didn’t return. Rask hasn’t exactly been stellar, posting a 3.30 goals against average and a .882 save percentage in 4 games, but the Bruins and their fans definitely don’t want to experiment with how bad things can get without their number one netminder.

Shaking/Waking up the defense

Even before Rask was knocked out of practice, the Bruins were shaking up their defensive pairs in an attempt to stop the bleeding on the backend.

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The struggles on offense have been well documented. Much of the deficiencies on the front lines have been attributed to lack of leaders Bergeron and Backes. However, the defensive struggles have been equally, if not, more concerning, allowing 18 goals in 5 games. The adjustments to the pairs may have been, in part, due to the injury to Adam McQuaid in Sunday’s game (even though he appears to be on the mend). Regardless of the reason, it has taken too long for the coaching staff to try these pairings.

Pair 1: Chara & McAvoy

Though Chara is set to retire any year now, he seems to hold a spot on the Bruins’ top unit until he signs off. McAvoy has already been tabbed as the future for the blue line in Boston, and his smooth skating and puck moving capabilities complement Chara’s lack thereof perfectly.

Pair 2: Krug & Carlo

The second pair is what I hoped Boston would start with out of the gate, which was impossible due to the injury to Torey Krug. However, I’m glad to see they are at least warming up to the idea of Krug and Carlo playing together. Krug brings a similar game to McAvoy with more experience (MUCH more) and Carlo is the Bs shutdown defenseman of the future. Another complementing pair.

Pair 3: Miller & McQuaid

Depth players around the league: BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID. Third and fourth line players are supposed to be tough. Arguably, there are no tougher players in the league than Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid. Bruins fans would undoubtedly be excited at the idea of these two chewing up and spitting out the bottom line tough guys on opposing teams.

Both are also a stretch to be in the top four, so it seems this pairing is inevitable. Yes, they are both right shots, but Miller has proven that he is willing and able to play his offside. If Miller can handle top four minutes on his offside, he can certainly excel on the left side when playing bottom pair minutes and facing the opposition’s lower lines, which will allow more time and space.

Next: Tuukka Rask injured in practice

Also, you don’t make it to the NHL in the era of skilled defensemen without showing proficiency on your offside. If you disagree with defensemen playing their offside, I would check with Mike Babcock who is deploying a top pair for the Leafs of two left shots in Hainsey and Reilly. Also, if you look at every NHL depth chart, only 10 or so teams currently use 3 right defensemen and 3 left defensemen.  Need I say more?  This is proof perfect that in today’s NHL, strict devotion to the ancient idea of deploying 3 RD and 3 LD is misplaced.