Let’s keep it simple and break it down this way: In their three postseason wins this spring, the Bruins’ Ghidorah of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak totaled six goals and 23 points. In their two losses? Not a single goal, nor a single helper.
“Clearly it matters when your top players aren’t scoring,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy offered before Monday’s game. “We do believe that we can win without them scoring. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet, but we do believe that can happen.”
And despite Cassidy’s confidence in the other 15 skaters, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the Bruins need in Monday’s Game 6: another dominant performance from the most dominant line in hockey.
For the first two games of this series, the Bruins got exactly that.
Pastrnak broke a Wayne Gretzky record and wore a funny hat in his postgame press conference while Bergeron answered questions about him in French. And Marchand was quietly piecing together an incredible postseason start, with a goal in six points in his opening 35:38 of play. Everybody was smiling while the Leafs were fuming and without a prayer. The Bruins even found some more smiles and magic in a Game 4 played without Bergeron, which still seems beyond shocking given his all-situation importance, as Pastrnak fed Marchand for the game-winning goal.
But outside of that Game 4 spurt, that ‘puck-luck’ has largely faded out of frame despite some strong performances in the offensive zone, leaving the B’s in dire need of a signature performance with some tangible results.
“Game 3, I think Pasta had some great chances. He had a post and an open net, and a spectacular save [by Frederik Andersen]. For him, it was the chances not going in. Saturday, Pasta had 18 shot attempts, and Marchand had a number,” Cassidy said. “For me, I don’t think it’s necessarily they’ve been held out of the game, but they’ve been in check because [the Leafs] have done a good job and the goalie’s made saves against them.”
In fact, Pastrnak’s suddenly-snakebitten offensive game is beginning to border on incredible. Only two players (Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson) have missed more shots than Pastrnak (11) this spring. He’s hit the post on four separate occasions in five games this spring, which is the most in the NHL, and is just four shy of matching the eight posts Pastrnak rang in an 82-game regular season. Or, in other words, Pastrnak has managed to hit half a year’s worth of posts in just five games. Brutal.
Marchand, meanwhile, had four of his six shot attempts blocked this past Saturday, and has seen nine of his 28 shot attempts in this series blocked by a Maple Leaf skater. And with six misses, as well, Marchand has struggled to be his normally sharpshooting self. This was especially noticeable in Game 5, as Marchand could not come through with the timely goal you almost expected him to snipe during a 1:34 five-on-three advantage.
But to Cassidy’s point, they’re getting chances… and that should continue tonight.
For as much as we’ve fixated on matchups in this series — and rightfully so, as Mike Babcock is perhaps the most matchup-obsessed coach in hockey today — Bergeron’s line is not one that’s been slowed down by what the opposition has thrown at them. Despite being matched up against the best Team-X has to offer on any given night, the Bergeron Line finished the regular season as the league’s best possession line on the road, and scored the eighth-most five-on-five goals in such situations.
They’ll draw another tough assignment Monday, too, as Babcock has reunited Nazem Kadri with Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner. Bergeron’s line handled this line the last time around in Game 3 — though with a massive downgrade with Tomas Plekanec in the then-suspended Kadri’s spot — they just didn’t bury the goal needed.
The odds alone say that that’s unlikely to happen three times in the same series.
And the B’s need to end this series and prevent a do-or-die Game 7 in Boston — where reasoning, statistics, and all rational thought jumps out the window and onto the Zakim Bridge — says it can’t.
Ty Anderson 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 Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.