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.