Brad Marchand led the Bruins in goals and points during the regular season. Tyler Seguin was second in goals, third in points.
You know what they are right now as the Bruins’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against Toronto moves to a Game 7 Monday night at TD Garden? Dead weight.
Neither player recorded a point in the Bruins’ 2-1 loss Sunday night that extended this series to the limit. On the positive side, Marchand landed his first shot on net since Game 4. However, he still has no goals and just two assists in this series. Seguin has done Marchand one better with zero points in six games, also beating his record from last spring’s playoff series against Washington. Seguin was pointless in the first five games against the Capitals while the Bruins were on their way to a seven-game loss.
If the chances by those two members of Boston’s best regular-season line were piling up like trade-ins at a demolition derby, you’d allow for coach Claude Julien riding them until they score. Unfortunately, these two are still playing at a regular-season pace while everyone else on both sides has picked up his game to a playoff level. Those Seguin “fly-byes” past the net don’t cut it in the postseason. Marchand has yet to try any maneuvers with the puck on his stick longer than a tenth of a second, and their cycle game is non-existent. Sure, Patrice Bergeron should share in some of the blame. However there have been plenty of times Bergeron’s caused a giveaway and had no help on the counterattack and plenty of opportunities where he’s had no options to pass when he’s had the puck below the dots or behind the net.
This is a Seguin/Marchand problem. And in the Game 6 loss, Julien’s answer was to actually increase Marchand’s ice time in the third period. Maybe that cuts it in the “bizarro” world, but not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Losing makes things look worse than they are. I grant Julien that. But anyone with eyes could see the Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line wasn’t working when the Bruins were winning. Boston took a 3-1 lead on the Leafs on the strength of offense from David Krejci’s line and the defensemen, and outstanding play from Tuukka Rask in net. Rask has still been great. Krejci’s line has cooled off. Marchand and Seguin have gone from worse to horrible.
This isn’t just a playoffs problem. After he returned from a concussion, Marchand scored just twice in the last seven games of the regular season. Maybe he was rusty. Or maybe he’s still hurting. Perhaps he’s dealing with post-concussion jitters. There could be another injury we don’t know about. Well, if you don’t want to disclose an injury, you can at least limit Marchand’s ice time so that he’s not such a black hole out there.
Seguin scored once in the final six games of the regular season. As I mentioned, he’s no stranger to first-round struggles. In the two years since his rookie season, he’s produced only slightly more in the early playoffs than he did when he was a healthy scratch for the first round in 2011. He’s not ready to pay the price it takes to score in the playoffs. Every game that goes by he must make Steven Stamkos laugh harder at the ridiculous comparisons between these two players from the last couple years. In this series, Seguin is making Phil Kessel look like a physically engaged net-crasher.
Yet their minutes stayed the same and only a switch late in the game took Marchand and Seguin away from Bergeron.
In his six seasons behind the Bruins’ bench, Julien has been strong at knowing when to tweak things whether the team was winning or losing. If he missed the chance to switch things up and get Jaromir Jagr up with Bergeron or maybe see if Rich Peverley could catch a little fire when the Bruins were building up their 3-1 lead, Julien should’ve at least realized that the Game 5 loss was a red light. The first two periods of Game 6 made it obvious to all there had to be changes. None came.
The Bruins are 3-4 in their Game 7s since Julien started coaching them. Things looked just as bleak entering those games as they do now. Maybe some 2011 magic will arrive Monday and these past several days will take up a couple chapters of Boston’s championship book. Or maybe again some under-to-radar opposing player will bury an overtime goal and the Bruins’ Stanley Cup chances. Fact is, it shouldn’t have come to this. The Bruins should’ve ended this, and Julien should’ve have made maneuvers to make sure that the poor habits that were developing during wins didn’t eventually lead to defeats.
Win or lose, Toronto coach Randy Carlyle has made plenty of switches — some forced by injury, some made on his own volition. He put Jay McClement with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to slow down Krejci’s line in Game 5. In Game 6, Carlyle replaced McClement with Clarke MacArthur for most of the game. The new shutdown line had the same effect. Depending on the situation, Carlyle juggled his lines a little in Game 5 and 6. He could’ve easily limited Jake Gardiner’s minutes — the way Julien did Dougie Hamilton’s time in Game 6 — when forced to put the young blueliner in because of injury. Instead he’s let Gardiner blossom into one of the best stories of this series.
If Julien wants to give his four lines one more chance to roll and save this season to start Game 7, he can. It’s not like he’s has a ton of options. But his patience can’t be longer than an eyelash. If he has to just play his best six, seven forwards — even if Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton are in that group — he has to do it. This is not a Bruins team built to play just one round for a second straight playoffs season.
Loyalty is a great trait. It’s also one that should have an expiration date. Marchand and Seguin are past due, and unless they salvage a series win Monday night, Julien’s clock might start ticking as well.