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Fluto Shinzawa | on hockey

Despite overtime win, Bruins still chasing offensive consistency

Bruins third-liner Austin Czarnik was moved back to his natural center position in the roster changeup, and he connected for his third goal of the season. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press/AP

PITTSBURGH — The Bruins landed 29 pucks on the Montreal net, had eight other attempts blocked, and missed on 10 other opportunities. Two of the on-goal shots slipped through Carey Price, which, these days, is a noteworthy event. Patrice Bergeron (4-4—8), who has fewer points than Tim Schaller (4-5—9), led all players with five shots on net.

For all that, the Bruins’ commitment to shaking up their offense remains a work in progress.

“Offensively, it’s not like we haven’t created chances,” coach Claude Julien said of the NHL’s 25th-ranked offense. “It’s more about how can we finish better? Some of it is prime scoring chances where we’re missing the net. We’ve got to be better there. Some of it is finding ways to find those loose pucks and bang away around the crease area. You look at the goals scored last night. It’s all from the slot to the crease area. There’s hardly any long shots that go in anymore. So if you’re not willing to get on the inside, it’s a tough league to score in.”

Monday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Canadiens was the first game in which the Bruins shook up their four-line template. Every unit was changed, from the league’s best line (Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak) to the team’s most invisible threesome (Ryan Spooner, Austin Czarnik, and Riley Nash).


Against the Canadiens, it was flickering third-liners Spooner and Czarnik, with one-goal man Jimmy Hayes riding shotgun, who lit the red light. Czarnik, moved back to his natural center position, made the most of a three-on-one rush. Spooner, perhaps the team’s most disappointing player given his top-two potential and inconsistent production, gave the Bruins the two-point result with a major-league snipe past Price.

The third line gave the Bruins some of the balance they have pursued for most of the year. The Bruins are now 6-4-0 in games in which neither Pastrnak nor Marchand, their top two goal scorers, hit the back of the net.


“We’re looking to spread our goal scoring around a little bit more,” Julien said. “We don’t always want to rely on one line or two lines or two-three players. We want to rely on everybody to go in there and score the odd goal for us and help us out. [Monday] night was a good example for us. Czarny, who hadn’t scored in a while, scored a big goal for us and gave us the lead. We managed to win in overtime with a great goal from Spoons. It’s nice to be able to rely on others and not the obvious guys. That’s going to allow us to win more games.”

Balance is one thing. Depth and breadth of consistent scoring chances is another.

It may have been because it was just the first game together for all four lines. It may have been because it was against Montreal, the top team in the league with 42 points. For whatever reason, the Bruins did not control the puck as efficiently in the Montreal end as Julien would have liked.

“In my evaluation of the game, I thought we could have done a better job in the offensive zone of managing the puck,” Julien said. “I thought we could have held onto it a little bit longer. That’s one of the rare games where we haven’t done that as well as others. It could be a reflection of new guys being with new guys and not being able to find each other as well as in the past.”


The adjustments Julien made to his lineup were not minor. Marchand and Bergeron were used to Pastrnak’s breakaway speed, one-on-one creativity with the puck, and blistering one-timer from the left circle.

David Backes, their new right wing, is stronger than Pastrnak. The ex-Blue rumbles over bodies in the danger areas like a bowling ball scattering pins. Backes is especially effective in front of the net when pucks approach his stick for tips. But Backes does not operate at Pastrnak’s millennial speed, which required his linemates to adjust. If anything, the offensive-zone time Marchand and Bergeron are used to seeing was not as extended as usual against Montreal.

“I think we did a good job of getting out of our zone in short order,” Backes said. “Montreal did a good job of stifling the neutral zone and creating pucks that were able to get to Carey Price. He was able to move them on the breakout pretty clean out of their zone. With a little more time together, putting pucks in better spots and being able to sustain O-zone time, then all of a sudden your offensive instincts start to kick in. Maybe the three-four pretty good chances we were able to create weren’t able to find the back of the net. But we want to be a great positive factor moving forward as a group.”


Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.