You bet he has. But you already knew that!
Let’s begin by looking at some numbers prior to the arrival of Hampus Lindholm.
While the analytics say that Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy made a good pair for the Bruins (I am not denying they did) I always wondered whether McAvoy thought in the back of his mind that he had to be more defensively responsible when paired with Grzelcyk and it prevented him from being all he could be offensively.
Lindholm has brought the Bruins top pair to another level. Whether consciously or subconsciously, pairing Lindholm with McAvoy has allowed the Bruins top defenceman to activate more offensively. In the 7 games since Lindholm’s arrival to Beantown, McAvoy has put up points of 0, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2 and 1 which is easily his best stretch of the season, if not his 300+ game career.
Lindholm’s arrival didn’t have a major impact on the other defenceman’s time on ice as they remained pretty constant. It did have an affect on the pairs and who dressed. Here’s a look at the defensive pair situations prior to Lindholm’s arrival:
Prior to Lindholm’s arrival, Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo were the defencemen most often paired together and their numbers just were not great. Someone much smarter than me is going to have to explain to me why it is that since Lindholm’s arrival, Grzelcyk and Carlo’s numbers have taken off and in some cases are better then the Lindholm – McAvoy pair? Is it consistently knowing that when your turn comes up to go over the boards you know who you’re being paired with? Is it finally a familiarity thing? It can’t be that since they were the pair most often out there together. My opinion is that Lindholm and McAvoy are logging huge minutes and are taking the responsibility of going out against the oppositions top players allowing Grzelcyk and Carlo easier matchups.
Here’s a look at the numbers now:
So, if your top four is set with McAvoy-Lindholm-Grzelcyk-Carlo, what about your bottom pairing? Prior Lindholm’s arrival, the Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton pair had the most time on ice together on the bottom pair and their numbers weren’t exactly bad. However, since trade deadline some key stats have taken a little dip.
Which brings us to Mike Reilly. Coach Bruce Cassidy tried him on the right side along with Forbort against Columbus and by the time the third period rolled around Cassidy had moved Grzelcyk with Forbort and Reilly with Carlo. The numbers suggest that worked, but do you really want to break up the Grzelcyk – Carlo pair that does so much better? He went back to the Reilly – Forbort pair Tuesday in Detroit and it wasn’t exactly pretty.
With your top-4 set, it’s about finding a bottom pair that works. Two of Clifton, Reilly, Forbort and Josh Brown are going to have to sit but I do think you need Forbort in there for his size and penalty killing abilities on the left side. Its too bad Brown was injured 8 minutes into his first game with the Bruins because the Reilly-Brown pair looked like it could work. Cassidy went back to that pair on Monday against the Blue Jackets and while it wasn’t pretty, and the numbers suggest the previous match might have been an illusion.
Prior to the trade deadline, it was felt the Bruins needed to really upgrade the left side of their blueline and they’ve done that with Lindholm. It was also felt that the Bruins needed to upgrade on Clifton. Cliffy hasn’t played since the March 29th loss to the Maple Leafs. In the four games since then, the Bruins have worked Forbort, Reilly and Brown in and out to try to find some combination that works, but the missing ingredient has been Clifton. But the numbers do suggest that the Forbort-Clifton pair is the way to go.
Folks have suggested to me that the Bruins need to try Lindholm-Carlo. That means pairing Grzelcyk with McAvoy. But in over 13 minutes of 5 on 5 ice time together, the Lindholm-Carlo pair has not been good whether you go by the stats or the eye test. And the Grzelcyk-McAvoy numbers have dropped like flies since trade deadline.
Here’s a look at every second of every shift all pairings had 5 on 5 since the Lindholm acquisition:
I don’t know what the answer is. If I did, I would ne an NHL coach. And I am sure I will get many people telling me what the right answer is, many without an explanation. That’s the joy of social media.