Bruins

Ryan: Don’t look now, but Bruins’ bottom six is starting to get on a roll — and creating future lineup questions

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It certainly wasn’t the most sound plan going into the 2018-19 season, but following a quiet summer highlighted by deals for Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom, Boston’s vision for its forward corps started to come into focus — as hazy as it might be. 

Much like the previous year, Boston was set to put all of its chips in with a dominant top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak — while relying on David Krejci to continue generating chemistry with Jake DeBrusk.

As for the bottom six? Well, the B’s seemed content with letting the chips fall where they may.

For most of the year, the results weren’t pretty.

Already starving for secondary scoring with key cogs like Bergeron out for over a month, the Bruins didn’t get much out of players like Danton Heinen (five points in 26 games), David Backes (one assist in 17 games) and Anders Bjork (three points in 20 games).

A revolving door of lineup shuffles followed. Add in a few AHL demotions — and subsequent recalls, and you have a bottom-six group that has largely struggled to provide scoring support for the likes of Marchand, Pastrnak, Krejci and more on a consistent basis.

That is, until recently.

Boston’s current amalgamation of forwards is far from what Cassidy and Co. envisioned at the outset of the 2018-19 campaign — with 23-year-old Colby Cave anchoring the second line from the pivot and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson following suit on a “College Line” with an average age just over 22.

Injuries have certainly forced Cassidy’s hand as of late — with Bergeron still on the mend from a rib/sternoclavicular injury and DeBrusk’s timetable for a return still muddled due to a concussion.

And yet, even though their record stands at just 1-2 in their last three outings, the Bruins have largely controlled possession and generated a number of chances during that stretch — holding a dominant 47-20 edge in high-danger scoring chances against the Penguins, Sabres and Canadiens.

And while Boston’s new top line of Marchand, Krejci and Pastrnak have led the way (56.72 5v5 Corsi-For Percentage, 4.48 goals for per 60 minutes), it’s tough to ignore the production generated as of late from further down the depth chart.

Whether it be the suffocating forecheck of the fourth line or the potential of players like Forsbacka Karlsson on the third line, the makings of a potent bottom six finally seem to be coming into view for the B’s — even if it might lead to more headaches for Cassidy and his staff down the road.