The Riley Nash line is a flat-out revelation for the Bruins. Bruce Cassidy’s decision to group Nash with David Backes and Danton Heinen looks like a stroke of genius right now. And their recent performance culminated in Wednesday’s win over the Senators.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy commented on the new line’s excellent performance in his postgame comments on Wednesday. Clearly, he’s happy that Nash, Backes, and Heinen are stepping up in the absence of usual No. 2 center David Krejci.
“If the other team is really looking for a matchup, we might just put [the Riley Nash line] against their checking line to negate it because we think [Patrice Bergeron] can outplay any line in the league. We just feel that way. When [Krejci] is in and going, it’s a pretty good one-two punch.
“It depends from night to night, but generally, we want [Nash’s line] against one of their skill lines.”
One of the main reasons for the line’s success is that all three forwards play sound 200-foot games. Because of their versatility, they can play against just about any kind of opposing line and defend them well. But Wednesday night in Boston? An offensive explosion.
The Riley Nash line factored into all five of the Bruins’ goals against the Ottawa Senators in the team’s 5-1 win. Nash earned the secondary assist on Kevan Miller’s first-period goal when he forced the puck forward along the half boards. Consequently, Backes also grabbed an assist with a shot that produced Miller’s juicy rebound.
Minutes later, Danton Heinen buried his own scoring chance off a feed from Ryan Spooner. But the second period is when Nash really made his presence felt. First he scored an unassisted goal after out-working Erik Karlsson for a loose puck. Following that up, Nash outdid himself with this beauty of a sequence into the Sens’ zone and past goalie Craig Anderson:
Riley Nash Line: Stepping Up Big-Time
Nash credited the strong play of his linemates for helping him get over the hump offensively, but admitted that he was overdue to produce something for the team.
“Yeah, I think I’ve been a little bit snake bit this year,” said Nash. “It seems to be every year it kind of comes in bunches, so you know, now I get two tonight. Hopefully I can keep that rolling and feel good and maybe shoot the puck a little bit more.
“You know, I think my linemates played great. They’re both tremendous. Very good shots, so you know, it’s just give and take for our line for contributing, and I think that’s more important than anything.”
Cassidy lauded Nash for showing his surprising capabilities on offense, which don’t always show up.
“He has it in him. Been a little streaky for us, so hopefully this pushes him in that direction,” Cassidy told reporters after the game. “When he has scored, it has been very timely for us. … Tonight, it was very timely as well, so good for him for stepping up at the right time.”
Riley Nash Line: By The Numbers
— Nash’s two-goal night on Wednesday is the fourth multi-goal game of his career. He last accomplished the feat when he scored twice against the New York Islanders on March 25. He also did it on two occasions as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.
— Heinen has five goals and 13 points in the 13 games played with Nash and Backes. He now has nine goals and 24 points in 31 games this season. To put that in perspective, he’s on a scoring pace of 24 goals and 63 points over an 82-game season. That’s impressive for most NHL forwards, let alone a 22-year-old rookie fourth-round pick.
— Meanwhile, Backes is thriving with his new linemates. Since the line came together upon his return from colon surgery, Backes has five goals and 10 points in 13 games. He’s also shown his trademark physicality with 27 hits and played predictably responsible defense.
— Collectively, the line is a plus-9 in their 13 games together. Not coincidentally, the Bruins have gone 10-2-1 in that span with a goal differential of +21. That’s the best mark in the league, along with their 21 points in that time frame.
Cassidy would be crazy to break up the Riley Nash line as long as they’re playing this well. He knows that. So it will be interesting to see how he configures Krejci’s line once No. 46 is ready to return. But the success of the Nash-Backes-Heinen trio at this point can’t be overstated.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff.