Boston Bruins

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

In defense of the Tampa Bay Lightning, they did almost everything they could against the Patrice Bergeron line on Saturday. And the line asked to stop them — or maybe it was the other way around, you never quite know when you’re talking about the best 200-foot line in the game — didn’t look lost or go missing likes those that came before.

The trio featuring Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson on either side of Brayden Point held their own against Boston’s three-headed monster, and even out-shot the Bruins with the Bergeron line out there. Having shots alone didn’t mean a thing in this game, however, as they were outscored 3-0 by the Bergeron line at five-on-five. Oh, and a member of the Bergeron line directly factored in on all six of Boston’s goals in a Game 1 blowout win over the Lightning.

As if to say, “What else do you got?”

Listen, the Lightning shouldn’t feel bad about what the Bergeron line did to them in Saturday’s victory. Point’s line and the Ryan McDonagh-Anton Stralman pairing are not the first five-man unit that they’ve buzzsawed in their own end.

And if the Bruins have their say, they won’t be the last as spring turns to summer.

In Boston’s five postseason wins, the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio has tallied 12 goals and 41 points. (They came through with three goals and 11 points on Saturday.) Pastrnak is already at 17 points through eight playoff games, meaning he now ranks in the Top 30 among forwards in terms of postseason production since 2016. I feel like this is the perfect time to point out that the Bruins did not qualify for the postseason in 2016, meaning that Pastrnak has done this in just 14 playoff games to date (six last year, and eight thus far in the 2018 postseason). He’s also done this while becoming a legitimately top-tier passing option this spring, with multiple highlight-reel dishes. Marchand, who we could all agree could be even better this postseason, has remained beyond effective, with four goals and 13 points through eight games. And with a throwback to his supremely agitating ways that’s included licks and faux-licks.

When they feel anything close to a rhythm, they pick you apart with ease. It’s actually incredible to watch.

In their three losses, they have zero goals and zero points.

But it’s not as if there’s been a massive defensive adjustment that’s led to them getting shutout in those three games.

If anything, it’s been simple misses and blocked shots that have troubled the B’s best into zeros. In those three games they’ve gone without a point, the Boston Big Three put a combined 39 shots on goal, missed 19 of their attempts, and had 23 of their shot attempts blocked. They’ve had games where they fired a combined 18 shots on goal, missed a combined nine shots, and had 10 of their attempts blocked. And in terms of possession metrics, nobody had a worse night than a 50.0 Corsi-For percentage (posted by Pastrnak in Game 3) in a losing effort.

You don’t stop them as much as they stop themselves with posts and shots wide.

But you have to wonder if and how the Bolts can throw something better Bergeron and Co.’s way.

Or if that allegedly ‘better’ option (if such a thing exists for the Lightning) can even slow this group down.

Looking back on the first round, when the Maple Leafs did frustrate them into nothin’ in round one, it was with a heavy shot-blocking game. The Lightning do not possess such a game on a regular basis — or are defined by it like the Maple Leaf defense corps has been; Tampa Bay finished the regular season with the sixth-fewest blocked shots in the league, and they currently sit as the team with the second-fewest blocked shots in postseason action.

Their regular season featured the veteran Dan Girardi as the team’s top shot-blocker, with 155 blocks.

The idea of 2018 Girardi logging double-digit even-strength minutes against a Marchand or Pastrnak should be enough to make Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy drool, by the way. Same if the Bolts say to hell with that and try to go with Braydon Coburn and/or first-year pro Mikhail Sergachev against the Bruins’ best three-zone forwards.

The McDonagh-Stralman pairing is probably Bolts coach Jon Cooper’s best (and maybe only) bet against Bergeron’s line. Same for Point’s line up front, unless you truly believe that a fresh-faced third line could hang (a risky idea in a near must-win Game 2), or if you want to go power-on-power by sticking Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov on them.

To beat the Bergeron line, essentially, the Lightning are going to have to do something out of their comfort zone.

Do that and there’s still a great chance that the trio will at the very least break even, though, as they looked beyond comfortable with how Game 1 played out for them, even with limited offensive-zone time to work their magic.

Which, on the heels of getting their heads kicked in despite a rare advance metric victory against the league’s top possession line, is probably the last thing the Lightning want to hear.

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.