Friday, January 24, 2014
No panic for B's top line despite lull
By Joe McDonald
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- During the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien commented that some of the best players in the world have a tendency to get bored during the course of the long and arduous 82-game NHL season. But those same players are skilled enough to be at their best when their respective teams need them the most.
The Bruins' top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla has played well together for the majority of the season. Although the trio hasn't produced much in the past nine games from a statistical standpoint, their line has not been a liability and is still playing physical.
David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla have combined for just nine points in the past nine games.
And, Krejci doesn't agree with Julien's assessment.
"I don't think you get bored," Krejci said. "Everybody's human and you get ups and downs."
In the past nine games, Lucic, Krejci and Iginla have combined for nine points. Krejci has one goal and three assists, Lucic has one goal and two assists, and Iginla has one goal and one assist.
So, don't try to tell Krejci that his line needs to pick it up.
"Our line is good," he said. "Obviously, we'd like to score but we're keeping positive and we're doing OK."
It's no secret the Bruins are at their best when all four lines are producing. When that's not the case, at least in the past few seasons, one line will generally carry the weight until the team finds that synergy.
"You've just got to keep working hard. It's not easy," Krejci said. "If you're doing well, then the other team is trying to shut you down and you've got to battle through it. Sometimes it happens that they'll shut you down and it affects your game a little bit, but it's how you respond the game after."
Lucic, who missed one game this month due to illness, believes his line has been playing well but could be better.
"Not bad," Lucic said. "Obviously, we got some results in Dallas, and our last two games were pretty good, but we didn't get any results out of it. One of our jobs is to produce for this team and contribute with goals and stuff like that. We just need to continue working at those little things that will get our game back to where we're producing on a night-in, night-out basis. We've talked about it, as a line, being better in that area and we all look forward to hopefully turning this around and moving forward once we do."
It's only a matter of time for the B's top line to rediscover its goal-scoring ways.
Iginla has been held pointless in the past six games. His last point, an assist, came on Jan. 7 against Anaheim. Prior to his recent skid, he had five goals and three assists for eight points in his previous eight games.
Even though Julien hasn't dropped a "bored" comment this season, the coach understands a line can go through this kind of drought. He also likes consistency with his lines and all four have the necessary chemistry to keep the Bruins atop the Atlantic Division.
"It's just an early thing and lines will go through those situations," Julien said. "They've had some chances, they've had some zone time and that's the important thing right now. They've just got to keep working at it, so they can bury some of those chances."
Since producing the game-winning goal in Dallas, Lucic feels the top line has produced in other aspects of the game from a physical standpoint. Lucic and Iginla play the power-forward role, and Krejci has been known to crash and bang when needed, so the physicality isn't wearing them down.
"They've got the size to maintain that," Julien said. "They're big bodies and big bodies have good durability."
Lucic missed the one game at Anaheim with food poisoning, while Krejci and Iginla have played in all 49 games this season. Krejci has been skating well all season. Lucic has consistently been skating north to south. Iginla has been getting plenty of scoring chances, too, but he needs to start finishing.
Julien was correct when he said players sometimes get bored, and the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring were a perfect example of that. In the final 13 regular-season games before the postseason, Krejci recorded only three points down the stretch. Lucic had just five points, with three of those coming in the final two games of the regular season.
Once the puck dropped in the 2013 playoffs, Krejci led the NHL in postseason scoring for the second time in a three-year span with nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 22 playoff games. He was also a plus-13 last spring. Lucic finished with seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points, including a plus-12 rating in the playoffs.
So, even though the Bruins' top line hasn't had much offensive production of late, there's no need to worry. The best players in the world always pick up their game when needed.