The Boston Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final last season. They had a chance to lift the Cup but fell short in a Game 7, getting down two goals after the first period and eventually losing 4-1. It was a bitter end to a spectacular season but being one game short of a championship certainly allows them to keep their heads held high.
They have continued their strong play by starting this 2019-20 season on fire. After dispatching the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-4 on Monday night, they lost the second end of a back-to-back against the Montreal Canadiens 5-4. Prior to that loss, the Bruins had a six game winning streak helping them move to the top of the Atlantic Division with an 11-2-2 record. Their +20 goal differential is also first in the Eastern Conference and now first in the entire NHL. The Bruins remain ahead of the Vancouver Canucks who fall to second in the league for the team goal differential metric (Boston +20 and Vancouver +18).
Everything is rosy, right? Definitely.
An outstanding start and no let down after both a phenomenal playoff run and heartbreaking Game 7 Stanley Cup loss. But…what about the lack of secondary scoring? The Bruins have perhaps the most dominant line in hockey, with all due respect to Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the other Edmonton Oilers players assigned to their line.
Of the Bruins 56 goals in the 2019-20 season, 32 have been scored by the David Pastrnak - Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron line. That lofty 57% percent of total goals scored by the top three goal scorers on a team ranks highly in the NHL to start this season. Additionally, the 74 points that their line has racked up accounts for 52% of the total points attained by this season’s Bruins roster.
Looking at the rest of the NHL in 2019-20, there are only a couple of other comparable examples. The Edmonton Oilers have the highest percentage in the league of total team goals scored by three players with 69% scored by Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and James Neal. Their percentage of points out of their team’s overall total points is at 52%, which is the same as the Bruins. The Detroit Red Wings are the team just below the Boston Bruins for percentage of total team goals scored by three players with 56% of their goals scored by Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin.
That’s it. These couple of teams have the same situation as the Bruins in relying heavily on their top line. But this critical question remains: who can step to provide additional scoring depth for the Bruins? Let’s consider how it could be possible for the Pastrnak - Marchand - Bergeron line to have an off night.
Injuries will hit each and every team in the league throughout the season. Hopefully there are no serious injuries but this is an unfortunate reality of professional sports. When the game intensity starts getting turned up in March and April, secondary scoring also becomes a more coveted asset. Teams will also analyse every video of every shift that the Pastrnak - Marchand - Bergeron line puts on tape this season. These opposing teams will focus major attention on this line of stars when preparing for Bruins games. The Bruins face an imperative that they find other sources of scoring goals. This is important.
With all of this being said, here are four solutions for the Bruins to get goal scoring production outside of their dominant first line:
Jake DeBrusk was taken in the middle of the first round of the 2015 draft and recently turned 23 years old. Hockey is deeply rooted inside of him being the son of a former NHL player, Louie DeBrusk, who played in more than 10 seasons in the NHL. He has the ability and hockey IQ to be able to score 30 or more goals a season. Boston needs that to become a reality right now. DeBrusk is likely a key anchor of the Bruins second line for the foreseeable future. If he can now start turning on the red goal light more often, he will have a chance to build a strong following with the team’s fan base.
Defensemen generally, Torey Krug specifically
The defensemen of the Bruins have the potential to score more and none more so than Torey Krug. He is one of the Boston d-men averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game. Although Krug has only scored two goals this year, there are two seasons in his career in which he reached 14 goals. Other possibilities on the Bruins are Charlie McAvoy, who has never put up a lot of goals at any level but he definitely has a lot of skill. The Bruins should also consider tailoring power play opportunities for Zdeno Chara. With their veteran big man, why not find ways to buy him time on the power play to unload a heavy slap shot or alternatively move him to the front of the net for tip ins?
This is more of a shot in the dark, but the one positive is that Charlie Coyle is getting a lot of rubber to goaltenders this season. In the most recent games against Pittsburgh and Montreal, Coyle was not able to register any shots on net. However, in the three games prior he had 15 shots on net and ended up scoring twice. There is not any history in his career to indicate that he can consistently put up 30 goals but perhaps this could be his year. At least Coyle could lead a strong third line that begins producing goals for the team. Adding more to the intrigue is the fact that Coyle is in the prime of his career at the age of 27.
There are a few players that might be able to be dangerous enough this season in their respective hockey leagues to earn more NHL playing time. If these players show that they can produce a lot of goals, work hard and play a responsible game, the Bruins may decide it is time to see what they can do for the big club. Peter Cehlarik is 24 years old with 10 points in 7 games this year for the AHL’s Providence Bruins. He was with the Bruins recently but just got reassigned to the minors so he has some work to do. Another member of the AHL farm team who found the back of the net with ease in the Ontario Hockey League was 22 year old Zachary Senyshyn. Yet another exciting prospect with a bright future who is admittedly a long shot to play for the Bruins this year is 2019 1st round pick, John Beecher. It is promising to see the amount of young talent in the organization at the forward position.
There are four options to consider as the Bruins head into November. The team will hopefully begin getting scoring from any of these or other sources. The production has been there from the top line and now is as good a time as any for Boston to get even better with more secondary scoring.