WILMINGTON -- One month into the season, the forward line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla have totaled 12 of the Bruins’ 38 goals and 35 points through the team’s first 14 games of the season. They have played every shift together and developed clear chemistry with Iginla bringing his Nathan Horton-ish skill set to the right wing position.
It’s been a different story for a B’s second line that came into the year with equal expectations, boasting Patrice Bergeron, the team’s leading scorer from last season in Brad Marchand (18 goals and 36 points), and All-Star forward Loui Eriksson acquired from the Dallas Stars.
But injuries, inconsistency and dispirited slumps have left Bergeron, Marchand and Eriksson to combine for just six goals and 13 points on the season.
Krejci, Lucic and Iginla are a combined plus-25. The potentially dynamic two-way trio of Marchand, Bergeron and Eriksson are a combined plus-2 on the season.
Clearly, they have underwhelmed one month into the season and are still looking for answers.
“If I were to know [the answer] right now, I would probably be leading in scoring,” said Bergeron, who ranks sixth on the Bruins behind guys like Reilly Smith and Torey Krug with his six points in 14 games. “Obviously I’m trying to play my game, and do everything right. But production is part of my game also, and I need to find that.
“We needed to work harder to find ways to find the back of the net. It’s about bearing down when we do find those chances. Last night [against the Stars] we had more than one that should have gone in, and we need to find ways to get it done. It’s about working as a unit. The worst thing we can do is get discouraged.”
Bergeron’s line did account for 12 of Boston’s 36 shots on net in a shootout loss to the Stars on Tuesday, and Marchand missed burying a couple of point-blank chances created by nifty puck movement from Bergeron and Eriksson. It's not lost on any of the three forwards that they need to go from being close to getting it done.
“We moved around a lot better and seemed to be in synch a little bit more,” said Marchand, who was robbed by Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen on a great chance in front of the net. “A lot of is just confidence. We weren’t scared to make plays, and we were executing the ones we did have.”
They just weren’t executing for goals, which is a pretty important distinction.
Tuesday night’s loss to the Stars was the first time Marchand, Bergeron and Eriksson were back together as a forward group since an Oct. 12 road win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. In that game, the struggling Marchand was dropped to the third line for the third period in a move that sparked both Bergeron and Eriksson.
Now that they're reunited, all three forwards that are currently performing under expectations are hoping that their games will be revived.
“We need to find the right combinations, and the guys need to be playing well enough on certain lines,” said coach Claude Julien. “You’ve got one guy [Eriksson] that’s coming back from a concussion, and you’ve got another guy [Marchand] that hasn’t played extremely well."
There’s a mixture that doesn’t really facilitate success, does it?
“I think it’s just a matter of getting those guys going," Julien said. "Around the time Loui got injured, that line was creating some things with [Smith]. So it’s just a matter of time.”
Julien was asked if it looks like Bergeron has continued playing at his customarily high level while the B’s coaching staff is forced to play musical wingers around him. The center has played with different combinations of Eriksson, Smith and Marchand over the first 14 games.
“I guess it’s tough to evaluate in his situation because you know that he always competes hard,” Julien said. “Can he be a little bit better? Probably. But what he’s had around him hasn’t been the greatest either, so it’s hard to evaluate him as a whole. But there’s no doubt he can be better, and we’ve seen him be better at times . . . not in a critical way, but more in the output of his line as a whole.”
The rhetoric and the numbers both spell it out pretty clearly: A struggling Bruins team needs greater offensive oomph and goal production from guys like Bergeron, Marchand and Eriksson who were expected to be 60-point players prior to the season.
It’s up to that trio to get their chemistry dialed in quickly and bring some offense to a hockey club that’s been alarmingly average through the season’s first month.