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The Bruins wingers are dragging the middle six to something resembling respectability in 2021

While they haven’t been perfect, the Bruins wing situation has created unsung heroes of a frustrating season.

NHL: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

So, I wanted to discuss a matter regarding the depth because...well...the B’s are going through it at the moment; not a great team by any stretch of the imagination, but able to at least make a concerted effort towards winning games. But part of what’s made this team so frustrating to watch is a serious chemical imbalance in the way the roster is constructed that has ultimately resulted in an interesting conundrum where Boston's wing is now paramount to it's success. Allow me to elaborate.

As per usual, the first line’s wingers are kicking ass, but that isn’t really what this is about.

Patrice Bergeron is a premiere player in this league, and has been able to show it off so much more with the wings he has; Marchand in spite of being...y’know...himself, is an elite player in and of himself, and despite not quite being the scoring dynamo he once was, David Pastrnak has begun to round his game out in a way that makes him an invaluable part of that first line, even if he seemingly breaks more sticks than a kid bored in the woods.

It should also be said, that in order to explain how the wings of the B’s, specifically the left wings, have been doing so well, I need to make it clear that in any relevant category you look for, it should be no surprise whatsoever who’s in charge of the Boston Bruins offense; by any metric, you can plug Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak in interchangeably as 1, 2, and 3 on the team in that category and move on.

It’s after them that things get interesting. Or frustrating, depending on how you interpret the data.

Taylor Hall; 2nd Line dynamo

This whole article initially began as an appraisal of the kind of work Hall was doing on the second line, hyperbolically referring to him as “the true second line center” and it’s ballooned out quite a bit since then.

So both players, Hall and Coyle, are roughly even at 11 and 10 points apiece. Not bad, but there’s room for improvement . But where it gets concerning is where you begin to break down the fancy stuff; Taylor Hall is unquestionably a dynamic forward, I meant what I said when the B’s acquired him that Hall is not necessarily a goal-scorer, he’s more the guy who makes goals happen, which is different, but important. And it’s helped pretty much every player he’s been with so far!

I admit this is a very bad way to show these two’s right wing, but it was the only reasonable idea I could think of.
Evolving-Hockey.com
This chart shows the difference in expected-GF per 60 with the players with and without Taylor Hall and vice versa. His most common linemates: Coyle, Smith, and Foligno, are all circled in red.
Micah McCurdy, HockeyViz.com

Hall is active while he’s out there, and the B’s are feeling it when he’s out here; he’s working hard along the boards, trying to get the opposing player to move towards him, and even if he’s passing recklessly to nobody, he’s still trying to get passes through. for the most part it’s working; According to Evolving-Hockey, he’s making himself known: Top forward in xGF per 60 on the team, fourth on the team in high-danger shot attempts, third on the team in shot attempts per 60...the man has been working hard to be you can even see it in where the opposing team is trying to stop forwards;In their individual hits-against metric, no forward on the Boston Bruins has been hit more than Hall has this year; with 40. That’s kind of impressive...but it also shows a place where Charlie Coyle has been slacking; Hall has been getting hit so much because it’s not unreasonable

But Hall’s impressive work almost pales in comparison to the sisyphean task that Jake DeBrusk has been set forth to do on the third line

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; the third line of the Boston Bruins is kinda trash, and the focus of it as of November 2021 is Jake DeBrusk-

Wait come back! The punchline’s different this time I swear!

But yeah, the third line’s struggled a bit. Erik Haula and [PLAYER HERE BUT MOSTLY CRAIG SMITH OR CURTIS LAZAR] was not an ideal answer to the question poised by the eternal struggles of the third line, and for the most part that hasn’t changed. Lazar is a decent defensive forward who otherwise just kinda exists, and his ability to defend is pretty useful.

What has changed however, is Jake DeBrusk. Last year, Jake DeBrusk’s struggles were such that fans were clamoring for his immediate trading or release from the Bruins.

Now, if you were to do that, it would be very, very costly for the B’s, for you see:

HEY CHECK OUT WHO’S TRYING TO ATTEMPT SHOTS EVER ON THE THIRD LINE
Evolving-Hockey.com
Same thing as above, but for Jake DeBrusk. Again, his most common linemates (and he’s had a few), are circled in red.
Micah McCurdy, HockeyViz.com

...Jake Debrusk might be the only thing keeping the third line intact as a functioning NHL unit of right now.

Debrusk’s not scoring at the clip that everybody expects, of course, and that’s part of the problem...but he’s also doing a lot to prop this line up. He’s taken the puck away more than any other player on the team, he’s attempting shots and getting them on net far more often than either of his linemates. It hasn’t translated into a lot of goals, but it’s certainly better than his linemates who could donate their alloted points together this year to...match his current point total.

When put into this context, Jake DeBrusk’s season so far is somewhat impressive, what with over half of his time on ice having been with Erik Haula, who has been kinda...rough...for the Bruins so far, his left wing has been putting the work in to do something, anything. and his right wing has the defensive acumen to handle the work of defense. And on a line that’s historically been a source of consternation for the team, that’s a start.

...and now according to TSN, Debrusk wants a trade out. Cool. fine. it’s FINE-

The point of course, is that even more than a defense problem, the Bruins have a big problem at Center.

It’s not unusual at all in the NHL for the straw that stirs the drink on any given line to be one of the wingers rather than the center, but for the Bruins, it’s quite a bit different because the issue is pronounced: The Centers straight up aren’t having the same impact on their lines as their wingers and that’s a bad thing. It’s good if they’re winning faceoffs to get the guys doing things to go do things, but it’s not a sustainable way of doing this.

Whether it’s lack of options or genuine faith in what they had, the big issue that currently faces the B’s right now is that their depth seemingly cannot live without the hard work these wings are putting in. And that’s a problem because any trade made to help this along could possibly upset this balance to the point of making it worse, unless the player picked up is an obvious hard upgrade. It’s a bit of a sobering thought, really.

Hope Don Sweeney and his pro scouts up to the task if they decide to make changes.