Boston Bruins: Willingness to play David Pastrnak with David Krejci useful

If the Boston Bruins lose a hockey game, chances are they were defeated because their top line, consisting of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, was not able to do what it wanted. David Krejci isn’t a feature of this.

Simply put, what the Boston Bruins’ first line desires and intends to do each game, period, and shift, is dominate. The three are widely considered the best line in the NHL not only because of their unrelenting offensive potency, but their ability to play just as well in their own end as they do in their opponent’s end. The two Czech David’s, David Krejci and David Pastrnak each have their own role to play, albeit not together too often.

Their two-way effectiveness is unrivalled, and ‘the perfection line; is extremely difficult for any team to match up against. They are Boston’s backbone. That said, if an opponent is somehow able to render the Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak trio ineffective, that team dramatically increases their chances of beating the Bruins.

This tall task will undoubtedly be the top priority of the Toronto Maple Leafs from the moment the puck leaves the fingertips of the linesman in Game 1, as it was during last year’s Eastern Conference Quarter Final.

The Leafs, in fact, were able to accomplish that feat three separate times throughout last season’s seven-game series against Boston. It is no coincidence that each game in which Toronto was able to silence the Bergeron line ended with a win for the Leafs.

Games 3, 5 and 6 of last year’s series were Maple Leafs’ victories and Boston Bruins’ defeats. Toronto was able to accomplish their number-one goal in each of those three games by miraculously silencing Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak completely.

It is time to give credit where credit is due, because keeping all three of those world-class players locked away from the scoresheet entirely is an amazing triumph. I will now list the last names of every Bruins player to appear on the scoresheet in games 3, 5, and 6 of last year’s series:

David Krejci

Jake DeBrusk

Torey Krug

Sean Kuraly

Zdeno Chara

Noel Acciari

David Backes

Matt Grzelcyk

Adam McQuaid

Tim Schaller

Nick Holden

Take a gander at those names. You can look as hard as you’d like, but you won’t see the name Brad Marchand, the name Patrice Bergeron or the name David Pastrnak anywhere on that list, which is exactly why Toronto won each of those games. Five of the eleven players listed above are defensemen and three are fourth-liners.

It is astounding that Toronto was able to prevent all three components of the Boston Bruins’ top line from leaving a single offensive fingerprint on each of these games.

So, good for you Toronto. Congratulations.

That said, I have some news for the Toronto Maple Leafs; Bruce Cassidy and the Boston Bruins have a backup plan.

Last year, Cassidy and his coaching staff didn’t consider spreading out the team’s offensive threats by slotting David Pastrnak next to David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line, and instead held a concussed Rick Nash on the line, while fans and analysts pondered what the Bruins offense would look like if David Krejci had a legitimate weapon alongside him.

Jake DeBrusk definitely looks like a game-breaker, given his playoff performance last year and his 27 goals in 68 games this season. David Pastrnak next to David Krejci though, would make it much harder for other teams to manage the offensive magic that Marchand and Bergeron are capable of producing with virtually anyone on their right, and the spark that ‘Czech mates’ David Krejci and David Pastrnak would bring together on a separate attacking line.

When Cassidy has tried out this ‘Plan B’ if you will, Danton Heinen has looked best alongside Marchand and Bergeron and he brings a two-way element to that line that Pastrnak does not, albeit without the elite offensive skill.

Heinen, though, gets the job done on the top line, while sparks fly whenever Krejci and Pastrnak get their chemistry flowing consistently. With DeBrusk hustling and using his own set of finishing skills and speed on the left side of that line, it provides another dimension to the Bruins’ offense and 5 on 5 play. Not to mention, Toronto is an outstanding 5 on 5 team offensively.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs were forced to quickly adjust and attempt to contain both Marchand and Bergeron on one line but also Krejci and Pastrnak with DeBrusk on another, the Bruins would stupefy the Leafs. Cassidy has shown that he has the willingness to do create more of offensive balance by making this switch both in-game, and in planning for it during practice.

So, distributing the offensive firepower throughout the lineup could undoubtedly be a difference-maker against Toronto, and may prevent the Leafs from shutting down all three of Boston’s biggest threats. Mike Babcock and his players may be able to do so in one game, perhaps two, but definitely not three as they did last year.

Bruce Cassidy and the B’s have evolved and now have a viable backup plan to deploy if they sense even the slightest decrease in the top line’s effectiveness due to Toronto’s match-up efforts.

Boston Bruins fans should rest easy knowing that the team has this lineup alternative in place. Maple Leafs fans, however, should not, because Butch Cassidy is willing and able to move some of his ‘Sundance Kids’ around in order to make Boston’s offense more dangerous than it already is.