Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy feels like he has been mixing and matching his defensive pairing on a nightly basis this season. Actually, he has been.
Cassidy’s defense has been hit hard by injuries. Three of the six Opening Night defensemen are currently out. Jeremy Lauzon is out for a month with a fractured hand, veteran Kevan Miller is having issues with his surgically repaired knee and Brandon Carlo was on the receiving end of a head shot from Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson Friday night, which sent the 6-foot-5 Boston blueliner to a Boston hospital.
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Already this season through 21 games, Connor Clifton, Urho Vaakanainen, and John Moore have cracked the B’s lineup because of injuries. Things have gotten so bad, the general manager Don Sweeney had to hit the waiver wire, where he claimed former Nashville Predators defensemen Jarred Tinordi.
Cassidy and the Bruins need to keep this combination together.
Coming into this season, Bruins fans had to have been thinking that Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk would make a good pairing. Yes, that would be putting the Bruins’ top two defensemen paired together, but the thought of them together is very interesting.
Friday night against the Capitals, Cassidy moved McAvoy and Grzelcyk together following the Carlo injury near the end of the first period. The pairing proved to be just as good as one would have thought it would be.
Both are good offensive defensemen and that was on display in the second period Friday night. Grzelcyk stepped up, kept the puck in the Caps end, which led to a slap pass from McAvoy to rookie Trent Frederic, who redirected the pass into an open net.
Later in the period, Grzelcyk pinched along the wall, slide a cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand, who tapped the puck into a gaping net for a 4-0 lead.
In the two-game series with the Capitals, the Bruins kept Washington goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin off the scoresheet in both games. Friday night in the second and third periods, Ovechkin was on the ice 5-on-5 for 8:52 against McAvoy and Grzelcyk and was frustrated by the duo.
Pairing Grzelcyk and McAvoy together is a pairing that could be very good for the long haul. Can the Bruins survive on the backend with Carlo? Time will tell, but for now, Grzelcyk and McAvoy together is a paring that the Bruins should keep together.