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Balancing the Lineup: Should the B’s break up the first line?

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Shawn weighs the pros and cons of breaking up the first line

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last two seasons, the Bruins first line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak has been a staple. They have been arguably the best line in hockey, outshooting and outscoring opponents. So why break them up?

Simple: The Bruins perform a lot worse without that line on the ice.

The trio has recorded over 1,000 5v5 minutes with each other over 117 games the last two seasons. When they are on the ice, the Bruins CF% sits just north of 60%. Their GF% is about the same at 59%. In other words, the Bruins score three goals to their opponent’s two when the trio is on the ice.

Those metrics drop substantially when they are off the ice. The Bruins’ CF% drops to about 53%, while their GF% drops to about 48%. So while the Bruins still outshoot teams with the trio on the bench, they get outscored.

This is something that Bruins fans have surely noticed. And while it’s a blessing to watch such a dominant line, is it best to spread the wealth?

Two of the dynasty teams over the last decade, the Penguins and Blackhawks, have chosen to spread their wealth. Crosby and Malkin play on separate lines, while the same goes for Toews and Kane. And while some of that may be due to chemistry issues, it has certainly made them scarier, and last longer, as their rosters became more top heavy.

The trio of Marchand, Bergeron, and Backes has played over 300 minutes over the last two seasons. This trio has put up almost identical metrics to the one with Pastrnak. Although this is a small sample size, it wouldn’t be far stretched to say that we could expect about the same going forward.

In economics, there is a concept called diminishing returns, and this is what we are seeing. Assuming Marchand and Bergeron will be playing together, when choosing their third linemate from AHLer to Pastrnak, the benefits diminish. You can only gain so much with Pastrnak.

Even though the first line wouldn’t be as good without Pastrnak, the loss taken on the first line shouldn’t outweigh the benefits of balancing out the lineup. With the Bruins having to pass through either, or both, the Maple Leafs and Lightning in the playoffs, balancing out their lineup will help to prevent mismatches against their strong forward depth.

Poll

Should the Bruins break up the first line?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Yes, spread the wealth!
    (372 votes)
  • 27%
    No, hoard all the scoring talent!
    (140 votes)
512 votes total Vote Now