New Line Combinations Help Solve Bruins’ Secondary Scoring Woes

(Photo by Brian Fluharty/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26

Before the Boston Bruins had six games postponed during December, depth scoring had been an anomaly at times for the Bruins through the first 26 games of the 2021-22 NHL season. The Bruins weren’t getting enough production from their bottom-six forwards and some of their star players, including David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall. Due to the lack of production from the front-end, Boston’s coaching staff finally decided to mix up the forward lines.

The line changes have immediately paid dividends as the Bruins have received contributions from all around the forward lineup through the past three games. To start 2022, the Bruins have gotten goals from 11 different forwards against the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, and New Jersey Devils. Part of the Bruins’ recent scoring success has been from splitting up the top-line.

Boston has heavily relied on the Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak combination through the first quarter of the season, as they contributed to 46% (31/67) of all goals scored by the forward group this year. Head coach Bruce Cassidy, in the past, has been hesitant to split up that combination for more than just a game or two. With the production Boston has gotten over the last three games, there’s no reason to believe that the coaching staff will adjust the lines again anytime soon.

In Boston’s most recent win over the New Jersey Devils, the Bruins got goals from every line except the current top line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Smith. “I think earlier this year that’s not one we win. We were letting some of these [games] get away.” After giving up the lead three times in yesterday’s game against the Devils, Bruce Cassidy said. “To get the win, you also get the timely goal… Tonight was more of the secondary guys bringing most of the offense.”

As the Bruins stand currently, they are in the final wild-card spot with at least two games at hand on the rest of the Eastern Conference teams. If the Bruins hope to remain in playoff contention, they will need their secondary players to produce consistently. As Cassidy mentioned, timely scoring is key to winning hockey games down the stretch. Boston has gotten timely scoring from some unexpected personal, including Trent Frederic (age 23) and recent call-up from the Providence Bruins Oskar Steen (age 23).

It’s been an up and down season for Frederic, who’s been in and out of the lineup. But the recent play of the fourth line with Frederic, Tomas Nosek, and Curtis Lazar has seemed to develop some solid chemistry. “Got a little confidence, I think, in Detroit, that line. Freddy gets his first. Nosek plays well, scores a goal, hadn’t in a while. Both good goals, getting to the inside ice. And again [on Tuesday] – they built off of that, and as a coach, you try to reward them.”

“I thought they were our best line tonight,” Cassidy continued. “[I] tried to get them out there a lot, as much as possible without losing the other guys. And I think they recognized that.” Frederic, who turns 24 next month, has played well recently but needs to develop more consistency in his game before becoming a full-time roster player for Boston.

On the other hand, in Oskar Steen’s five games this season, he’s collected four points, including his first NHL goal against the Devils. Steen has proven that he can be a productive forward in the AHL as he’s recorded 20 points in 16 games with Providence this season, but one could make the argument that Oskar is ready to make the jump to the NHL as he’s been noticeable in his five games with Boston this season.

While the Bruins’ depth forwards have contributed significantly over the last three games, management will hopefully address holes in the lineup in the coming weeks ahead of the trade deadline. Overall, the Bruins are trending in the right direction and will look to continue their strong play against the dangerous Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.

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