Competition begins for those Ondrej Kase could replace in Bruins’ lineup


The Bruins got ¾ of their offense from Patrice Bergeron (two goals) and Brad Marchand (one goal) in their 4-3 win at Calgary on Friday.

That’s not the way they plan to win games moving forward now that they’re adding former Anaheim right wing to Ondrej Kase to the mix. General manager Don Sweeney thinks his team will now have the type of secondary scoring that the Bruins got from the likes of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson on the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year.

With Kase coming in a trade from the Ducks, the Bruins are going to have to pick one forward to sit (barring another trade before the NHL deadline on Monday). If the Bruins had been getting enough secondary scoring beyond Bergeron, Marchand and David Pastrnak, there might not have been a reason to make the Kase trade. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to some of Boston’s middle-six forwards that one of them is on the outs.

The Bruins made a little history in beating the Flames, becoming the seventh team in NHL history to win a game that started with them allowing three goas in the first four minutes. But more importantly for this squad, it was the start of open auditions to avoid being the forward in the press box when Kase, who has been out injured since Feb. 7, pulls on a Boston sweater for a game.

The @NHLBruins’ victory Friday marked the seventh instance in NHL history of a team winning a game after allowing three goals in the opening four minutes. #NHLStats

— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 22, 2020

Let’s take a quick look at how they fared Friday and what the projection looks like for them moving forward:

Danton Heinen

Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy both talked about Kase getting his start in Boston playing next to David Krejci. So when Heinen, who has just seven goals in 57 games this season, got bumped up to that spot on right wing on the second line, it looked like he was probably keeping it warm for Kase.

Heinen, who has played six straight games but was a healthy scratch for three games before that, had a couple shots on net and was more assertive down low in battles for at least the first half of the game. He wasn’t as noticeable over the course of the second half and probably did little to change this status as the favorite to sit out.

Anders Bjork

Everyone’s acting like Bjork and Charlie Coyle are the new Marchand and Bergeron. Hold your horses.

They’ve had several great shifts of puck protection, but it hasn’t resulted in a ton of offense. Coyle did score the one non-first line goal Friday by the Bruins on a play started by a Bjork blocked shot that led to a long pass by Karson Kuhlman and a breakaway for Coyle.

Bjork, who has nine goals in 54 games this season, attempted just one shot all night (it missed the net) and could be a candidate to face a “rookie wall” even though he’s in his third season because he hasn’t played more than 30 games in a NHL season yet because of injuries. Resting him down the stretch might not be the worst idea.

Karson Kuhlman

Like every coach that’s had Kuhlman before him, Cassidy loves the speedster that plays like a veteran of more than two pro seasons. If he had any ability to finish, he’d be a fixture on Krejci’s right side and Kase might still be with the Ducks.

With one goal in 22 games, though Kuhlman wasn’t going to be the answer to Boston’s line-balancing troubles. Against the Flames he had that assist on Coyle’s goal, plus two shots on net and a couple hits. He might be just the guy to dominate possession down low with Coyle while Bjork or Heinen gets open around the net. After missing 32 games with a foot injury, he should have plenty of gas in his tank and it’s going to be difficult to get him out of the lineup.

Jake DeBrusk

It would take a major slump by the speedy left wing for him to be the one sat out. But we know how streaky DeBrusk is, and unlike the other forwards in this mix, the rest of his game can suffer when he’s not scoring.

He has 18 goals on the season and is going to have to get really hot to match the 27 he scored last season. The Bruins are going to need a lot more from him in the postseason now that he has two years of playoff experience under his belt.

Let’s put it this way, it’s unlikely Kase will be replacing DeBrusk, but Kase’s presence should put DeBrusk on notice to focus on his all-around game and make sure that he doesn’t let offensive frustrations carry over to other areas of his game. Or he could wind up watching at least for one night now that there’s a little more depth in the forward corps.

Obviously this assumes the fourth line of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner will stay together permanently. But all three, especially the right wing Wagner, will be on notice as well, because Kuhlman or Heinen could easily drop down and replace one of them.

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