It’s not exactly sportswriting hyperbole to say it hasn’t been a gangbusters kind of start for the Boston Bruins’ Perfection Line.
David Pastrnak has a couple goals in the first seven games, but also hasn’t really seized all the Grade-A offensive opportunities he’s had with the puck, or truly taken flight on the B’s first power play unit. Brad Marchand has been the best of the bunch with four goals and eight points in seven games, but he’s also a minus player at this point while admitting he’s not playing at his best.
Perhaps nobody typifies the early season “struggles” of the Perfection Line more than 36-year-old Patrice Bergeron, who is still looking for his first goal with seven games played on the ledger thus far this year. It hasn’t stopped him from being a stellar leader and captain that played a role in the group watching the Kyle Beach/TSN interview together as a team last week, and it never will given the first-class way Bergeron handles everything.
But Bergeron has zero goals and three points along with 17 shots on net in seven games as his line hasn’t truly clicked yet this season to the point where offensive chances are coming in bunches along with the goals and points.
The Bruins, of course, have faith that it’s coming for Bergeron, but it’s been a bit of a slog for him in the early going as teams continue to focus on stopping them as the key to shutting down the Black and Gold teamwide.
“Not as many [chances] as they’d like. I think their whole line would say that…especially recently” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think early on he was and was a little snake-bit. At the end of the day, they need to find their game again.
“I don’t worry too much about those guys with the small sample size. If it snowballs over time then yes, but [Bergeron’s] release is still good. We see it during practice and in games where the goalies are making saves. I just think that every year teams are playing them a little better and a little harder, or whatever you want to call it. They just need to keep growing their game.”
What’s interesting is that Jay Pandolfo was the guy that routinely worked with Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak when they hit these rare ruts in the past, and he’s no longer with the B’s coaching staff after leaving for Boston University.
The one concern at this point is the power play, of course.
The B’s man advantage has begun to get on track after they teamed up for a game-tying goal against the Panthers last weekend as Charlie McAvoy crashed the backdoor. But Pastrnak isn’t yet ripping one-timers with aplomb from the face-off dot and Bergeron is getting swamped at the bumper position in the slot, and unable to get off his quality chances from that area of the ice.
There’s obviously plenty of past history in Bergeron’s career that both the chances and goals are going to come as long the Perfection Line boys stick to the process. But clearly the B’s top guys aren’t operating at top efficiency yet either.
“Power play, the puck hasn’t really found its way in there [to the bumper] as much either,” said Cassidy. “That’s usually where he gets going. He’s had a few shots and a few great looks. Against Buffalo he had a great one from Hall in the slot and I’m not sure how it didn’t go in.
“But like a lot of guys, he gets one and I’ll bet you start to see the confidence come. I’m a little surprised at this point, but I think as a line any of them would say that their offensive numbers are where they are typically used to. So they’ll keep grinding. No issues there. Their work ethic is tremendous. They just need a couple of games to get rolling and get some breaks.”
That’s the kind of attitude that Pastrnak is bringing to the table as the goals aren’t coming as easily as they normally do for at least 2/3 of the NHL’s best line.
“I’ve had some slumps in my years, so I’m pretty sure I’m experienced enough to know how to handle it these days. I know it’s going to come. I’m just focused on having fun and it’s good timing with these couple of days [of practice],” said Pastrnak, who is currently on a pace for a very un-Pasta-like 23 goals and 59 points this season. “It’s a long season. I’m just focusing on getting better every day. It’s not going to go your way for a full 82-games, so once it doesn’t go your way you need to focus more on the details. You kind of sit back on your ass or whatever, start from the beginning and play simple to get yourself back into a place where you feel comfortable. Now we have a few days of practicing, so you get ready for the next game.
“Even though I’m a shooter, I always look pass-first. I definitely want to get it out of my game, or at least even it up. And make the right decisions. Not always pass-first or the shot-first, and that’s part of when things aren’t going your way then you’re passing instead of shooting, or the opposite. I have to get a little back to shooting more and getting the opportunities and thinking shot-first when things are going a little slower than usual.”
So are there alarm bells going off about the Perfection Line’s sputtering start to the season?
At this point, absolutely not given that they’ve only played seven games and accounting for the boom-or-bust nature of the NHL schedule for the Boston Bruins to this point. There hasn’t been enough consistent game action to get Boston’s best players into a rhythm either during 5-on-5 play or on the power play, and that isn’t going to change until they start playing more games to generating some energy and confidence.
It couldn’t come at a better time than this week when they face an improved Red Wings team and see the rival Maple Leafs for the first time in over a year this weekend in Toronto.