Bruins’ depth of scorers has been devastating for Hurricanes

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Jordan Staal following loss to Boston: ‘Everyone’s got to grind harder’

Carolina Hurricanes’ Jordan Staal addresses the media following the Hurricanes’ 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins

Carolina Hurricanes’ Jordan Staal addresses the media following the Hurricanes’ 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins

The News & Observer and The Boston Globe are sharing stories during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL playoffs.

The Bruins took an Eric Heiden-like power stride toward a Stanley Cup Final playoff berth Sunday, chipping up the Hurricanes, 6-2, like a load of fallen branches run through the auger in a backyard springtime cleanup.

It was the Bruins’ fifth consecutive playoff win — their best streak since their run-up to the 2013 Cup final — and they equaled a franchise record when new-kid-on-the-block Connor Clifton became their 19th goal scorer in a postseason that now has simmered for 15 games in the Stanley Cup crock pot.

Not since the spring of 1988, when Ken Linseman (11 goals), Cam Neely (9), Bob Joyce (8) and Steve Kasper (7) led the goal chart, have the Bruins scored with such depth and breadth. That was the same spring when Greg Hawgood, Lyndon Byers and the legend that was Bruce Shoebottom all contributed one to the cause.

Unlike failed postseasons of the past, when top lines buckled and secondary scoring drifted off to the NHL Twilight Zone, the Bruins of springtime 2019 have everyone but Tony the Pizza Maker from the 300 Level of TD Garden finding his way to the scoresheet.

“There’s a reason we’re a good team,” noted Brad Marchand, one of the Black-and-Gold’s top gunners, who didn’t pick up a point on Sunday, which only underscored the luxury of the club’s broad-based scoring. “It’s because we have depth. We don’t rely on one line or a couple of guys. We expect everybody to produce and every single night we have a different guy step up and be a big player for our group.”

On Sunday, the goal parade was led by Matt Grzelcyk, who potted a pair, summoning the touch he learned playing street hockey around the corner in Charlestown. The only top-six regular to score was Jake DeBrusk (No. 3 on the season), and the sheet was filled out by Clifton, Danton Heinen and David Backes, who continues to enjoy a second-line rebirth that is beginning to rival a hip-and-happenin’ Tony Bennett touring anew in a pairing with Lady Gaga.

What all of this has meant, beyond causing an array of opposing goalies a Nineteenth Nervous breakdown, is that the Bruins have played time and time again with time on their side. Lead time. To wit:

With Sunday’s 44 minutes 38 seconds added to their trove, the Bruins through 15 games have led for an aggregate 462:34, or more than 30-plus minutes per game. Through two games, the Canes have led for only 13:08 in Game 1, when this actually looked like this was a series they could win.

While the Bruins have rolled up that gaudy 462:34 bulge, their opponents (Toronto, Columbus and Carolina) have scratched out only 138:14, or slightly more than nine minutes per game.

The Boston scoring has reached a contagious level, with each line a threat, and the opposition typically one, two or three lines short of an answer.

Does it feel contagious?

“It does,” said coach Bruce Cassidy.

Does it change his approach from behind the bench? “Yeah, I guess it would,” he added.

When down by a goal, noted Cassidy, a typical coaching protocol is to call on the top line to put in more reps. When scoring comes from across the roster, no one talks about the need for “best players to be the best players.” That microscope only gets dusted off, and the petri dish pulled out, when the big guys have lost their voice and the backup singers become a risible bunch of B-flats and B-gones.

“If were behind by a goal at some point,” explained Cassidy, “and you know you’re not getting secondary scoring … you are going to try to squeeze a little more out of your top group. So maybe every offensive zone draw, you are putting them out there. And, all of a sudden, fatigue sets in for that group.”

Sound familiar? See Bruins-Lightning, Round 2, 2018. After winning Game 1 vs. the Bolts, the Bruins offense went from pretty plucky to totally tuckered. Series over in five games.

“We weren’t getting the goals,” Cassidy said, thinking back to how it ended last year. “So you press with your top guys instead of letting the game just come to you. I think this year, because we’ve scored a lot more, up and down the lineup and roll your lines.”

The most dangerous of the bunch right now is the third-line attack unit of Marcus Johansson-Charlie Coyle-Danton Heinen. They finished a collective 1-6-7 in Game 2. Coyle (three assists) and Torey Krug (a matching three helpers) led the scoring chart.

“You’re not relying on one area — we’ve definitely got that,” added Cassidy. “The Charlie Coyle line right now creates, I think, a big problem for the other team. OK, you have [the Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak] line right out of the gate. [David] Krejci is a known playoff scorer, now with DeBrusk.

“Now you have a third line to deal with. It’s a lot of work to get your two defensive pairings out there against three lines. It’s a big ask. A difficult ask. And it’s benefitted us a lot.”

Game 3 Tuesday night in Raleigh, the city of the Storm Surge and distant sons of Hartford’s Forever .500s. It appears their only hope of stopping Boston is to roll out backup tender Curtis McElhinney in attempt to cause a tidal shift.

“When we play like we did today,” mused Johansson, who is growing more confident with each shift, “we had four lines going and all six D’men going. We were up ice and we played hard and we had that mindset [to score]. When we do that, it feels like we come in waves, and sooner or later pucks are going to go in.”

Of late, they are going in at nearly a non-stop rate. In their string of five wins, the Bruins have outscored Columbus and Carolina by an aggregate 22-8. They’re not just winning. They are dealing out beatings.

“That was kind of our thing at the start of the year, depth of scoring,” said DeBrusk, “and it’s coming at the right time.”

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