The Boston Bruins shutout the Chicago Blackhawks last night in Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, and it was a dominant performance all the way around. It seemed every Bruins player contributed something positive to the night.
Well, actually, not all of them. Unfortunately, lost in a very solid game for Boston was some shoddy play from fourth-line winger Kaspars Daugavins.
Its been a rough go of it for Daugavins ever since he was subbed in during the Eastern Conference Finals for an injured Gregory Campbell. Even though he doesn’t get a ton of minutes due to his spot on the forward lines, he’s still had a few negative highlights he’s probably not dying to see again.
In Game 1 last Wednesday, he had a golden opportunity to win in triple overtime, but decided against shooting the puck into the open net and deked for a backhand shot that was snuffed by Chicago’s defense. If he puts the puck in, is Boston sitting at 3-0 in this series?
It’s too much speculation to say things like that. However, things haven’t steadied for Daugavins since Game 1.
Last night, he made some sloppy plays, muffing one potential breakaway when he misplayed the puck and ended up skating off sides. He also committed a bone-head penalty early on, delivering a flying elbow to the head of Andrew Shaw.
Needless to say, he’s not doing a great job at filling the skates of Campbell, who is forever ingrained in these playoffs for his gutty performance killing a penalty on a broken leg.
So, should the Bruins scratch Daugavins and replace him with someone else? Well, to answer this question, we have to ask two other ones.
First of all, does Daugavins play enough critical minutes to merit needing to step up or step aside?
In five games, he’s averaging 9:21 in ice time. Ever since Campbell went down, coach Claude Julien has significantly limited the minutes of his fourth line. So, with Daugavins rarely being a significant presence on the ice, are his mental lapses bad enough that it will bite Boston?
This is tricky, mainly because the game of hockey can change in an instant. No, Daugavins is barely ever matched up against Chicago’s top talent. But these are pros the Bruins are playing, and anyone can pounce on a mistake. His lack of minutes should not give him a pass for plays that could become significant setbacks for Boston.
Secondly, if Daugavins is out, who do you swap in for him?
One option is Jordan Caron. Of all the healthy scratches, he has the most experience playing on this Boston roster. He’s solid in the defensive end, and can generate a little offense every now and then.
The biggest problem with Caron, though, is lack of playoff experience. In his time with the Bruins, he’s only played in two postseason games, not registering any stats in either. Asking a young kid like him to take what little he’s learned from postseason play and jump right into the Stanley Cup Finals is way too overwhelming.
The only other possible option is new guy Carl Söderberg. He possesses more offensive ability than Caron, but unfortunately this is all you can bank on when it comes to the Swede. He has no postseason experience, and only has seven games worth of regular season play to his name.
Though Söderberg is the more intriguing option, he’s just way too raw for this kind of stage. Let him watch and learn for the rest of the playoffs, and then give him a full regular season of play next year.
So, while Daugavins has been struggling, the backup options each have too many glaring issues for Boston’s liking. And, sorry, Jay Pandolfo is not a legitimate option either. In fact its laughable I even have to type that out.
Barring any injuries, the safest bet is for Julien to keep Daugavins on the active roster. There currently isn’t a better option, and he does have a little offensive talent the Bruins could cash in on if he gets his act together.
If anything, we can hope he’ll get himself a penalty shot and try this move again.