Claude Julien has been trying some new things with his lineup this season. He’s even separated Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the Bruins’ current equivalent of Hall & Oates (assuming you’re smart and don’t underrate John Oates).
On defense, Julien’s experimenting has led to an unusual occurrence recently: a righty playing the left side. That’s very uncommon in the NHL, but when Julien opted to take left Joe Morrow out of the lineup for righty Zach Trotman, the result was a righty (Kevan Miller) having to play his off-side. That will change once Dennis Seidenberg returns to the lineup (as early as Thursday evening).
The reasoning behind why righties typically don’t play the left side is simple: They never really learned to do it because they’ve never had to. With left-shot D outnumbering them, it’s so rare that a team would have more righties than lefties. As such, it’s common for lefties to have experience playing the right side — Dennis Seidenberg and Torey Krug play both sides well — but very uncommon for a righty to be comfortable over on the left.
“To me, it would be common if some of those guys really felt comfortable on those sides,’ Julien said this week. “We’ve seen Dennis Seidenberg in the past play the right side and it doesn’t bother him to play his off-side. Some players are capable of doing that. Some others aren’t that comfortable because they’ve never done it before. We’re having to make some decisions here. There’s guys that are saying, ‘I haven’t really done it but I’m willing to give it a shot,’ and I think we’ve seen enough from some of those guys to let them go there and do that job.”
Miller, one of four righties in Boston’s seven-man group, played the left side at times in college and in Providence due to lefties being injured at various points. Though he noted he’s had the odd even-strength shift here and there on the left side over the last few years — never many at a time — he said it took adjusting when playing the last couple games.
“There’s advantages and disadvantages,” he said. “Obviously on offensive zone faceoffs, you have certain one-timers out there and then you see different plays better sometimes, but obviously worse with others. You kind of just have to manage your game.”
Seidenberg appears close to returning, with Julien saying he’s a game-time decision for Thursday’s game against the Avalanche. Should both Seidenberg and Krug (also a game-time decision after taking Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practices off) play, Miller will be free to return to the right side, assuming he stays in the lineup. Thursday’s morning skate saw Miller play on the right side of a pairing with Krug.
While he’s obviously more comfortable on the right side, he hopes the Bruins won’t hesitate to use him on the left if need be in the future.
“I feel like everybody would probably prefer to be on their strong side, but anything you can do to help the team, you’re going to do it,’ he said. ‘If they ask me to do it, then I’m happy to do it.”