By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — During the Bruins’ three round-robin games last week, the explosive and lethal top line was controlled and harmless. The lack of production from David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron was at least a little bit concerning for the Bruins’ postseason prospects.
It took all of 18 minutes of the first real playoff game for that line to reawaken. And a few hours later, it was that line that put the game away.
With the Bruins trailing 1-0 in the first period of Wednesday’s unique 11 a.m. start for Game 1 against the Hurricanes, Boston’s top line hopped over the boards for an offensive zone draw with 2:20 left in the period.
Bergeron won the faceoff, and Pastrnak immediately looped around the Canes’ defense and across the goal mouth. Marchand retrieved the puck, while Bergeron was tied up with Jordan Staal. Marchand carried the puck into the corner, knowing exactly where Pastrnak would be.
From there, all it took was an absolutely picture-perfect pass and a quick one-time shot from in close to get the Bruins on the board. Marchand and Pastrnak delivered.
— NHL (@NHL) August 12, 2020
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) August 12, 2020
The goal tied the game at 1-1, which was important. But more importantly, it clearly provided the jump-start that the top line (and the league’s leading goal scorer) needed to get the wheels going once again.
Though it took some time for the follow-up showing, it was that trio which made the 81-minute effort all worth it. Pastrnak dished to Marchand at center ice, before Marchand got it back to Pastrnak at the blue line, allowing the dangerous winger to carry the puck into the Carolina zone just a minute into the second overtime period. The Carolina defense was much too focused on Pastrnak, thereby leaving Bergeron with far too much space coming down the right wing.
Pastrnak sent a backhand feed into space, allowing Bergeron to retrieve it before firing a wrister over the right shoulder of Mrazek and under the bar.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 12, 2020
The goal obviously gave the Bruins a 1-0 series lead over Carolina. But the impact of the top line showing up after a dreadfully quiet round-robin showing changes everything about how the Bruins will be perceived in this most unique postseason.
“We had to put whatever was behind us in the past and get some rhythm going,” Bergeron said after scoring his eighth career playoff game-winning goal. “I thought [David] Krejci’s line and [Sean] Kuraly’s line, they got some momentum for us, they got us going. And I thought we followed it up.”
The Bruins — as you surely recall — tore through the NHL from October through March, with the top line doing a bulk of the damage. But that line was quite rusty when play resumed in the Toronto bubble, and with their lack of production went the Bruins’ success, as evidenced by their 0-3-0 record in the round-robin games.
While playing perfectly would generally be a positive thing, Bergeron said he and his linemates and the rest of his teammates used those three losses to hone in on what areas of their game needed to be improved for when the games really started to matter.
“Yeah I think when things are going well at times, you get complacent, and you don’t work on things that you need to work on. Obviously you want things to go well all the time, that’s the perfect scenario. But that being said, we were able to look at video and realize what we could improve, what were the areas we could get better at,” Bergeron said. “I thought as a team, we did that throughout that round robin and now it’s behind us. Honestly, we’re focusing on Game 2 [Thursday]. That’s all I can really tell you. I think that’s how we were trying to approach it.”
Head coach Bruce Cassidy maintained throughout the top line’s quiet stretch that they would find their game. That’s why he said “relief” was not the proper word to describe his feeling upon seeing them find the back of the net in this game.
“They were ready to go,” Cassidy said. “It was a good play by Marchy through the neutral zone. He could have gotten it deep, but he saw an opportunity, a crease to get in the zone. And then Pasta reads off Marchy, and then Bergy’s coming late. So we’ve seen that goal a lot of times where it’s Bergy in the middle and he chips it to Pasta, and then Pasta is the one zipping it. But that’s the beauty of that line is they can all make the plays and they can all finish. So not surprised with how it played out in terms of which guy scored and who made the plays, because we’ve seen them all wear both hats in terms of play-making and goal-scoring. But certainly the chemistry came through there.”
While nobody in Boston was panicking about a line that oftentimes looks to be the very best in hockey, the sight of that trio playing to its potential in the first meaningful game since March should provide a shot of adrenaline and positivity to the outlook of this team as it embarks upon what should be a long playoff run.