The Boston Bruins are one of the deepest teams in the NHL – they are able to rotate four lines of forwards and have a plethora of young defensemen. Their roster is filled with experience, including both grisly veterans and young players who enjoyed a run to the Stanley Cup Final last season. But, despite all this, the Bruins seem to have an “Achilles heel” that has appeared over multiple seasons and playoff runs.
Their second line has been a topic of discussion among just about anyone who knows the organization. Ever since moving on from both Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton in seasons past, there has been serious uncertainty surrounding second-line center David Krejci. The need for another top-six forward, the lack of internal options, and injuries to the few options available have placed a giant shadow over a line that could be one of the Bruins’ strong suits.
Injuries on the Bruins’ 2nd Line
Injuries have plagued the Bruins’ second line over multiple seasons and it has hurt the line’s ability to grow and build an identity. Just about every forward who has skated on this line has missed time at some point.
The staples, Krejci and left winger Jake DeBrusk, have both missed time this season. Krejci’s injuries came early in the season, missing the Bruins opener against the Dallas Stars followed by five games from Oct. 15-29 with an upper-body injury.
DeBrusk followed that up by missing five games of his own, following an injury sustained against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 5. He was finally back in the lineup on Nov. 19 against the New Jersey Devils, and immediately showed his impact creating a breakaway opportunity before getting stopped by Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood.
Another forward, Karson Kuhlman, sustained a fracture in his right leg following a promising start to the season. It looked as though he may be the answer on the second line before his injury, as he gave the Bruins the speed they have lacked. However, he was placed on injured reserve by the Bruins in late October.
Lack of Internal Roster Options
Now, even when healthy, the Bruins seem to struggle with their second line. This may be due to their current lack of internal options on the right wing following Kuhlman’s injury.
Players such as Brett Ritchie and Danton Heinen have stepped up in Kuhlman’s absence to play valuable minutes, but the lack of production is clear. Ritchie currently has scored just two goals and one assist this season, and Heinen has scored four goals and five assists with stints on multiple lines.
Even Krejci and DeBrusk have struggled to score, combining for just five goals on the season. Krejci has tallied 11 assists, tied for third on the team, but the lack of goals is still concerning. Part of this is due to missing time with injury, but these are low numbers, even having combined for 11 missed games.
Need for Another Top-Six Forward
The injuries plaguing the Bruins and the clear lack of production from internal options makes it clear – they need to add another top-six forward.
There was momentary relief to this problem last season with the acquisition of Marcus Johansson from the Devils. He fit in perfectly with Krejci and DeBrusk, scoring four goals and seven assists in the postseason with what seemed to be a good chemistry with his linemates. However, there is once again a hole following his departure in free agency to the Buffalo Sabres.
Related: Devils Trade Johansson to Bruins
It is up to the Bruins whether they will make a trade or a call-up to address this, but based on the lack of both production and sustainability at the position it seems likely there will be some sort of change.
One option for the Bruins is another trade with the Devils for either of their upcoming unrestricted free agents Taylor Hall or Wayne Simmonds. (from ‘Loud rumblings that New Jersey likely to trade Taylor Hall. Edmonton make sense?’, Edmonton Journal, 11/15/19) A move like this could fit the Bruins’ “win-now” attitude as their core continues to age.
However, if they feel the price tag on these players is too high they may promote a younger player they thought too inexperienced at the beginning of the season. Options could include young phenom Jack Studnicka, Czech forward Jakub Lauko, or even a promotion for Anders Bjork if enough improvement is seen.
In any scenario, the Bruins will need to address their concerning second-line play or the road to get back to the Stanley Cup Final will just get even tougher.