Bruins’ Role Players Must Continue to Step up Against Hurricanes

Entering Game 3 of their best-of-seven series against the Carolina Hurricanes trailing 2-0 Friday night at the TD Garden, it was a must-win for the Boston Bruins if they were going to extend the series beyond the two games in Boston. Coach Bruce Cassidy made some lineup changes ahead of the game in hopes of jump-starting his team that was badly outplayed in the first two games on the road.

Goaltender Jeremy Swayman stepped in for Linus Ullmark and the youngster made 25 saves to help backbone a 4-2 victory to cut the Hurricanes’ series lead in half at 2-1. Cassidy moved David Pastrnak back to the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and the trio combined for two goals and four assists. While it was much-needed production for the Black and Gold, some of their “role players” stepped up and had just as big of a part in the win as their top line. In fact, the case could be made that without these efforts, the Bruins could be staring at a 3-0 series deficit.

Instead, as they prepare for Game 4 on Sunday (May 8) looking to even the series and if they can continue to get the types of efforts they got from some of their bottom-six forwards or bottom-pair defenseman, the Bruins could find themselves in for a longer series than things looked after the first two games.

Forbort Sacrificed His Body Again

The first two games were not good for some of the Bruins’ defensemen. Bad decisions at bad times cost them some goals, as did some bad clearing attempts that Carolina was able to keep the puck in the offensive zone and capitalize into goals. Friday night, Derek Forbort provided some key shifts at key moments in the game.

Derek Forbort, Boston Bruins
Derek Forbort, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Forbort, who has become one of the Black and Gold’s top penalty killers, once again proved his worth on the penalty kill. The Hurricanes’ had five power plays and thanks in large part to Forbort, they went scoreless. The veteran blueliner finished with nine blocked shots in the game with 23:07 in time-on-ice, while logging a team-high 6:46 shorthanded. Becoming a shot-blocking machine is nothing new to Forbort as he had three in one shift killing a penalty against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 21 in a 4-0 loss.

“He really showed his value tonight,” said Cassidy. “He’s a popular guy. He is very quiet, doesn’t say much, talks about him and his dog, his simple life, but he’s got personality when you get to know him. Guys root for guys like that. He was brought in to be that type of stay at home, try to be a stiff defender, keep the puck out of your net, shot blocker, really good on the PK, and he’s been as advertised…those are the guys that make a difference in these types of games, too.

“You need your scorers to score and your kind of muckers and checkers to be physical and block shots. That’s what makes a well-run machine, and I think that was good.”

Forbort’s effort did not go lost on Swayman, who appreciated the effort from his defensemen.

“I love that guy. He’s the man,” said Swayman. “He’s been doing that all year for us, too. Nothing new from him, he does everything for the team, for the crest. It shows and guys play hard for him, and he does the same for us. It’s an awesome person to have in front of me.”

Lazar Provided Spark in Bottom-Six

Another adjustment Cassidy made was sending Trent Frederic to the ninth floor at the TD Garden as a healthy scratch, which bumped Tomas Nosek from the fourth line center spot to their third line left wing spot. Curtis Lazar went from his wing spot to the center spot on the fourth line with Nick Foligno and Chris Wagner and free agent to be played one of his best games of the season.

Curtis Lazar Boston Bruins
Curtis Lazar, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Lazar went 5-for-10 on faceoffs, had a team-high six hits, and was relentless on the forecheck. He made a nice defensive play at the Bruins blueline midway through the third period which led to a 2-on-1 with Foligno to provide the Bruins with one of their many scoring opportunities. Like Forbort, he was also key on the penalty kill, logging 5:13 in time on ice down a man. Along with Foligno and Wagner, the fourth line was very good in key shifts after goals, keeping the Bruins with some momentum, not allowing the Hurricanes to answer right back.

Coyle Got the Bruins’ Offense Going

There have been big things expected from Charlie Coyle this season and the Massachusetts native has not always been up to the challenge when needed. Yes, he played in all 82 regular-season games, but when offensive production was needed, he struggled to come up big, but that was not the case in Game 3.

Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins
Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the Bruins trailing 1-0 late in the first period, Carolina went to the power play with a chance to double their lead and put a stranglehold on the series. Instead, Coyle and Jake DeBrusk combined to score what could be considered the biggest goal of the season for Boston. With just under a minute remaining on the Hurricanes’ power play, they broke into the offensive zone and DeBrusk made a perfect pass toward Coyle and the third line center was able to redirect the pass into the net to tie the game 1-1.

That goal brought some life into the Bruins at a time when they need it the most. Trailing 1-0 in the game, and 2-0 in the series against a team that had outscored them 26-4 in the first five games of 2021-22, a two-goal deficit would have been a huge mountain to climb out of. Instead, Coyle’s goal tied the game, gave the Bruins a spark, and allowed them to take the lead in the second period and hold off Carolina to get back in the series.

Related: Bruins Playoff Hopes Hinge on Fundamental Hockey

If there is one thing about playoff hockey, it’s that teams that have the most success get contributions from all over the lineup and there is a different “unsung hero” each night. In Game 3, the Bruins had three “unsung heroes” to support the top guys and if they are going to extend the series beyond the next two games, they will those types of efforts beginning in Game 4. Anything short of those efforts could result in a quick exit over the next couple of games for Boston.

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