By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
For a bit longer than I’d like to admit, I’ve felt like an idiot whistling past the graveyard when it comes to the superhero first line with Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
Even after a regular season that saw the duo scored nearly half of Boston’s total goal production, the questions about the postseason remained in the back of my mind. Their three-game effort in the round-robin tournament, which included zero wins from the team and just as many goals from the trio, did nothing to settle these concerns. Both Bergeron and Marchand said they’d be fine, with the latter admitting that they considered the round-robin to be “preseason” games. I had heard this before.
Just last spring, with the Bruins in the middle of a postseason run that came just one win short of a Stanley Cup parade, Bruce Cassidy essentially said he was going down with the ship and wasn’t breaking ’em up.
In a postseason tournament that’s already straight-up bananas, and with the team acknowledging that this feels like a tournament “anybody” an win, you had to wonder how long of a rope this all-world line could be afforded given its top-heavy build and obvious importance to Boston’s offense. If these guys weren’t going, then who? (Chris Wagner’s team-leading two goals through the round-robin, while happily welcomed, didn’t seem like a sustainable model for a Cup.)
A year older and playing in a bubble, going down with the ship didn’t seem like a truly viable option this time around.
But after Game 1, the ship is still intact, the concerns feel settled, and we’ve since converted the graveyard into a high-rise condo with a full-service J.P Licks on the ground level. (But, like, not in the ‘Poltergeist’ way of converting tombs into homes, I swear.)
Because this line absolutely walked the walk to a 1-0 series edge.
“These guys are battle-tested,” Cassidy said after the win. “Certainly Bergy and Marchy. Pasta has been through it, [but] not as much as those guys. We’ve got a lot of trust in those guys.”
With the Bruins playing from behind from the fourth straight game, it was a set play from yesteryear (February, probably) that brought the Bruins back even; Bergeron wins an offensive-zone draw, Marchand wins a retrieval, and sends a beauty of a pass through two Carolina defenders to hit it on Pastrnak’s tape, and Pastrnak sends it through Petr Mrazek.
If you felt butterflies, that’s fine. Nature is healing.
If this game were happening a week ago, it falls apart with Bergeron kicked out of the faceoff, Marchand’s Pastrnak-bound pass bouncing off a skate or going 20 feet wide on soupy conditions, or Pastrnak missing the net or going for the extra pass. This time around? It was created and finished with the precision that made this line an unmatchable threat during the regular season.
Then came the second overtime frame, with the trio on the ice to deny a chance against the Sebastian Aho line, and then carrying play through the neutral zone and towards Mrazek, with Pastrnak feeding Bergeron for the game-winner.
“A lot of times it’s Bergy in the middle where he chips it to Pasta and Pasta is the one zipping it,” Cassidy noted. “But that is the beauty of that line, is they can all make the plays and they can all finish. Not surprised at how it played out in terms of which guys scored and who made the plays, because we’ve seen them all wear both hats in terms of playmaking and goal scoring.”
Again, the precision alone was a welcomed throwback to mask-free days and being able to, you know, live your life without having to worry if you’re standing one Pastrnak apart from one another.
“Overtime is them, the faceoff play was them,” Cassidy said following the victory. “They missed a little bit of that in the round robin. Tonight, they know that there is a little more at stake as well. Put those two things together, those two factors together and we knew they’d be there and competing. And competing at a high level. And when they do that, they’re so talented and smart that they know things are going to happen for them and they did.”
Perhaps most important, however, was the line getting back on the board while also winning their battle against Aho’s line.
It wasn’t always pretty, but 63-37-88 trio went out there and basically challenged the Aho line to match their commitment to a 200-foot game with every single shift. You could argue that that’s what earned the Bruins the victory, actually, with Aho coming through with an incredibly weak back-checking effort that gave Bergeron entirely too much time and space to beat Mrazek.
In a battle of power-on-power, the Bruins’ best prevailed. And you can beat that Aho & Co. will at some point punch back. Their performance against the New York, against a preeeeetty garbage own-zone Ranger team or not, tells you this grouping has some raw talent that’ll shine through the second they’re given some daylight.
But right now, and for the first time since landing in The Bubbled Six, Boston’s top line has both the confidence and the results.
“We’re a confident group, confident line,” said Bergeron. “I think we got better as we went on in the round robin. Obviously you want more, you want to keep getting better and taking the next step, especially we thought that tonight was a really important game, starting round one, so we had to put whatever was behind us in the past and get some rhythm going.”
Matt Dolloff and I talked about the performance of the Bergeron line and other Game 1 topics in a bonus episode of the Sports Hub Sidelines podcast. Have a listen below.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.