Anderson: The Bergeron line looks better than ever

Ty Anderson
April 15, 2018 - 3:15 am

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Sharing a press conference stage after a 7-3 smackdown of the Maple Leafs, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak dished questions off to one another with ease.

Fielding questions from 50 reporters -- in English or French, from somebody in the front row or somebody hugging the wall -- was nothing that two-thirds of the Bruins’ top line couldn’t handle. In fact, after yet off another slice-and-dice of the defensively-woeful Maple Leafs, it’s clear that it’s going to take an army to slow them down.

Powered by a three-goal, six-point night from Pastrnak, four-assist nights from both Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Bruce Cassidy’s go-to line has totaled 20 points through just two games of Boston’s first-round series with the division rival Maple Leafs. And provided enough nightmare fuel to last a lifetime for Leafs head coach Mike Babcock.

“No, and if I had, I’d try to block it out of my mind, probably, you know, unless it was from my own team,” Babcock said when asked if he can recall a line combining for 20 points this early. “They’re dominating us. I thought we got off to a pretty good start, and the pucks still went in the net, so give them credit for playing really well. That line has been good on the power play, been good five-on-five, been good at the net scoring.”

Babcock is selling the line short, actually. They are the most unrelenting line in all of hockey. And the Maple Leafs -- a 105-point team that set a franchise record in wins this season -- look to be a team without anything even close to an answer for them.

Think about this: Even after a game where expected score effects -- the Bruins were up 4-0 after the first period, and 5-1 just four minutes into the second period -- let the Maple Leafs control the puck and push the offensive pace for the final 40 minutes of action, they found almost nothing about Boston’s best line. In over six minutes of a five-on-five head-to-head between Toronto star center Auston Matthews and Bergeron, the Leafs outshot the Bruins 5-3, but were out-chanced 6-4 and outscored 2-0.

“I don’t know, s--t happens, I guess,” Matthews, still without a point in this series and now without a point in multiple games for the first time since January, said.

“It’s hockey, have to rebound for Game 3.”

It’s the story of the season in this regard, as the Bruins have outscored the Leafs 4-0, out-chanced them 18-6, and doubled Toronto up on possession (the Bruins have 28 shot attempts compared to 14 for the Leafs) in three games and 20:44 of total head-to-head time between Bergeron and Matthews at even-strength.

After some hard lessons taught with a six-game series loss to the Senators last year, one that featured both Marchand and Pastrnak largely held in check by a stingy Senator style that nearly propelled them to the Cup Final, the B’s best are not messing around.

Marchand is back to being the Marchand that the Bruins rode to a Stanley Cup in 2011. In essence, he’s back to being the agitator, not the agitated. His mental focus has 100 percent been where it’s needed to be, and also in the head of every Toronto skater. Bergeron, meanwhile, is healthy and (obviously) keyed in on every Matthews stride.

And Pastrnak, a player whose season ended with him in the penalty box and watching the Senators eliminate the Bruins by way of an overtime power-play goal, has emerged as a legitimate game-changing force that understands what the postseason requires.

“Playing with Bergy and Marchy – these guys know what it takes [to win in the postseason],” Pastrnak, entering some B’s and NHL record books after the aforementioned six-point Game 2 performance Saturday, offered. “To be honest I wish every young guy in the league – obviously in the league there are a lot of good players – I wish every young guy got to play with these two players. Take the lessons, what they have for you. For me it’s just about listening to them and I learned a lot especially this year.”

There’s also just no approach or situation that can make this line uncomfortable, really.

“I think they’re the best line in hockey for a reason,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who finished the Game 2 win with three assists, began. “They do things 200 feet in the d-zone and translate it into offense for them, and then they hound the puck like no other team. They’re great forecheckers and everyone brings something to the table, so it’s definitely tough to defend them and then they’re your best defensive players as well.”

“We are playing great as a line and we’ve been together for a while. We’ve faced [being targeted] every game this season and we want to get better every game,” Pastrnak noted when asked if a shift to Toronto will slow their game down. “We don’t think about the other team we try to do our best and play simple and play pretty fast. I think we don’t think about what’s going to happen, just what we can do and what we can control.”

“I don’t know how the matchups are going to be. I thought first couple periods we did a good job against [the Bergeron line],” said Matthews. “It’s just they scored, we didn’t.”

Unfortunately for Matthews, though, that’s been the Bergeron line’s story since Day 1.