Round one is in the books, and it took all of Boston’s resolve and scoring chances they could muster to have one of the best Game 7’s that fans not invested in/worst games that fans who had investment in it have ever seen.
And now that it’s over, some light reflection comes in as we take a look at how Boston divvied up ice time over seven games, line by line.
Line One: The Workhorses
To the surprise of approximately nobody, Boston rode the first line like a prized working mule. Each player’s average had them well over 19 minutes, with only Bergeron seeing the biggest reduction because...well...he had an injury of some kind on his upper body.
Unsurprisingly, Riley Nash suddenly had a gigantic increase in ice time in relief.
Also unsurprisingly, the B’s tended to jack up the ice time in games where the Bruins were trailing or were close, hoping their big guns could even things up or get ahead. Marchand was always top 3 in terms of Bruins forward time one ice, with Bergeron close behind, fourth only once (in the Bruins 7-3 drubbing where the Bruins had one of their more evenly distributed games in terms of forward ice time), with Pastrnak a more extreme example of this, finishing fifth and then sixth in forward ice time in the first two games of the series where he only managed to put up 9 points.
The Bergeron Marchand Pastrnak and Krejci Nash DeBrusk lines combined for 133 minutes in the series and on-ice goals were 7 for Boston, 7 for Toronto. Poor results from dominating play. Attempts were 63% Bos, Shots 63% Bos, Scoring Chances 61% Bos from those two lines.— Bruins Stats (@bruins_stats) April 26, 2018
Line 2: Held Steady, with exceptions
Game 4 was the nadir for the 2nd line, getting their lowest amount of ice-time the entire series, which given how tight the game was scoreboard-wise and that Patrice Bergeron was not playing, it’s hardly surprising that a line that was definitely not crafted with defense in mind might get their minutes shunted while the B’s were down one of their most important pieces. Jake DeBrusk had a great series, and aside from the blip of game 4 he was rewarded by Cassidy with second line or above ice time at even strength, yet behind David Krejci and Rick Nash the majority of the games. Hopefully he can continue his run of strong play, and his scoring touch rubs off on Rick Nash, who is still generating chances and hasn’t gotten to score much at all.
Line 3: Consistency is a lie and a myth and it doesn’t matter because it worked itself out
Unsurprisingly, having this line’s center out for two games and at least one of it’s wingers underperforming for two games didn’t exactly garner something even conceiving of being consistent ice time across seven games of hard-hitting playoff hockey. The only player that Cassidy seemed willing to trust across this line or was giving enough time to do stuff initially was David Backes, who had a 30 second jump on Riley Nash, who can be forgiven because head injuries.
That said, Riley Nash’s return had him go from a 13 minute game to a 19 minute game in a scant 48 hours. Given how Game 4 went and what he’d been dealing with it’s amazing he managed to pull it off without getting hurt again (that we know of, anyway)
Things finally evened out in Game 7 as they settled in as a cohesive line again, and this time strictly as a third line.
Line 4: Knowing your role
The Bruins usual 4th line of Schaller - Kuraly - Acciari was put to the test, facing the potent Leafs fourth line of James VanRiemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Kasperi Kapanen, especially during the last 3 games of the series as Cassidy relied more and more heavily on the top line and top 6 forwards.
Overall, the fourth line didn’t fare very well, with only Kuraly posting a Corsi for percentage above 40%, but all 3 benefited from good goaltending and some lucky bounces, giving them the highest goals for percentage, hovering around 80%, with Schaller still not been on the scoresheet against these playoffs. This line will have to do a better job not getting hemmed in and allowing quality shots on Rask.
And also, a look at the defense and how they divvied things up.
Top pairing: Be thankful they get a day off.
For a pairing of a 41 year old defenseman and his 20 year old partner coming off of a knee injury, playing both over 23 minutes per game on average might not have been the best thing for them in the first round of the playoffs. Both played over 26 minutes in the finale - an incredible 7 minutes more than any other Bruins defenseman that night. Cassidy leaned on the veteran and the rookie, despite how they looked at times during the games to both keep them ahead, and to try and get them tied.
Second pair: A second top pairing
Kevan Miller, and Torey Krug.
Good cf%, which is always nice...and bad gf%, which isn’t so hot if you want these guys contributing on the scoresheet. Krug played a lot when the Bruins were down and needing to score, which makes a lot of sense, and slightly less when they were defending a lead. His ice time also fluctuated based on how many powerplays the Bruins got. The big 3 of Chara, McAvoy, and Krug saw extended amounts of time in games 3, 5, and 6 when the Bruins were chasing the lead.
In essence, an exaggerated version of their regular season. As a result, their minutes varied wildly from game to game.
Third pairing: Wait...you played?
With as much as Cassidy relied on his top 4, there wasn't a lot of ice left for Grzelcyk and McQuaid. Heck, Gryz was out for a game and that didn’t make a dent in how little ice time they got.
Gotta pour one out for Adam McQuaid, as he just kept getting his ice time reduced and reduced and reduced until he ended up with a Game 6 and 7 well below double digits.
What to expect going forward:
- First line and pairing might end up playing crazy minutes against the relentless Lightning. Especially if the Bolts get up first.
- If Tampa does get up early, hope Chara, McAvoy, and Krug got a good nights sleep because they are going to play a lot, with Grzelcyk playing increased minutes as well
- If Adam McQuaid plays more than 10 minutes this series, it will be a miracle or something will have gone very wrong because man, Cassidy just doesn’t use him.
- Stable 3rd Line? Maybe? Hopefully. They’re gonna need to be.