By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
For years, the Boston Bruins have desperately needed top-six help alongside veteran center David Krejci. Last season, General Manager Don Sweeney traded for forward Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2020 1st Round Pick, D Axel Andersson and forward David Backes. Kase, 25, was the target winger to bring in some depth scoring on a Bruins team that heavily relied on the first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak to carry the bulk of the offensive workload.
However, Kase has run into some serious injury issues and has only played in two games this season – the first two – leaving the second game against the New Jersey Devils back on January 16th early after only playing 4:40 of ice-time. That left Boston with yet again, no consistent winger to play with Krejci. Another roadblock has been the downplay of left-winger Jake DeBrusk. In 34 games played, the 24-year-old has only four goals and seven assists for 11 points. This leaves David Krejci alone on an island on the second-line – until recently.
During this past offseason, Sweeney made an attempt to add some scoring depth and in hindsight it has worked even better than originally planned. The Bruins signed former Nashville Predators veteran Craig Smith to a three-year contract worth $3.1 million per season. Expecting Kase to be in the lineup, many expected Smith to be a third-liner. However, since the Kase injury and the struggle for depth, Smith has been tossed around the lineup on the right side. That leads into his other linemate.
One day before the official 2021 NHL Trade Deadline, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney pulled off a move that not many truly believed would happen – acquiring former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall along with forward Curtis Lazar for forward Anders Bjork and a 2021 2nd Round Pick. A “steal” in many fans’ eyes, Sweeney gave up next to nothing for a player that has a history of playing at an elite level. The question was, will he be able to find his old self in the Spoked-B. The answer so far, yes.
It has been ten games since the Trade Deadline and the Bruins are 8-2-0 in those games, cementing themselves as one of the hottest teams in the entire NHL and at the perfect time too – with the playoff race tightening up in the final handful of games to be played. During that timespan, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has sent out a revamped second-line of Taylor Hall, David Krejci, and Craig Smith. Two new Bruins on the wings of a veteran centerman in David Krejci. Below are some advanced stats in their short time together courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.
The stat that intrigues me the most is the nine goals for and only one against while 5v5. Not only is this line finding themselves offensively, but they have been very responsible defensively as well. Earlier in the season, David Krejci was having a very underrated season in terms of defensive play and since joining Boston, Taylor Hall has surprisingly stepped up to play responsible defence.
With Hall, he may not be a future Selke candidate as he makes mistakes in his own end from time to time, but it is clear he has the hustle aspect to make up for poor positioning. On more than one occasion, Hall has turned on the jets to help prevent an odd-man rush going the other way. Plays like that keep not only the coaching staff happy, but keep the teammates happy and without question, will make you more likeable in the locker room.
Meanwhile, Craig Smith and Krejci have been finding strong chemistry in their playmaking abilities. In Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, Smith tallied two assists while Krejci put up a goal and an assist that is sure to earn some style points on Taylor Hall’s third-period marker. The 35-year-old Czech native is on another gear right now and it truly seems like he is having fun on that line.
Right now, the Boston Bruins have a truly scary top-six. Brad Marchand is near the top of the National Hockey League in both goals and points while playing to Selke standards alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak who are both above the 40-point mark at this stage of the season. For the past few seasons, the top line for Boston has had to carry almost the entire offensive production. If they didn’t score – the chances of the Bruins winning diminished considerably.
Having a line beneath them who is firing on all cylinders like the Hall-Krejci-Smith line, takes some of the pressure off Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak and keeps the opposition scrambling to find the right matchups. Neither line can be taken lightly, especially recently. One of the biggest reasons for this strong start – they’re putting pucks towards the net. In nine games, the second-line has the most shot attempts for/60 (69.22) in comparison to the other three lines according to MoneyPuck.com.
In today’s game, successful teams thrive on four lines that can score consistently with a strong defensive core and a locked-in goaltender in the crease. With these two lines and the possibility for the third-line to increase production, a young, but decent defensive core led by Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk with a Tuukka Rask that appears to be red-hot at the moment, the B’s have the formula right now to contend. Of course, luck needs to fall their way, but the right pieces are there.
Regardless, this is what Bruins fans have been dreaming of for years. Since the days of Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla, etc., the Boston Bruins have not had a dynamite second line and that quite possibly could be the reason for the Game Seven loss to St. Louis back in the 2019 Finals. Too much reliance on one line to score every goal and make every play.
Taylor Hall has five goals, Krejci has eleven points, and Smith has seven points of his own all in the last ten games. The Boston Bruins have two lines that can score goals. No, this is not a dream.