The story pervading the now 11-2-2 Boston Bruins all year has been the otherworldly play of their first line, to the point where they are popularly referred to as the “Perfection Line.” While Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron have certainly merited all of the plaudits that have come their way, Claude Julien and the rest of the Montreal Canadiens dealt the world a reminder that perfection, much like Tuukka Rask’s goaltending in Montreal, is always fleeting.
Phillip Danault has been one of the more underrated players to don the Canadiens sweater in the last few years, and while the statistics positioned him and his linemates Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar at or near elite-level territory, it was always difficult to come to terms with the fact that someone who was traded for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann could ever be in the same sentence as the word “elite.”
On Tuesday night, Danault, Tatar, and Gallagher showed just how elite they were. Tasked with going head-to-head with the “Perfection Line,” the Habs top trio didn’t just keep them in check, they obliterated them. The final statline at 5-on-5: 60%+ shot attempt share, 80%+ shots on goal share, and two goals for and none against.
For the Bruins top line, this was by far and away their worst performance during a road game. To make matters worse, the final numbers also only paint part of the picture, as many of the Bruins’ shot attempts came when the Canadiens retreated into lead-protection mode, and Tomas Tatar was removed for Nate Thompson. Even then, very few of that late game barrage forced Carey Price into making saves, as the best efforts of Bergeron, Pastrnak, and Marchand either were blocked or missed the goal.
It’s important to note that the Habs didn’t just keep the Bruins’ big line at bay offensively, they took the game to them and forced them into an unfamiliar position: playing defence. It’s not often that the likes of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak generate shot maps like the below.
During the offseason, I made the argument that Phillip Danault was starting to approach Patrice Bergeron-level territory. While one game certainly doesn’t mean too much in the long run, for a few hours on Tuesday evening, Danault and company not only approached Bergeron, they clearly surpassed them.