TORONTO — Is it time to interrupt up the Large Three?
That’s the query head coach Bruce Cassidy was asking after the Boston Bruins’ high line put up an enormous goose egg in a Three-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Blame puck luck or dangerous bounces. However on the finish of the day, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak haven’t generated a lot in the best way of even-strength offence on this first-round collection that’s tilted 2-1 within the Leafs’ favour. And Toronto’s John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman have loads to do with it.
The Leafs’ high line is successful the battle of the match-ups.
Tavares has been higher than Bergeron. Marner, who got here up with a key block within the remaining seconds of Monday evening’s recreation, has been higher than Marchand. Even Hyman, who’s with no level, is doing greater than Pastrnak up to now.
And Cassidy, who’s doing all the things he can to maintain his star gamers away from Toronto’s Large Three, is aware of it. However he additionally is aware of that if the Bruins are going to have success, they will want Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak to be higher — even when meaning splitting them up.
“If we really feel that if it’s crucial to us having success, then we’re going to get away from it and break up the road,” stated Cassidy. “We do it at occasions. On the finish of the day, if that’s the match-up (Leafs head coach Mike Babcock) needs, he’s going to get it. Even on the street, he can get it at some factors.
“We’ll see the way it performs out on Wednesday.”
In Sport 1, Toronto received the match-up battle, with Marner scoring two objectives in a Four-1 Toronto win. In Sport 2, with Cassidy matching up Bergeron’s line towards Auston Matthews’ line, the trio mixed for 2 objectives and two assists in a Four-1 Boston win.
On Monday, with Babcock getting the final change on house ice, the match-up was titled in Toronto’s favour. And the Leafs took benefit of it.
It wasn’t a lot that Marner and Tavares have been higher or generated extra scoring alternatives. They merely shut down the Bruins line and let the Leafs’ different traces do injury. That they every picked up assists on the ability play was a bonus.
“I believe it’s extra on us,” stated Pastrnak, who has only one help in three video games. “We’re getting slightly bit pissed off, nevertheless it’s a protracted collection. We’re going to regroup.”
As a line, few have been higher than Marchand (36 objectives and 100 factors), Pastrnak (38 objectives and 81 factors) Bergeron (32 objectives and 79) this season. However within the playoffs, they’ve been eerily quiet.
Mixed, they’ve three objectives and three assists. 4 of their six factors got here in Sport 2. And all however one among their objectives have come on the ability play.
“We could be higher,” stated Bergeron, whose two objectives on this collection have come on the ability play. “That’s what’s the playoffs are all about. It’s about bringing the most effective. And we’ve got to convey that. I believe it’s aggressive hockey. 5-on-five proper now, we’ve got to seek out methods to create extra. It’s an excellent match-up. Backside line, you’ll be able to’t actually fear about that. It’s about competing and being your finest and bringing the most effective out of your line.”
A yr in the past, the Bergeron line was a giant cause why the Bruins have been in a position to defeat the Leafs within the first spherical. The trio mixed for 9 objectives and 26 factors in seven video games. However a yr in the past, the Leafs didn’t have Tavares — or Marner, for that matter, taking part in in a shutdown function.
“I don’t assume final yr had something to do with this yr,” stated Marchand, who has a aim and two assists after three video games. “Completely different groups. Completely different yr. It doesn’t matter.
“It’s an excellent group,” Marchand added. “I believe it’s form of backwards and forwards. There’s not a ton occurring for both line, so the largest factor is it’s a must to take benefits if you get them … we’re not anticipating to dominate on the market. I don’t’ assume they’re anticipating to dominate any line. They’re a extremely good workforce.”
It’s nonetheless early within the collection. Cassidy, who actually doesn’t have the luxurious of depth that Babcock has — even with Nazem Kadri out for the collection with a suspension — has to dwell and die together with his Large Three. He is aware of it. And he additionally believes that ultimately the cream of the crop will rise. It has to.
“Actually, I don’t thoughts it,” Cassidy stated of the match-up battle. “It’s two aggressive traces going face to face. It’s going to tilt our method sooner or later. Our guys are too good.”
When advised that Cassidy didn’t rule out breaking apart the highest line, Bergeron stated it doesn’t matter. All that issues is that the gamers — significantly the workforce’s finest gamers — present up greater than they’ve prior to now.
“I’m right here to win video games, in order that’s what I’m worrying about,” stated Bergeron. “I don’t have to actually fear about that. I’m right here to win video games and that’s what we’ve got to do. And that’s the underside line.”