Coming up Unexpected: Bruins Have Done it Again

The Boston Bruins have done it again. In recent years, it has become something of a tradition to bring up an unexpected defenseman to be a revelation. It’s a usual spot for the Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy.

In his first year as the head coach, Cassidy promoted Charlie McAvoy in the playoffs, which wasn’t much of a surprise. However, in the 2017-18 season, Cassidy brought up Matt Grzelcyk, who has developed to a blueline regular for Boston ever since.

Last season, the Bruins found Connor Clifton, who had the duty to soften the absence of Kevan Miller at the end of the season. Clifton worked his way into the lineup in the Stanley Cup playoff run, as well as in the first part of this season.

Nevertheless, Clifton’s long-term injury and Miller’s ongoing knee issues forced the Bruins to consider further options. The team had many defensemen almost ready for the NHL level at the AHL, for example, Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon, or Jakub Zboril.

Vaakanainen is a former first-round draft choice, probably the most prominent Bruins’ defensive prospect. Despite his high-end talent, the Bruins feel like he is not fully ready yet.

Last season, he and Lauzon suffered some major injuries.

This year, the Bruins gave a chance to Lauzon to let him showcase his skills. The 22-year-old left-shot defenseman has been able to claim his lineup spot since late January. For Cassidy, Lauzon’s made it almost impossible to take him out of the lineup.

Previously injured Clifton is ready to come back to the lineup for a few days now, but Cassidy doesn’t want to sacrifice Lauzon’s spot on the blue line. It’s a tricky situation, to say the least. Notwithstanding, the Bruins are not striving because of that.

Instead, Lauzon has become a force on the Bruins’ blue line. He has skated in 16 games, collecting a goal and an assist for two points. His 55.62 of the xGF percentage at even-strength look spectacular. On Tuesday in the Bruins’ heavyweight clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Atlantic Division crown, Lauzon assured everyone that he belongs in the starting lineup.

Despite not defending Mitchell Stephens on the lone Lightning’s goal (after a long shift though), Lauzon has made two crucial defensive plays. Cassidy likes to perform a defense-first mentality. No wonders Lauzon has matured into a fundamental part of this Bruins’ system jigsaw.

What’s next for the Bruins? They can still use Clifton at some point, Steven Kampfer plays in Providence, while Miller’s future is uncertain. However, Lauzon has been improving by each game. It’s impossible to take him out of the lineup for now.

After Grzelcyk and Clifton in previous years, the Bruins have found the new unexpectedly reliable defenseman. Find trustworthy defensemen is not an easy task to accomplish in this league.

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4 Responses

  1. I like Clifton’s game. However, going from a D-corp with three “lightweight” defenders to one where Chara, Carlo, McAvoy and now Lauzon play a “heavy” defensive game – has really changed the defensive nature of this squad. Carlo (23) McAvoy (22) and Lauzon (22) means the Bruins can count on that defensive “toughness” for years to come. And with Clifton (24) waiting in the wings, the Bruins’ young d-squad looks pretty good.

    I have to admit. I was disappointed when Clifton was elevated above Lauzon, after each was given a shot last season because of injuries. Not that I hate Clifton’s game. He plays MUCH bigger than his 5’11” 174 lbs might suggest. But with two 5’9″ blueliners on the team, the difference between “playing big” and “being big” can be huge, even in today’s NHL.

    You seem to lose very little in speed. Lauzon has got plenty of that. And speaking of “playing BIG”, Lauzon seems to have as much “nasty” as is required by whatever situation he encounters. To top it off, Lauzon has 1-1-2 offensive stats in 16 games so far. Clifton is 2-0-2 in 30 games played. Lauzon +5. Clifton +4.

    A lot of people thought the B’s needed to boost their defense at the trade deadline. I had two words in response: Jeremy Lauzon. A rookie, yes. But one heck of a solid defenseman.

  2. The one complaint I have about Lauzon’s game is that he tends to “over commit” when pursuing someone on the boards and in tight situations. Veteran NHL’ers will take advantage of the opening and occasionally “burn” the young man for his enthusiasm. A very “teachable” problem, and I’m sure the B’s coaching staff is on him about it. That’s it.

  3. One last thing: Lauzon may have one of the shortest “backswings” of any blueliner in the NHL. That means he gets shots on net. Not blocked, Not going the other way. In 2015-2016, in QMJHL, Lauzon put up 10-40-50, with 80 PIM and a +40.
    Something to shoot for.

  4. The last few games Jeremy Lauzon hardly made a single mistake on the ice. He’s been their most reliable defensive defenseman and simply improved and impressed every game down the stretch.

    Really was excited about Lauzon and the Bruins going into the playoffs and now nobody knows when or even if there will be any more hockey at all this year

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