The Boston Bruins are looking for more out of their top line when they visit the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup First Round on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, NBCSWA, NESN).
The line — forwards Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak — is usually the security blanket for the Bruins. But they were held to one point, an assist by Pastrnak, in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series Saturday
“I honestly thought our top guys didn’t seem to have it,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “I thought it was not really typical of what we’ve seen lately from that group. So hopefully Game 2 they’re a little sharper.”
Though the Bruins did get goals from depth forwards Jake DeBrusk and Nick Ritchie, it was the off night from the top scorers that stood out and something they need to correct.
“If you can pull them away from their net, [the Capitals] play a little man-to-man, that can work as well if the [defensemen] get moving and are active and you’re making good decisions with the puck,” Cassidy said. “Then you’ll get some slot chances, which we’ve scored a lot on this year in those situations.
“It’s not all about bull-rushing toward the net. There’s a time and a place for that. You’ve got to get there, but if you can also use your skill and speed and move pucks around, find their pockets of open space, then you’re going to get some looks as well that way.”
And that’s the key, finding places where Boston’s top line can find its game.
Marchand led the Bruins by scoring 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists) in 53 games this season. Bergeron (23 goals, 25 assists in 54 games) and Pastrnak (20 goals, 28 assists in 48 games) were tied for second with 48 points apiece.
They combined for seven shots on goal Saturday, six by Pastrnak, with each forward playing more than 21 minutes.
Cassidy said he saw pockets where the Bruins created chances, getting inside against the big Capitals defensemen.
“But not enough up and down the lineup to generate enough offense,” he said.
Though Cassidy praised forward Taylor Hall, he said the rest of the top six forwards need to find balance between taking what is there, given the way the Washington defense is playing, and also forcing their way to the net.
“Obviously I think everybody probably wants to be a little bit better,” Bruins forward Craig Smith said. “Just making plays when you have to. And when you get your chance to score, you’ve got to bury it. That’s going to be a huge key for tomorrow.”
Pastrnak echoed him.
“It’s playoffs,” he said. “You want to put as many pucks on net as you can.”
That could be even more important given the uncertainty of the Capitals’ goaltending situation. Craig Anderson replaced rookie Vitek Vanecek, who left at 13:10 of the first period with a lower-body injury, and stopped 21 of 22 shots in Game 1. Goalie Ilya Samsonov is off the NHL COVID-19 protocol list, but is not expected to be ready to play Monday.
There was good news for Boston. DeBrusk looked rejuvenated and Ritchie played hard working his way inside the Capitals’ defense. The Bruins saw signs that they could have the depth scoring that has, at times, eluded them.
That’s a positive.
And there’s at least one person who isn’t concerned.
“With ‘Marsh,’ like I said, I’m not worried. He’ll be better,” Cassidy said. “He’ll get that line going. They should be fine.”