The Boston Bruins have long been considered a “one-line team,” and that’s not such a bad thing when that one line features Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak.
You’d think that the Bruins would have lost Game 7 against the Maple Leafs and Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, what with that one line essentially being held scoreless.*
Nope. The Bruins won both of those games, which leaves them with a 1-0 series lead against the Blue Jackets to begin Round 2.
[Read all about the Bruins’ 3-2 OT win here.]
* – Bergeron scored an empty-netter in Game 7, but it was a 5-1 goal that barely beat the buzzer and meant even less to the outcome of that decisive contest.
Consider some of the less-obvious players who’ve come through for the Bruins lately, and we’ll ponder how likely it is that they’ll be able to continue to contribute.
But first, an obvious player, as Krejci is a player whose play (73 points this season, tying a career-high) screams that the Bruins really haven’t only been a one-line team, in the first place. It’s probably true that Krejci isn’t quite the pivot who topped all playoff point producers in 2012-13 (26, seven more than anyone else) and 2010-11 (23), but he remains worthy of more attention than he gets on a team with justifiable spotlight-takers in Bergeron, Marchand, and Zdeno Chara.
The Bruins might end up needing even more from the supporting cast members below if Krejci needs to miss some time. NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that Krejci is considered day-to-day, and it’s possible he got hurt here.
Even if Krejci plays, there’s the chance he wouldn’t be at full-strength, so these players may need to continue to step up as the series moves on to Game 2 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC; stream here).
[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
The headline-grabber, naturally, is Coyle. He was already heating up during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Game 1 was his masterpiece, as Coyle scored the goal that sent Game 1 to overtime, and then tapped home the 2-1 OT-winner.
If you ever want a snapshot of how dramatically luck can shift from terrible to incredibly friendly, you could do worse than to look at Coyle right after the trade deadline versus Playoff Coyle.
Through 21 regular-season games after being traded to Bruins: two goals, six points, a pitiful 4.8 shooting percentage on 42 SOG.
Through eight playoff games: five goals, six points, an absurd 35.7 shooting percentage on 14 SOG.
Obviously, the truth about Coyle is somewhere between the guy who couldn’t buy a bucket during the regular season with Boston, and the player who’s scored a goal on his last three shots on goal.
Coyle finished 2018-19 with 34 points, but he generally strikes as a 40-50 point player, and has shown a decent ceiling with a career-high of 56 points in 2016-17. You can’t really expect spectacular scoring from Coyle, but if this run really heightens his self-confidence, he could really give the Bruins a chance to win the depth battle, at least some nights. That’s not as spectacular as scoring OT goals, but in the likely event that the top line starts scoring again, it makes the Bruins frightening.
Goal scorers are the guys who “hit the long ball” to a great passer’s Maddux, but you merely need to watch replays of the two Coyle goals to see that Marcus Johansson was just as instrumental in those tide-changing tallies.
It’s tough not to root for a player like Johansson. When he was traded from Washington to New Jersey, it seemed like the Capitals got cap-crunched, and the Devils were really building something. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to a bad hit by Johansson’s now-teammate Brad Marchand, Johansson suffered serious health issues, and really hasn’t been the same player.
The Bruins were smart to give Johansson a shot via a rental, though, and the B’s could really be onto something if he finds chemistry with Coyle. Johansson’s 30 points in the regular season are actually a lot more impressive when you consider that he was limited to 58 games played, and if he can stay healthy, the Swede could put together a stellar contract year (er, contract playoff run?).
Again, don’t expect Coyle and Johansson to do Game 1 things during the rest of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet the chemistry and confidence could start soaring at this rate.
(And, hey, Coyle’s contract ends after 2019-20, so really, they’re both more or less playing for their futures.)
As the Bruins’ frequent second-liner alongside Krejci, DeBrusk quietly put up 27 goals despite being limited to 68 games. He had some memorable moments during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and remains a strong contributor for Boston. In fact, if Krejci misses time, DeBrusk could show how much havoc he can create on his own.
Sean Kuraly/Noel Acciari/Joakim Nordstrom
OK, these guys weren’t exactly high-scorers during the regular season, and their contributions might not be super-dependable. Acciari’s goal on Sergei Bobrovsky to start the scoring in Game 1, and Kuraly’s big 3-1 goal against Frederik Andersen in Game 7 of Round 1 were both goals that the netminders really should have had. Still, if those guys can get the occasional goal and avoid being deep underwater on tougher nights, that could be big. (Some nights will be easier than others.)
Kuraly, in particular, shows a nice burst that can cause headaches for opponents, and his possession stats have been positive so far now that he’s managed to get healthy enough to appear in the playoffs.
Don’t let some hit-posts and other near-misses fool you; the Bruins are still going to lean heavily on their top trio, and barring health issues or a truly profound cold streak, they’ll likely deliver.
You need another players to pick up during the grind of the postseason, particularly against teams that are gameplanning to stop Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak. The Bruins have been getting needed contributions from their supporting cast, and while that luck is almost certain to eventually cool off, there’s a solid chance that Coyle and Johansson could be bigger contributions than they were during the regular season.
That makes the Bruins a scary postseason opponent, especially if Krejci’s issues are short-lived.
The Bruins hope to build on their 1-0 series lead against the Blue Jackets in Game 2 at TD Garden at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday (NBC; stream here).
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.