A 4-2 defeat hardly comes close to articulating just how bad the club’s effort was on Monday night. Luckily for them, it only counts as one loss in a series now evened up at 2 games a piece.
However, in order to prevent a repeat performance in Game 5, the Bruins will have to make a handful of changes, especially when it comes to their forward lines.
For starters, the team’s second line needs to be completely dismantled. They have just not been anywhere near as good as they’ve needed to be in this series. After getting plenty of offensive zone starts in the first 3 games of this series, the trio of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, and David Backes received the second lowest percentage of offensive zone starts of any line. Additionally, DeBrusk and Backes finished as 2 of the 4 lowest forwards on the squad in ice-time. Those are pretty telling signs that head coach Bruce Cassidy is losing trust in that grouping.
Outside of Game 3’s solid showing, the first line has not been as dominant as expected. In Game 4, St, Louis Blues bench boss Craig Berube absolutely had his way at even strength, matching Oskar Sundqvist, Ivan Barbashev, and Alexander Steen against Boston’s top unit. The Blues’ fourth line was successfully able to neutralize the Bruins’ top trio, which was a massive win for St. Louis.
The third line is where we’ve seen Boston’s most consistent producers. Charlie Coyle, who now has 9 playoff goals, has been the most reliable forward for the team this series. Marcus Johansson is not too far behind as his playmaking ability has been a huge asset for the club. Danton Heinen has had his ups and downs, but in a Game 4 where nothing was really working, he put forward one of the more impressive performances.
Here are my (a bit unconventional) forward line recommendations for the Bruins in Game 5 (assuming they roll with 12 forwards):
Marcus Johansson- Patrice Bergeron- David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand - David Krejci- Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk - Charlie Coyle- David Backes
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly- Noel Acciari
Line 1: Johansson has been the club’s best left winger so far this series, so bumping him up to play with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak could help give those two a bit of a jolt at even strength.
Line 2: In this series, Brad Marchand has been very pass-first, which is not always a bad thing. However, making one pass too many has been a common theme for the top group, which is why having Marchand play with Krejci and Heinen could work. On this line, he would be the clear “Trigger Man,” which may make him more likely to use the shot that netted him 34 goals this season. Subbing out Backes for Heinen on this line comes from the preference of having a little more speed on this unit.
Line 3: As hard as it is to separate this line given how well they have performed, it may be needed in order to revive the top-6. Bumping down DeBrusk and Backes to play with Coyle makes this trio one that can supply some energy and offensive upside. All three players can play with an edge, while No. 74 and No. 13 can be dangerous in the attacking zone. I could see this grouping match some of St. Louis’ physicality.
Line 4: There’s really no need to tinker with these guys.
With Boston’s offense looking a little flat, there’s no question that the club’s forward lines could use a bit of a shake up. The decision to play 6 or 7 defensemen will obviously weigh heavily on the team’s offensive approach, but that shouldn’t prevent coach Cassidy from making some changes to a top-6 that hasn’t notched an even strength point since Game 1.