It’s been great to see Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand finally get going, hasn’t it? They’ve combined for four goals and seven assists over the last three games. Bergeron scored both the tying goal and winning goal in that memorable Game 7 against Toronto. Then he set up Marchand for the overtime winner in Game 1 of this Rangers series. On Sunday, the two combined for another goal on a nearly identical setup.
With David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton still rolling, and defensemen consistently making good things happen in the offensive zone, the Bruins’ offense now looks as dangerous as it has at any point this season. There are still reasons to be concerned, though.
There has been plenty of talk about Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr, as neither has scored a goal in these playoffs. Seguin got demoted to the third line and has yet to do anything that would warrant moving him back up. Jagr replaced him on the second line just as Bergeron and Marchand found their stride, but he has struggled to fit in on that line and really hasn’t been a factor in those guys’ resurgence.
Let’s take a look at two other forwards who haven’t been producing, though. Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley have combined for just a single point in these playoffs. That’s inexcusable, and those two shouldn’t get a free pass. Yes, more is expected from Seguin and Jagr, but Kelly and Peverley need to contribute a lot more as well. And if they don’t do it soon, they should be dropped to the fourth line or benched.
The third line doesn’t need to be a scoring line, but it does need to score more than once every nine games. Just look at the contributions the Bruins got from their third line during the 2011 Stanley Cup run. Kelly, Peverley and linemate Michael Ryder combined for 17 goals in 25 games.
Look at other teams that have won the Cup recently. The Kings got 10 goals in 20 games from their third line last year. The Blackhawks got 17 in 22 in 2010. The 2009 Penguins got 10 in 24.
That high mark of 17 is already unrealistic, especially considering the fact that Kelly and Peverley have struggled to score all season, not just in the playoffs. But if history is any indication, the Bruins aren’t going to win the Stanley Cup while getting virtually nothing from their third line.
At some point, Claude Julien is going to need to do something to spark that line. Jagr at least created some chances for that trio early in the Toronto series, but Kelly and Peverley struggled to finish. As the series went on, Jagr started to struggle and the chances disappeared. Putting Seguin with Kelly and Peverley hasn’t done anything.
Kelly and Peverley shouldn’t have to rely on whoever’s playing with them, though. They never had to in the past. They had always been able to create their own chances. They were never Krejci or Bergeron, but they were ideal third-liners. You could make the argument that Ryder was the catalyst for that line in 2011, but what about last year? Benoit Pouliot certainly wasn’t the catalyst. Peverley and Kelly put up 42 and 39 points, respectively, because of their own solid play.
And before you say, “Well they’re still playing good defense,” consider that Peverley and Kelly are currently 10th and 11th among Bruins forwards in goals against per 60 minutes in these playoffs. To put that in perspective, they were both in the top seven during the 2011 playoffs, and they were the top two on the team during the 2011-12 regular season. If more traditional stats are your thing, Peverley and Kelly have the two worst plus-minuses on the team during the playoffs (minus-3 for Peverley, minus-5 for Kelly).
The only thing they’ve done well is faceoffs, as both are dominating at better than a 65-percent clip. But they haven’t been able to turn those faceoff wins into offensive possessions and scoring chances.
So what happened? It’s not like they’re old and washed-up. Kelly is 32 and Peverley is 30. Is Kelly still feeling the effects of the broken tibia he suffered on March 11? Did both get too content after signing extensions? Peverley got a three-year deal in October 2011, while Kelly got a four-year deal last summer.
What looked like solid deals to lock up two core players now look like bad contracts the Bruins may have to look into moving. But any trade talk can wait. It’s hard to see the Bruins getting much in return for either player anyways.
The more pressing concern is their performance in these playoffs. Julien has always preached patience when it comes to slumps, but this is more than just some minor slump. Kelly has one goal over the last two months. Peverley has three. Neither has a single point in the last six games.
It’s past time to try something different. Move Daniel Paille or Gregory Campbell, or both, up to the third line and drop one or both of those guys to the fourth line. Put Carl Soderberg or Kaspars Daugavins in the lineup and make one of those guys a healthy scratch for a couple games.
Those aren’t perfect solutions, and they might not even produce better results, but they can’t really produce worse results. As it is now, the Bruins are getting absolutely no offense from the third line, and they’re not even getting as good a defensive effort as they usually get from them. Julien has nothing to lose by changing things up. Let’s see if he does.