Bruins fans have every right to complain about the officials; and they should. They have been bad in game four and egregious in game five. But if you need a reason why the Bruins are down 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final, its not because of the men wearing stripes. It is because of their top six forward group. Forget about game three where Bruins were 4-4 on the power play chasing Jordan Binnington from the net for the first time this playoffs. Aside from that, those two lines are struggling offensively.
Five of those guys: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, and David Backes, are the five highest paid forwards on the team. They have combined for zero points during five on five play. They have done well on the power play and killing penalties excluding game five where they went 0-3 on the PP in a 2-1 defeat. But when the game is playing at even strength, they’ve been useless.
Bergeron has been on the ice for four goals against and has failed to score any and both Marchand and Pastrnak are a -5 when both teams are playing with five players. The line combined for 13 shots on net in game five, so they’ve been able to get some opportunities, they are failing to get a lot of traffic in front of Binnington allowing him to see the puck come off their sticks and make routine saves. They are having trouble putting sustained pressure on him outside of game three.
Their main counterparts, the Blues top line of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko, are having no such trouble. Schenn has four points at even strength with Tarasenko having three goals and Schwartz adding a couple of assists.
At least the B’s top line is getting zone time and some pucks on the net. The same can’t be said for their second line. They played so poorly through the first four games, that they ceased to exist in game five; literally. Bruce Cassidy elected to dress a seventh defensemen, Steve Kampfer, in place of David Backes. Backes was playing alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk in the previous ten games. While its fairly obvious Cassidy did this protecting Zdeno Chara, playing two days removed from breaking his jaw, it’s telling that he chose to scrap his second line as opposed to sitting Noel Acciari or Joakim Nordstrom or Danton Heinen.
Cassidy made the right call, too. The only member of that line with a point prior to game five was DeBrusk. Debrusk beat Binnington through the five-hole in game two on the power play. Backes, by his own admission, is accepting a new role on the team, this year. He was signed as a hard-checking play-maker but is now more of an agitator intending to get under the other team’s skin. Backes was valuable against teams like Columbus and Carolina who lacked the veteran leadership that St. Louis has, but with the Bruins desperately needing of offense, Backes is expendable. He played the least amount of any Bruin in game four before removed from the lineup.
A guy that is not expendable is David Krejci. Krejci is struggling mightily in these Stanley Cup Finals and the team needs more from him. While his offensive expectations are not nearly as high as Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak, he is still putting up a goose egg against St. Louis. This comes after a regular season where he had a career high 73 points. He was playing nearly the entire season on the first power-play unit but has been removed from it recently.
Not only that, in the past two games, he is performing poorly in the face-off dot. He won four draws and lost 13 in game five and in games four and five against Ryan O’Reilly, he is 3-12. O’Reilly has been a beast during that stretch catapulting him to the top of the Conn Smythe leader board along with another top six forward, Vladimir Tarasenko. The B’s have no answer for either of them and unless something changes, it is going to cost them the Stanley Cup.
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