April 16, 2018 | 2:21pm ET
By Shawn Hutcheon, The Fourth Period
BRUINS TOP LINE KEEPS GETTING BETTER
Brad Marchand, winger
BOSTON, MA -- In 1967, the Beatles released their hit song, “It’s Getting Better All the Time.” That title perfectly describes the Boston Bruins top line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand.
The line finished last season together, but Boston coach Bruce Cassidy, hoping to get more balanced scoring from his club, began this season with David Backes on the wing with Bergeron and Marchand. Cassidy’s club began the season slower than hoped and the coach reunited Pastrnak with Bergeron and Marchand and like the Beatles first visit to North America from Great Britain the rest, as they say, is history.
“We knew we had a solid fourth line in the making, in terms of the pieces,” Cassidy said. “Injuries probably eventually came around. Bergy (Bergeron) got hurt, Krech (David Krejci) got hurt, Backs (David Backes), you know (Diverticulitis surgery). So, eventually, we decided we’re going to have to win some games low scoring and ‘okay, we’re going to rely on this (Bergeron) line; we’re going to piece together responsible second, third, fourth lines that can chip in, and we’re going to win with good goaltending and strong defense,’ and then we kind of got going.
“I think it just stayed, and once they started playing well together, it was hard to break them up. I think that’s what it came down to. I think the plan, at some point, was see if we could go back to what we started, because we thought we’d be more dangerous, but it kind of evolved into where we started to win games, and that line could skate together. We were getting offense elsewhere. A lot of that, if you remember, was (Riley) Nash-(Danton) Heinen-Backes. They gave us good secondary offense and Krech gets healthy, we move (Ryan) Spooner (traded to the New York Rangers), (Jake) DeBrusk comes in – no need to do it. The reason we originally wanted to do it – last year I did it – balanced offense. But, when you get scoring from the other places, don’t need to do it. They’ve got great chemistry, and it’s worked out, obviously.”
It did not take long for Pastrnak, Bergeron and Marchand to find that chemistry, and in doing so, became one of the most dominant trios, if not, the most dominant trio in the National Hockey League.
The unit struck for 99 of Boston’s 270 goals. The three players also added 129 assists for the grand total of 228 points.
How did they do it?
Well, Marchand, who missed nine games to injury and five more to suspension, led Boston with 85 points on 34 goals (eight game-winners) and a team leading 51 assists in 68 games played. Pastrnak played in all 82 games this season and led Boston with 35 goals (five game-winners) and assisted on 45 others to accumulate 80 points. Bergeron, who missed five games at the start of the year with a lower-body injury then an additional 13 contests with a fractured foot, was the Bruins third player to register 30 goals (six game-winners). He added 33 assists for a total of 63 points in 64 games. The goal production of the three made Boston one of only two teams in the League to have three 30-goal scorers in their lineup.
With the 19 game-winning goals, the unit accounted for 38-percent of the deciding lamplighters in the team’s 50 wins.
To add to the value of the line, in games in which Marchand recorded a point, Boston enjoyed a 31-8-8 record. The Bruins were 37-10-8 when Pastrnak delivered a point and went 28-7-4 when Bergeron contributed a point.
With the three superstars leading the way, Boston compiled a 50-20-12 record (112 points) on the season and a second place finish in the Atlantic Conference and Eastern Division. Just one of five clubs to produce 50 or more victories, the Bruins finished the regular season with the fourth-best record in the League.
Which brings us to the Stanley Cup Playoffs; Boston drew the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round.
In a series that features plenty of star-power, Boston’s top line has dominated the Leafs with its defense, speed, puck handling, passing, playmaking, and of course, scoring.
After the first two contests of the best-of-seven series, Boston held a 2-0 advantage in games having outscored Toronto 12-4. And in case you’ve missed it, Pastrnak has been good – scary good.
All Pastrnak has done is lead all point producers in the NHL with nine points (four goals, five assists). Six points came in the Bruins 7-3 win in Game 2 in which he became the youngest player in NHL history to record six points in a playoff game with a three-goal hat trick and three assists.
Marchand ranked third in League scoring with six points (one goal, five assists) and Bergeron was listed as the fourth-best scorer with five points (all assists).
You would think that after enjoying such success, the linemates would be satisfied with their efforts but after the second game of the series, Pastrnak said that is not the case.
“We are playing great as a line and we’ve been together for a while,” Pastrnak explained. “We want to get better every game. We don’t think about the other team. We try to do our best and play simple and play pretty fast. I think we don’t think about what’s going to happen, just what we can do and what we can control.”
Bergeron, who along with Marchand, knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup, agreed with his young winger and expanded on how the trio goes about improving on its performances.
“We’re communicating after almost every shift about what we’re seeing and trying to change things up,” said Bergeron. “But that being said, you know, we had some good looks in the first two games, but we can’t stop there. So, I think it’s about, keep getting better, keep improving, keep putting I guess games behind us and looking forward and staying in the moment. So I think they’re (Toronto) going to adjust, we’re going to try to adjust, that’s the type of game playoffs are, so we’re going to keep going at it.”
Those words will not bring comfort to Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock.
“They’re dominating us,” the coach said. “I actually thought we got off to a pretty good start (in Game 2), and the pucks still went in the net (for Boston), so give them credit for playing really well. That line has been good on the power play, been good five-on- five, been good at the net scoring.”
And they’re getting better all the time.