Bruins’ Top Line Outplayed When It Mattered Most Against Canadiens

Jarome Iginla, Carey PriceBOSTON — The Bruins didn’t get enough scoring production from their top-six forwards, and that, combined with their inability to shut down the Montreal Canadiens’ top line, was the difference in the teams’ second-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

Led by their first line, the Canadiens defeated the Bruins 3-1 in Wednesday night’s Game 7 at TD Garden to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, where they will play the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

Max Pacioretty, who struggled to start the series, extended his point streak to three games and his goal streak to two games with a second-period tally that proved to be the winning goal in Game 7. His center, David Desharnais, tallied his second assist in as many games, and Thomas Vanek created scoring chances with his speed and play-making skill.

While the Canadiens’ top forwards scored when it mattered most, the Bruins’ top line was nowhere to be found in the last two games of this series. Here’s how the two units compared in Games 6 and 7.

Line Game 6 Game 7 Total
Iginla, Krejci, Lucic 0G, 0A, 11 SOG 1G, 1A, 7 SOG 1G, 1A, 18 SOG
Pacioretty, Desharnais, Vanek 3G, 2A, 9 SOG 1G, 1A, 4 SOG 4G, 3A, 13 SOG

The Bruins were expecting their top line, which dominated the regular season with 73 goals and 116 assists, to wear down opponents with its physical style of play and provide timely scoring. Neither of these things happened in Round 2.

Lucic’s performance was frustrating when you consider he’s been a quality Game 7 performer in his career (four goals, two assists in eight career games). He failed to register a shot on goal Wednesday night and finished the series with zero points in the last four games.

Krejci was a non-factor throughout the Montreal series with zero goals and two assists. He also was held scoreless at even strength in the final five games. The 28-year-old center finished the playoffs with just four points (zero goals and four assists) in 12 games, which is well below expectations for a player who has led the postseason in scoring twice (2011, 2013).

“Not just the series, but all the playoffs,” Krejci said when asked if this was the most frustrating series of his career. “You know the guys did a pretty good job the first round, and we got past it. And in the second round I felt like I could have put the puck in a couple times, especially Game 1. You know if I would get at least one goal, then we wouldn’t go into Game 7. So obviously it’s disappointing.”

“As a top centerman, if you don’t put the puck in the net in two rounds, you don’t give the chance to the team to win the game or the series. I felt like I could have put the puck in the net a couple times, but I didn’t, so I didn’t do my job in the playoffs.”

Iginla had three goals in the series, two of which were on the power play. To his credit, he was one of Boston’s best forwards in Game 7, but like his linemates, the consistency wasn’t there.

It’s incredibly difficult to win in the playoffs when the first line fails to score goals. The Bruins found that out the hard way in Round 2 and now will spend the rest of the playoffs and offseason wondering how things might have been different if they capitalized on just a few of the Grade-A scoring chances that were missed.

“It’s unfortunate, the way it has to end,” Lucic said. “I mean, we got ourselves up 3-2 in the series and were unable to get the job done, especially with the group that we had here and the season we were able to put together. It’s going to be tough to swallow this one and deal with it for the rest of the summer.”

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