When it was announced that Joakim Nordstrom would play with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk in place of Ryan Donato, Bruins fans were not very happy. They saw flashbacks to the days of Claude Julien benching young players and possibly stunting their development. Joakim Nordstrom took advantage of the opportunity in front of him. Late in the first he buried his first goal as a Bruin with an assist from David Krejci to put the Bruins up 3-1. He had two other scoring chances on top of his goal, and drew a penalty.
But Nordstrom may not have been the most impressive depth forward on the ice for the Bruins. The fourth line was extremely effective, mainly from the work of Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly. They were able to gain the trust of Bruce Cassidy so much that they played significant time against the McDavid line. Chris Wagner played 4:52 of his 5v5 time against McDavid, Kuraly played 4:12 against him, and Acciari 4:01. Averaging about 4:22 against McDavid is around a quarter of McDavid’s 5v5 time on ice. That’s not something you usually want your fourth line doing, but it worked out.
Not only were they given time against the best player in the world, but they handled him pretty well. They kept McDavid in his own end for the majority of this matchup, and the shot attempts reflected it. Kuraly and Acciari were on the ice for 5 Bruins shot attempts and 4 Oilers shot attempts while on the ice against McDavid, while Wagner’s extra time broke him even with 6 shot attempts per team.
Beyond the matchup, the fourth liners played another 6-8 minutes without having to face McDavid, and they were still impressive. Sean Kuraly led all Bruins in 5v5 individual shot attempts with 6, and Chris Wagner led all Bruins in individual scoring chances at 5v5 with 5. That’s not something you expect out of a fourth line. As you can see below, it was a full team effort for the Bruins last night as they controlled the play.
On another note, the Bruins were able to score a pair of powerplay goals last night in 4:25 of powerplay time. The Bruins took 6 unblocked shot attempts on the powerplay, all of them in the home plate area. They are still missing Krug on their entries and the versatility he brings once the Bruins set up in the offensive zone, but they are still managing to create dangerous chances. One goal was sort of a fluke as it went off of an Oiler stick on a cross-ice pass, but still lots of positives there.
Finally, and I don’t want to speculate, but I am not sure Bruce Cassidy is happy with the third line yet. Bjork, Backes, and Heinen were last on the Bruins in 5v5 time on ice. While they weren’t pegged in their zone or noticeably bad, they are still a little feckless. Outside of a short stint of David Backes battling it out with Drake Caggiula, they weren’t really ready to battle. They are not as strong on the puck as you would like and are losing puck battles. But this could just be an affect of the other three lines performing very well.