By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn
One topic that has generated much controversy this season is Jim Montgomery’s rotation of players in and out of the lineup. When A.J. Greer was moved to the scratched list after a hot start, Bruins Twitter cried out at what was deemed a great injustice. In retrospect, the fans may have had a point, as Greer has recorded just one point in his last seven games after five in his first four.
Early in the season, Montgomery shows that he is not a believer in the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Bruins’ new head coach has constantly tinkered with both the forward and defensive lines despite the team jumping out to a historically good start to the season. In the recent matchup with the Vancouver Canucks, he made another interesting decision, reuniting the “perfection line” by flipping David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk on the first and second lines.
This move caught my attention before the 2011 Cup Final rematch. Typically, a coach at the helm of a team that cannot stop winning will do whatever it takes to keep things the same. The Bruins were also scoring at a clip that we simply haven’t seen from our hometown team in a long time. Shaking up the forward lines amid such a hot streak seemed odd.
Thankfully, the change didn’t seem to throw off the team’s mojo. The Bruins took care of the Canucks both physically and on the scoreboard. The big three of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Pastrnak have played well together all season in the limited time they’ve had, even scoring a goal-of-the-year candidate against the Sabres in the game before their reuniting. Against the Canucks, the trio all notched at least one point, again showing their capabilities.
I don’t mind Montgomery playing around with different combinations as long as the team is playing well. When the playoffs come around, though, he’s going to have to know what his best lineup is so he can give the team the best chance to win. That got me thinking about what the best lineup – or at least the best top six – actually is.
I think there are a few factors to consider with this question. Of course, there is the obvious question of who the best six forwards actually are. Based on how this season has started, I would say the top six are Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, David Krejci, Taylor Hall, and Jake DeBrusk. I don’t think many people will disagree with that evaluation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone threw in a guy like Pavel Zacha.
The next question that needs to be answered is the best way to set up a top six. The Bruins have two options. They can play a top three and a second three, or they can try to even out the skill across the two lines. It’s a callous choice, but I think I’d like to see the skill split up for the playoffs.
When Pastrnak plays on the first line, it’s one of the best lines in all of hockey. However, I think the team gets more out of the top six when they split him up from Marchand and Bergeron. We’ve seen Pasta play great hockey when playing with Krejci and Hall. The two speedy wingers are significant assets for Krejci, a masterful passer.
The main reason to play Pasta on the “second” line is Jake DeBrusk. DeBrusk has played his best hockey over the past two seasons when he’s on the top line with 63 and 37. He’s a player that likes to be trusted and respected, and I think giving him first-line time makes him feel valued. We’ll see what the B’s can get out of him on the second line in the next few days (or as long as this experiment lasts), but I think we’ve seen enough of him on the lower lines over the years to know that if this doesn’t work, the first line is his only option.
Regardless of who plays on which line, the Bruins have looked excellent to start the season. Jim Montgomery has pushed all the right buttons, so I will trust him and have his back until he gives me a reason not to. As long as the team keeps winning, I’ll have no complaints! Feel free to let me know on Twitter what your preferred top six would be! My handle is at the top of the article, as always.