BOSTON – After watching the Perfection Line drop five goals and 11 points on the Ottawa Senators just a few days after Brad Marchand racked up assists on all four goals in the 4-0 shutout against the Buffalo Sabres, it’s clear that the Bruins top line is rolling. It also seems like the Bruins fourth line is jelling after the B’s smartly decided to drop Sean Kuraly back to the fourth-line center between hard-hitting, smash-mouth wingers Chris Wagner and Noel Acciari.
Wagner scored his first goal as a member of the Bruins in Monday’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on a high tip of a Charlie McAvoy point shot, and it looked like the three forwards were already getting comfortable with each other.
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It’s the other two lines – David Krejci’s line and a third line that’s still being tinkered with – that still register as unknowns for Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. There isn’t much offense coming from those two forward groups even if Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato had some really good puck possession shifts in the offensive zone. So, Cassidy must decide whether to leave things as they are for a while to allow the chemistry to build, or to continue tweaking, tinkering and adjusting until he finds what he’s looking for.
“Yeah, some of the line combinations,” said Cassidy, when asked what he still doesn’t know about his Bruins team. “There were a couple lines tonight that I thought could’ve been better, and they’re going to have to sort out their chemistry in their own end and how they’re going to attack.”
With both Krejci and Donato with one point each and DeBrusk with zero points after three games, they’re also going to have to sort things out in the offensive zone as well if they’re going to support Boston’s top trio. On the plus side, Cassidy did like what he saw of 34-year-old David Backes back playing center between Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen, so perhaps that will be something the B’s will try out for a while.
“I kind of like Backs [David Backes] in the middle. I think [Anders] Bjork had his legs under him tonight. Anders just has to learn how to manage the puck, when to make plays, when not to hang onto it because he’s got it a lot,” said Cassidy, of a line that combined for eight shot attempts in Monday’s win over the Sens. “it’s just for him to figure out, okay if I do give it up in this league it’s tough to get it back, so we’d like him to possess it even more.
I liked his speed. Danton’s [Heinen] game was coming. He was very responsible, so I thought that line worked out well for us. David can only speak to how he liked being in the middle of the ice. It’s one game, but certainly, that’ll be the plan going forward unless something changes in the next few days.”
One thing is for certain: Cassidy is going to have to find the proper combinations with the players he now has on his NHL roster. Both Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic are weeks, if not months, away from potentially pushing for their NHL looks, and wingers Zach Senyshyn won’t be supplanting the likes of Bjork, Donato or Heinen anytime soon.
So with two lines starting to jell just three games into the regular season, Cassidy is still looking for the magical fit for his other six forwards that will begin to unlock the secondary offense that the Bruins will most desperately need against quality opponents.