The Boston Bruins switched up their lines coming out of their COVID-19/holiday break, and the results have been so positive that head coach Bruce Cassidy should give these combinations an extended chance to become permanent.
Not only have the Bruins won five of their six games in the New Year -- including impressive victories over two top teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals -- many players have raised their performance to another level or two.
Three such players are left winger Taylor Hall, center Erik Haula and right winger David Pastrnak. This new-look second line has given the Bruins a huge boost offensively.
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Monday night's dominant 7-3 win over the Capitals was the latest example. The Bruins tallied 22 shot attempts, 15 shots on net, eight scoring chances and outscored Washington 1-0 in the 13:58 of 5-on-5 ice time this line played Monday, per Natural Stat Trick.
In the six games since the B's returned from their two-week hiatus, the Hall-Haula-Pastrnak trio has been a positive driver of puck possession, scoring chances and goals scored during its 61:30 of 5-on-5 time together during that span.
The change in lines has perhaps benefitted Pastrnak more than any other player. The superstar winger was playing well before the New Year, but his stats (most notably his goals scored and shooting percentage) were below expectations for someone of his caliber.
Pastrnak has now scored five goals in his last four games, giving him 13 in 32 games overall. His second goal against the Capitals, assisted by Hall, essentially put the game out of reach in the second period.
Hall also has seen a big improvement in his play over this time. He's tallied eight points (two goals, six assists) in six January games. After losing his center, David Krejci, in the offseason, Hall has finally found two linemates that compliment his skill set. His ability to be a quality playmaker has really shown during this stretch alongside Haula and Pastrnak.
Speaking of Haula, he was the Bruins' most disappointing offseason acquisition for much of the season until the calendar flipped to 2022. He has a five-game point streak after scoring a beautiful goal versus the Capitals.
Haula being the No. 2 center has totally rejuvenated his game. He had only one stretch of consecutive games with at least one point (Dec. 2-4) before his current five-game scoring streak. Half of his 10 points in 31 games have come over the last two weeks. Haula was signed to add speed and scoring depth to the lineup, and he's finally providing that after the lineup change.
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Pastrnak has played with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron for most of his career. Cassidy often has been hesitant to break up that trio, and with good reason because it's arguably been the best line in the sport over the last four or five years.
But sometimes change is good. The Bruins added a lot of new players into the mix over the offseason, and it takes time to build chemistry and find the best line combos after so much roster turnover. Cassidy has struck gold with his new-look second line, and he should absolutely give it an extended chance to become a permanent trio.
If the Bruins can have two excellent lines -- which has been the case in January -- they will be in much better shape come playoff time.