Brad Marchand, top line picking up slack through Bruins' early injuries, inconsistency on offense
There’s no question that Brad Marchand is off to a hot start this season, on a goal-per-game pace and averaging 1.75 points per game through the Bruins’ first four contests. The Bruins have sprung out to a 3-1-0 record to start their 2021-22 season in part due to the early offensive production from Marchand and the rest of Boston’s top line.
The production of Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron -- who have combined for 15 points so far this season -- has been crucial to lift the team up while other lines find their way.
Marchand, who has four goals on the season, scored 28 seconds into Sunday’s game against the San Jose Sharks. Similarly to Marchand, David Pastrnak has factored into the Bruins’ scoring every game, including most recently a power-play goal and an assist on Marchand’s goal in the Bruins’ 4-3 victory over the Sharks.
The Bruins’ bottom three lines have faced a tougher challenge finding a rhythm, as a result of new players, new line combinations and early injuries.
To list just some of the changes, the second line needed shuffling after an undisclosed issue knocked Craig Smith out of the lineup on Sunday, with Charlie Coyle moving from center to right wing and Tomas Nosek being upgraded from the fourth line to second-line center.
The Bruins called up Oskar Steen to their third line, which was disrupted by an injury to Nick Foligno that landed him on injured reserve. And the fourth line has already shuffled through five different players -- Nosek, Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic Anton Blidh, and Karson Kuhlman -- with Blidh also being placed on IR on Sunday.
The Bruins’ top line is the one thing that's been a constant. And it's been dominant.
So far, 43% of the Bruins’ goals (six of 14) have been scored by a member of the top line, and Marchand has also assisted on goals from Charlie Coyle and Derek Forbort. As a line, they average 3.75 points per game and have yet to go a game without scoring at least one goal.
But that’s not too surprising when you consider that last season the line contributed at least one point in 82% of games, failing to get on the scoresheet in only 10 of the 56 matches in the 2020-21 regular season.
But despite the numbers Marchand has been putting up, he has been critical of the way he’s played so far this season.
“I don't think I've played my best hockey,” Marchand said Sunday. “Regardless of the points, I think I can be better, manage pucks better, and I've felt tired in a few games. So, I still think I can be better than what I’ve been. You know, points, it's part of it, but I want to be happy with where I'm playing and how I’m playing and I'm not quite happy enough yet with how things have been.”