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Bruins continue to tinker under Bruce Cassidy, and that’s perfectly fine for now

03.11.17 at 6:36 pm ET
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A new third line formed in-game wound up scoring the winning goal Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

A new third line formed in-game wound up scoring the winning goal Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Teams that shuffle lines a lot are generally teams that aren’t playing well. They shuffle lines because nothing’s really clicking, because they can’t score goals, because they’re losing. Teams that are winning and scoring generally just stick with what’s working — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Bruins have been winning and scoring since Bruce Cassidy took over from Claude Julien, but they’ve also been changing up their lines quite a bit, both on a game-to-game basis as well as in-game. Part of that has been out of necessity. Ryan Spooner (concussion) and Tim Schaller (lower body) are both currently unavailable, and trade deadline pickup Drew Stafford was naturally going to get some looks in a couple different spots.

But part of it has also been the fact that Cassidy simply doesn’t feel the need to settle on anything definitive, at least not yet.

“It happened to work out (Saturday), and I think you’ll see more of that, and you have since day one, moving people around in game,” Cassidy said. “And listen, when we find the best formula, we’ll keep it that way, but we’re still tinkering.”

As he has a handful of times in his 13 games as head coach, Cassidy shuffled his lines mid-game Saturday. After a bad second period (the Bruins mustered just four shots on goal in the frame), he moved Frank Vatrano up to the second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak, moved Stafford from left wing over to his natural right wing, and bumped Matt Beleskey (who had been a healthy scratch in five of the previous six games) up to a newfound third line with Stafford and Riley Nash.

Cassidy also bumped Kevan Miller up to the top defense pairing with Zdeno Chara for the third period, and he experimented with using the same power-play unit for a full two minutes a couple times. Read the rest of this entry »

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Drew Stafford scores last-second goal to propel Bruins over Flyers

03.11.17 at 3:50 pm ET
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The Bruins and Flyers wrapped up their season series today at TD Garden.  (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Flyers wrapped up their season series today at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It took 13 games, but the Bruins finally let one of their bad habits established under Claude Julien creep back into their game.

Squared up against the 11th-place Flyers in a Saturday matinee (a start time that’s been surprisingly kind to the B’s this season), it was the Flyers that were able to control the pace for the full 60 minutes against Bruce Cassidy’s B’s. But somehow, someway, it was the Bruins that pulled this win out of their behinds thanks to a last-second Drew Stafford marker tallied in a 2-1 final at TD Garden.

It was a game that spoke to the Cassidy magic that’s taken hold of this team, as they’re never quite out of it, no matter how ugly it may look.

And don’t kid yourself, today was ugly.

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Down forward Tim Schaller, Bruins have lineup options vs. Flyers tomorrow

03.10.17 at 3:34 pm ET
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Tim Schaller will miss Saturday's game against the Flyers. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tim Schaller will miss Saturday’s game against the Flyers. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

There’s never a ‘good’ time to deal with a rash of injuries. But there probably hasn’t been a time where the Bruins have been better equipped to handle multiple injuries than they are right now.

Already down center Ryan Spooner, who suffered a concussion in the third period of Monday’s loss in Ottawa, the Bruins lost utility forward Tim Schaller early in the first period of their 6-1 win over the Red Wings on Wednesday when Schaller went feet-first into the boards.

Absent from Friday’s practice at TD Garden, too, Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy has confirmed that the 26-year-old Schaller will miss tomorrow’s matinee game against the Flyers.

“Lower-body, he’s unavailable tomorrow,” Cassidy said of Schaller. “We’ll reassess going forward after that. We’ll see how it plays out.”

A fixture on the B’s fourth line with Dominic Moore and Riley Nash, Schaller has recorded seven goals and 14 points in 58 games (all NHL bests in what’s been the New Hampshire native’s breakout pro season after two cups of coffee with the Sabres over the last two years), the Bruins have multiple options when it comes to left-side options in his absence.

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Drew Stafford scores first goal as Bruin in big win over Red Wings

03.09.17 at 3:59 am ET
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Drew Stafford scored his first goal with the Bruins on Wednesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford scored his first goal with the Bruins on Wednesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

I would make the case — and still believe — that Drew Stafford scored his first goal as a Bruin in his first game with the team.

The box score told a different story, however, as Stafford’s power-play, net-front putaway against Cory Schneider last Saturday was called back on a successful coach’s challenge from the Devils. It didn’t mean much, though, as Stafford had to wait just two games later to officially score his first goal in a B’s sweater when he went upstairs on Red Wings goalie Jared Coreau in the first period of Wednesday’s 6-1 win.

It was the highlight of a night that saw the 31-year-old finish with one goal, one assist, a plus-3, three shots, and three hits in 16:04, and came on a night spent on the left side of a B’s second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak, the team’s uncontested best line in the win.

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Bruins wreck Red Wings for perfect bounce-back game

03.08.17 at 10:38 pm ET
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Brad Marchand and the Bruins torched the visiting Red Wings on Wednesday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Brad Marchand and the Bruins torched the visiting Red Wings on Wednesday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

It’s hard to imagine that the Red Wings’ 25-year playoff streak is going to come to an end when this season finishes. Then you watch them play and you absolutely see why these Wings are not fit for postseason play.

In Boston on the second leg of a back-to-back that began with last night’s 3-2 loss against the Maple Leafs, things did not get much better for the Wings, who allowed the Black and Gold to pummel three goals on starter-turned-early-exiter Jared Coreau on just eight shots and 13:32. Petr Mrazek wasn’t much of a relief, as he surrendered one goal on seven shots to finish the period, which closed with a 4-0 B’s edge.

By the end of 40, it was 5-1, and looked even less close than the four-goal lead would have indicated to the casual box score observer.

This was a game where the Bruins just straight-up smashed the opposition into submission for their ninth win in 12 games under Bruce Cassidy.

Which is exactly what should happen in these kind of games and in this situation for the Bruins.

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Drew Stafford gets chance to David Krejci’s left vs. Red Wings

03.08.17 at 6:35 pm ET
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Drew Stafford will play on the left wing tonight for the Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford will play on the left wing tonight for the Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Acquired from the Jets less than a week ago, new Bruins winger Drew Stafford has probably yet to settle in off the ice. On the ice, although not as chaotic as packing a two-month suitcase, it’s not much different.

In 28:56 of total time on ice between two games, the 31-year-old Stafford has bounced around the lineup as Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy attempts to figure out his best fit. That bounce has landed Stafford on the B’s second line tonight as the left winger on a line with David Krejci at center and David Pastrnak on the right.

“We’ve discussed this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it didn’t certainly to Drew,” Cassidy said when asked about Stafford’s move from the right side to the left. “We talked about him maybe playing the left side and moving up the lineup, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes expected back in lineup vs. Red Wings

03.08.17 at 5:57 pm ET
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Jimmy Hayes will return to action tonight. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)As it has so many times in just two seasons in his hometown, the numbers game has worked against Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes of late, with a healthy scratch designation to his name in two straight contests.

“You always gotta have a good attitude, but you don’t want to be taken out of the lineup,” admitted the 6-foot-5 Hayes, who has two goals and five points in 48 games this season. “Sometimes [the coaches] need to see what different combinations work, but you gotta keep your head up and be a good teammate and keep working hard.”

A healthy scratch 17 times this season, Hayes is used to this line of questioning by now, and there’s not much more that can be said.

But Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, who is not exactly one to let players rot in a press box as a permanent scratch, will give Hayes another crack tonight, as the big-bodied No. 11 is expected to skate on the right side of the club’s third line with Frank Vatrano and Austin Czarnik.

It’s the same line that Hayes was given a fresh start under Cassidy with — the lone change is that the 5-foot-9 Czarnik is now in over Ryan Spooner, who was diagnosed with a concussion on Tuesday — and one that Hayes felt had their moments.

“I felt like our line was creating some pretty chances offensively, so we gotta continue to bring that tonight.” Hayes said, “Being a bigger guy on the line, you gotta find ways to get to that net and put home pucks more. Obviously they haven’t been falling like the way I want them to fall this year. Hopefully I’ll get one off the foot, off the shinpad, I’ll take it however now.”

In nine games under Cassidy, Hayes recorded two assists, eight shots on goal, and chipped in with 13 hits. It’s production that could be better, of course,  but something the embattled in-again, out-again winger from Dorchester will take as a stepping stone.

“You just continue to build on it,” Hayes said. “You gotta find ways to produce.

“If you’re producing, you won’t be taken out of the lineup.”

That’s something Hayes knows all too well.

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