In this edition of Boston Bruins News & Rumors, reports came out last week that the New York Rangers are looking to add a middle-six forward to their lineup, and some are suggesting that Jake DeBrusk could be a potential match. Meanwhile, defenceman Mike Reilly has found himself watching some games from the press box as of late, and head coach Bruce Cassidy explained why. Last but not least, some are suggesting that while Trent Frederic remains out with injury, Anton Blidh may be stealing his spot on the fourth line.
DeBrusk on the Move?
This past week, TSN’s Darren Dreger said that the New York Rangers are looking to add a middle-six forward to their roster after losing Sammy Blais for the remainder of the season. While he didn’t suggest any names in particular, one that some have brought up is DeBrusk.
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DeBrusk has been the subject of many trade rumors over the past few seasons, as he has struggled to regain the form he had through his first two seasons in the NHL. Many were hoping that he would be able to bounce back this season, but to this point that has not happened, as he has just three goals and six points through 15 games.
There are reports that DeBrusk’s name is still very much on the trade market, and he would certainly be described by most as a middle-six forward. It would be unfortunate moving him given how much potential he showed early on in his career, but it is evident that it isn’t working out in Boston anymore for him, and a change of scenery may be just what he needs to get back on track.
Cassidy Explains Reasons for Scratching Reilly
During the 2020-21 season, the Bruins acquired Reilly from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Not a ton was made about the deal at the time, but that quickly changed after Bruins fans realized his offensive potential and realized how good of a player he was capable of being.
Management clearly shared those thoughts, as they signed him to a three-year, $9 million deal this offseason. Unfortunately, his play hasn’t been the same in 2021-22, and forced head coach Bruce Cassidy to healthy scratch him in tow straight games earlier this month. The Bruins bench boss explained why he chose to do so when speaking with reporters recently.
“He has to work hard to get back on pucks and be clean on the breakout,” Cassidy explained. “He has to play more north. I think he’s having a tendency to go back, circle back and circle back where the forwards are spacing so far ahead that we lose our attack. Two big things I noticed when he first got here last year was his neutral zone transition first pass where he got the puck up in a hurry and all of a sudden we’re going. We appear faster because the puck was moving quick. This year he’s had a tendency to drag the puck back way too often. I think he has to get back on his fair share of pucks as well. I think he’s leaving some of that dirty work to his partner too often when it’s his turn.
“Like some players it will be a good week of work here and then get back at it because he’s a good player that’s going to help us win games. But I’ve got to tell you that Jakub Zboril has worked hard to stay ready, and that’s a good sign for him. That’s a good pro.”
Reilly has since been dressed in each of the Bruins past two games, though he was held off the scoresheet in both. In 13 games this year he has a goal and two assists.
Blidh Making the Most Out of Opportunity
Ever since Frederic was injured in a game on Nov. 9 against the Ottawa Senators, Blidh has taken over his spot on the team’s fourth line and has looked very good in that role. In fact, he has played so well that some are suggesting he should remain in the lineup even when Frederic is able to return. This past week, Cassidy was asked if Blidh has gained a grip on Frederic’s old spot in the lineup. (from ‘Steve Conroy: Bruins Notebook: Anton Blidh creating competition’ , Boston Herald, 11/21/21).
“I wouldn’t say a grip. I think Blidh’s doing his job,” Cassidy said. “The first goal (versus Philadelphia) was a great goal for that line. It makes a coach happy to see them score like that. Get through the neutral zone, put a puck in a good spot when you don’t have numbers. When you separate the man from the puck with first fore-checker, that’s what everyone’s taught. Secondly, winning a race to the loose puck if that happens. Blidh does that.
“Then third guy in a good support position, you want to attack the front of the net if you’re able to create those turnovers and make the play. They did. Nosek receives the pass and makes the play to finish. Textbook all around for them. Those are the type of goals (they need to score). They’re not going to score a lot of tic-tac-toe rush. But to me, that’s a tic-tac-toe forecheck, tailor-made to be on any video anywhere teaching young kids. … Good for them. (Blidh) was part of that. Otherwise he did his job.
“Now Freddy, we’ve invested a lot of time in. He brings a little different flavour of the game. But at the end of the day, Anton can only control what he can when he’s in the lineup and he’s doing a good job with it.”
Though Cassidy may have a tough decision to make when Frederic is healthy, this is a good problem to have for the Bruins. While players like Blidh will never get the recognition like star players do, they still play an important role for the team and guys like that will need to be at their best if the Bruins hope to contend for a Stanley Cup this season.
Up Next for the Bruins
After Sunday night’s ugly 4-0 loss to the Calgary Flames, the Bruins have a few days to hit the reset button as they are off until Wednesday night where they will face the Buffalo Sabres. They will then play the New York Rangers on Friday and end their week with a Sunday tilt versus the Vancouver Canucks. They will need to start winning games in bunches to climb back into the thick of things, as they currently find themselves in sixth place in the Atlantic Division.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.