How Boston’s Top Line Exploits ‘Soft Space’

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By: Leon Lifshutz | Follow Me On Twitter @BruinsBreakdown

It’s well established that the Boston Bruins possess one of the best first-lines in the game of hockey. In addition to being extremely skilled, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak also have elite hockey brains. They’ve shown those smarts off on more than one goal-scoring sequence in their current series versus the Islanders.

One particular hockey concept the trio has exploited is ‘soft space.’ Soft space is a hockey term for finding the areas in between coverage. Against the Capitals, who played man-to-man coverage, it was more important to spread the zone and beat your check one-on-one, something head coach Bruce Cassidy alluded to several times. The Islanders, though, like most teams, play a zone defense and are usually excellent and trading off opponents and supporting when mistakes happen. Therefore finding soft space and making quick decisions are paramount to breaking down the Isles stout system. In the following clips, we will see two such examples where the Bruins elite forwards are able to do so.

00:00 – Pastrnak comes up the sidewall to an area unoccupied by the defensive coverage to support his defenseman with the puck. 00:06 – Marchand wins a puck battle with good positioning. 00:08 – Lauzon slides down the sidewall to the loose puck, and Marchand interchanges with him, finding a soft spot around the hashmark. 00:09 – Bergeron, as he so often does, finds open space in the high slot. Note how he has positioned himself between the two Islander defenders. 00:11 – Rather than getting tied up in front, Pastrnak moves to open space just off the crease and is wide-open for a pass or, in this instance, to hammer home the rebound.

00:02 – Marchand rims the puck around away from the traffic after the Bruins win a puck battle in the corner. 00:05 – After retrieving the rim, Pastrnak slides the puck back down the sideboard to Marchand, who has come over to support. Again, he finds soft space on the sideboard. 00:07 – Marchand quickly moves the puck to Bergeron in the high slot. Bergeron has completed the offensive triangle and again found space between the defenders. Note that while he is in the high slot again, he is in a slightly different spot than the first clip in order to slide between the defenders as well as create a clear passing lane. His quick release beats Varlamov.

Bruins fans are lucky to have such great players to watch in 37, 63, and 88. As talented as each is as an individual, they are even greater than the sum of their parts when working together, as seen in the examples above. When they are reading off each in the offensive zone, moving the puck to soft space, and scoring great goals, they feel unstoppable as a unit.

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