Amid all of the lineup shuffling and roster juggling that Bruce Cassidy has had to sanction over the years in an effort to draw more even-strength offense from its middle-six forwards, the B's bench boss has at least found one constant season after season.
The high-powered triumvirate of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand on Boston's top line.
As tempting as it might be to split up that trio in an effort to balance out Boston's scoring output , it's been a move that Cassidy has generally avoided in the past. And can you blame him?
When the 63-37-88 line is on, few forward groups can rival the two-way production that they generate, with Boston routinely carried at even-strength play by the offensive production — and opposing shot suppression — generated when Cassidy deploys his big guns.
The 2021 season has followed a similar script when it comes to the Bergeron line, with Boston holding the edge in shot attempts (96-63), shots on goal (50-29) and goals scored (7-3) in their 82:48 of 5v5 ice time together.
So given both Cassidy's past hesitancy to break up that grouping beyond a few in-game, double-shifting efforts — and the still sterling metrics produced with Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak are out together for a shift — why is now the right time to break up one of the top lines in hockey?
There isn't one simple answer to question like that, as Cassidy was quick to note following Monday's practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
But for the time being, it appears as though such a configuration is the best course for Boston, as Pastrnak was slotted down to David Krejci's line during Monday's skate, while Jake DeBrusk was shuffled over to right wing and logged reps with both Bergeron and Marchand.
The optics of a Bruins' top line skating without their regular sniper — and reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner — in Pastrnak might be a bit jarring at first. But the rationale behind such a move is sound, especially when tracing the domino effect that such a switcheroo might have on the rest of a lagging B's forward corps.