By: Yanni Latzanakis | Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz
It was no question the Bruins had enough skill and firepower to make it all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals last season. A big part of their success, however, was their powerplay in which the Bruins finished third in the league last season at 25.9% powerplay which was behind division rivals Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins only came in 12th in the NHL in goals scored at five-on-five play. A stronger offensive output at even strength should be a focus for Bruce Cassidy and the B’s this season.
The Bruins have multiple skilled players up and down their lineup that put the puck in the net especially the top line that dominated last season in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Brad Marchand had a career year burying 100 points with a third of his points coming on the powerplay at 34. His linemates were also enormous on the powerplay with Pastrnak tallying 17 powerplay goals and 33 powerplay points and Bergeron scoring 27 points on the powerplay. Although the top line dominates most games, most of their points came on the powerplay.
The Bruins relied heavily on the powerplay in the regular season and the playoffs but especially against the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Black ‘N Gold met a heavy, physical team that was strong at even strength and eventually found a way to shut down the Bruins potent powerplay. Bruins like Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, McAvoy, and Backes scored zero points each at even-strength during the Stanley Cup Finals. This ultimately was a factor in the Bruins losing game seven. In the first period, the Bruins saw the only powerplay of the game that they were unable to capitalize on and then struggled to score on Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington at even strength – and we all know how that nightmare ends.
Officiating aside, here’s a crazy stat from this Bruins-Blues Stanley Cup…
Points at Even-Strength:
Brad Marchand: 0
Charlie McAvoy: 0
David Backes: 0
David Krejci: 0
David Pastrnak: 0
Patrice Bergeron: 0
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) June 7, 2019
Part of improving the even-strength scoring can be to balance the lines. That might mean breaking up the “perfection” line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak and moving Pastrnak to Krejci’s right-wing side. This could benefit the Bruins for matchups against opponents defense and to strengthen the second line that at some points looked invisible last season and postseason.
The preseason is a good time to test out the new lines and some depth acquisitions from offseason moves as well as up-and-coming prospects from Providence and beyond. There could also be a breakthrough forward who makes the team to play on the David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk line that would significantly balance the Bruins forward group. This would allow the top line to remain together and hopefully continue their dominance at both ends of the ice.
David Krejci will (again) enter camp without a defined right winger.
Also, having Charlie Coyle at the beginning of the season will benefit the Bruins with some security on the third-line center position. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, that spot was a big question mark for most of the beginning and first half of the season.
“It’s really big for my game. I’ve always kind of been switched around a lot. It’s just — there’s no consistency there.”
Having a great penalty kill and powerplay is immense for success in the NHL but the even-strength offense should be a primary focus. Every game will have fine-on-five play but the Bruins should be reliant on getting penalty calls and heading to the powerplay. Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff should be focused on getting the even-strength offense up from last season and it would certainly benefit the Bruins down the stretch and especially in the playoffs.
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