NHL on NBCSN: Can the Bruins find enough offense?

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. Bruins-Devils stream coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Boston Bruins have been in a bit of a funk over the past month, winning just six of their past 17 games entering Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils (5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Go back to the start of the season and the biggest concern with the Bruins may have been their depth on defense after losing Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara to free agency without bringing in anybody from outside the organization to replace them. Defensively though, the Bruins have been strong this season with some more strong goaltending from the duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak and some great defensive work from the blueliners in front of them, particularly Charlie McAvoy.

The concern instead is a similar one that has existed with the Bruins for years. That concern? Do they have enough scoring depth beyond their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak to make a significant difference.

When that line is on the ice — or even any two of them — the Bruins play at a championship level.

With any of two of them the Bruins attempt more than 60% of the total shots, control more than 54%of the Expected Goals, and outscore teams by a 22-13 margin. Overall, they average 3.55 goals per 60 minutes.

When all three of them are on the ice together they control more than 64% of the shot attempts, 58% of the expected goals, and outscore teams by a 17-8 margin. About as dominant as you can get.

But when none of those three are on the ice during 5-on-5 play, things badly regress.

[COVERAGE OF BRUINS-DEVILS BEGINS AT 5:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

At various points over the past few years the Bruins’ scoring depth has been an issue. It is an extraordinarily top-heavy team with a significant chunk of the team’s offense coming from those three forwards. Entering play on Monday Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron are the only players on the team that have scored more than eight goals this season. Together, they have scored more than 46% of the team’s goals.

When none of those three are on the ice, the Bruins plummet to below 50%, while they get outscored by a 33-25 margin.

When all three are on the ice, the Bruins score 4.34 goals per 60 minutes. It is 3.55 with any of two of them. With none of them, their offense drops all the way down to just 1.55 goals per 60 minutes. That is the lowest that number has been in five years for the Bruins. This is a problem and a concern because top-heavy teams do not tend to win the Stanley Cup. If the Bruins are going to get through the East Division playoffs and then compete with the other top teams in the NHL they are going to have to find some sort of offense beyond the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio. You can only go so far with just a single line.

So how do the Bruins fix this?

The easiest solution is improvement from within.

The quartet of David Krejci, Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, and Jake DeBrusk has combined for 14 goals this season, and as a group have scored on only a collective 7% shooting percentage. That is 3-4 percentage points below what you would expect that quartet to shoot at. All of them are capable of more and should be expected to provide more.

But would that be enough?

The Bruins are in a pretty good position with the salary cap this season and could add some significant talent ahead of the trade deadline. When the season began you might have expected them to be in the market for a defenseman right now. And while they could certainly still use some extra depth there, goal prevention is not an issue for Boston right now. It is goal scoring where they rank 20th in goals per game and are almost totally dependent on only three players.

Taylor Hall? Kyle Palmieri? Rickard Rakell? Any of them would be an upgrade to the Bruins’ lineup.

This is still a playoff team, but if it is going to compete for the Stanley Cup — seriously compete for the Stanley Cup — it is going to have to do something about that punchless offense beyond the top line.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.