NHL On NBC: Bruins have found second scoring line

NBC’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Bruins-Penguins stream coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

There are a lot of reasons for the Bruins to be happy with their performance since the NHL trade deadline.

Not only because they have won six of the seven games entering Sunday afternoon’s meeting with the Penguins. But also for the way they have won them.

Overall, they have started to look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders again with the way they have played. They are carrying play, they are controlling the shots and scoring chances, and they just seem to have made the right additions to complement their core. But the biggest development might be the fact they have finally managed to piece together a second scoring line that is capable of taking over a game.

Before the trade deadline the Bruins were one of the most top-heavy contenders in the league, relying almost entirely on the top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak to carry the offense. How top-heavy were they? In the 39 games before the trade deadline the Bruins were scoring just 1.55 goals per 60 minutes when that line was not on the ice during 5-on-5 play.

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That is not great, and not encouraging for their chances come playoff time. A lot of times in the playoffs each team’s top lines can tend to cancel each other out, either by shutting each other down, or by matching each other goal for goal. It can then come down to which team has the better secondary options. No matter how great your top players are they are not going to score every single game. Somebody else has to be able to contribute. One line teams do not tend to win championships. The Bruins, for most of the season, were a one-line team.

That has not been the case since the trade deadline when the Bruins added Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres (as well as defenseman Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators).

Those additions have helped completely transform the Bruins offense.

Hall has found a spot on the team’s second line alongside long-time center David Krejci and offseason free agent addition Craig Smith.

In the seven games that unit has played together they have not only given the Bruins a reliable and capable second line, they have been completely dominant.

Just look at the numbers so far.

  • In 73 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time that trio has outscored teams by a 6-1 margin.
  • They have controlled more than 64 percent of the total shot attempts, scoring chances, expected goals, and high-danger chances when they are on the ice together.
  • They are averaging more than 80.4 shot attempts per 60 minutes and 4.92 goals per 60 minutes.

That is not just the performance of a strong second line. That would be a great performance from an outstanding first line.

The impact on the Bruins as a whole has been night and day from what we saw before the deadline. The Bruins are now averaging 2.94 goals per 60 minutes when the Bergeron line is off the ice in the seven games since the trade deadline. That is nearly a goal-and-a-half more per 60 minutes than they were scoring before the trade deadline.

It is not just Hall that is driving that.

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Smith has been just as important and is starting to find his place with the Bruins after a slow start. He was one of the focal points of the Bruins offseason and at the time seemed like one of the better long-term free agent signings in the league. His surge in production actually pre-dates the deadline as he had 18 points in his past 20 games while also helping to drive possession the way he did throughout his career in Nashville.

Krejci has seven points (four goals, three assists) in the past seven games as well.

Each player is good on their own. Together, they have been a perfect fit.

The Bruins now have two scoring lines they can count on for offense. With players like Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk that have track records indicating they are capable of more, and players like Nick Ritchie and Lazar rounding out the rest of the lineup, the Bruins are not that far away from rolling a truly balanced lineup.

(Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick)

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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