Going into Game 6, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy had a decision to make. Zdeno Chara proved in Game 5 that he could shoulder enough of a load to not warrant dressing seven defensemen meaning a forward was coming back into the lineup. Instead of taking the more obvious choice in David Backes, Cassidy chose to add Karson Kuhlman into the line-up. Backes has struggled at times to make it work playing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk throughout the playoffs. His hard-nosed game didn’t mesh with the possession game the other two guys like to play. Kuhlman, on the other hand, has some great wheels that complement that style of game.
The move clearly paid off as Kuhlman played a role winning a battle with DeBrusk to get the puck to Brandon Carlo at the point, who sent a knuckler on net that turned out to be the game-winning goal. He also sniped a wrister on Jordan Binnington off the crossbar and in to give the Bruins their 3rd goal of the game.
Kuhlman’s energy was the spark the second line needed in order to get going. Between Krejci, Backes, and DeBrusk they have a combined one goal in the final at even-strength. That was DeBrusk in Game 5 but while he was on with Sean Kuraly and Joakim Nordstrom.
This new line with Kuhlman not only was able to create a good amount of offense, but they also held their own against the Blues top line of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko. While on the ice against each other, the Krejci line out-chanced the Schenn line 5-1 while recording four shots on net from the slot.
That’s night and day compared to the rest of the series where Backes was playing on the Krejci line and they were only able to create a single scoring chance against the Schenn line.
Adding Kuhlman’s young legs to the Krejci line was a great idea by Cassidy that could be the chess move that decides the series. Getting that line going makes the Bruins that much more dangerous and creates matchup nightmares for the Blues who also have to contend with a Bergeron line that, at times, can be the best line in the league. Kuhlman obviously contributed in Game 6 and if he can repeat that in Game 7 it could spell the end of the Blues incredible run.
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