The Case for splitting up the Bruins Top Line
It is obvious to everyone with a pair of eyes that the Bruins’ line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand is the best line in the NHL. It has been this way since last season, and before that they were at least in the upper tier regarding production. They all bring something different to the table. They all compliment each other well. So why do they need to be split up?
Depth scoring is incredibly valuable to a hockey team, let alone a hockey team that competes at the highest level of the game. Look at recent Stanley Cup champions and you will notice a trend: you need production from your top three lines.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are a great case study. They were so deep for their back-to-back cup runs that they were able to use Phil Kessel on the third line….let that sink in. Phil Kessel is an elite scorer. Since he joined the Penguins in 2015-16, he’s averaged 27 goals a year. He would be a first liner on any team, as he often is for the Penguins, but they recognized the need for depth scoring. Two cups in a row is a pretty good result.
The Bruins have none of this. Last season, when they won 50 games in overtime or regulation, advanced to the second round of the playoffs, and looked dominant for long stretches of time, they struggled at times with depth scoring. However, they had massive contributions from their second and third lines, even if it was not consistent. This season the top line either scores three goals and the team wins, or the team gets shut out.
This season the top line has scored 25 of the team’s 44 goals, good for 55%. It speaks to the lines’ acumen, but that means 45% of the scoring is divided between three additional lines. In other words, it is not enough.
Change is hard. Ignoring your eyes is even harder. The mere thought of breaking up a dominant scoring trio is maniacal, but there is a twist. There are 82 games in an NHL season, so what is the harm with experimenting for a week or so? If it pays off then Bruce Cassidy looks like a genius. All of a sudden you have scoring from different lines and can exploit matchups. Teams cannot simply roll out their best triplets of defensive forwards and dictate the game. If it doesn’t work, you take a couple losses and then group them back together. Oh how simple coaching can be.
Now it is easy for me to say this from behind a keyboard while a coach has a job to keep, but Cassidy is playing with house money. He brought Boston its best season since 2013-14 a year ahead of schedule. Prior to last season the Bruins were pegged as a team that can make some noise in the regular season and then get bounced in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Instead, they were one of three juggernaut teams in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. He is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Switching up these lines to help even the scoring may be the key to boost the Bruins this season. If it doesn’t work, so be it. If it does, you may have just found the secret formula for continued success.
– Trevor Brumm, WTF Sports Contributor
Edited by Scott Edwards