Why the Bruins top line is the best in the NHL right now
Consistency. It’s a word in sports that’s become cliche whenever a coach or player answers a performance-based question.
As cliche as it may be, it’s the perfect word to use when describing the play of the Bruins top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak this season.
Unlike previous times where Bruce Cassidy was forced to use the trio as part in a top-heavy lineup due to injuries, the Bruins bench boss has a stable crop of forwards at his disposal. Yet, he still puts the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line front and center.
Sure, it’s tempting to put Pastrnak with fellow countryman David Krejci to even out his four lines. But the play of Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Spooner during this 16-game run gives Cassidy two valuable wingers to play with Krejci on the second line. That, along with a solid bottom-six of Riley Nash, Danton Heinen, David Backes, Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari gives the Bruins four solid lines.
“They’re playing really well,” Krejci said following practice at Warrior Ice Arena Monday. “…I think they are one of the best lines in the league. And for me, and I’m sure for the other guys, we just enjoy watching them and learning [from them] as well. You know, just learning on how they kind of feed off each other where they go to the open spaces and find each other. When you have the best line in the league practicing every day with you — and you sit on the bench and watch them from up close — then that helps the team.”
What sets the top line apart from some of the other formidable trios in the National Hockey League? Their stickhandling and offensive skillsets with the puck are worth marveling at for sure.
Their puck pursuit, however, is a trait that really stands out. It’s the one that Cassidy really enjoys to watch, particularly during the Bruins 4-1 win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday night.
“Probably, the ability of the three of them to win pucks back,” Cassidy said about the strength of the Bergeron line. “Every goal in Montreal the other night, they had a hand of winning a puck — even the disallowed goal [in the third period], Marshy [Marchand] won the puck behind the net and in one motion got it to the front.
“It’s something they do so well, and it’s a reason why they’re so hard to play against. I know they all have individual skills, but they’re 200-foot players and they just never quit on pucks. I think that’s why it’s so hard to play against them.”
They’ve been hard to play against since Marchand’s return on Nov. 29. In that 23-game span, the trio has accounted for 34 of the team’s 90 goals (roughly over 37 percent of the B’s offense) and 83 points while accumulating a plus-51 rating; along with 56 points (25 goals, 31 assists) and a plus-33 rating during the Bruins 16-game point streak.
“We’re trying to get better every day and every game is a new challenge for us,” Pastrnak said to the media after his three-point night in Montreal on Saturday. “Obviously these games are special and you always get hyped up…it was a good game and a good week for us.”
A good week that resulted in Marchand being named the NHL’s third star of the month with seven points in four games.
The offensive numbers from Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak are something to marvel at. So is their defense.
More than halfway through the season, the Bruins top line has allowed just two, yes two, five-on-five goals. That stat is impressive in its own right, but it’s even more telling given that the trio goes up against other team’s top lines on a nightly basis.
Alex Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Connor McDavid are just a few of the marquee players in the NHL today. All have solid linemates to work with, but none are more formidable than Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.