By Joe Chrzanowski | Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19
If you spend any time following Bruins fans on Twitter and other social media outlets (and I do), you might think the team had started out 2-6-1, instead of their actual record of 6-1-2. Losing two of the last three games to Tampa and Toronto in extra time was a little frustrating, but I thought the Bruins were the better team Saturday night against the Leafs and Andersen won the game for them. I’m not one of those “doom and gloom, the sky is falling” types to begin with, but even less so when the B’s have taken 14 out of a possible 18 points with Krejci missing most of the games.
That said, one of the things that was a problem early in the season last year was a lack of secondary scoring. Unfortunately, it has reared it’s ugly head again early this year. The Bruins have scored 26 goals as a team through nine games. The first line has accounted for 17 of those goals (Pasta has ten, Marchand five, and Bergeron two). The only two players not on the first line that have multiple goals this season are Danton Heinen and Brett Ritchie, the two guys that scored in the opening night win against Dallas.
As optimistic as I am, I don’t believe that relying on one line to score and having your goalies stand on their heads nightly is a sustainable model for success. You can get away with it during the regular season for a time, but eventually, it will catch up with you. It also tends to become even more of a problem in the playoffs. I’m not sure exactly why, but secondary scoring and more specifically the RW2 position seems to have been an issue since Jarome Iginla left.
So, what realistic moves can the B’s make to fix this issue? I’m here to tell you that it can be done “in-house” with three relatively painless moves. You want some additional good news? I’m going to tell you how the Bruins can do it without requiring you to pay for a subscription to our site.
Move David Pastrnak Down
The first move in rebuilding the B’s sparse secondary scoring is to slide Pastrnak down to the second line. Before anyone starts wailing, yes, I am well aware of how good the Bruins first line is. And yes, after they move Pasta down with Krejci and DeBrusk, I will miss all the headlines about the Bruins having the best line in hockey, but it will be worth it. I won’t miss teams being able to largely shut down the Bruins offense in the playoffs by containing one line.
At the ripe old age of 23, Pastrnak has officially reached “carry a line” status in my opinion. After last night’s two-point effort, he has 17 points in the first nine games. This is the best start to a season by a Bruins player since Adam Oates in 1993-94. He’s going to produce no matter who he’s with, so if the Bruins can find a competent guy to replace him on the first line, they will definitely have at least two scoring lines. Which brings us to Step Two…
Put Danton Heinen On The First Line
Danton Heinen only has two points so far this season. This is not indicative of his overall play. He’s been more assertive and he’s shooting more while still giving the Bruins a high level of defensive play. He showed last season that not only could he hang on the top line, but that he could contribute there as well. During the 16 game span, while Pastrnak was out of the lineup with a wrist injury, Heinen had one goal and twelve assists over that time. In addition, the first line’s advanced and defensive numbers were significantly better than when Pasta was there.
I am in no way suggesting that Heinen is a better or more explosive player than David Pastrnak. What I AM saying is that he brings a different dynamic to the line. When he’s there, he allows Marchand and Bergeron to take more chances and be more creative because they know he will get back and cover. When Pasta is on the first line, I believe he becomes the focus of his linemates. They both will pass up scoring opportunities to get him the puck. When Heinen is in that RW1 position, those two become a bit more selfish and shoot more. When you have two players of that caliber firing the puck more often, it’s not a bad thing. With Heinen and Pasta now in the Top Six, Charlie Coyle needs a buddy on the third line that can take advantage of his puck possession skills. Enter the third and final step of my diabolical master plan…
Call Anders Bjork Up From Providence
Tuesday night we got our first taste of Anders Bjork in the B’s lineup and I thought he acquitted himself quite well. In 13:17 TOI, he had four shots, one giveaway and takeaway, and one block. He was a minus one, but also created a nice scoring chance and hit the crossbar. He also showed that he could play a Bottom 6 checking role effectively. The biggest takeaway for me was that he didn’t look out of place. The speed and physicality of the NHL game was not an issue.
Bjork was an “emergency recall” when David Krejci was placed on IR and had to be sent back down to Providence. This was done so a roster player would not have to be sent down and clear waivers. Given that, it would appear that Krejci is close to returning. I expect Bjork’s stay in PRO to be brief. With Karson Kuhlman out for at least four weeks (and probably longer) with a broken tibia, Bjork will likely be recalled again as soon as Kuhlman is placed on IR.
The only “fly in the ointment” is that it appears the Bruins want to keep Bjork on the left side. In the past, he played a lot of right-wing, but he looks more comfortable on his natural side. There was also some speculation that his tendency to get hit in the middle of the ice was partly due to playing the off-wing. Playing the left side should allow Bjork to come out of the Boston end much easier. This doesn’t appear to be a huge issue because Ritchie has been playing better and Heinen is capable of playing on the right side.
When Krejci returns, my forward lineup would be:
Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen
DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak
Bjork – Coyle – Ritchie
Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner
That should give Boston two legitimate scoring lines and a third line that can contribute some offense as well. You can still keep Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak together on the man advantage. The powerplay is a pretty large part of their production and would remain unaffected. The best part of my plan is that it doesn’t require any outside personnel moves. This means that if it doesn’t work, Cassidy can always reunite the first line.
Hopefully, Bruce reads my article, adopts my foolproof plan and massive improvements in the Bruins secondary scoring follows. Once that happens, I may not be writing as much, as I would expect Boston to offer me a coaching job. Unrealistic? Of course, but let a man dream.