WILMINGTON – We’re in the midst of a two-day break before the Bruins again take the ice Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.
That means two whole days for the man who calls the shots to mull over what his first line should look like against the upstart Bolts, and for those of us without a vote to debate it until Tyler Seguin is that much closer to his 22nd birthday.
In search of an offensive spark Wednesday night in Montreal, Bruins head coach Claude Julien moved Seguin to the right side of Milan Lucic and David Krejci on Boston’s first line. Two shifts and two goals later, the Bruins were on their way to a victory. Now comes the decision of whether to keep that trio intact going forward – a decision that really isn’t that difficult when you consider that hockey lines are not written in the type of concrete that baseball lineups reside.
“We don’t want to overlook the fact that that line with [Nathan Horton], [Lucic] and [Krejci] was our best line. [Wednesday] night, it’s not that they were bad, it was just that they weren’t generating much and neither was the other line so we made that kind of a switch,” Julien said before half of his team took the ice for an optional practice at Ristuccia Arena on Thursday. “It’s something that I have to think about, for sure. Do I try it a little longer or do I go back to our regular lines? And if the same thing happens, at least I know I can switch again. Thank God I’ve got a couple days to think about it.”
It’s that last part of Julien’s response that should convince him to open the showdown with the Southeast Division leaders with Lucic, Krejci and Seguin lined up left to right. If things don’t go as planned, Julien can move guys around again. Heck, he could even move guys around if things are going well.
The fear is that a Lucic-Krejci-Seguin line might surrender as many goals as it scores – or worse, allow more than its offense can keep up with. That trio certainly endured growing pains at the defensive end last season after Horton’s season was ended by a concussion. But in this shortened season, Julien should enjoy the luck he fell into with his lineup switch in Montreal and ride the hot hand as long as he can.
As Julien pointed out, Lucic and Krejci are playing better at both ends of the ice this year than last. Seguin is a year older and should be more responsible. Those are solid reasons to keep them together. There’s also the notion that Julien could coach to the situation as far as what three players he throws out on the ice together.
Late in the 2010-11 season, Julien had no problem spotting in Rich Peverley for big defensive shifts down the stretch of games in place of Mark Recchi. That move made the Bruins better defensively and gave Recchi a chance to rest his wheels. Well, Peverley is still available – depending on his line’s ice time and the number of penalties the Bruins have to kill – for a similar role to fill in for Seguin in tight games. Flipping Horton back into that spot, if Julien thinks there’s more of a need for bulk and physicality, is also as easy as just tapping a different guy on the shoulder based on the situation.
In a perfect world, the Bruins would have the same four lines, score four or five goals a game and never lose. In the real world, this is a shortened NHL season where there’s little time for patience. So Julien would do well to go for the kill by stacking his top line, and dealing with the fall out when/if it comes.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.