Since 2015, one major roster flaw has inhibited the Boston Bruins from winning the Stanley Cup.
Despite what some may believe, the major problem has not been Tuukka Rask in between the pipes, although some postseasons have certainly been better than others. Boston’s playoff shortcomings have not been from a leaky defense, despite some playoff runs where the defensemen could have upped their game.
And the lack of physicality in the lineup has not kept them from raising the organization’s seventh championship banner — however, it would have been nice to have some extra grit against the 2019 St. Louis Blues.
While these issues have risen to the surface during specific playoff defeats, one constant problem has plagued Boston since the spring of 2014: the lack of secondary scoring.
David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have been a lethal combination for opponents since forming full time as a unit in 2017. Pastrnak has become one of the best pure goal scorers in the league. Marchand’s blend of tenacity and skill makes him one of the toughest forwards to play against. And Bergeron has been a superb two-way centerman throughout his career. For the most part, this unit has done enough to win Boston the Cup.
The problem is the rest of the Bruins’ forward groups consistently do not put up enough production in the playoffs. A huge reason for that has been the revolving door of wingers David Krejci has played with on the second line.
In 2014, Krejci was flanked by the skilled, yet rugged power forward Milan Lucic and the incredible offensive talent Jarome Iginla. Had Carey Price not stood on his head in the second round, Boston would have had a phenomenal chance of winning their second title in four seasons.
But Iginla left after that season. Lucic’s play slightly dipped and he would only spend one more year in Boston. After those departures in back-to-back off-seasons, the Bruins were sent into a tail-spin searching for wingers to stick on Krejci’s line.
No combination seemed to work game in and game out. Jake DeBrusk would show signs he could handle the assignment of the second line left wing, but Boston never found the proper right forward to mesh with him and Krejci. He has mostly been on the third line this season.
But this year, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney might have finally found the goal-scoring forward to plant with Krejci. On the day of the trade deadline, the Bruins acquired Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres. Giving up a second-round pick and Anders Bjork for a former league MVP is a move the Bruins had to make.
Although it should be noted, Hall has not been lighting the world on fire this season. In 37 games in Buffalo, Hall tallied just two goals. Having said that, it is hard to judge any one player after the disaster of a year all the Sabres have endured.
Now in Boston, Hall will leave behind his Buffalo experience and focus on adding some much-needed scoring punch into the Bruins’ lineup. Last year, splitting his duty on the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes, Hall racked up 52 points in 65 games.
Krejci has to be salivating at the opportunity to have a playmaker of Hall’s caliber as his new line-mate. The other winner of this trade is Craig Smith, who will be fed the puck from these two phenomenal passers. Boston has not had a second line this complete since seven years ago.
Now, the real test will be how these players actually congeal on the ice. They have a clear goal: produce points, obviously. But that comes with a symbolic objective: taking the pressure off of the first line.
Those three will put up their scores, but that did not put Boston on top in 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020. It has been made painfully clear every spring: One fantastic line cannot carry a team to a title.
If Boston wants to win the Stanley Cup, this second line will have to be great. Not good. Not productive. Great. If they find chemistry and become a menace to opponents, that will open up the game so much for the entire team.
The other team cannot constantly shadow the first line with their top defensive forwards and staunch defensive pairings. Teams will have to game plan for much more than just 88, 63 and 37.
For years, Bruins fans have been clamoring to get Krejci some help. Now that he has the tools, it is up to him to make the fire. He has put together quite the playoff resume, but now it is time to take his game to another level, for possibly his final Cup run in Boston, as he completes the last year of his contract.Hall,
While the Bruins are not favored to win the championship, they have a significantly better chance now than they did at the start of the year. Hall just might be the piece needed to finally get Marchand, Bergeron and Krejci their second title in Boston.