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The Bruins’ first line needs to keep at it, stop pressing

The pucks haven’t been going in for the talented trio, but that’s no reason to get desperate.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

There are two plays that illustrate how tightly Bruins forward Brad Marchand is “gripping the stick” lately, to use a hockey cliche:

  • In Game 5, the Bruins were on a 5v3 PP with a chance to turn the tide in their favor. Patrice Bergeron headed to his “bumper” position in the high slot, with Marchand holding the puck along the wall. Marchand had time and space. Instead of surveying his options, he tried to jam the puck into a covered Bergeron. The Leafs intercepted the pass and cleared the puck, with the PP ending shortly thereafter.
  • In Game 6, the Bruins were handed a massive opportunity late in the game when Mitch Marner was sent off for delay of game. Marchand, again on the wall, again with time and space, waited a beat and tried to pass the puck all the way across the ice to David Pastrnak. Again, the puck was intercepted and the zone was cleared.

At his best, Brad Marchand plays with a confident edge. He’ll get the leg lift going on his snap shot, will pull up in the zone and hit a trailer with a great pass...things like that.

Those aren’t the things we’ve seen since the series first shifted to Toronto in Game 3. Marchand, along with his linemates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, have combined for just a single goal since Pastrnak’s monster Game 2.

That goal was a giant one, coming on a 2-on-1 in Game 4. Since then? Zilch.

Pastrnak has been robbed by the (lucky) stick of Frederik Andersen more than once. Patrice Bergeron has just missed. Marchand has been denied on golden chances.

With the goals failing to rain down like they did in Games 1 and 2, all three guys are trying a little too hard: Bergeron shooting a beat too early, Marchand trying to deke through two guys, Pastrnak slightly off on his one-timers.

In reality, they don’t need to change a thing.

Including Game 3, the Bruins’ top line has combined to go a mind-boggling 1 for 43 shooting the puck. 1 for 43!!!!! It’s hard to actually shoot that poorly.

Over their NHL careers, Marchand has shot the puck at 15.8%, Pastrnak has shot 13.3% and Bergeron has shot 10.2%.

The hockey gods have picked a hell of a time to have that trio shoot a combined 2.3%.

The point of this isn’t to whine and say sports aren’t fair; instead, it’s to suggest that the first line is actually doing good things on offense, and that the drought isn’t likely to last much longer.

Of course the Leafs don’t need it to last too much longer; another 40 or 50 minutes of play should do the trick. This series has increasingly reminded fans of the 2014 second-round series against Montreal, in which the high-power Bruins offense threw everything but the kitchen sink at Carey Price, to no avail.

It’s worth mentioning that Frederik Andersen is no Carey Price, but if he can emulate him for another game, the Bruins are in trouble.

The Bruins’ first line has, at times, looked like it was playing a different sport than the Leafs. If your three first-line guys are averaging over ten shots per game (though some may come on the power play), clearly they’re doing something right.

In terms of possession, all three were better than 66% CF% 5v5 in both Game 5 and Game 6.

They’re owning the puck. They’re limiting goals against, aside from that dreadful Marchand blunder on Monday night. They’re getting the puck on net.

If they keep at it, the goals will come.

For the Bruins’ sake, they need to come tomorrow, not on Opening Night.