What was up with Bruce Cassidy’s shootout lineup last night?
Before I dive into Wednesday’s game with the Rangers, let me start with how much I hate the shootout. Last night’s contest with the Rangers was an entertaining one. Maybe the most entertaining game of the Bruins season.
We saw three unanswered second period Bruins goals, followed by a third period Rangers comeback, an awesome overtime, a ton of physical play, and then the stupid gimmick that is a shootout.
I am 100% on board with not ending games in ties. No professional sporting event should ever end in a tie. But in my opinion ending a game in what is a glorified skills contest, is no way to end a hockey game, especially one that was as entertaining as Wednesday’s Bruins and Rangers game was.
I know that some people feel three-on-three overtime is just as much of a gimmick as the shootout is, and I respect that thought, but I feel it’s a better representation of a competitive hockey game than the shootout is.
I know there is no easy fix to the NHL’s overtime formatting, and no matter what, not everyone will be pleased, but I think after grinding it out for 65 minutes, the Bruins and Rangers deserved a better ending than the one they got last night.
Now onto the game…
Playing in their third game in four nights, the Bruins gave another point away, blowing a two-goal third period lead.
Trailing 1-0 entering the second, head coach Bruce Cassidy juggled things around on his top three lines and immediately got rewarded.
David Pastrnak dropped down to the second line, skating with Peter Cehlarik and David Krejci. Danton Heinen jumped up two lines, playing to the right of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, while Jake DeBrusk was bumped out of the top-six and onto the third line.
The changes resulted in goals by Heinen and Pastrnak just 1:12 apart. Bergeron’s power play tally—his fifth goal in as many games—extended the Bruins second period lead to three.
Sparked by the new lines, it was a period that saw the Bruins wake up after sleeping through the first.
After being a healthy scratch for the last two games, Heinen was back in the lineup Wednesday, replacing David Backes.
“Felt all right tonight. Obviously it's a treat to play with those guys, such good players,” said Heinen. “Felt good to get on the board, but it was tough to see us give up the lead, but it's an honor to play with those two guys, so just try to complement them any way I can."
The Bruins took their foot of the gas pedal in the third and saw the Rangers come out with a heavy push, scoring two goals in just over three minutes to tie the game.
Despite being outshot 6-1 in the five-minute overtime, the extra frame presented us with intense, end-to-end hockey. Both teams had several good chances to end the game, but none bigger than Mika Zibanejad's bid that Jaroslav Halak robbed him on.
Halak’s robbery of Zibanejad helped push the game to a shootout, and also led us to a morning of questioning what Cassidy was doing in the shootout.
Cehlarik, Pastrnak, Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, DeBrusk, Heinen and Krejci made up the seven Bruins who get the call in the shootout.
But one noticeable and seemingly obvious choice is missing from that list: Bergeron.
“It is what it is, you know,” said Bergeron. “There are a lot of good shooters out there and [Alexander Georgiev] made some good saves. Obviously, you want to get that point, but I’m not going to say anything about that.”
If the stats tell them something no one else knows, you can sell me on a Bergeron-less top three shootout shooters, but once it gets past that, sending McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen out before Bergeron is simply foolish.
“We’ve got our stats from (goalie coach Bob Essensa). He keeps track of it. No one looked around behind me after five shooters. Krech finally did, Cassidy said.
“I said ‘Anybody who wants to go’ Now it’s a bit of guesswork. We have Pasta and March that go a lot. Jake, and Charlie have had a lot of success as a young guy. Cehlarik I was told that in Providence he was very good, so we gave him a look. Then after that, it was probably Krech, Bergy. Heinen’s decent in practice. And even Torey [Krug] we thought about. But we never got that far.”
Asking if anybody wants to go seems a bit odd to me, but maybe that's a thing coaches do once it gets to shooters four, five, six and so on.
No current Bruin with a minimum of five career shootout attempts has a better shootout success rate than Bergeron’s 28.7% and no current Bruin had previously faced Georgiev in the shootout.
Not really too sure where the Bruins are getting their “stats” from.