Bruins

Bruins offense is top-heavy again; could Anders Bjork provide a spark?

Bruins offense is top-heavy again; could Anders Bjork provide a spark?

BOSTON — Much as they did last season, the Bruins have an offensive balance issue this year despite winning five of their first six games to start the regular season.

Sure, it’s great that the B’s are 5-1-0 and that David Pastrnak is in the NHL’s top five in both goals and points after his four-goal outburst in Monday afternoon’s win over the Anaheim Ducks. But a look at the Bruins stat sheet also shows a real top-heavy problem when it comes to their offense. Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have scored 11 of the team’s last 14 goals over the last five games, which is great for them and not-so-special for everybody else.

Aside from the aforementioned red-hot Perfection Line, fourth-line center Sean Kuraly is the only other Bruins forward who's scored even more than just a single point this season, and he’s got two assists in six games thus far this year. Some of it is about some very slow starts to the year offensively for some of Boston’s skill players, some of it is about injuries that have dogged David Krejci early in this year and some of it is about two goals called back against Colorado that would have padded Jake DeBrusk’s stat line a little bit in the early going.

 
BRUINS POINT LEADERS  
David Pastrnak 10
Brad Marchand 9
Patrice Bergeron 5
Torey Krug 4
Sean Kuraly 2
11 Players with  1

Clearly Bruce Cassidy is concerned and said it was a front-burner issue for him after watching Pastrnak drop four goals against the Ducks on Monday afternoon.

“It’s not in the back of my mind. What’s on the forefront of my mind is more the other guys, what could we do to help them get going?” said Cassidy, when asked if the top-heavy nature of his offense was in the back of his mind after Monday’s victory. “What can they do themselves to help themselves? As a coach, is what I’m thinking about.

“I’m happy they’re on, they’re going and the power play unit’s found their mojo again. That’s good. But my mind’s more on the other group. How can we help them out? We’ll keep looking at it.”

The disappointment has been across the board as the second line hasn’t done much outside of the goals called back against the Avalanche, and Charlie Coyle has been silent along with the rest of the third line since a good opening game against Dallas. With young wingers like Karson Kuhlman, Brett Ritchie and Danton Heinen yet to get going this season, perhaps the time has already come for the Bruins to dip into the minor leagues and call up Anders Bjork.

The once highly regarded prospect had an excellent training camp before being one of the last cuts to Providence, and the 23-year-old Bjork is off to a hot start with the P-Bruins, piling up three goals and five points in his first four games. He’s bringing speed, offense and two-way play to the table for the P-Bruins as he did in his best moments in Boston while healthy over the last two seasons, and it was a foregone conclusion he’d be back up with the Bruins at some point this season once he got his game going.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in Providence last weekend to watch Bjork play in person, and saw for himself that the young winger is operating at a high level right now while finally healthy.

Whelp, it’s going right now in Providence in a big way. So perhaps it’s time to send a non-performer like Kuhlman or Par Lindholm down to the P-Bruins, and bring up a guy in Bjork that could add a little spark to a slow-starting group of Bruins forwards this season.

It can’t hurt for a Bruins team that’s once again searching for ways to diversify a top-heavy offense that was the exact same issue this hockey club faced for most of last season as well.

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Talking Points: Torey Krug steps up the physicality, shows leadership in Bruins win

Talking Points: Torey Krug steps up the physicality, shows leadership in Bruins win

GOLD STAR: He didn’t factor in the scoring at all, but credit Torey Krug as one of the Bruins leaders that stepped up and showed some attitude in a needed win over the Penguins.

It was Krug that got into a shoving match with Patric Hornqvist in front of the bench, and then continued it with a hockey fight after they both got out of the penalty box.

Krug finished with six shot attempts and a takeaway in 16:06 of ice time, but it was really a team-wide showing of physicality and attitude that elevated the game of the Bruins and got them back into the winning flow against Pittsburgh. Krug was one of the key guys that got them there even as he was an unlikely 5-foot-8 combatant that won his bout with the sandpaper-playing Hornqvist.

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BLACK EYE: Evgeni Malkin was pretty invisible for the Penguins in this one. He was challenged early and often by Zdeno Chara in the game and that seemed to render him pretty ineffective after that point against the Bruins.

Malkin finished pointless with a minus-2 rating and had a whopping three giveaways over his 19:21 of ice time. It was a harmless little swipe at Jaroslav Halak in the first period that really started setting things off as Chara grabbed Malkin and roughed him up in the corner afterward. That started the two big-bodied players going at each other for the better part of the evening.

Most times Malkin is going to lose that battle as he did on Thursday night.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins fell down by a 1-0 score early in the game as Sidney Crosby scored in the opening minute, and that could have been a big time problem on another night. But the Bruins were determined to make this a prolonged, invested all-around effort right from the drop of the puck. They did exactly that when they fought back to tie the game, and then go ahead by a goal when Par Lindholm redirected a Karson Kuhlman pass down low.

The Bruins outshot the Penguins 12-10 in the period and overcame the early deficit with some hard-nosed, determined physical play and some digging in by their bottom two lines coming up with a couple of goals in the secondary scoring department. Once they did that they had the momentum on their side.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jaroslav Halak had been struggling a little bit of late, but he pulled together after allowing a bad goal in the first period to the Penguins.

Halak stopped 29-of-30 shots and was brilliant at the end of the second period when the Penguins went on a 2-on-none shorthanded breakaway with Halak making four different saves to keep Pittsburgh from tying up the game. He stoned Zach Aston-Reese at least four different times with point blank chances from the front of the net and never buckled even as the B’s broke down just a little bit.

Halak's performance is a good sign that he is going to backstop the B’s to some good things as he’ll be given the starting nod for a few games in a row with Rask (concussion) on the shelf right now.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of registered hits for Chris Wagner on the stat sheet, which is kind of ridiculous given that the fourth line winger threw at least four or five of them in a tremendously physical game against the Penguins.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought tonight was a pretty good first step to getting back to who we are.” –Bruce Cassidy on the B’s overall effort in a 4-1 win over the Penguins.

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best right wings right now?

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best right wings right now?

Arguably the most explosive talent in the NHL resides at the right wing position where the top two players (David Pastrnak and Patrick Kane) are on pace to easily cross 40 goals and 100 points this season, and the third player is last year’s Hart Trophy winner.

There’s also the amazing young talent at the NHL’s right wing spot with players under 25 years old that include Pastrnak, Brock Boeser, Andrei Svechnikov, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Travis Konecny.

In other words, this is a stacked list that doesn’t even include Patrick Laine. These are the top-10 right wings in the NHL right now.

Click here for Joe Haggerty's full right wing rankings