Bruins

Bruce Cassidy explained his thought process on changing Bruins’ lines multiple times in first-round series

Cassidy's line changes helped the Bruins win Game 6, 5-2, to extend the series to Game 7 against the Hurricanes.

Bruce Cassidy's line changes worked as well as he could've hoped in Game 6. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Bruins’ production outside of their top three forwards was severely lacking through the first five games of their first-round series against the Hurricanes.

Skaters not named Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, or David Pastrnak scored a combined five goals through the first five games, with two of them coming from Taylor Hall and a third coming from defenseman Connor Clifton.

So, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy decided to switch up the lines ahead of Game 6. He went back to his lines from Game 1, which were the lines that helped the Bruins’ playoff push down the stretch of the season, by playing Pastrnak on the second line and playing Jake DeBrusk on the first line.

Cassidy’s decision paid off. Boston won 5-2 on Thursday, getting goals from centers Erik Haula and Charlie Coyle. Defenseman Derek Forbort netted his first goal since November in the middle of the third and center Curtis Lazar scored an empty-netter to give the Bruins five goals in a 5-2 win over the Hurricanes, forcing a Game 7.

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While Cassidy’s decision to go back to what worked during the end of the regular season paid off Friday, he shared why going back to the “Perfection Line” of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak after Game 2 helped set up Thursday’s performance.

“Well, I mean, just to go back real quick, we came out of Carolina and I didn’t think we played poorly up there [in Games 1 and 2],” Cassidy said. “We didn’t finish well early and then the game sort of got away from us. We got into a lot of penalty trouble in the second game. There was a lot of talk about what happened earlier in the year. We’ve just got to sort of block out some noise and sometimes that’s difficult for players. So, we went back to a formula that we know has been successful for us at times and see if we could just use that line to galvanize the team a little bit. I think the whole line needed it, as well as the team. March (Marchand) and Pasta (Pastrnak) all of a sudden start clicking and March finds his game again and so does Pasta. That was the thinking when we did it.”

Cassidy’s decision to get the “Perfection Line” back together certainly worked for Games 3 and 4. After scoring just three goals as a team in the first two games of the series, the trio combined for six goals and 10 assists over Games 3 and 4 to help tie the series.

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As Boston ran into trouble scoring in Game 5, scoring just once in a 5-1 loss, Cassidy decided he had to switch things up again.

“Today was more about how we’ve been successful earlier in the year,” Cassidy said. “We got ourselves back in the series, it didn’t go as well for us in Carolina. So, let’s get back to the group [that got us here], including [Trent] Frederic and [Hampus] Lindholm coming in helped. So, that was the main reason. This is why we had success fellas. We walked through why we’re good. Certain parts of the game, our D-Zone had to be better. Our shot-blocking, our sticks in the lane to take away some of their offense have all done it and done it well. So, that was the task in front of them.”

Entering Game 6, Haula’s line failed to score an even-strength goal without Pastrank so far in the series. Ditto for Coyle and his line.

Those both changed on Thursday. Haula deflected a pass from McAvoy while in the slot in the third period that gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead in the third. Coyle’s line got an even-strength goal early in the second when Marchand came in early for a line change, replacing Fredric, and scored after the Bruins forced a turnover in the neutral zone.

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Tomas Nosek’s fourth line also helped net a pair of goals, with Forbort’s goal extending the Bruins’ lead to 4-1. Nosek and Nick Foligno helped set up the goal by creating so much chaos in front of the net that Hurricanes’ goalie Antti Raanta dropped his stick, allowing Forbort’s shot from the blue line to go in after it ricocheted off a Hurricanes player.

Cassidy recognized ahead of the game why the lines he ended up going with had worked in the past and why it could help keep the Bruins’ season alive.

“[Changing the lines] allows Haula and Hall [to play with Pastrnak], they just seem to respond better with Pasta,” Cassidy said. “We’ve tried a lot of different guys on that line and it hasn’t gone well. Pasta’s a world-class player. I think he just gives them some confidence to play. Jake’s been fine this series. He’s competed hard and we moved him around. No issue there and he’s played with Bergy and March a lot. Like I said, we put Freddy (Frederick) back in – heavier body with Coyle and just give us some continuity. You change lines for a reason through the course of the playoffs. You hope you make the right call for the right reasons.

“Tonight, it worked out for us. We’ll do what we have to do in Carolina in Game 7.”

Now, Cassidy’s squad heads back to Carolina for Game 7 on Saturday, where the Bruins will find out if their line changes will work and help them advance or send them home for the summer.

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