The Boston Bruins have had a great start to the 2021 NHL season. At least in the most important category, wins and losses. With an 11-3-2 through the first 16 games, they sit on top of the NHL East Division. Making them once again amongst the favourites to bring home the Stanley Cup. Familiar territory for the Bruins who went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2019 and were The Presidents Trophy Winners in 2020. A closer look at just how they are going about their winning ways shows a more disturbing, an all too familiar trend for fans of the black and gold. That trend would be the lack of secondary scoring from the Boston Bruins forwards.
Boston Bruins Forwards Need More Depth Help
The Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak remains the best line in all of hockey. They have put up some staggering numbers this season. In 16 games, they have produced 25 goals and 53 points, despite Pastrnak missing seven of those games. The rest of the Boston Bruins forwards combined have 20 goals and 51 points. That is not good, especially when you dig a little deeper and look at their production 5 on 5. There, they have just 12 goals in 16 games. This is a huge problem as Boston ranks 26th in the NHL in 5 on 5 goals. This is despite their exceptional winning record. An issue that general manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins’ brass had tried to address with 2020 trade acquisitions and off-season signings.
New Additions to the Bruins Lineup
Before the trade deadline in 2020 (and before the COVID-19 stoppage) the Bruins acquired two forwards from the Anaheim Ducks, in Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. Coming into this season, Kase was earmarked to play on the right side of the second line centred by David Krejci. However, an injury (concussion) in the second game of the 2021 season has kept Kase out of the lineup. Ritchie was to play left wing on a bolstered third line centred by Charlie Coyle and flanked by Boston’s prized free-agent signing, Craig Smith.
Coach Bruce Cassidy has been forced to juggle the second and third lines all season due to injuries and a need to find some chemistry. Ritchie has become a weapon and fixture on the second line and top powerplay and has impressed in his special team’s role. Nine of his 13 points have come with the man advantage. Smith, a high-volume shooter who has scored 20+ goals five times in his NHL career has yet to find his groove, with just three goals in 15 games. More has to be expected of them and their linemates when they are working 5 on 5. Outside the numbers, there is a good reason for the team and fans to feel optimistic about the Boston Bruins forwards.
Reason for Optimism
A number of the Bruins’ secondary scoring issues can be attributed to a very short 10-day training camp. As well as no preseason, and injuries. The lines have been inconsistent, not only with the long-term injury to Kase, but DeBrusk has missed five games as well. As the forward group becomes more healthy, they should become more comfortable in their new roles. Many key players are playing well below their career numbers, especially when it comes to even-strength scoring. Krejci, Coyle, and DeBrusk all have room for big gains. They are too good to remain mired in these sorts of slumps and a breakout is inevitable. Overall, this is a stronger offensive group than the 2020 edition of the Bruins that was seventh in the NHL in scoring (they are currently 20th).
At the end of the day, this team will be judged on how well and how far they go in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. How far they go will depend on how well players not named Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak can perform in May and June. This year, a lack of secondary scoring will not be the same old Bruin’s familiar playoff story. They still have 40 games remaining in this 56-game season, with plenty of time to get this group healthy and rolling. They also have the potential and cap-space to add a player before the April 12th trade deadline. The secondary scoring of this forward group should be and will be better. The real question may be if their young defence can keep the pace under the pressure.