BOSTON – Don’t look now but the changes that Bruce Cassidy is making with his forwards are finally beginning to pay off.
After mostly leaving the Perfection Line productively intact in the first half of the season, the Bruins head coach has mixed things up and got another two points on Saturday with a 5-4 overtime matinee win at TD Garden. Danton Heinen has scored goals in each of the last two games after getting bumped up to the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and David Krejci powered home a goal from the B’s second line in the win as well.
The mixing and matching has clearly worked well this time around for the Bruins.
“I thought [Heinen] was real good. He complemented that line well,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He made some plays off the rush to get the puck to, early on, to Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] there off the rush and drive the net, kept some pucks alive, shot the puck when it was his opportunity to do that, finished a nice play by going to the net. Defensively, I didn’t see any issues either, so I thought that worked out real well for him and the group.”
🏒BRUINS 5, KINGS 4 (OT)
It remains to be seen how long those changes are going to stay in place, but it has to give the B’s organization some confidence that they may yet have some of the best answers to their roster problems with in-house solutions. It’s also very clear it brought a whole world of confidence to Heinen, after the 23-year-old struggled through the first 50 plus games of the season while failing to match the pace of last season’s rookie totals of 16 goals and 47 points.
But those struggles seem to be fading from Heinen’s memory now that he’s been charged with top line duties -- and with that, a prime spot on the right wing with two of the NHL’s elite players.
“I think it’s always just be hard on pucks, win your battles, you know, other things will take of itself after that. So, no I mean, Bergy and Marchy [Brad Marchand] they win so many battles and so I try to put a little pressure on myself to help them out there and get them the puck,” said Heinen. “Confidence is a funny thing, but felt good tonight. I think you automatically get a little bit of confidence when you see them going in. So yeah, I’m going to try to build off of it, keep on working, and yeah build off it.”
It will be interesting to see just how much the move ends up sparking Heinen’s game, and how much an elevated performance could raise his stock around the league ahead of this month’s trade deadline. But the other big part of this equation is David Pastrnak joining David Krejci and Peter Cehlarik on Boston’s second line.
The second line kicked in a goal in the third period of the Saturday afternoon win when David Krejci fired home a shot into a largely vacant net for his 12thgoal of the season. It was a key goal during Boston’s third period offensive outburst and it also offset a few defensive mistakes that left each of the line’s members a minus-2 for the game. David Pastrnak actually one of his more ineffective games of the season with no shots on net to along with the minus plays, and all three only combined for three total shots on net.
So Boston’s playmaking Krejci was appropriately self-critical following a game that the B’s barely escaped with their two points intact.
“Sometimes bounces don’t go your way but I think we stuck with it, even when we got scored on, and we came hard again in the next shift and we had some good looks,” said David Krejci. “Obviously there is no perfect game and we know that we have to be better in certain areas but at the same time we got two points. Tomorrow is a new game so we need to get good sleep and get back at it tomorrow [in another matinee against the Avalanche].”
But the bottom line is that a number of forward line changes that Cassidy made earlier this week are pumping up the Bruins offense, and making the Black and Gold a more difficult team to defend at this point. The hope is that it will make them stay longer in the playoffs than the Bruins team that crumbled in the second round vs. Tampa.
Heinen is playing his best hockey of the season on Boston’s top line and Pastrnak has sparked Krejci in many ways with the chemistry now beginning to flow between fellow Czech forwards in Pastrnak and Krejci.
Nobody can say what exactly the Bruins are going to look like once the NHL trade deadline has passed at the end of the month, but it will arrive just as Boston seems to finally be finding some answers up front among the forward group.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.