The thought of breaking up the Bruins’ potent top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak never crossed Bruce Cassidy’s mind before Bergeron’s rib injury in mid-November.
Well, things changed a bit during Bergeron’s absence. David Krejci solidified the top line center role during this time — following a rotating door that featured Colby Cave and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson — as the Bruins are slowly finding their offensive groove again. The Czech centerman now sits second on the team in scoring with 29 points (6 goals, 23 assists) and carries a seven-game point streak heading into Thursday’s matchup with the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden.
Bergeron is one step closer to returning. He’ll likely step on the Warrior Ice Arena surface to practice with his teammates on Wednesday. His timetable, while still uncertain, indicates a return to the B’s lineup sooner rather than later.
This gives Cassidy an interesting dilemma. Does he keep the Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak trio intact? Does he slot Bergeron back with his two top-line cohorts? Or do we see an entirely different lineup in hopes of creating more balanced scoring across the board?
All interesting questions, but, like I said in a similar post earlier this season, we’ll break up Marchand and Pastrnak in hopes of finding that balanced offense. We’ll also leave out Jake DeBrusk in this exercise as the second-year winger continues to go through concussion protocol.
This makes things a little more difficult across the board, especially with the third line. But we’re going to try to make sense out of this. Here’s a look at what the Bruins lines could look like if Cassidy breaks up Marchand and Pastrnak upon Bergeron’s return.
First line: Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Danton Heinen
Breaking up Marchand and Pastrnak isn’t easy. Parting ways with Marchand and Bergeron is impossible. Only a Bergeron elimination by Marchand in a friendly game of knockout would break this duo up.
All kidding aside, the Bergeron-Marchand tandem reunites and Danton Heinen moves up on the off-wing. This puts an end to the young and productive “college hockey” line.
Second line: Joakim Nordstrom-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Adding a top-six forward is Don Sweeney’s main priority before the trade deadline. The Bruins don’t have that luxury yet, nor do they have DeBrusk, which would’ve eased things up on the second line.
Nordstrom isn’t a prototypical second liner, but his versatility provides a good short-term option until DeBrusk’s return. The ex-Hurricane is on pace to surpass his previous career high in goals (10 in 2015-16) so why not put the Swede with the two talented Czechs? This way you keep some previous chemistry with the third and fourth lines and give Pastrnak and Krejci a reliable two-way option for the time being.
Third line: Ryan Donato-Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson-Colby Cave
Breaking up a young and promising line like Donato, Forsbacka Karlsson and Heinen is difficult. But there’s still a youth movement on this third line with the 23-year-old Cave moving to this unit. Having two centers in Forsbacka Karlsson and Cave with different shooting hands — and a third who played some center at Harvard — gives Cassidy all sorts of face-off options with this third line.
Fourth line: Chris Wagner-Sean Kuraly-David Backes
Nothing to change with Wagner or Noel Acciari skating with Kuraly on the off wing. Backes moves here given his previous chemistry with Kuraly.
The only line that’s totally separated here is the Nordstrom-Cave-Backes trio. A healthy DeBrusk changes things as Cassidy likely keeps him with Krejci. The question is do you move Pastrnak back with Marchand and Bergeron in this scenario?
Cassidy found a way to get his lines to mesh in the last week or two without Bergeron. But Bergeron’s return will leave him with some important decisions.
Yet, the Bruins are obviously much better off with their four-time Selke winner in the lineup. His return can’t come soon enough for a team treading water in the uber-difficult Atlantic Division.
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