Bruins

Bruins' Perfection Line needs to start living up to their name in Stanley Cup Final

Bruins' Perfection Line needs to start living up to their name in Stanley Cup Final

BOSTON – Once again the Bruins' Perfection Line is off to a sluggish start at both ends of the ice in a playoff series.

This time it’s two games into the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues, and Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have just an empty net goal at the end of Game 1 to show for their efforts in the two biggest games of the year for Boston.

The Bruins' top trio was shut out again and scored upon in Boston’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Blues in Game 2 at TD Garden on Wednesday night, and even one play from Boston’s top offensive players could have been the difference in a one-goal loss. That’s something Marchand certainly understood after it was all over, and was taking accountability for while remaining positive that better things would be ahead for them.

“We need to be better. Personally, I wasn’t good the last two games so we can’t be playing like that,” admitted Marchand, who finished with nearly as many giveaways (four) as shot attempts (five) in a sloppy effort where he just wasn’t managing the puck very well at all. “It’s taking care of the little details. I think that’s the biggest thing. It will come. That’s how it is.

“I think that we can control the mistakes that are being made. But that’s hockey. They just competed. Hard. They won a lot of battles in our zone. They have a lot of good sticks, so they turn a lot of pucks over and created some offense off of that.”

Marchand’s empty net goal is the only point for the trio in the first two Final games against the Blues, and Marchand (-2), Bergeron (-2) and Pastrnak (-3) all have negative ratings through the first couple of games. Compare that with the top Blues line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko, who have powered up for three goals thus far in the series, and combined for 19 shot attempts in Game 2 while dominating the all-important categories of puck possession and quality chances.

Some of it is clearly about rust after having not played in 11 days, where things like playmaking, passing and creating offensive plays can be the last things to come back when the rust has gathered. Marchand turned the puck over throughout Game 2, and that feeds into what the Blues want to do by attacking the Bruins in their own end. Certainly Pastrnak hasn’t been enough of an offensive presence in the first two games, and has been largely overshadowed by a player in Tarasenko whom he’s sometimes compared to based on their numbers and skill set.

Bergeron lost 8-of-13 draws for the Bruins, at times didn’t take face-offs when he was on the ice, and has looked at points like he’s playing through some kind of injury that’s hampered his ability to explosively skate among other things.

It’s also about playing simple, hard two-way hockey, and it’s about Marchand not busting his tail on the back-check on the second goal for the Blues when Charlie McAvoy was caught down low behind the Blues net. Or it’s about Pastrnak reversing the puck to absolutely nobody behind the Boston net in Game 1 that led to another Tarasenko goal with the Blues top players finding ways to do damage against the NHL’s best line.

“I don’t think we managed [the puck] well enough. I think we got spread out all over the ice. So, give them credit for being tighter than us and getting to pucks first,” said Bruce Cassidy. “As a result, we spent a lot of time in our end. That was self-inflicted. Some of it is how they play. They’ve done it to other teams. So give them credit for playing their game well.”

Those are the little details that the Perfection Line is usually all about, and right now they’re simply not anywhere close to perfect. They need to be better if the Bruins are going to win the Cup regardless of how much support the Bruins have received from their bottom-6 forwards, and they can’t continue to be outplayed by the top trio from St. Louis.

The good news is that the B’s top line was similarly kept quiet in the first few games in the first three rounds of the playoffs, and eventually figured things out as they pretty always do due to their elite hockey IQ, competitiveness and skill. They exploded in the clinching Game 4 of the conference final after being held down in the first three games, and there should be those kind of offensive uprisings for them in this playoff round as well.  

The big, strong and rugged Blues showed in Game 2, though, that they’re not going to be overmatched like the Carolina Hurricanes were, and that they are not a candidate to be overwhelmed by Boston’s depth. That means the Bruins' top players need to start playing like it, and start living up to the Perfection Line mantra that’s become their widely accepted nickname during this postseason run.

Because right now Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak are the Mostly Mediocre Line, and that name doesn’t have any kind of Stanley Cup ring to it. 

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EA Sports trolls Bruins' Brad Marchand for bad shootout attempt vs. Flyers

EA Sports trolls Bruins' Brad Marchand for bad shootout attempt vs. Flyers

Will anyone ever forget Brad Marchand's horrible shootout attempt against the Philadelphia Flyers from January? Probably not.

EA Sports is the latest to get in on the fun of trolling the Boston Bruins winger, and they couldn't have done it in a better way. In their NHL 20 update version 1.6.0 patch notes, EA Sports fixed an issue for every player in the game besides Marchand. 

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"Fixed a case where players other than Marchand would lose the puck at the start of a penalty shot," the patch notes said, according to gamerevolution.com.

That's pretty comical, and it seems that just about everyone is getting their jabs in at Marchand amid the coronavirus outbreak. In their last game before the NHL hit pause on the season even Gritty, the Flyers mascot, took the opportunity to bash Marchand. 

If the B's pesky winger gets word of EA Sport's latest update, it'll be interesting to see if he chirps back via Twitter.

Hagg Bag mailbag: How to restore hockey when it's safe to come out again

Hagg Bag mailbag: How to restore hockey when it's safe to come out again

We are now entering our second month of social distancing and self-quarantining and there isn’t a hockey game to be seen on the horizon. 

Maybe the NHL will start up again in June or July if things go exceedingly well. Maybe they will gather all healthy and tested players, officials and essential personnel in one location for a controlled playoff tournament that would be pretty amazing? 

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At this point, there is no way of knowing what the NHL is going to do and when we will next see hockey, but the Hagg Bag mailbag is still here to entertain and answer any questions.

As always these are real questions from real readers on Twitter using the #HaggBag hashtag, real messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and real emails to my @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email address. Now, on to the bag:  

Bruins opening night roster for next season? Stay safe Haggs!

--edmarshall723 (@edmarshall723)

JH: We’re already moving on to next season, eh? I kid. I kid. I suspect it won’t be all that demonstrably different from what we saw when the season was put on pause. I’m going to run under the assumption that Torey Krug isn’t going to be back based on the salary cap numbers likely dropping instead of rising next season with a chunk of this regular season canceled. It’s not a done deal by any means, but I just don’t think the Bruins are going to have a lot of cap space to deal with. And they still have to sign their own restricted free agent in Jake DeBrusk. So, here’s my stab at opening night lineup for next year:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Kase

Bjork-Coyle-Ritchie

Blidh-Kuraly-Wagner

 
Chara-McAvoy

Grzelcyk-Carlo

Moore-Lauzon

 
Rask

Vladar

I don’t think Joakim Nordstrom will be back, and Kevan Miller, in the last year of his contract, may not ever return to play after being out for about a year. I suspect the Bruins are going to want a younger option in Vladar, 22, backing up Tuukka Rask to gauge whether he might be the future No. 1 guy for the B’s should Rask decide to ride off into the sunset after the 2020-21 season.


Just curious but if they don't finish the season how would they determine draft standings? Would they still have a lottery? Would they just go by the last days standings? Will they even have a draft? What's gonna happen to teams that give up draft picks for rentals who would be RFAs?

--Al Volante (Message via NBCS Facebook fan page)

JH: They would have to hold a draft. I’d imagine they would go by winning percentage on the last-day standings before the season was paused, so the Bruins would have the final pick in the first round. 

It’s not really perfect by any means, but it’s probably the fairest way to do it while still holding a lottery for the bottom 10 teams. All of the little details would need to be ironed out with the draft and free agency most likely pushed back into the summer, but it’s all a fluid situation right now. 

The most optimistic plan for the NHL would be holding a playoff in July and August, pushing the offseason to September and October and then kick-starting the 2020-21 regular season sometime in November with a fairly normal regular-season afterward. That would be the absolutely best scenario if everything falls into place across our country. I’m not even sure that’s going to be possible at this point, though.

Here's my take - we are in an unprecedented time and in an effort to primarily avoid having a 1-month offseason and then a full 2020-21 schedule, I feel that there should be a 12-team format (eliminate the wild cards). 

We have to get past this "fairness" crap, because again, having a two-month playoff in August and September is simply too long. Nothing anyone can do about the times we live in, but it's too much to have the final 5 teams having a month offseason. In addition, you can also realistically re-schedule the draft, FA, awards, etc. without the season starting a month later. How this would work is all series are 7 games. You would have the 4 division winners on a bye, the other 2 teams in each division play each other for the right to go to the Conference Final.

This would mean Boston, Washington & St. Louis (more on that in a bit) and Vegas would have the byes. The first series would be (again, more on this) TB-TOR, PHI-PIT, COL-DAL, EDM-CAL. Those winners face each other in the Conference Final and then the Stanley Cup. Having 3 rounds could be done in 6 weeks. If you started a camp on July 1, playoffs start July 15 and end around the end of August. Awards & draft happen the 1st week of Sept. FA begins on Sept 15. 2020-21 season begins Nov 15. Playoffs for next season starts April 30 Now, in terms of the matchups, Boston and Vegas have a large enough lead that 1 game wouldn't change the winner.

However, Washington and St. Louis are only 1-2 points ahead of Philly & Colorado, respectively. In addition, Winnipeg is only 1 point away from Dallas. PIT, TOR, and CAL are locked into 3rd place in their divisions. So, for playoff seeding, you have ONE game prior to the playoffs starting for WASH-PHI, STL-COL, and WPG-DAL. If PHI, COL and/or WPG wins they get the division lead and bye or in WPG's case, the 3rd place spot over DAL. I leave out the other teams because, for instance, if one game were to be played, CAR couldn't catch PIT, because PIT is 5 pts up and CAR has only played 1 less game.

I understand that this would have blowback, but let's face it, any potential playoff scenario would face criticism from fans because an equal number of games have not been played. And as mentioned, the likelihood of regular-season games being played is becoming less likely each day. You have to draw the line somewhere.

--Anders Johnson (Message via NBCS Facebook fan page)

JH: I respect the thought you put into it, Anders. But there’s no way you can have any teams on “byes” at the start of the playoffs. Do you realize how much of a disadvantage a team such as the Bruins would have headed into a second-round playoff series while facing a team that had just capped off a five- or seven-game playoff series?

 It would take them two or three games just to ramp up to that level after sitting around and it would almost certainly end with them losing the playoff series while being punished as the higher seed. There would be no benefit to a bye of any kind for any teams in this playoff format. 

The best thing they could do is two rounds of five-game playoff series, then do seven games for the conference final and Stanley Cup Final. They could do that in roughly six weeks after starting in mid-July and wrap up right around Sept. 1. They could then take all of September and October off and then ramp up for a Nov. 15-ish start to the 2020-21 regular season.

Don’t forget in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the last day of the Cup Final between the Bruins and Blackhawks was June 24. The league essentially just took two months off in July and August and then came right back to work in September the following season. And it would only be two teams that would come up a little short on their rest between seasons. 

All of this may not even be possible, but it’s the best-case scenario to get in the rest of this season and then look ahead to “a normal season” next year.

Strikes [me] that the Bruins two new additions haven't really gelled with the team. If hockey comes back, do you think it will be a problem for them in playoffs? (and lets hope Ritchie is using the time off to do Chara's workout regime)

--David Sheedy (@Devilish21ca)

JH: Ondrej Kase hadn’t played in almost a month due to a concussion injury prior to getting traded to the Bruins, so he was just getting back into midseason form when things were put on pause. Nick Ritchie seemed to just be finding his legs and his style of play while getting moved around the B’s lineup.

They definitely hadn’t jelled, but now everybody is going to be in the same boat when hockey gets going again. So, I don’t think it will be a problem specific to new guys such as Kase and Ritchie as much as it will be an issue for every player. 

Right now most NHL guys have a stationary bike, dumbbells and maybe a swimming pool to train while in quarantine. Almost nobody is skating, so you will have a mass of hockey players that haven’t skated in months by the time things get going again. 

That is going to turn into some very rusty, sloppy hockey when things do get going again…whenever that is going to be. That will be as much of a challenge as whatever the ice conditions might be if the NHL tries to hold the Stanley Cup playoffs in July and August.

Thoughts on Clone Wars Season 7 on Disney+ so far? #HaggBag

--Alissa (@CurvyMermaid617)

JH: I have not seen it yet as I hadn’t really watched all of the Clone Wars in the past. But I do now have a ton of free time. So I will be watching after I bought “The Rise of Skywalker” on the first day it was available on-demand. We are desperate for entertainment in the Haggerty house. Stay safe everybody and we’ll talk again soon!