Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy make the difficult decision to scratch veteran forwards David Backes and Chris Wagner for Game 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference first round against Toronto.
The move worked, as Boston came back from a 3-2 series deficit to win in seven games and advance to the second round against Columbus.
The Blue Jackets, who will be in Boston for Game 1 on Thursday, pose different challenges than the Maple Leafs, and over the course of the series Backes and Wagner might again become vital pieces of Boston’s lineup.
“I mean, from a depth standpoint of our hockey club, it could anybody’s time,” general manager Don Sweeney said during a press conference Wednesday. “Anybody goes back in, comes out. Bruce will tinker with the lineup, which he constantly does. I think guys earn the right depending on what the matchups look like, and we’ll go through that. He’s an important part of our group. So is Wags and anybody that’s been in and out of the lineup. You know, Karson [Kuhlman> going back in, so they’re important parts of our group, and they should feel that way, and I know they do.”
The lineup tinkering went both ways for Backes in the Toronto series, scratched for Game 1, then inserted to provide a spark for the Game 2 win, then back out for the last two games of the series. Sean Kuraly and Marcus Johansson’s return to health made Cassidy’s decisions even harder.
But in game Cassidy continued to tinker, often shortening his bench down to three lines in order to get better matchups against Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock’s squad.
“Tough. They’re well-rested. They made a lot of changes [at the NHL trade deadline>, they’ve come together, they present a lot of challenges,” the GM said. “And we’re going to have to be at our best in order to beat them. Two teams that certainly have good goaltending. They’ve got good depth and balance in their scoring.”
*The Bruins are relatively healthy with the exception of defenseman Kevan Miller, who missed the entire Toronto series. Sweeney said Miller had a setback, is week-to-week and will definitely miss the start of the Columbus series.
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