Perfection Line 'just got lucky' in kicking into gear, demolishing the Blues

Perfection Line 'just got lucky' in kicking into gear, demolishing the Blues

ST LOUIS – As has been the case in each of the first three rounds of the playoffs this spring, there’s only so long that you can hold down the Perfection Line.

Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak finally busted through for a combined two goals and five points on Saturday night in Boston’s 7-2 massacre of the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 at the Enterprise Center. Bergeron led the way with a goal and three points including the B’s first goal of the game during a three-goal uprising in the first period, and it put far into the rearview the first two games of the series when the high-powered, pretty perfect trio combined for just a single empty net goal.

After the game it was pretty clear that the three forwards were getting perturbed about the media converging on them after a couple of so-so games in the Stanley Cup Final, with Marchand multiple times saying that they “just got lucky tonight” in finally breaking through offensively.

“Yeah, we got lucky tonight,” said Marchand, while choking down the laughter while answering the question. "We’ll take that one and hopefully we’re good next time. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. We knew we would be better, but it was just one of those nights where things bounce your way. You can’t expect that to happen every night.”

Marchand and everybody else knows that luck ain’t got nothing to do with it, but it’s pretty clear that an angry, determined Perfection Line with a point to prove is a pretty good thing for the Bruins.

It was Bergeron that started things off in the first period when he tipped home a Torey Krug point rocket on the power play, and then loudly and aggressively celebrated with his teammates at the Bruins bench. Then it was Pastrnak just 41 seconds into the second period making the Blues pay for incorrectly attempting to challenge an offside play on a goal, and he popped in the PP rebound of another Torey Krug shot from the point.

Both Marchand and Bergeron picked up the helpers on a Krug point blast on the PP that chased Jordan Binnington from the game when it was a 5-1 lead for the Black and Gold, and that was enough for the top line to ensure Boston once again had the home-ice advantage. The trio still only combined for 10 shots on net and 14 shot attempts overall and there wasn’t any 5-on-5 production in a trend that’s been consistent during these Cup Final. But it won’t really matter if Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak can be that efficient and deadly as they were on the man advantage on Saturday night, and it doesn’t really matter where the goals come from as long as they arrive against a Blues team that’s outgunned offensively in this series.

The best part is the Bruins sounded genuinely unsatisfied after just blowing the doors off the Blues, and have their eyes on the goal.

“We are comfortable playing in these kinds of games. Now we need to refocus and just get back to it tomorrow,” said Pastrnak. “We know that we still haven’t played our best. But we won and now we need to meet tomorrow, watch the video and get even better. That’s our focus in this group. We’ve got a lot of good players so we know we can elevate even more.”

And the Bruins collectively were confident it was going to come from their top three forwards just like it has all season. Pastrnak smirked when asked what kind of pressure those three put on themselves to step up and score in this pivotal Game 3 win, and gave the perfect answer in response to the question showing A) their general annoyance at the criticism over the first couple of games and B) just how sky-high their confidence is after lighting up opposing teams for the better part of the last two seasons as the NHL’s most prominent line.

“I don’t know,” said Pastrnak, when asked how much pressure they felt to perform after going silent in the first two games. “From a [scale] of 1-10 about a ‘2.’ Yeah. It’s about time that we get going. But the whole playoffs we’ve had all the lines going, and that’s how a team works.”

The numbers back up the notion that it just takes a little time for Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak to figure out the other team in each of the three previous playoff series. In Games 1 and 2 of each playoff series the Perfection Line has combined for just four 5-on-5 points with a minus-17 in eight games during this playoff run. In Games 3-7 of the playoff series thus far the top trio has combined for 19 goals, 39 points and a plus-29 in 12 games played this far in this postseason.

That pretty much tells the story that it takes a couple of games for the Perfection Line to assess their opponent, figure out what’s going to work and then get to work on exploiting whatever matchup they’re going to be in for a best-of-seven series.

The good news for the Bruins?

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak are now locked in on the Blues after their two-goal outburst in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final series, and need only two similar uprisings to capture the Cup and prove once and for all that there is something pretty damn perfect about them as a trio.

Talking points from Bruins' 7-2 win over Blues>>>

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Jack Studnicka the next great hope for the Bruins at center position

Jack Studnicka the next great hope for the Bruins at center position

Jack Studnicka didn’t participate in any of the on-ice activities during Bruins development camp a couple of weeks ago, but the 20-year-old clearly remains Boston’s best hope as a top-6 center of the future as he approaches his first full pro season.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound center skated with the Black Aces and served as a reserve for the Bruins during their Stanley Cup playoff run, so he had been skating up until the Final ended in early June. That was the reason for his absence from the ice, but he still participated in the week, served as a leader among the Bruins prospects and continued to sound a determined, confident tone when it comes to helping the NHL team.

It won’t happen, of course, but Studnicka is so intent on getting to the NHL as fast as possible that he volunteered to play wing this coming season while knowing that the Bruins will have openings on the wing in NHL training camp.

“Anything to help the team, in my eyes. I’ll play any position. Obviously, my goal is to play with the big club, whether that’s right wing or center, I’m just going to work as hard as I can and compete,” said Studnicka, talking to the Bruins media with a pair of missing front teeth after an incident in the OHL last season. “I think going into any camp, you’re in the wrong place if you’re goal isn’t to make the team. That’s my goal going into this year, that was my goal last year and the year before. It should be everybody’s goal to come here and try and compete and play at a high level.”

That’s the sound of a kid that’s hungry to get to The Show.

That’s excellent news for the Bruins with a pair of top-6 centers in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci that are on the wrong side of 30 years old. They could really use some young blood down the middle when it comes to their top-6, even if it’s a player that’s NHL-ready a year or two down the road, as both Bergeron and Krejci hit their mid-30’s.

The numbers were excellent in his final season at the junior level with 36 goals and 83 points for Oshawa and Niagara in 60 games played for them, and another 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 11 playoff games before going pro. During that time he showed off the playmaking, the goal-scoring, the two-way play and the leadership that’s been part of the package since he was drafted in the second round back (53rdoverall) in 2017.

“I think I can contribute offensively and that’s what I’m going to be looking to do,” said Studnicka. “And just compete. Doing all the little things right. That’s something the Bruins always talk about along with winning battles. I just want to show them that I can compete at the NHL level.”

It’s a game the Bruins are looking forward to developing up close at the AHL level in 2019-20 and then deciding how quickly his ascension will be to the NHL level. One of his potential competitors for an NHL spot has gone back to Sweden in Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and another in Trent Frederic doesn’t have quite the same high-end offensive ability that Studnicka should have when he gains full maturity as a hockey player.

“He was very good,” said Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner. “I think a testament to who that kid is, he gets traded to Niagara and he’s wearing a letter to the team he was traded to within a month. That’s impressive. That means you’re stepping right in and doing the things coaches see from leaders. [He had a] good season."

“He continues to do the little things in the game that translate to being a good pro, When he came to us in Providence at the end, he had some good playoff games, stepped right into the lineup. (Niagara) lost on a Sunday or Monday and he was in our lineup three days later. He’s just continuing to grow, adding strength. He’s still skinny. He’s working at it and he’s doing everything he can. It’s just taking a little time with him.”

Studnicka had a goal and two points in four playoff games for the Providence Bruins at the end of the AHL season, and then practiced all spring with the Bruins while traveling with the NHL team and getting an up-close look at their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

That experience made him equal parts adept learner and anxious reserve awaiting for his own chance to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But there’s no substitute for getting to watch Krejci and Bergeron prepare every day, even if it was from the outside watching inward.

“That was awesome,” said Studnicka. “One of the best times of my life. You get to watch the Stanley Cup Finals live. You get to travel with the team and see what it’s all about and you can just soak things in. Obviously, it was the stage for them and they deserved to be there.

“[It was] an unfortunate ending, but to be there to see it all unfold right in front of my eyes was really cool. [Bergeron and Krejci] are two high-end players in the National Hockey League, they have been for a long time and they will continue to do that. So you see what they do on the ice that’s given them success over all those years.”

Hopefully Studnicka was paying close to attention to No. 37 and No. 46 during the playoffs because he might just be called upon to help them as soon as next season if he shows that is game is NHL-ready at his next development phase in Providence.

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Danton Heinen "wanted to be an offensive guy," now Bruins need him to be more of that guy

Danton Heinen "wanted to be an offensive guy," now Bruins need him to be more of that guy

Danton Heinen knows that his numbers dipped from his rookie season to this past year’s sophomore campaign where he posted 11 goals and 34 points in 77 games. Still, the 24-year-old earned a big pay raise with his two-year, $5.6 million contract signed earlier in the week to avoid salary arbitration, so he knows he’ll be sticking around in Boston for the next couple of season.

Heinen will also be looking to regain some of the offensive mojo that he lost from the first half of his first NHL season when he scored 11 goals and 33 points in his first 43 games. Since then Heinen has just 16 goals and 48 points in his last 111 games, and he finished with a very quiet two goals in 24 games during Boston’s Stanley Cup playoff run.

So the young winger knows he’s going to need to start gaining a little ground back offensively headed into his third NHL campaign and regain some of that hungry swagger that he seemed to have coming right out of the game in his rookie campaign. The Bruins will need it after watching Marcus Johansson leave in unrestricted free agency with some pretty big job openings on the right wing side on two of Boston’s top three lines.

Certainly, there are young players that will get cracks at top-6 winger positions headed into next season, but Heinen is a guy that has the potential to clinch one of those gigs if he can find his offensive confidence. The responsible two-way play is definitely there and he’ll play no lower than third line wing on next season’s Bruins team, but the feeling is that there is certainly a higher ceiling for a player that left college hockey after two dominant seasons at the University of Denver.

“I’m going to continue to work on [the little details] because I think if you’re good at the little details good things happen, and you’re put in better spots on the ice. I’m going to continue to work on those details and then when you get chances, grade-A looks or [chances to] be an offensive guy that’s kind of… do your follow up there. That’s the kind of player I see myself being,” said the 6-foot-1, 188-pound Heinen. “Coming into the league, I wanted to be an offensive guy. I wanted to, you know, create more, and I’m going to keep on working at doing that, trying to produce more for the team.

“I think I also need to, you know, kind of get in a mindset where I’m shooting more and am more confident in my shot because, you know, different opportunities I might pass up or whatever. I believe in my shot, and I believe I can score. I think it’s just continuing believing in that and working on it.”

To Heinen’s point, his shots on goal dropped from 135 in his rookie season to 114 shots in the very same 77 games played last season. Some of it is about firing more pucks on the net and seizing the good scoring chances when the puck is on his stick. Some of it is about getting stronger in the battles areas of the ice and simply going there more often than he does right now.

The Bruins have certainly placed the investment in Heinen that they believe he’s going to take the next step offensively after carving out a nice, little third line winger niche for himself over the last couple of seasons. Now it’s up to the 24-year-old nice kid from British Columbia to seize the opportunity he’s been given and unlock some of the hidden parts of his two-way game that never fully emerged in a sophomore season where he was invisible on the ice a little too often.

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