BRIGHTON, Mass. – Against a different opponent, it’s entirely conceivable that the Bruins might have broken up their Perfection Line, and gone with a different right wing along with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron for their top forward trio.
But there’s no simply no way the Bruins were going away from Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak after that threesome nearly single-handedly destroyed the Maple Leafs defense in last spring’s first-round series, and did it to them again this season in four regular-season meetings. Marchand (three goals, nine points), Bergeron (one goal, eight points) and Pastrnak (five goals, 13 points) teamed up for nine goals and 30 points in the seven-game first round series while routinely torching the Toronto defenders, and then teamed up for seven goals and 19 points in four regular-season games this season with Pastrnak scoring six of those goals all by himself.
So when it came to the Leafs, keeping those three together was the biggest no-brainer of all-time for Bruce Cassidy and his staff. But it’s also true that those three would be pretty confident against anybody after back-to-back 30 goal seasons for all three of them.
“Certainly we look at that. They’ve had success against a lot of teams. But last year’s playoffs they were obviously excellent. They started well against Tampa and then we ran into some scoring issues, but I think we didn’t defend well against Tampa either so I don’t want to put it all on the scoring,” said Cassidy. “But I think those guys are certainly feeling good about their game. Pasta is a little bit younger, but I’m sure Bergeron and Marchand are going to be feeling good no matter who they play. They’ve been around long enough and they’ve won, so they know what it takes. Pasta is still learning and getting a better appreciation for it.
“It might affect [Toronto] a little more because they’re the ones that the damage is being done to, So they probably have looked at it a little closer than we have.”
That’s really the point.
The Bruins top line puts all kinds of fear into a soft, mistake-prone Leafs defense, and those are exactly the kind of advantages any team is looking for headed into the series.
To their credit, those three players aren’t going to simply expect the points to come, however, and they know they’ll be locked in an intense battle with the Auston Matthews line during the series as they were last spring. Instead it’s a new slate of games with Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak all knowing that the gaudy stats from last spring aren’t going to carry over without effort, execution and the kind of chemistry that can’t be artificially made.
“You rely on everybody in the playoffs and you need everybody to be playing solid for you. So I don’t think there’s a line that’s any different than that. That’s the type of team we are where everybody contributes every night. It’s been great,” said Bergeron.
Pastrnak was sounding similar tones less than 24 hours before the start of the series.
“We are a pretty confident line overall, but we just try to play our best every game,” said Pastrnak. “We don’t look past the other side and just play every game. Obviously we have a lot of chemistry, so we’re really excited [to get going].”
The bottom line: The Bruins are going to keep hammering Toronto with their top line until they find some way to consistently stop them, and it stands to reason that it isn’t going to happen in the playoffs after 11 games worth of evidence over the last calendar year.
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