Why Bruins’ Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak line could stick together after win over Devils

Matt Kalman
November 19, 2019 - 10:11 pm

While Patrice Bergeron was “managing” his lower-body injury for a second straight game, his wings were rekindling their relationship with another center Tuesday.

The affair unfolded right in front of everyone’s eyes and produced a seven-point game for the Bruins line of Brad Marchand (three assists), David Krejci (two assists) and David Pastrnak (two goals) in a 5-1 win at New Jersey.

Now before you get too awestruck by the Bruins’ performance, remember they were facing the Devils, who entered the game with the NHL’s 26th-ranked defense (3.47 goals allowed per game). They’re the biggest disappointment in New Jersey since Jon Bon Jovi cut his hair.

Nonetheless, it’s time to break the WEEI.com moratorium on discussing the possible breakup of the Bruins’ first line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. Heading into Tuesday night’s game, the Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak combination had outscored opponents 5-on-5 14-3 in 164 minutes since the start of last season.

After Marchand and Krejci helped set up Matt Grzelcyk at 14:26 of the first period for the first of his two goals and a 1-0 lead, the new first line doubled the lead when Krejci bumped the puck ahead to Marchand, who pulled up and set up Pastrnak for one of his patented one-timers from the left dot at 14:40.

Krejci made a long pass to Pastrnak, who drew a tripping penalty early in the third period. Eight seconds after the start of the power play, Pastrnak scored his second goal – his NHL-leading 19th and the 151st of his career (he became the second-fastest to 150 in Bruins history with his first goal). Marchand, of course, set up the man-attacker score.

What this all means is coach Bruce Cassidy has some real options and serious decisions to make moving forward. If the Bruins are going to manage Bergeron’s workload, it might make more sense to keep Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak together in order to foster continuity. Charlie Coyle centering Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen seems to be growing into an effective line. If Bergeron just plugs in between Jake DeBrusk and Brett Ritchie, where Par Lindholm was Tuesday, he could lift up those slumping wings and cut back on his ice time.

More likely we’ll at least see Bergeron and Marchand stay attached at the hip, as they probably should be. There’s no better duo in the league as far as chemistry at both ends of the rink. But that doesn’t mean they have to keep Pastrnak alongside as part of a top-heavy lineup. Pastrnak and Krejci have a chemistry that’s undeniable, and if it was given a chance, it could rival the cohesiveness of Marchand-Bergeron.

The Bruins have plenty of options (Heinen, Coyle, Ritchie) to run with Marchand-Bergeron, but opponents would have little answer for that line and one driven by Pastrnak and Krejci.

After the win, Cassidy said Bergeron would probably be back Thursday. He shouldn’t let his teammates’ blossoming love with another center rush him, because let’s face it, the Bruins can get by without him against some of the dregs of the league that are coming up on the schedule.

But Bergeron should appreciate that his absence could make the Bruins a deeper, more dangerous team down the road.

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