Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

Bruins 5, Flames 2: David-for-David swap works wonders

Ty Anderson
February 13, 2018 - 11:47 pm

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy saved the modesty for another day when asked about his pivotal in-game switch that moved David Backes to the right side of the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron combination in place of David Pastrnak.

“Stroke of genius, huh?” Cassidy quipped.

Genius because it helped the B’s rally from a sluggish 2-1 start to down the Flames by a 5-2 final, and with the new-look top line scoring the putaway fourth goal in the third.

Even if that result was not exactly what Cassidy had in mind when he made that swap.

“I thought we got them away from [Johnny] Gaudreau. I went with [Sean] Kuraly. It was just a gut instinct. Their line plays hard; they play honest, play straight lines,” said Cassidy. “I thought, well if they’re going to beat us, they’re going to go 200 feet.

“I thought they got an easy goal against us, too easy for how good they are and how good we want to be defensively. Then, Backes would see the [Matthew] Tkachuk on the left wing, who is an ornery guy. So, it’s just a bit of a matchup to keep everything honest in our building, give us a little more push back, and then Pasta would slide down with [Riley] Nash and [Danton] Heinen, which is still a very effective line. So, you know, just a little tweak and a little different matchup worked tonight, and we’ll see going forward.”

The move worked from a shutdown standpoint, as the Flames created just a handful of legitimately great scoring chances against Tuukka Rask in the final 40 minutes of play, and saw Gaudreau frustrated into just two of his seven attempts landing on net.

But Cassidy could not deny that the move was also a bit of a message-sending to Pastrnak, who took a selfish penalty with a slash to Mark Giordano’s leg near the end of the first period, and played just 7:32 (seven shifts) from the second period on.

“He knew he took a bad penalty,” Cassidy said of Pastrnak. “He came out of the box ready to go in the second period. He was physical; he was winning pucks. Nice play, Heinen found him, got his shot on net. He wanted to give back. Like I said, he knew he messed up, and that’s the growth you like to see. You don’t want to see a guy go pout and sit at the end of the bench and not respond. So, that’s maturity, and he responded the right way, played hard and helped us win a hockey game.”

It also adds another bullet to Bruce Cassidy’s chamber of forward options, and one that comes with an eye towards the postseason, as the Bruins will undoubtedly go against some truly elite lines should they make the deep run many see as a possibility. And that allows the 21-year-old Pastrnak to do one of two things; He can rise to the challenge and produce like he has for the majority of the season, or he can move down the depth chart to the second or third line and contribute in a complementary role.

“He’s one that – you’re going to have tough matchups come April and May,” Cassidy said of Pastrnak. “If we’re fortunate enough to be playing well and playing at that time of the year, that’s what he is going to see, and he is going to have to grow from the experience he got last year. So, there was a little bit of that. I love David’s passion for the game, his willingness to compete. We just have to remind him every once in a while how to compete and how to manage the puck, and how to best help the team.”

And in this contest, it was from the backseat -- while Backes, a former top-line talent with the Blues, stepped up against a more agitating team in the Flames -- that Cassidy correctly thought the sometimes erratic Pastrnak would best impact the game. 

Genius.

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