Even center Auston Matthews of Maple Leafs could not help but praise the top line of the Brad Marchand Bruins, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak between Games 1 and 2 of the first round of the Eastern Conference last week.
Although the Maple Leafs kept that line at bay in Game 1 during the 5-on-5 game, Matthews ranked the Bergeron line as the "No. 1 line in the league" this year.
The star of the Maple Leafs echoed what all members of the Bruins organization and all the Bruins fans already believed. Now, if that line could play to their exaggeration, they could stay together for the long road and lead the return of the Bruins in this series of the best 7.
Bergeron's line was completely closed again and he limited himself to seven shots on the net, in Boston's 3-2 loss in the third game in Toronto on Monday. The Bruins now follow the series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Toronto on Wednesday.
Marchand's goal in Game 2 is the only 5 to 5 score of his trio in this series. And unless something changes soon, coach Bruce Cassidy will have no choice but to break his precious line.
Toronto coach Mike Babcock had the line of John Tavares with the wings of Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman, and the defense pair of Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev, wrapped in the front line of Boston all night, and Cassidy tried to give Pastrnak a place in other lines. The right wing still played more than 70 percent of its 5-in-5 minutes with Bergeron and Marchand.
"I thought we did a good job against them, they're also an offensive line," Cassidy told the media in Toronto. "Tavares had 47 goals, Marner is a 100 point man, whatever it is, and Hyman adds up, so we have to be careful to keep them off the score sheet as well.
"I do not know if you're always in a hurry to get away from something that is a kind of spectator battle, we have to trust our other guys deep to score, we have that in Game 2. Tonight we have a good goal of[DavidKrejci>wewouldliketothinkthatitisreallyaimperimentforustohavesuccessthenwewillescapeandavoidtheline"[DavidKrejci>butifwefeelthatit'sreallyanimpedimentofushavingsuccessthenwe'regoingtogetawayfromitandbreakuptheline"[DavidKrejci>perosicreemosqueesrealmenteunimpedimentoparaquetengamoséxitoentoncesnosvamosaescaparyromperlalínea”[DavidKrejci>butifwefeelthatit’sreallyanimpedimentofushavingsuccessthenwe’regoingtogetawayfromitandbreakuptheline”
Pastrnak entered this series having owned the Maple Leafs in his career with 32 points in 22 games, combined playoff games of the regular season. He has no goals in three games, and hit only one shot on the net in the last two periods of Game 3. With time running out in regulation and knocking down a goal, Pastrnak had no choice but to shoot, and Marner blocked Boston. The last two sniper attempts that lead to the final horn. Obviously, there was no time for Pastrnak to do much more in that situation, but those attempts were a microcosm of how he and his whole line played all night.
They have moved away from playing with the synergy that made them so successful during the regular season. They are happening when they should shoot, shooting when they should go and they never really try any fixed game. The Maple Leafs are ruining the job, but the Bergeron Line has to be delayed, not only to get better chances to score, but to gain possession, since Bergeron (with the guilt of his eaves) actually lost 13 games and won only 12
– Patrice Bergeron reacts after the loss of B in Game 3: "We can be better … 5 in 5, we have to find ways to create more". pic.twitter.com/JnS9s6Bapw
– Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 16, 2019
If Cassidy, the master of the line in the regular season, decides to split his first line, the solution is quite easy, even if it is not guaranteed to work. Pastrnak moves to the right of David Krejci, Danton Heinen jumps to the front line and Karson Kuhlman falls to the last six.
Although Cassidy did not seem committed to an alignment order before Game 4, he will have to make changes one way or another. If the plan is for the Bergeron line to continue playing the Tavares line even, then Cassidy has to find more offense among the other nine strikers. Kuhlman helped with Krejci's goal and has been strong in checking costs, but a better player like Marcus Johansson (if he is healthy) could fit better in the second line. Heinen could also be an option for the second line, although his chemistry with Charlie Coyle seems to be moving forward. Coyle has been the best forward of the Bruins in this series, and maybe it's time to free him of some responsibility, move him to the right of Krejci and simply put a third line with the left forwards (Cassidy essentially threw three lines in the third) Period Monday anyway).
Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak are the Hanson Bros. of skill, nobody does what they do best. They have a family liking among them that makes them be defensive against criticism and share a stubbornness that makes them never want to break. It's time for that stubbornness to turn into production before Cassidy has to make changes to the line or for the Maple Leafs to have absolute dominance in this series.
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