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Bruins survive early lapses, cling to win in ten-goal game

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We knew this one was going to be a shooting gallery, right? All the stars shone, and showed up on the scoresheet.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Boston Bruins
Halak owes his top line a round or two for their performance last night.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Firepower was a known quantity going into last night’s game against the Calgary Flames. Johnny Gaudreau’s linemates feed him the puck, and sometimes he gives it back, but the guy is a point machine. Meanwhile, Boston’s top trio is still considered in many circles as the best line in hockey, and they mostly lived up to the hype against the Flames. Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci each had two points. (That’s six for the ‘best line in the NHL’, for those keeping count.) Torey Krug also had two. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Donato and Matt Grzelcyk picked up an assist each, and John Moore had that nice wrist shot in the first to dig the Bruins out of their only deficit in the game.

The bit that an exciting win glosses over here is the fact that the Bruins top line was responsible for Calgary’s first goal, as they were the power play unit that was on the ice as Michael Frolik’s penalty expired. They were on the ice for Sean Monahan’s goal in the second period to tie the game at two.

Bruce Cassidy was forced to balance out his lineup and, if we skip back to that first Calgary goal real quick, he pulled his top line off the ice to cool down. (Not all on - Pastrnak also had just passed a two minute shift, and Bergeron nearly did himself; Marchand just needed to change with the unit). Following the goal, Brad lined up at the center circle in his wing spot before leaning on his stick and looking frustrated as he was presumably line-changed off the ice.

The potentially more problematic issue visible last night is that, despite Boston winning the tug of war on the scoreboard, the defense looked hapless against a potent offense with one line firing - and boy, did that line fire. Gaudreau has thirteen points in his last five games and has pulled Sean Monahan up the NHL leaderboard with him. Beyond their line with Elias Lindholm, there was not another super-serious threat, but that’s the point of having depth defensemen. The B’s top pairing changed in the third period in an effort to stifle Gaudreau & Co., moving Kevan Miller up with Zdeno Chara; it didn’t really help much.

To add fuel to the defensive tire fire, the third line of Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, and Chris Wagner drew the off-assignments from Bergeron’s trio against Calgary’s best, and it wound up -1 as a unit. No, plus/minus isn’t a live-or-die stat - and if it were, -1 while drawing assignments against Gaudreau would still be respectable. (Kevan Miller, for comparison, was on the ice for both of that line’s goals.), nor is looking at possession metrics from one game an effective way to evaluate a team’s play. What should still be concerning is what remains to be proven by depth on the Bruins roster, and how Cassidy is forced to rely heavily on his best offensive players - sometimes as a defensive strategy. Team defense wins championships; not even the best line in hockey can control the puck for an entire game.