Can Bruins’ top line break cold streak in Game 4?

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The Blue Jackets have introduced tough times for the Bruins’ trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, arguably the all-around best line in the NHL. Things have gotten so sour, in fact, that said best line wasn’t even always intact during the Bruins’ 2-1 Game 3 loss to Columbus, as Pastrnak found himself drifting lower in the lineup.

For those three, things have been pretty grim as the Blue Jackets carry a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Thursday (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

  • Marchand doesn’t have a point in Round 2; in fact, he’s gone four straight playoff contests without a goal or an assist, as he wasn’t able to score in Boston’s Game 7 win against Toronto in Round 1.
  • Bergeron’s also failed to generate a point in three games against Columbus. Bergeron’s most recent point was a pretty irrelevant one, too, as he last scored via a very late empty-netter against the Maple Leafs while Game 7 was well out of reach.
  • Pastrnak is the only one of those three to generate any points so far in this series, as he scored a goal in Game 2. Even so, his frustrations are palpable, and again — he slid down the lineup as Boston can’t seem to crack the code with Sergei Bobrovsky.
  • There have also been mistakes, with penalties opening up precious power-play opportunities for the Blue Jackets. Those mistakes have sometimes resulted with the puck ending up in Boston’s net.

You could summarize many of the factors and frustrations behind this slump by looking at the frantic final minutes of Game 3, where Bobrovsky held firm as Boston tried to tie a 2-1 contest.

Using timeouts and other tricks, the Bruins managed to keep that big three (and also potential scorers like David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, and Torey Krug) on the ice for about two minutes, but they still couldn’t beat Bobrovsky and a driven Blue Jackets defensive shell.

(Brandon Dubinsky ended up playing the final 2:34 of that finish. Wow.)

You can see portions of the final push in the highlights package, starting around the 3:06 mark:

Marchand, Pastrnak, and Bergeron are feeling plenty of heat from Bruins’ media and fans as they experience this unusual drought, and the tension can be seen in moments like Marchand indulging his worst instincts with that sucker punch on Scott Harrington.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is preaching discipline to Marchand, but he should also drive this point home to that top line: stay the course.

It can be unnerving to see possibilities go just short, yet at least the B’s big boys are getting their chances. Marchand generated three shots on goal in each of the past three games, plus five against Toronto in that Game 7. Bergeron’s fired away even more often, registering 11 SOG in these three contests. Pastrnak has that goal on nine SOG, and has been snake-bitten in general during his last five games, managing that lone goal (plus two assists) despite firing 16 SOG.

You can really get into the weeds and dock them some credit for two of those Blue Jackets games going to overtime but … still, that’s a pretty nice chunk of scoring chances.

Some might grumble at hearing “they’re due,” yet Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak absolutely seem that way.

Now, the uncomfortable thought is that they might run out of time before the bounces finally go their way. That’s one of the many painful things about playoff hockey; you don’t get the same margin of error when a series lasts about two weeks. Especially if, in the back of your mind, you’re wondering if a hot goalie has your number. Few goalies can create that thought quite like Bobrovsky can.

There’s also the unanswered questions about health. While Columbus healed up following that stunning Lightning sweep, Boston went the distance against Toronto, in a Round 1 series that was often nasty.

The Bruins faced plenty of injuries during the regular season, and top players weren’t immune, with Bergeron being limited to 65 games and Pastrnak to 66. Combine those factors, a physical Blue Jackets style, and a locked-in Bob, and it all starts to sound like a real grind.

Of course, everything seems worse when you’re not scoring, and not winning. Bergeron looks slower. Marchand’s antics seem self-destructive, rather than part of what makes him who he is. And maybe you linger on Pastrnak’s few flaws, rather than his prolific scoring and dazzling creativity.

All that can change quickly if the Bruins can win, and those three can produce some offense. That’s easier said than done, but if these three keep at it and shrug off the frustrations, they might just get back on track.

They’ll have a chance to do so as the Bruins face the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.