How can the Bruins get more secondary scoring?
On Thursday, you saw a glimpse of a more balanced Bruins offense.
In other words, the team won a game without needing a goal from their elite top line.
In the Bruins’ six wins, Thursday’s 3-0 shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers marked the first victory of the season where neither Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, or David Pastrnak scored a goal. There have only been two other games this season where the linemates were held completely off of the scoresheet.
And they’ve scored a lot. The Bergeron line is responsible for 19 of the Bruins 34 goals through the first 10 games.
So, where’s everyone else?
“We’ve said it. We think they’re coming,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy responded when asked about secondary scoring on the team.
He’s not technically wrong. Jake DeBrusk scored his third goal of the season on Thursday while the Bruins had the man advantage. Meanwhile Zdeno Chara — though not a forward — book-ended the goals with a wicked slapper from the point to start, ending with a 190-foot wrist shot into an empty Philadelphia net.
Second line anchor David Krejci also netted his second goal of the year during the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the lowly Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.
“I think David’s been real good in terms of driving that line,” Cassidy said. “If it can trickle down now to the D and the forwards, or the third and fourth line, then now we’re really talking, and I think any team would tell you that.”
Still, it’s been a slow start offensively for anyone not wearing the numbers 37, 63, or 88 in black and gold. This is happening for a few reasons. For one, Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak have become one of, if not the most productive line in the NHL. And Cassidy relies on them as such.
Consider this: the Bergeron line is on the ice as a 5v5 unit 25.6% of all games combined, according to Left Wing Lock. That’s the eighth highest frequency for any line combination in the NHL. Their 19 combined goals, however, make them one of the most productive forward trios.
But out of those nine teams with the highest frequency of pairings, the Bruins’ combinations after the Bergeron line become significantly less consistent.
Take the Toronto Maple Leafs for example. The line of John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Zach Hyman is playing first line minutes and is on the ice as a 5v5 unit 26.6% of all games combined. The second line — or, maybe the other first line — of Auston Matthews, Kasperi Kapanen, and Patrick Marleau are at 19.2%.
The next closest to the Bergeron line? The new-look second line of Krejci, DeBrusk, and Danton Heinen at 9.8% frequency. For further reference, before Thursday’s game, it was the once-fourth line of Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari at 9.3%.
Cassidy has been juggling the lines trying to find a spark of chemistry. Because of injuries and younger players trying to find their game in their first or second NHL seasons, secondary scoring has been less than consistent.
“Anytime you get secondary scoring, it’s huge,” DeBrusk said. “I think it helps to play more games together and kind of understand how we play.”
Another factor for the lack of secondary scoring has to do with the top line’s inflated shooting percentages. Of course, those won’t be sustainable forever.
Bergeron, for example, is converting on 22.6% of his shots right now — seven goals on 31 shots. He’s never been higher than 13.4%, which came last season. Marchand, however, has a shooting percentage of 12.5% and has shot in the 17-18% range the last two seasons, so there’s probable cause to believe he’ll likely find the back of the net soon.
“We’ve lived off [Bergeron’s] line for a while,” Cassidy said, “but eventually those shot averages even out and you need those other guys.”
The Bergeron line will likely come back down to Earth, spreading out the goals among other skaters. Secondary scoring is likely on its way for the Bruins as the lines become more consistent and begin to take shape.
“We’re just trying to find that player there,” DeBrusk said. “We’re all pulling for each other and trying to get on the board as much as possible and help our team win.”