Jim Montgomery thinking about ‘changes everywhere,’ so what could they be?

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Anyone thinking the Bruins’ first-round series against the Panthers was going to be easy got a rude awakening Wednesday night. Boston played one of its worst games all season en route to a 6-3 loss that evened up the best-of-seven series at a game apiece.

Who and what to blame for Bruins' disastrous Game 2 loss

Careless turnovers -- one from Brandon Carlo, one from Charlie McAvoy -- were to blame on two of Florida’s goals. Other turnovers at both ends of the ice killed Bruins possessions and extended Panthers possessions.

“The turnovers we had tonight were catastrophic,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said after the game. “They were right through the middle of the ice.”

Defensive-zone breakdowns were to blame on a few others, with the Bruins inadvertently screening Linus Ullmark on two goals and a combination of David Pastrnak and Tyler Bertuzzi losing Eric Staal in coverage on another.

After the game, Montgomery was asked if the Game 2 loss might give him any pause to think about any changes on the back end.

“I think it gives me pause to think about changes everywhere,” Montgomery responded.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what changes the Bruins could make up front, on defense, and potentially even in net.

Forwards

The obvious change the Bruins would love to make is to insert Patrice Bergeron into the lineup. While Game 1 led some to wonder if the B’s would be just fine -- at least for this series -- without their captain, Game 2 made it clear that he is missed.

Defensive-zone coverage, breakouts, key faceoffs… all areas where Bergeron would help. It’s fair to wonder if his presence and leadership on the bench might have helped the Bruins remain more composed when they went down by a goal or two in the third period.

As of Thursday morning, Bergeron’s status for Game 3 is unknown. We now know it is an injury keeping him out, not an illness. He skated on his own Wednesday morning, but was not on the ice with the team during morning skate and was ruled out hours ahead of puck drop.

Even if Bergeron isn’t in, there are changes Montgomery could make up front. One line in particular has stuck out like a sore thumb this series. The Tyler Bertuzzi-David Krejci-David Pastrnak line simply isn’t working at 5-on-5.

In the 22 minutes they’ve been on the ice in this series, the Bruins have been outshot 21-6, out-attempted 31-14, and outscored 1-0. High-danger chances are 8-2 Panthers during those minutes, and the Bruins have an expected goals share of just 14.8%. Pastrnak has three 5-on-5 shot attempts through two games. Krejci has one.

As mentioned above, Pastrnak and Bertuzzi were nowhere to be found defensively on Florida’s second goal Wednesday night. Bertuzzi had a few careless turnovers as well. “Playoff Krejci” has yet to arrive, with the veteran center very quiet at both ends of the ice so far.

Bertuzzi set up Pastrnak for a power-play goal in Game 1, and Bertuzzi scored another power-play goal in Game 2, but they’ve barely even spent time in the offensive zone at 5-on-5 to show off their creativity.

It doesn’t do the Bruins any good to have three of their best offensive players constantly buried in their own zone. Flipping centers to put Pavel Zacha between Bertuzzi and Pastrnak -- a combination that worked well late in the regular season -- could help. That would give them Marchand-Krejci-DeBrusk as the other top-six line. Flipping the top two left wings could be an option as well. That would create lines of Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak and Bertuzzi-Zacha-DeBrusk.

Further down the lineup, either Jakub Lauko or A.J. Greer could be inserted on the fourth line to provide a spark. Nick Foligno, who returned in Game 1 after missing a month and a half due to injury, has been quiet. Taking him out would leave the Bruins with even less veteran leadership on the bench, though.

Defense

The Bruins have seven defensemen who are more than capable of playing regular minutes. One has yet to see the ice this series: Matt Grzelcyk.

It might be time for him to draw into the lineup. The Bruins have been outscored 5-3 at 5-on-5 play in this series. Grzelcyk was an NHL-best plus-40 at 5-on-5 this season.

The concerns about Grzelcyk’s past postseason performances and his ability to hold up under a heavy forecheck like Florida’s are fair. But his skating, transition game and ability to extend offensive-zone possessions are needed.

Derek Forbort, who just returned from an injury of his own, ranks last among Bruins defensemen in Corsi (40.0%) and expected goals share (33.8%) this series. He was their weakest D at 5-on-5 in the regular season as well.

Yes, Forbort helps on the penalty kill, which is a perfect 5-for-5 in this series. But the penalty kill was very good even without him down the stretch, and the Bruins need more help at 5-on-5 right now. Swapping Grzelcyk for Forbort seems like a chance worth taking.

The Bruins could then reunite Grzelcyk with Charlie McAvoy (who had a tough game Wednesday), keep Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo together (a pairing that was great in the regular season, but hasn’t quite been at its best this series), and drop Dmitry Orlov down to the “third” pairing with Connor Clifton. At least on paper, that’s the Bruins’ best 5-on-5 D corps. Now would seem like the time to roll with it.

Goalie

Linus Ullmark isn’t the reason the Bruins lost Game 2, but he certainly wasn’t at his best either. Sam Bennett’s opening score came off a brutal Carlo turnover, but it was also a stoppable shot. The fourth goal, from Carter Verhaeghe, also came off a terrible turnover (this one from McAvoy), but Ullmark was a little slow going side-to-side and had to resort to a pinwheel save attempt.

On Brandon Montour’s two goals, Ullmark couldn’t quite fight to see through screens the same way he did in Game 1. Again, more blame should go to the players in front of him for sure, but it was another sign that Ullmark wasn’t quite at his best.

So, should Montgomery and goalie coach Bob Essensa go to Jeremy Swayman for Game 3? It’s a tough call. If Ullmark is their clear No. 1 and the guy they want to ride, yanking him after one off game would seem like an overreaction.

But if Ullmark and Swayman are close in their minds and they’re truly comfortable with either, then making the move to Swayman shouldn’t be a big deal, especially since Ullmark hasn’t played three games in a row in months.

Ullmark and Swayman were equally excellent over the final four months of the regular season. For the overwhelming majority of that time, the Bruins simply rotated them every other game. Not wanting to use a strict rotation in the playoffs is understandable, but you can still be willing to use both guys if one’s a little off.

Ullmark got banged up late in the regular season and Swayman was sick over the weekend, so both of those have to be taken into account as well. The Bruins aren’t going to tell us if there’s anything lingering with either of them, but if there is, that would obviously factor into whatever decision they make for Friday night as well.

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