By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON -- David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton were a top forward line that helped push the Bruins all the way to Stanley Cup glory last season.
But they might not make it through four games together this year if their ugly start to the season doesnt reverse itself quickly.
The Bruins suffered a highly uneventful 1-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Monday afternoon in a Columbus Day matinee special at TD Garden, and for the third straight game Bostons incumbent No. 1 line played like it really don't want to skate together anymore. The line was also out on the ice for Milan Hejduks game-winning goal in the third period after failing to spark the offense against a young, unproven Avalanche bunch.
Lucic has only six hits in three games and hasnt been the tower of fire-breathing intimidation he can be when playing with some genuine anger. Krejci has been average at best to start the season after leading the team in playoff goals last year. And Horton has been the most absent of the bunch in the early going.
Lucic said its a matter of supporting each other better on the ice, but its also about each player performing the little tasks that made them so successful last season. Things like moving in front of the net when defensemen are looking to take point shots, or simply helping a teammate scrape a puck out of the corner.
In three games, the trio of high-end offensive players has two points, a minus-six rating and 13 shots on net the kind of numbers that scream out trouble on a stat sheet and staleness to a coaching staff.
We have to support each other better and we just have to come up the ice together, said Lucic. Its the reason why we were successful last year, like . . . we supported each other throughout the ice and we made plays.
Lucic had a golden chance in the second period when he bombed through the slot and received a centering pass from Horton, but Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov knocked the puck away with his left shoulder. The Bs left winger actually had a couple of legit scoring chances on the Avs goalie, but the hockey gods arent likely to smile on players who arent leaving everything out on the ice.
Through three games Horton has exactly one shot on net and zero hits, which means hes been a physical and offensive no-show since the Bruins dropped the puck Thursday night against the Flyers. It was understandable if Horton got off to a sluggish start given his summer away from normal workouts and a slow progression during training camp, but hes been an invisible man in three straight games after becoming Bostons Game 7 hero last year.
Perhaps the concussion is making Horton tentative when it comes to throwing his weight around, but that didnt seem to be the case when he was scrapping with Habs players in front of the net during the preseason.
Given the trios performance or lack thereof and the teams offensive deficiencies in two of the first three games, it appears Claude Julien is weary of watching the sleepwalking hockey thats taking place with some of his top forwards.
If Horton, Lucic and Krejci dont right the ship in Carolina on Wednesday night then theres sure to be some changes coming to a Bs team thats barely out of the starting gate. Given that Lucic and Horton, in particular, have always spoken about how much they enjoy playing each other, perhaps the threat of line liquidation is exactly the kick in the pants that they need.
I think when your top line is supposed to be your top line, it should try and be that every night," Julien said. "So far I dont think theyre in sync and I dont think theyre working hard enough as a group. But its part of our job here to get those guys going. Whether its through breaking them up or whether its through meetings, weve got to find a way to get those guys going.
Right now I dont think those three -- any one of those three -- has found his game yet that we know they can play. Theyre certainly a little under-par right now.
Perhaps the golfing analogy is perfect for the Bs top line because if they dont start producing soon then Claude Julien is going to start scrambling up forwards to get things humming again.