By: Pierce Brody | Follow me on Twitter @PierceBrody3
There was a lot to like in the up-and-down game one: obviously the win, but also the dominant third period and a shutdown performance by Linus Ullmark despite his short, spotty playoff history. However, it’s hard to overlook the first half of the game, where the Panthers were sustaining pressure and the Bruins were producing very limited chances. While playoff jitters and playing with a near-full strength lineup that hasn’t been together consistently can certainly be blamed, it’s clear that there’s room for real improvement.
Earlier in the day, we learned of the stomach bug making its rounds in the Bruins’ locker room, which eventually took Patrice Bergeron out of the opener. The Bruins have dealt with intermittent absences all season and continued their dominance. Another Bruins win despite losing their top-line captain was almost more expected than an early playoff stumble. While they led nearly the entire game, without Bergeron, it never felt like they had an iron grip until midway through the third period.
Bergeron is still a similar offensive force to what he was throughout the bulk of his career, with 27 goals in 78 regular-season games. Even playing with an aged Brad Marchand and without David Pastrnak, Bergeron has kept up his solid pace. This Bruins offense as a whole is the best since the early 90s, making it built to succeed without him. Yet, that’s not what we saw Monday night.
None of the Bruins’ goals were very pretty (except the no-look pass from Tyler Bertuzzi), as two were off rebounds and one was from poor goaltending. The playoffs are ripe with rebound goals, and converting on those chances is encouraging, but there was a clear lack of consistent, cohesive offensive pressure. Partway through the second period, it was noted that the patchwork line of David Krejci – Bertuzzi – Pastrnak was not playing well offensively or defensively. With Pavel Zacha moving up to center the top line, Bertuzzi had to develop quick chemistry. Zacha did his best attempt at a Bergeron impression, but his line produced only five shots and one lucky goal. Only the fourth line centered by Tomas Nosek produced fewer shots.
Perhaps Coach Jim Montgomery will need to reshuffle his lines again to find the right level of familiarity and complementary play. Leaving the Czech line alone may be his best bet to have reliable top-tier offense. Despite Charlie Coyle never being a top-line player, his puck possession skills flanked by the pestilent skill of Marchand and the speed of Jake DeBrusk may be a better combination than the redundancy of Zacha’s skill and speed. That leaves Bertuzzi to flank Trent Frederic along with Taylor Hall. This may be a new combination, but the skill and grit of all three of these players should make up for the novelty of the situation.
Overall, the Bruins’ performance in game one of the playoff series was a mixed bag. Although they managed to secure the win, their lack of consistent offensive pressure and defensive struggles in the first half of the game cannot be ignored. The absence of Patrice Bergeron was certainly felt on both sides of the ice. As the Bruins prepare for Game Two without their captain yet again, we can only hope that Coach Montgomery has another solution for the intermittent offensive stagnation.
going to have to make some changes