TORONTO -- Missing: Goal-scoring touch of Mr. Brad Marchand, Mr. Tyler Seguin, and Mr. Patrice Bergeron. If found, please Return to 100 Legends Way, Boston, Mass., ASAP.
Perhaps Bruins coach Claude Julien should make up posters that say the above and pepper every telephone pole in Boston. He’s clearly tired of talking about his Big, Bad Line, which couldn’t find the net, and helped the Bruins find their way back to Boston for a Game 7 in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Following his team’s 2-1 loss in Game 6 Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre, Julien answered a handful of questions, and when asked about his scuffling line he said, “I have no comment on my lines.”
The line isn’t making any noise in the series and Julien has nothing to say about a troublesome trinity that was his best during the regular season, but has gone from dynamic to dormant. The Bruins’ big guns are firing blanks at the worst possible time, and Game 7 on Monday at TD Garden is their last shot.
Otherwise the next thing they’ll hit won’t be a post, the glass, or Toronto goalie James Reimer’s pads. It will be a golf ball.
After the trio of Bergeron, Marchand, and Seguin, who had combined to score one goal in the first five games and zero when all on the ice together, came up empty again on the scoresheet, the Bruins are facing an existential playoff question. Can they win this playoff series without a single goal from their top two goal-scorers during the regular season — Marchand (18) and Seguin (16)?
It’s a troubling question and one the Bruins are now forced to confront after another feckless evening from the two wayward wingers, even if it’s one they didn’t want to answer.
When it was posed to Julien, who gave a Belichickian display of brevity at the podium, he did what the Leafs have done to the Bergeron line. He stonewalled.
“Again, I’m not talking about a certain line,” said Julien. “I’m talking about more our whole team as a Jekyll-and-Hyde hockey club. You see when we play well how good we can be. Tonight, poor puck management never gave us a chance to be consistent with that.”
The answer is no, Claude.
The Bruins built a 3-1 series lead without those guys, but they can’t close out Toronto if that line is missing in action. Here is a sobering fact, Spoked-Believers, the Bruins have led for just 44 seconds of the last nine periods of regulation hockey in this series.
At this point you need forensic scientists to find evidence of the offensive games of Marchand (0-2—2) and Seguin (0-0—0). They don’t resemble the young studs who finished with 36 and 32 points, respectively, during the regular season.
Bergeron’s stick has also turned to dust at the worst possible time, but the indefatigable center, who had 32 points in the general campaign, does so many other intangible things that don’t show up on a scoresheet that he can contribute without lighting the lamp.
Game 6 was a microcosm of the series, one the Bruins led, 3-1, the last time they departed Toronto. The longer it went with the outcome still in doubt, the more uneasy you felt about the Bruins’ chances.
After two periods, the game could have been sponsored by that ubiquitous staple of Canadian commerce and breakfast cuisine, Tim Horton’s, because it was doughnuts all around. Neither team had been able to find the back of the net. Both teams were finding plenty of rising anxiety and anticipation.
The Bergeron line had one of the best chances to make a dent in the scoreboard, and the faith of the Maple Leaf faithful. Reimer robbed Bergeron at 5:09 of the second with a sprawling blocker save of a wraparound.
With the Bruins trailing, 1-0, in the third after a Dion Phaneuf tip-in, Seguin had a prime chance to get off the schneid with about 13 minutes left in the game. But he put the puck in Reimer’s pads.
The epitome of the line’s malfunctioning goal GPS was Marchand firing a shot over the net and against the glass with 2:23 left and his team down, 2-0. The Lost Line had eight shots on goal and seven missed shots.
Marchand and Seguin spoke before the game. “We both know that we have to be better and be more accountable,” said Marchand. “We’re looking to step up and play better.”
But after the game, they were as silent as they’ve been in the series.
That left Bergeron, who has the lone goal among the three in the series, as the spokesman for the flatlining line. He acknowledged that not converting his wraparound was frustrating.
“Yeah, it is. But the bottom line is that it’s got to go in,” said Bergeron. “We’ve got to find a way. Being frustrated right now, it’s not going to help. It’s about being determined and finding ways to put it in. It’s all about [Monday] now.”
Adding insult to missed opportunity was the fact that the man who has been the target of backhanded compliments from Bruins fans for delivering Seguin, Phil Kessel, lifted a backhander into the Boston net at 8:59 of the third to make it 2-0, turning Maple Leaf Square outside the Air Canada Centre into blue-clad ebullience.
It was Kessel’s third goal of the series. He has outscored the Bergeron line by himself.
That prompted the Toronto faithful to give their own take on Boston’s infamous “Thank you, Kessel” chant. The audience chimed in with “Thank you, Seguin” with 9:14 left in the game.
The Bruins’ wonder boy is now a pointless whipping boy for the opposing fanbase.
The Bruins are at the end of the line in this series, and if the Bergeron line doesn’t find its touch, the final destination for the Bruins is another early playoff exit.Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist and the host of Boston Sports Live. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.