BOSTON – With Patrice Bergeron the verge of returning to the Bruins lineup, there’s going to be some decisions for Bruce Cassidy to make with his top forwards. Those decisions probably aren’t as easy as one might have considered at one point in time, and that was apparent again in the Bruins 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night at TD Garden.
The biggest factor that’s making the decision a tough one is David Krejci, and the way that he’s played in the last eight games while centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Krejci scored a third-period goal in Thursday night’s win over the Ducks and has five goals and 11 points since getting elevated to top line status for a Bruins team that needed an offensive boost.
Well, Krejci turned out to be the ultimate booster shot and gave the Bruins the closest thing they could have to the normal Perfection Line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. Certainly, Krejci is a little different as a player with his East-West game rather than Bergeron’s mostly North-South game, and the Czech center’s penchant for slowing the game down rather than speeding it up.
There’s also the difference in face-off skills and overall defensive ability, but what’s been learned over the last few weeks is that Bergeron and Krejci are both still quality players in the middle dependent on their wingers.
“It’s obviously been fun, those two players are really good players they make things happen. It’s been lots of fun,” said Krejci. “[Sticking together with them] is kind of out of my control. I’m just going to go out there and do what I do, play with the players I’m going to play with. [I’ll] try to create the things that I’ve been doing the last few games with Marchand and Pastrnak.”
It’s not just Krejci, either, as Marchand has four goals and 12 points over those last eight games, and Pastrnak finished with three goals and 14 points with Krejci setting him for high-skill strikes from all over the offensive zone.
Clearly, Bergeron is going back with Marchand, and possibly Pastrnak too, if he’s healthy enough to play Saturday as has been the case over the last eight seasons. There’s a reason why they’re considered the best forward line in the NHL, and keeping them together is literally the easiest call in the world for the head coach. But the decision clearly also isn’t as easy as it was two or three weeks ago, and makes one take an ever-so-brief pause to recognize some of the best work that Krejci was put together over the last three or four seasons.
“We’re assuming Bergy, [Patrice Bergeron] he’s very close [to returning]. We don’t know [when] but let’s say it is [over the next few games]. Then you know, we’re going to have to look at ‘Do we want to set all the lines maybe to balance it out?’ Or just want to drop Bergy back in there and move Krech [David Krejci],” said Bruce Cassidy. “Without [Jake] DeBrusk being in the mix, you know, I’m a little more reticent to just move Krech out of there and keep those three together. But that’s something we’ll have to look to see how Jake’s progressing, for one.
“It’s a lot of “ifs” but yeah, it’s going to be tough but a very welcome decision to have Bergy back in there. You can’t lose right? That’s the way I look at it. Whoever we put in there, whether it’s Krech or Bergy, you know, we’re a better team for whatever center gets onto the next line.”
More than likely the Bruins are going to take a look at Bergeron with Marchand, and Krejci with Pastrnak in forward pairs that they can build around.
That’s certainly the biggest upside for the Bruins. Bergeron and Krejci back as the 1 and 1A centers gives the Bruins back the bedrock of their roster. Even better, these last few weeks have also shown the B’s that Krejci still has the ability to elevate his game if he can be furnished with a couple of top goal-scoring wingers on either side of him. That should be a message to Don Sweeney that the No. 1 trade deadline priority for this team is finding a veteran winger that can finish off some of Krejci’s set-ups.
Maybe it will be Wayne Simmonds, or Artemi Panarin, or Vladimir Tarasenko, or Jeff Carter, or somebody that isn’t even on anybody’s trade bait radar to this point.
It’s too difficult to tell at this point what the future will hold on that front, but these last few weeks prove that Krejci still has the kind of game to significantly impact the B’s offense. The fact that there’s even the slightest line combo question about Bergeron’s imminent return is a testament to exactly how good Krejci has been in helping carry the B’s over the last month.
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