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Bruins trying to solve an offensive mess

04.07.13 at 11:23 pm ET
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Claude Julien is looking for answers offensively. (AP)

Claude Julien said before the season he was going to be quicker to make reactionary moves this season. It would be impossible to blame him for doing so after Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.

Julien demoted Tyler Seguin to the third line, put Rich Peverley on the seldom-played fourth line and promoted Gregory Campbell to the second line (making the second line the 2010 version of the Merlot Line, except with Jaromir Jagr in place of Shawn Thornton) for Sunday’s practice. The moves speak to how in flux Boston is offensively, as the B’s have scored two goals or less in four of their last five games, with three one-goal showings.

The lines looked like this:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille/Jay Pandolfo-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Kaspars Daugavins/Jordan Caron-Rich Peverley-Shawn Thornton

Sunday’s lines could have just been a threat on Julien’s part to wake up some of his slumping forwards, and there are plenty of candidates. Brad Marchand wasn’t demoted with the revamped lines, but he has just two goals in his last 17 games. He and Seguin combined for zero shots on goal Sunday night in what was a very untimely disappearing act for two of Boston’s top scorers.

Then there’s the Peverley thing, which is very interesting. Julien clearly expects way more than he’s getting out Peverley (no points, minus-2 rating last five games). After Peverly was a healthy scratch last month, it appears he is back in the doghouse.

It hasn’t been a no-win situation for Peverley, but you do have to take into consideration that he hasn’t been playing with top players for the most part. His linemates have included Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo and Kaspars Daugavins. It isn’t exactly like Peverley’s been put in a position to win the Hart Trophy, but it’s reasonable to expect better numbers than he’s put up even with subpar linemates.

When it comes to the lack of offense for Boston, you can blame Patrice Bergeron‘s concussion to an extent, but the Bruins were a mess offensively before then. They were seeing one line show up at a time and too many slumping forwards, prompting Julien to give Milan Lucic a game on the third line and scratch Peverley for a game.

So, remember that the offense wasn’t a pretty picture before Bergeron got hurt. Now that he’s out, it’s borderline chaos. It’s bad enough that the issues on the third line (whether due to Chris Kelly‘s injury or due to the fact that the different variations of the line have stunk) have been so bad that Julien has often had to use the team’s fourth line as his third line, but the Patrice Bergeron-less Bruins don’t even seem to know whether they have a second line.

In each of the two games the Bruins have played without Bergeron, his absence has been glaring. Seguin was unlikely to fill the Selke winner’s shoes when the B’s tried slotting him in Bergeron’s place, but his 3-for-12 showing on faceoffs (Bergeron leads the league in faceoff win percentage at over 61 percent) Thursday against the Devils and his complete no-show performance Saturday against the Canadiens was disappointing.

With no sort of indication as to how long Bergeron will be out, the Bruins can only hope that their lineup tinkering and on-the-fly line shuffling in games is only temporary. In their ideal scenario, they can have three strong lines to play ahead of the Merlot Line for the first time all season, which is what they had in mind when they traded for Jagr.

The addition of Jagr figured to upgrade the third line one way or another. If Jagr didn’t play the right wing on it, Nathan Horton could. With Bergeron out, not only can the Bruins not be three lines deep, they can’t be certain of anything past the David Krejci line, and it’s not like that line has been a sure thing to begin with. Krejci has been more consistent than he has been in seasons past, but Lucic and Horton have run hot and cold.

Despite the fact that Horton has four goals in his last six games, his inability to finish in front has been glaring recently. Three of Boston’s last five games have included instances in which Horton failed to bury a chance in front of the net, the most recent of which came Saturday night when Lucic got Carey Price to commit to him on the right side before sending it to Horton with an open net to work with. Horton, who had Josh Gorges on him, jammed the puck to the left of the net.

Even with Bergeron out, the Bruins still have plenty of forwards who developed positive reputations in Boston for a reason. There are just too many of them — Lucic, Seguin, Marchand, Horton, Peverley — having too many off nights.

Read More: Claude Julien, Tyler Seguin,
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