BOSTON (CBS) — If six months ago you knew that Bruins head coach Claude Julien was going to use Benoit Pouliot’s style of play as a model for his teammates to follow, you probably would’ve been predicting the Bruins to miss the playoffs.
The speedy forward who struggled in his previous two NHL stops before coming to the Bruins and was a healthy scratch for a few early-season games has enjoyed a late-season surge that’s made him one of Boston’s best offensive performers. And his line, with Chris Kelly and Brian Rolston, has provided the type of secondary scoring down the stretch and in the postseason that every championship team needs.
The problem now for the Bruins is where’s the primary scoring?
Pouliot scored the Bruins’ lone goal in their 2-1 double-overtime loss to Washington on Saturday at TD Garden. The former Minnesota Wild No. 4 overall draft pick, who also failed to pan out in Montreal, scored his goal the way you picture most Boston Bruins goals to be scored. He pounced on a loose puck near the slot before beating Washington goaltender Braden Holtby with a backhand shot and then colliding with the rookie netminder.
“A great effort to jump on that loose puck to tie the game and force it into overtime,” Julien said after the defeat. “So we need more of that from a lot of other players.”
After his team let Washington tie the series, Julien wasn’t in the mood to single anyone out. But we know exactly who he was talking about. The Bruins won on the strength of their balanced offensive attack during the regular season with six 20-goal scorers. That balance is now all weighted down toward the bottom six (Kelly scored the only goal in Game 1) on Boston’s depth chart, while David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have all registered playoff no-shows.
Krejci’s been here before. He led all postseason scorers in the NHL during the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup championship last season. But if you think back, he recorded just one measly assist in the Bruins’ seven-game first-round victory over Montreal.
Always reliable for an honest assessment of his play even if he doesn’t always produce like a first-line center, Krejci didn’t want to give the Washington defense pair of Karl Alzner and John Carlson too much credit for the struggles of Boston’s top trio.
“I just don’t think we’re playing our game, especially my line. I don’t know what it is, but we have to find a way to help each other out there,” Krejci said. “Sometimes it seems like one guy’s working the two others are just waiting and hoping for the puck to get a good scoring chance. It doesn’t work like that. We’ve got to help each other out there, and if we do that, we have good players and we have a good team and if you do that we should be able to get some scoring chances.”
Down 0-2 heading to Montreal last year, head coach Claude Julien didn’t make any lineup changes and just tweaked his D pairs. The faith he showed in some of his underperformers paid off. This time around, Julien can probably only give his lineup’s current alignment one more game – if that – before he has to make moves. So it’ll be interesting to see how Boston performs in Game 3 on Monday.
Julien could break up the third line to get Pouliot, Rolston and Kelly to spark other units. Or he could insert Jordan Caron, a thick body with a nose for the net, in the lineup in place of someone like Daniel Paille. There aren’t a lot of options with this Nathan Horton-less group, but the Bruins are going to have to shake out of their slumber or shake things up in order to make sure there’s more than one series of hockey played in the Hub.