Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Loss to Capitals serves as another reminder that Bruins could really use a second line

Scott McLaughlin
November 04, 2017 - 11:37 pm

The Bruins sure could use a second line. There have already been several games this season where that’s been one of the main takeaways, and there will continue to more. Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals was one such game.

It’s not that the Bruins don’t have anyone outside of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak who can score. It’s that they don’t have enough guys who can do it consistently, especially with David Krejci and David Backes (and to a lesser extent, Ryan Spooner) out.

For every game that Riley Nash and Sean Kuraly score (like they did Thursday) or Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork comes through with a two-goal performance (as both have done in the last few weeks), there’s a game like Saturday night where no forward outside the top line finds the back of the net. In fact, that’s now been the case in five of the Bruins’ last eight games.

A lack of secondary scoring wasn’t the only reason the Bruins lost Saturday night (the power play struggled until the last few minutes of the game; Alex Ovechkin was left wide open for a one-time goal). But the game was another clear example of the Bruins just needing one more goal from someone, anyone, and not getting it.

“Some nights it’s going to show up, and it won us a game the other night,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Tonight we could have used one more. … Our top line scored, our power play scored, if you’re just going to dissect it on stats. We just needed one more tonight. It’s what happens some nights. The other night we were one better. Tonight they were one better. We’re going to go through some of those games.”

Unfortunately for the Bruins, there’s no easy answer here. With maybe a couple exceptions (Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano come to mind), this isn’t even really a case of guys underperforming. It’s a case of a bunch of third- and fourth-liners, including several young players, trying to somehow find something resembling second-line production and just not being able to.

The best-case scenario is probably what Cassidy has outlined a few times recently, which is that even if these other lines aren’t scoring, they’re pinning opponents in their own end and wearing them down by stringing together strong shifts from one line to the next.

The Bruins have been able to do this at times, as they are still a top-10 team in Corsi. They did it throughout much of the second period Saturday night as they pulled within one and threatened to tie, only to see the Caps regain their two-goal advantage late in the period on a nearly un-guardable deflection. They did it again in the third while trailing by two and were able to draw a few power plays as a result.

“I guess the best analogy if we’re going to go with baseball, is if you break the puck out clean out of your end and you’re attacking, playing in their zone, that is the equivalent to a manufactured run,” Cassidy said. “Because they are just getting it out, changing, getting fresh legs. So eventually, that wears on you. You get those building blocks.”

For now, that might be the best the Bruins can hope for -- that the first line scores regularly and the other three lines help give you some momentum and don’t make mistakes that lead to goals against. And if they chip in some goals along the way, gravy. It’s not the same as having a second (and even third) line that regularly contributes offense, but it could be just good enough to help the Bruins win some ugly games and hang around the playoff picture long enough to get healthy.
 

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