By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is going to have an awfully hard time breaking up his superhuman first line with Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
They’re just waaaaaaaaay too dominant.
Reunited for the second straight game Thursday night in New Jersey, the line accounted for three of Boston’s five goals, totaled eight points between the three of them, and looked like anything but a line that recently lost its right winger for five weeks.
In two games since Pastrnak’s return to action from a thumb injury that sidelined him for 16 contests, the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak has been on the ice for 21:25 of five-on-five action.
In those 21 minutes and change, the Bruins have controlled possession at an otherworldly 82.3%, outshot the opposition 15-4, and outscored them 2-0. The Devils stink, sure, but the Islanders entered their head-to-head with Boston in first place in the Metropolitan Division and having the benefit of last change and getting their desired matchups as the home team.
It doesn’t matter what you do. They’re simply too damn dominant.
“When they’re going, they pull the rest of the guys along,” Cassidy said after the win. “It’s been a bit of the story of our team early in the year. Now we’re seeing more secondary scoring. But they’re certainly our go-to guys, our drivers.”
And at the risk of reading too much into a late-March lineup, but I have a feeling this is the first line Cassidy is going to roll with come Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If Cassidy was more interested in putting Pastrnak with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk in the postseason in an effort to spread the wealth, that’s where No. 88 would have been plugged this week, really. After all, it would make infinitely more sense to put him with those guys and work on their chemistry versus exploring the potential of Charlie Coyle moving from third-line center (where he really needs to be in the postseason) to second-line wing.
Is it the best long-term play for the Bruins’ Cup aspirations this spring? Well, that remains to be seen.
But right now, with this line looking every bit the unstoppable force they were earlier this season, it’s real hard to argue against it.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 5-1 win at The Rock…
Sean Kuraly leaves with apparent hand injury
Slick hands can get you plenty of assists in this league.
But it turns out a bruised — maybe even broken — hand did the same for Bruins center Sean Kuraly in this one.
Sean Kuraly blocks Santini's slapper and Heinen goes the other way and buries a goal.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 22, 2019
Most painful assist of Kuraly's career — who's in rough shape. pic.twitter.com/GT4jOy8e45
Kuraly’s block could lead to a tough blow for the Bruins, really, as the lefty is playing some of the best hockey of his NHL career of late, and has really grabbed a hold of an elevated role within the B’s forward group in recent weeks.
Tuukka Rask is straightening his game out for Bruins
Just your regular Tuukka Rask check-in from the Felger-appointed Skipper of the Boo-Hoo Tuukka Crew: It would appear that Rask has shaken off what was a terrible week with back-to-back solid showings. Of course, Rask has faced just 35 shots over his 120 minutes of hockey, but stopping 34-of-35 is stopping 34-of-35.
It’s a whole lot better than allowing 14 goals on 92 shots (an .848 save percentage) like he did in that aforementioned week.
Rask is likely to get Saturday night off, meaning Monday night in Tampa Bay will be his next big test.
Marchand hits Savvy milestone
With three helpers in this one, Brad Marchand has officially hit the 90-point mark for the first time in his NHL career. In fact, it’s the first time any Boston skater has hit the 90-point plateau since Marc Savard accomplished the feat in 2006-07.
“[Marchand] just keeps getting better,” Bergeron said of his long-time linemate. “He’s an elite player in this league, one of the best left-wingers in the league and I think he’s proving that from one year to another.
“Obviously those numbers don’t lie, but also just the work that he puts in every day.”
Marchand has eight games and needs just 10 points to reach the 100-point mark.