For all the talk about the injuries and youth on the Boston Bruins’ blue line, this team’s main problem has always been scoring consistency. Every team has the occasional slump, but it has now been several years since the Bruins got some consistency from anyone besides the Perfection Line.
Yes, an easy solution would be to trade for a high-scoring player. But, in the event that Don Sweeney doesn’t make any splash moves before the trade deadline (which he is known to do), changes can be made to this existing roster that could go a long way in revamping the Bruins’ offense and creating a more well-balanced scoring attack.
Move David Pastrnak to Second Line
Boston’s Perfection Line has solidified itself as the best line in the NHL, scoring more points than any other trio in the league this season. At first, it may sound ludicrous to break them up, but hear me out. Moving David Pastrnak would benefit this team in the long run.
David Krejci has anchored the second line for years, but he has faced a revolving door of wings since Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic were traded. He never has the time to develop chemistry with his linemates, and as a consequence, his production has dipped this season. The 15-year veteran is still a great facilitator though, who just needs some consistent goal scorers around him.
Flanking Krejci with Pastrnak and Nick Ritchie would rejuvenate the second line and make it as dangerous as it was during the early 2010s. Pastrnak is right up there with Auston Matthews and Alex Ovechkin as the best goal scorer in the league. Ritchie, constantly lurking around the crease looking for deflections and rebounds, is the perfect complementary piece to Krejci’s passing and Pasta’s shooting. There is also a Czech connection between Krejci and Pasta, as a bonus.
It would undoubtedly take at least a few games for this big change to pay off, but the results would be worth the wait. Krejci is too good of a player to be surrounded with temporary fixes. He needs two viable scoring options on either side of him to open up the ice and allow him to create like we know he can. Pastrnak and Ritchie are those two options.
Give Jake DeBrusk a Change of Scenery
No, I am not suggesting we trade him.
DeBrusk has struggled this season and everyone seems to want him gone, but we should not be so eager to trade away the 23-year-old’s massive scoring potential. It wasn’t so long ago that the Bruins impulsively traded away a young Tyler Seguin. Like Seguin back in 2013, DeBrusk isn’t the most physical player and development has been slow. But do we really want to relive the Seguin drama and see DeBrusk come out of his shell with another team? A less drastic change would be wiser. Sometimes it’s just a matter of moving a player around in the lineup to get him going.
Who better to help DeBrusk out of his slump than Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand? Putting him on the first line would take the pressure off him to score, and simultaneously give him more opportunities with two elite players creating open shots for him. It would also give him a better chance to improve his defense and physicality, which are not his strong suits at the moment.
DeBrusk is naturally a left winger, but he can certainly play right wing if it means he gets the chance to play with The Captain and The Rat. Aside from Pastrnak, the right wing is devoid of scoring anyway, so the Bruins really have nothing to lose in trying out DeBrusk at this position.
Marchand could also move to the second line instead of Pastrnak to keep everyone in their natural positions, but he and Bergeron are perfect together. Bergeron keeps Marchand’s antics in check (as best he can), and Marchand protects Bergeron from any cheap shots. They’ve been on a tear since 2011 and there is no reason to break up that duo now.
Sometimes all a young player needs is a change. DeBrusk’s benching gave him a good wake-up call, as he scored in his first game back and was active on the boards, which we don’t often see. Now it’s time to put him in a better position to unlock his potential, and the first line is the perfect place for that to happen.
Try Something New on the Power Play
This season’s sample size is big enough to definitively say that Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk, for all the good they bring to this team, can’t run the power play quite like Torey Krug. They don’t have his passing touch and his feel for the open spot on the ice. This is fine, though, because the Bruins have options.
Boston briefly used five forwards on their top power-play unit during practice earlier in the season when they were dealing with injury issues. Trying this in a game would certainly be a gamble, but the Bruins are one of the few teams in the league who can afford to take this risk.
The Bruins are blessed with several great defensive forwards. Bergeron is widely considered the best in the NHL with his four Selke Trophies, and Marchand is criminally underrated in this facet of the game. Krejci can more than hold his own as well, so there is plenty of defensive ability on the ice without Grzelcyk or McAvoy.
The second unit isn’t nearly as strong defensively. Cassidy and staff briefly put both McAvoy and Grzelcyk on this unit with DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith during practice earlier in the season, so they are clearly open to the idea of using a two-defenseman lineup. Why not try it for a few shifts?
Or, conversely, the two blueliners could start on the first unit with the Perfection Line, if they really don’t want to give up any short-handed goals. This group spends a lot of time together at even strength, so perhaps they could make it work on the power play. This would bump Krejci down, but he’s certainly capable of leading that second unit. It would also open the door for guys like Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon (when he gets healthy) to get some power play experience.
The power play usually sorts itself out as the season goes on, but the coaching staff still needs to show some initiative here to get that unit out of its slump. Special teams are too important to the Bruins’ game plan for them to roll out the same five guys every game, hoping for different results. Make a change, any change.
Similarly, the five-on-five game needs tweaking. Scoring is too top-heavy, and having the three best players on the same line feels like overkill at this point. The Bruins need to spread the talent around. More specifically, they need to wrap their arms around DeBrusk and put him in the best position to succeed. They need to flank Krejci with Pastrnak and rejuvenate that second line again. These are just a few changes the Bruins could make to give this team’s offense new life.
I cover the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers.
Sports writer/editor for The Greyhound, Loyola University Maryland’s Student News Source, from 2018-2020.