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Cassidy needs more balance in his forward lines

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The deployment of Boston’s forwards are putting the Bruins at a disadvantage for all but one line. It’s up to Bruce Cassidy to remedy this.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs
Don’t yell at me, pal. You’re responsible for at least some of this.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Boston is currently in the midst of a three game losing streak.

It sucks.

A lot.

The B’s are showing up to game with the wombo-combo of bad luck and inconsistent play plaguing them: having trouble scoring, having trouble keeping the puck out of the net or even out of high-danger areas of the ice, and the only players consistently able to drag them to a net-positive performance are (or were) three quarters of the first line. And to be fair...They are without a sizeable portion of their opening night roster.

If Ryan Spooner were to come back right now fully healthy and cleared for contact, there’d be a very good chance he would end up the second line center for at least one game. That’s how bad it is right now.

And quite frankly? I’d be saying “Thank god, someone with NHL Experience that mattered is playing center again.”

Because this lineup, for all it’s quirks and injuries and concerns, also shares a bit of Coach Cassidy’s personnel decision-making, and he deserves at least partial blame for what’s going on here. And to do that, we’re just gonna look at the last three games’ starting lineup and see where everyone fell into place, from forwards alone, and then look at the results alone to illustrate a point:

Game 1: Vs. NYR (November 8th)

Anders Bjork - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak

Brad Marchand’s brief exit from the team put Anders Bjork in. He’s been pretty alright so far, especially with Patrice, and Bergeron and Pastrnak are points leaders. Maximize efficiency and all that. No qualms here, but oh my...this next line.

Jake DeBrusk - Jordan Szwarz - Frank Vatrano

Jordan Szwarz has been playing some level of pro-hockey since 2009. He has played principally anywhere in the middle-to-top-six of the Springfield Falcons, Portland Pirates, Providence Bruins, and indeed he has been quite prolific in the AHL.

Jordan Szwarz, however...has played a grand total of about 41 NHL games, none of whom had him playing any longer than about 15 minutes at max and usually more around 11-12 minutes a night in a bottom six role. He has, in this precious little time, amassed a career’s worth of 7 points. Seven.

And he, out of all the other centers on this roster, and at last count there were about anywhere from four to six...gets to be 2nd line center. In this game, he was presumably tasked with playing against Kevin Hayes, a player who hasn’t seen significant time in the AHL since 2013 and has been one of the few stable influences in New York with over 100 points over his career.

To say that the 2nd line centered by Jordan Szwarz was/is badly outmatched is a severe understatement. But we’ll get to that later.

Matt Beleskey - Riley Nash - Austin Czarnik

I have to respect this lines construction.

Matt Beleskey is not snake-bitten. That implies he has in some way moved away from the snake and the snake is not still biting him. He is one of those weird preachers who dances with rattlesnakes in isolated parts of the US. And they’re just biting him over and over.

Riley Nash meanwhile, thrives in bottom six competition and has at least one point against relevant competition, and Austin Czarnik is a fast prospect who likes to keep the play alive. I can understand the rationale behind trying to use a responsible center and a dogged winger to help boost scoring.

It didn’t work, but you have to respect the initiative.

Tim Schaller - Sean Kuraly - Danton Heinen

A line comprised almost entirely of centers that has proved to be pretty solid in their own right while together. They mesh well, play a good style together and are totally capable of a nice gritty goal in a pinch.

Results: In this game, only the top line was able to pull points in a 4-2 loss. Which is pretty much what a top line is supposed to do, but secondary scoring should count for something...and that didn’t happen.

Game 2: vs. Toronto, Part 1 (November 10th)

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak

Top line. Arguably one of the best in the league when the team is healthy. No concerns here. Next.

Danton Heinen - Jordan Szwarz - Anders Bjork

Danton Heinen didn’t have a point but looked alright, color me a bit confused why he and Anders Bjork got to play where they did.

Szwarz was now matched up against 19 year veteran Patrick Marleau.

Tim Schaller - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari

Acciari’s back! He’s not centering, which he’s usually been better at, but he’s still back!

Of course, now this is just a shutdown line.

Matt Beleskey - Sean Kuraly - Jake DeBrusk

I sincerely don’t know what exactly it was that put Jake DeBrusk on this line. He showed more jump than either of this linemates. Moreover, I don’t know why Danton Heinen and Tim Schaller left this line because those three worked marvelously together.

Results: David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron again. Only this time, Jordan Szwarz got a primary assist!

Game 3: Vs. Toronto (again. November 11th)

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak

You know the deal. NEXT.

Frank Vatrano - Jordan Szwarz - Danton Heinen

Heinen’s flipped wings, and again...Jordan Szwarz has been badly mismatched against a very good NHL player. The fact that he didn’t immediately get demoted to third/fourth line duties in place of anybody else is insane.

But hey! Frank Vatrano scored in his first game back in awhile!

Did his linemates factor into any of that? Not really! In fact, Heinen looked pretty overexposed in this game. Not a good look for 2/3rds of this!

Tim Schaller - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari

Noel threw some good hits, as did Tim Schaller, but this is still just a defense first line. Granted, it was pretty smart to give these guys the kinds of shifts that they did, considering how Toronto played.

Matt Beleskey - Sean Kuraly - Anders Bjork

What does it take to get Matt Beleskey benched at this point.

Results: [long, protracted, fart noise] Frank Vatrano did a thing [continues the fart noise]

So, what needs to change?:

Scoring needs to be throughout the lineup, not just on the first line: This probably means someone on the top line needs to play on the 2nd. Probably Pastrnak. If nothing else, it would allow for other lines to do something other than a shutdown, “stop the bleeding” shift and wait till the first line’s back out there.

Szwarz needs his minutes dialed back: Look, even if he’s here temporarily, with David Krejci on the horizon, he still does not need to be playing over 10 minutes a night and especially not if he’s going to be matched up like he has been.

Bring back Schaller-Kuraly-Heinen: Punishing a young forward for making a dumb turnover that leads to a goal against is one thing. Jumping players around, especially ones who may have looked good without taking into account maybe why they looked good is just ridiculous.

Decide which of your bottom six lines is a shutdown line and move on: Look...I like that either of the bottom six players can backcheck worth a damn, but if your secondary scoring can’t do anything against a pretty porous defense like Toronto’s then you need to start taking chances.

Punish actual “Passenger” players: I know and understand that rookies need to have dumb rookie mistakes hammered out of them and that overexposing them early can lead to major problems for them down the line...but for a player with six points in an early NHL season getting benched over a player who has none in twelve? That’s just absurd.