They’ve been dubbed ‘The Perfection Line,’ but lately, in reality, they’ve been far from it.
Patrice Bergeron, with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak flanking, have been one of the talking points of the playoffs, especially heading into the Stanley Cup Final. In the first three rounds, the line combined for 46 points, at times taking games into their respective hands and conjuring up a win.
They earned the moniker, surely. But perfection has evaded them as of late.
Through five games, they’ve combined for nine points — four, if you take away a lopsided 7-2 win in Game 3. In pivotal games such as Games 4 and 5, they combined for just two assists.
It’s a slump the Bruins can ill-afford at the moment. Their top unit on the power play is manned by the same three players, and that power play is 0-for-5 in their past two games after going 6-for-14 in the first three.
Last I checked, perfection isn’t spelled s-l-u-m-p.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy addressed the rut during the off-day on Saturday.
The line’s production dried up both Round 2 and 3, at times, and Cassidy believes that they can work themselves out of it again, particularly Marchand.
“We asked him to attack a little more,” Cassidy said. “What happens with Brad is if the puck’s not going in, he wants to make plays for Pasta, because Pasta can score, Berg, they’re all 30-goal scorers, so [Brad] defers a little bit.
“We tried to get him out of that mindset and just play. If the pass is there, obviously make it, but don’t be afraid to shoot. You saw it the other night, he rang one off the post, had one cross screen and nice blocker save, [Sean] Kuraly almost got the rebound, so there was some stuff going on there for him. I thought Pastrnak was closer than that, had a block on a wraparound, so he’s getting inside. That encourages me. So I feel they’re close, but St. Louis is tough. It’s tough to get inside, they defend well, goaltender’s playing well. So it’s a good battle right now.”
If there’s a good omen here, it’s that the first time Boston faced elimination in these playoffs, perfection was, indeed, the deciding factor.
The Bruins found themselves trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in their Round 1 series. With their backs up against the wall, Marchand exploded for two goals and an assist, Pastrnak assisted twice and Bergeron added a helper of his own for a six-point night for the line and a win that forced a Game 7.
Given who the Blues have played the Bergeron line as of late, it appears Boston is going to need another one of those Herculean efforts on Sunday to send the series back to Boston for the 17th Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history — and first, ironically, since Boston won it all in 2011.
“I do believe they were better, closer to scoring than they have been,” Cassidy said. “And I’ve said it: listen, we want them to score, but we’ve gotten production all playoffs from different players. It’s why we’re still playing. That’s the mindset tomorrow. Your best players need to be your best players, but if they defend well and we have a good defensive game, you know, we’re in it, I feel someone will step up. Probably them, because they usually do.
“But same token, we don’t want to put so much pressure on them they get outside their overall game, their defensive game, because they’re a good line all-around and we don’t want them to lose that.”
For what it’s worth, Boston pushed the pace with 39 shots in Game 5, 13 of which came from Bergeron’s line, and got very unlucky when Noel Acciari was slew-footed, leading to David Perron‘s 2-0 goal that would be all the difference in a 2-1 St. Louis win.
Give that line another 13 shots and the story could be vastly different. The Bruins will be hoping that’s the case.
Blues-Bruins Game 6 is Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app.
MORE BLUES – BRUINS COVERAGE:
• Bruins vs. Blues: Three keys to Game 6 of Stanley Cup Final
• Blues looking to seize opportunity, close out storybook season
• Pucks tell the story of Blues’ rollercoaster season
• Bruins’ Chara was more than just brave in Game 5
• Chara, Dunn join jaw-dropping club of playing through pain
• Bruins, Blues in familiar places heading into Game 6
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck