With the bye week upon us, we present a five part series breaking down Boston’s 17-3-3 run over the last two months, and how the Black and Gold have gone about making the surge from Atlantic Division bottom dweller to legit playoff contender. Today we look at the Bruins offensive explosion over their extended successful run.
Judging by the raw overall numbers, the Bruins have been a good, above-average offensive team this season. They’re sixth in the NHL scoring 3.2 goals per game and rank 11th in power play success rate, and have consistently been no worse than average during even their lowest points this season.
But they have completely exploded in the 11-game point streak that led into the five day bye week while outscoring opponents by a 46-19 margin over that course, and have blown out the Hurricanes, Islanders, Blue Jackets and the Senators a couple of times during that span.
So what’s been the key to the Black and Gold lighting the lamp with impunity over the last month worth of games?
BEHIND THE B's SURGE
- Part Three - Turning defense from weakness to strength
- Part Four - After Rask's tough start, goalie tandem fuels Bruins run
It’s about two different things that are essentially working in tandem that has recently made the Bruins pretty darn close to unstoppable for other teams.
One is the sheer dominance of their stacked top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, who caught fire again right before the bye week with Bergeron’s four-goal outburst in their squashing of the Carolina Hurricanes. Marchand and Pastrnak share the team lead with 17 goals on the season, and the three Bruins forwards lead the team in points while giving teams everything they can handle on a nightly basis.
Marchand is on pace for 39 goals and 91 points this season, Pastrnak is set to nearly match last season’s production with 34 goals and 79 points and Bergeron is on pace for 35 goals and 69 points as “weak link” of the stacked forward trio. Even more impressive the Perfection Line has given up just a single even strength goal in their time together this season, a single goal allowed in a one-sided road win over the Islanders. Bruce Cassidy put that line together while injuries were hitting the Bruins hard in the opening months of the season in order to give them something they could rely on offensively. Now they’ve become so good together playing the 200-foot game that there’s no good reason to try and break them up.
“We have three really good players. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] is about as good a 200-foot player as there is in the league. He can obviously score goals but defensively…I knew he was good coming to the team, but when you watch him on a nightly basis, he’s always in the right spot. He is never is out of position and he’s always hard on the puck when it’s around him,” said David Backes. “From that, Marchy gets to open up his offensive side of things. Pasta [David Pastrnak] does the same thing and Pasta is certainly a very special offensive talent. March [Brad Marchand] just as well."
“Marchy maybe helps a little more on the defensive side of things but they’re a pretty special combination when they are together. They play power play together so they get a lot of that commonality. They get the consistency and they produce. We love having that. I don’t know what you do as a game plan to shut them down, and hope someone is going to beat you with somebody else. They are also a matchup line that’ll play against another team’s best line, but they’ll get the better of that matchup. That’s a nightmare, I think, for coaches.”
The real secret behind Boston’s big offensive splash over the last two months has been the scoring depth that’s backed up the B’s top line. Danton Heinen has brought a scoring and playmaking touch to Boston’s third line, and is among the NHL’s top rookie scorers while playing the very same 200-foot game that Bergeron and Co. are working on the top line. The 22-year-old Heinen is joined by a solid two-way center in Riley Nash, and a resurgent David Backes as he plays the best hockey of his Bruins career since returning from his diverticulitis surgery.
Heinen is on pace for 21 goals and 64 points as a rookie left winger on the third line, and Backes is on pace for 22 goals and 47 points despite missing 17 games in the first half of the season. Even better they stepped up and provided the bulk of the offense in recent weeks when Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak hit a rare slow patch in their production.
“We have talked about it. We need it, different lines contributing. Some nights, they all do it at once,” said Cassidy. “It seems lately we are getting a lot of those five, tonight seven-goal games. You know that is not going to continue forever, but good for them. I don’t think they’re cheating or it’s dumb luck. They are playing the right way.”
Add to that a second line of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Ryan Spooner that’s beginning to take shape and a fourth line of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari that’s actually influenced some games with their high-effort and blue collar approach, and the Bruins have a forward group where Bruce Cassidy can roll his four lines. This has allowed the B’s head coach to selectively limit the amount of ice time thrown on the shoulders of Bergeron and Marchand, and it makes it much more difficult for opponents to key on one particular group in efforts to shut down the Bruins.
“I think our goal-scoring has come around, and a lot of that has to do with us being healthy for one of the few times this year. In the last few weeks we’ve had our full lineup out there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “You’re starting to see us be a harder team to check and match up against because we’ve got a lot of different lines scoring. The first part of it is to keep the puck out of the net and do the right things defensively, and then the rest seems to take care of itself for us.”
At least that’s the plan on most nights when all things are equal for a B’s team that’s done a very good job of playing front-runner over the last couple of months. If they keep scoring at their current rate up and down the lineup, that trend isn’t going to be changing anytime soon for them either.