By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins depended too heavily on their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak in the 2018 playoffs. Their season-ending loss in Game 5 on Sunday is what happens when that dynamic trio is suddenly silenced.
Bergeron logged an assist on David Krejci’s power play goal, but that play was mainly Krejci and Charlie McAvoy. Besides that, it was a big fat zero on the scoreboard for the top line. After an overwhelming Game 1 performance in the Bruins’ only win of the series, the Bergeron line struggled to consistently generate scoring chances against the Lightning defense and often couldn’t even get clean breakouts against Tampa’s relentless forecheck.
Sunday continued the playoff-long theme that if the Bruins can’t get Bergeron, Marchand, or Pastrnak to light the lamp as a group, they can’t get the W. They combined for 41 points in the Bruins’ five wins this playoff. In their seven losses, 12 points – five of which came solely in Game 4 against the Lightning, which the Bruins lost in overtime.
So you’re looking at seven combined points in six losses between your three best players. Especially when virtually no one below them on the roster is contributing on the score sheet, that’s a recipe for failure.
Pastrnak did fire eight pucks on net on Sunday, Bergeron three. But Marchand stood out with his subpar performance in the do-or-die situation, finishing with zero shots, a minus-2 rating, and a handful of bad decisions with the puck on his stick.
Some credit for that is due to the play of the Lightning’s shutdown pairing of Ryan McDonough and Anton Stralman. Proving their clear superiority over both Toronto and Boston as a defense, Tampa consistently patrolled the net-front area and mostly made life easy for goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, and it hit a crescendo on Sunday. McDonough and Stralman allowed just six combined shots to get by them against the Bruins’ top line, and only two were of the “high-danger” variety, according to Natural Stat Trick. The pairing also combined for five hits and four blocked shots.
A last-minute desperation surge for the Bruins in the third period gave them the ultimate advantage in some possession stats, but the reality is they spent too much of Game 5 stifled. The B’s essentially became a one-line team in the series, and on Sunday that number shrank to zero.
The B’s have many young pieces with some growing and improving still to do, but what doesn’t really need improving is the top line. Still, they came up short in the last breath of the season, which will stick out over the next few months – perhaps more than one would consider fair. There’s no doubt that they’re still one of the best, if not the best line in hockey.
But ultimately, Game 5 proved that the Bruins still depend on them too much. And if they can’t add enough scoring beyond that big three, they could continue to have early summers.
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 or email him at email@example.com.