By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_
The narrative for the Bruins over the past few seasons has been a significant lack of depth scoring. In last years playoffs, the Bs were lead by the trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak who combined for a staggering 16 goals and 53 points throughout the Bruins first two rounds. Following the first line, David Krejci (10 points) and Jake Debrusk (eight points) both had solid playoffs but after those five forwards, the next highest scorer was Rick Nash who had a measly five points and a -7 rating. The lack of depth was the downfall of the Bruins in last years playoffs.
In last year’s first round, the Bruins top line was incredibly dominant and the graph above shows just that. For reference, anything over 50% was in the Bs favor so yea, the line was incredible all series (Bergeron was hurt game four). In game five (which the Bruins actually lost) the Bergeron line outshot Toronto 31-6 (84%) and out-chanced them 18-3 (86%). That dominance was the main reason the Bruins were able to make it past the Maple Leafs last season.
This is a new year, and a new Bruins team. The Bruins AREN’T relying solely on their top line. Their third unit has arguably been their best line this entire series. Charlie Coyle has shown why he was so popular in Minnesota and has impressed all of Boston with his strong play the series. Danton Heinen hasn’t slumped as he did last playoffs with a goal and two assists in five games and Both David Backes and Karson Kuhlman have played pretty well, giving the Bruins a legitimate 3rd line unlike last playoffs.
Despite the strong play of the 3rd line the Bruins are still down 3-2 in the series. What was most apparent after their 2-1 loss to the Leafs on Friday was the lack of dominance, or dare I say it, poor play shown by the 1st line. Playing primarily against the line centered by John Tavares and the pair of Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitzev, the “perfection line” has been far from perfect. The trio has scored just three even strength goals this series and, especially in game five, have really struggled to generate offense.
After the line was stymied again in game three, Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy said “they’re having a tougher time getting to the net, and as a result I think they’re trying really hard one-on-one to get there. I think they need to use each other a little bit more to get there. [Maybe] get an old-fashioned goal whether it’s a center lane drive, a puck to the net or a second chance. They’re pretty determined guys.” While the line bounced back to have a solid Game Four, it clearly didn’t carry into Game Five.
Like Cassidy said, the line just needs to simplify their play. I’ve seen Marchand and Pastrnak carry the puck into the zone and attempt to finesse through three Toronto players too many times. The line is just too good to continue to get stifled by the Leafs D.
In the three Bruins losses this series, the Bergy line has scored once, which was a powerplay goal in game one. Maybe Bergeron is playing through an injury and Pasta’s hand is still not fully recovered but a line consisting of an 100 point player, a four time Selke winner, and a guy that was on pace for 45 goals this season shouldn’t be struggling this much, especially against a team that they have all had incredible success against in the past.
Now it’s do or die for the Bruins and their 1st line. The Bergy line MUST come out strong and replicate the success they were able to sustain in last years matchup. If they continue to play poorly in the 1st period, Cassidy needs to do his job and break them up, there’s no more time to wait for them to produce, it’s now or never. Maybe Danton Heinen or Marcus Johansson find their way to the first line or maybe David Krejci, who played incredible with Marchand and Pasta when Bergeron went down with an injury, slides up in the lineup. It’s time to see why this has been the best line in hockey over the past two years.