Saturday night’s game between the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils was hardly a barn burner. The Bruins came into the game riding a 15-game point streak, and had impressively put away the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lead the league, in a 4-1 victory on Thursday. The last time the Bruins hosted the Devils, December 27, 2018, New Jersey took it to the Bruins handing them a 5-2 defeat. Coming off the physical, fast-paced game on Thursday, there were questions as to how the Bruins would respond against a team that is out of playoff contention and riddled with injuries.
It looked like things were going well for the Bruins, especially when Brad Marchand put Boston on the scoreboard 13 seconds into their first power play of the game at 2:37 of the first period. And then roughly five minutes later Marchand had a penalty shot opportunity that rookie netminder Mackenzie Blackwood denied. That was all she wrote for scoring for the remainder of the game.
Even the penalties were few. Besides the Kenny Agostino goaltender interference that netted the Bruins their power play goal and the hooking by Damon Severson that gave Marchand his penalty shot attempt, there were only two additional penalties called in the remainder of the game. Toward the end of the first period Brandon Carlo took a slashing penalty that couldn’t be ignored when Devil Michael McLeod’s stick broke in half. And then at 15:15 of the second period Peter Cehlarik was whistled for a tripping penalty on Connor Carrick.
As things got underway in the third period, it was soon apparent that Cehlarik wasn’t taking any shifts. He could be seen on the bench, so it didn’t seem to be an injury that was preventing him from being out on the ice. As the period continued, it was clear that he had been benched by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. Was it the penalty that he had taken in the second? Or was it something else?
“Yeah, there was a few things we didn’t like. We’ve talked about allowing guys to play through certain parts of their game and sometimes it’s better to sit and watch. Tonight, we chose the latter. There were some things we had talked to him about. It wasn’t the penalty. Penalties happen. It was a little more about his routes, responsibility away from the puck, managing it at the end of the second period in your own end. Those are things we’ve talked to him numerous times about, so we went a different route, and we’ll see where it leads,” Coach Cassidy shared bluntly after the game.
Over the last week, Cehlarik had been in a revolving door of callups to the Bruins and then almost immediately assignments back to their AHL affiliated Providence Bruins. It shouldn’t have affected him, but half of hockey is how strong you are in your mind. Perhaps that had put him off his game.
“I have no idea. He’s here in the NHL. He’s earned his right to be in the lineup. I think we’ve used him up in the lineup with [David] Krejci. We’ve used him with Charlie Coyle, two very good players, so I think at some point the responsibility falls on the player to be ready to play and play the Bruins’ way. I thought he got away from that a little bit, so that’s it. Only he can answer whether he’s, frustrated or the travel—it’s certainly not the hour travel. Maybe the fact that he got sent down might have bothered him. I don’t know, I can’t answer that. We made some decisions at the deadline too – as much as for roster purposes than anything. We’ve got past that. He got called up because he deserves to be here, and tonight we just made a decision to just cut back and use other people,” Coach Cassidy continued.
The responsibility falls on the player to be ready to play and play the Bruins’ way. — Bruce Cassidy
Clearly a message has been sent to the 23-year-old in actions this time rather than words, which apparently weren’t being absorbed. Sometimes it takes being benched or being a healthy scratch to get the coaching message across.
The onus is now on Cehlarik to change his game. It’s up to him to “be ready to play and play the Bruins’ way” as Coach Cassidy said. If he isn’t willing, he could find himself assigned back to Providence and the next callup opportunity could go to another Providence Bruins forward.