Leave it to the Bruins to make a couple trades to supplement their corps of bottom-nine forwards and then transform from a club that benefits from balanced scoring to a one-line team.
But that’s exactly what has happened since Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly joined the club and both got in the lineup at the same time Feb. 22 in Calgary.
I’m not going to claim to have the answer to this problem. I’m just going throw the puke-inducing stats at you and say that if the rest of the Bruins’ forwards don’t join the first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton by producing and working at a playoff-caliber level, this team’s in trouble.
First, the good news: Krejci, Lucic and Horton have combined for 30 points in those nine games starting with the win over the Flames. Krejci has recorded one goal and 10 assists; Horton five goals, two assists; and Lucic a whopping five goals and seven assists. For weeks it looked like the Bruins didn’t have one line that could strike fear in the hearts of opponents, now that’s all they have up front.
Most distressing among the other Bruins’ forwards is the lack of production from the supposed second line. Patrice Bergeron once looked on pace to surpass 70 points. But in the last nine games he has just one goal and one assist. He hasn’t scored a goal in six games and has dropped from the top of the Bruins’ scoring chart – supplanted by Krejci – to third with just 50 points. Brad Marchand, who has been goal-less in eight games, has just one goal and one assist since the new additions arrived. Mark Recchi, who was recently moved off Bergeron’s line, scored a goal against Buffalo on a makeshift post-power-play line for his lone score in the nine games. Recchi also has one assist.
Once seemingly off and running in black-and-gold sweaters as linemates to Michael Ryder, Peverley and Kelly have been ice-cold as well. Kelly still doesn’t have a goal, while Peverley has scored once. Peverley was averaging better than a half point per game before pulling on a Bruins sweater this season. Ryder has recorded one goal and two assists, but hasn’t found the back of the net in six games.
The lack of balance, of course, is more glaring now that the Bruins aren’t winning. In running their winning streak to seven games earlier this month, Boston rode the hot hands of Horton and Lucic to victories over Ottawa and Tampa Bay. Now the team’s losing and the need for some support to the top line sticks out like Johnny Boychuk’s black eye.
At the risk of stating the obvious, if there’s one answer to this problem it’s harder work. The other two lines need to do a better job of forechecking if they’re going to dump the puck in, or just take better care of the puck when breaking in with control. While no one tracks attack-zone time, the pressure the second and third lines have put on the opposition of late has been negligible. At the same time, the giveaways have been plentiful.
It’s time for the rest of the middle six forwards, especially the once All-Star worthy Bergeron and once Calder Trophy-worthy Marchand, to get their games in gear. Depth can only be a strength if the players supplementing the club’s top players actually contribute instead of serving as names on a roster with the potential to produce.