The Boston Bruins are struggling to put the puck in the net without No. 1 center David Krejci.
The Bruins lost Krejci after their Nov. 6 matchup with the St. Louis Blues. Krejci's head pounded against the boards after a clean T.J. Oshie hit and he had to be helped off the ice. He was later diagnosed with a "mild concussion".
In the past three games without Krejci, the Bruins have been forced to shuffle their lineup. Patrice Bergeron, a player known more for his three-zone play than his offensive skills, was moved to first line center.
This move breaks up one of the most dominant lines in the NHL: Milan Lucic-Krejci-Nathan Horton.
In the first game after Krejci's injury, the Bruins scored seven goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, that is beginning to look like an oddity after they have been held to a single goal combined in the two games since against the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators.
The games against Montreal and Ottawa are certainly more concerning, considering they are divisional bouts.
Krejci's absence is beginning to have the same effects that it had during last year's historic collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. After David Krejci went out with a dislocated wrist in Game 3, the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and were outscored 15-8 in the final four games.
Now, the Bruins are trying to find an identity once again. Krejci is their top playmaker, and many players are being forced into roles for which they are not suited or ready. Patrice Bergeron is a fantastic player, and will always be a Bruin at heart, but he is not nearly as suited as Krejci is to be a first line center.
The biggest problem is breaking up the Lucic-Krejci-Horton line. All of the successful teams in the NHL have a dominant top line, and putting Patrice Bergeron there deteriorates the quality of the line.
In turn, it deteriorates the quality of the descending lines. Bergeron was perfect in his role pre-Krejci injury. He wasn't forced to be the top playmaker, and his defensive responsibilities were the focal point.
The problem is that his defensive responsibilities are still the focal point, and his offense takes a hit. That's why missing David Krejci is such a huge issue. He is too valuable to the Bruins as an elite playmaker, that is able to set up two of the team's top offensive threats, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, to score goals.
If they aren't scoring, the team as a whole suffers.
Blake Wheeler was also moved to second line center, and it has been a bit of a disaster thus far. Wheeler hasn't played center since his NCAA days, and based on his play at the position to this point, despite the small sample size, it isn't looking very bright.
Players such as Jordan Caron and Tyler Seguin aren't quite ready to make the jump from "players learning on the job" to "top contributors" on the Bruins just yet.
If the Bruins want to be successful offensively, they need David Krejci. Badly.