Bruins' Jim Montgomery overthinking things backfires in Game 5 loss to Maple Leafs

Jim Montgomery's lineup decisions ended up backfiring in a Game 5 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs.
Apr 24, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery talks to the media
Apr 24, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery talks to the media / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Well, at least that’s what I was taught. 

After dropping Game 2 on April 22 to even the best of seven series at 1-1, the Boston Bruins went to Toronto and won Games 3 and 4 with a professional and workmanlike performance against the Maple Leafs, putting them on the brink of elimination down 3-1. Head coach Jim Montgomery found a lineup that was successful, but in Game 5, he made some changes and they didn’t work out.

Jim Montgomery’s lineup changes were a questionable decision

After winning the last two games with the same lineup and taking a commanding lead in the series, Boston’s second-year coach made some head-scratching lineup changes for Game 5 and they ended up not working out too well.

On defense, he put Matt Grzelcyk in place of Kevin Shattenkirk despite the defense playing well in Games 3 and 4. Grzelcyk was shaky at times (so were Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm) and was on the ice for the Matthew Knies game-winning goal. It seemed like whenever he was on the ice, the Maple Leafs made an effort to attack his side of the ice.

The biggest decision that was made was at the center and that’s where the lineup change was felt the most, at the dot. Out was John Beecher in place of Justin Brazeau and Boston struggled mightly on faceoffs. In fact, the regulation numbers were as bad as could be for a team that somehow forced overtime, but it didn’t get any better in the extra session.

Pavel Zacha was 4-for-21, Charlie Coyle was 5-for-18, Trent Frederic was 3-for-6 and Morgan Geekie was 5-for-10. Frederic lost the first-period defensive draw that led to Jake McCabe’s goal that opened the scoring. For the game, the Bruins won just 21 of 53 faceoffs, not a recipe for success. One of their better pivots all season has been Beecher and not having him in the lineup hurt. Even Beecher’s former school, the University of Michigan knew what was missing following the game.

When Montgomery spoke to the media right after the loss, he “didn’t have anything concrete as to why they were not good enough.”

I have a feeling and almost everyone else knows why they were not good enough, two lineup changes that didn’t work out. Again, if it’s not broken, there is no need to fix it.